James Newman was a brilliant mathematician, the man who introduced the mathematical concept googol and googolplex (aka google and googleplex) to the world, and a friend of Einsteins. He was also a notorious philanderer with an insatiable appetite for women and fast cars, a man who challenged intellectual and emotional limits, and a man of excess who oftentimes fell victim to his own anxiety.
Jenniemae Harrington was an uneducated, illiterate African American maid from Alabama who began working for the Newman family in 1948and who, despite her devout Christianity, played the illegal, underground lottery called policy, which she won with astonishing frequency. Though highly implausible, these two dissimilar individuals developed a deep and loyal friendship, largely because of their common love of numbers and their quick wits.
Theirs was a friendship that endured even during an era when segregation still prevailed. For James, Jenniemae provided a particular ease and shared sense of irreverent humor that he found difficult to duplicate with his beautiful, intelligent, and artistic wife, Ruth. And when the Newman home was darkened by the tensions of the political climate during the Cold War, or by Jamess affairs, or by Ruths bouts of depression, it was Jenniemae who maintained the point of gravity, caring for the familys children when their parents were often lost in their own worlds.
From Jenniemaes perspective, James offered more than just a steady income. He became an unlikely and loyal friend. He taught her to read, and he drove her to and from his upscale suburban house and her home in the impoverished section of Washington, D.C. (and sometimes, much to her chagrin, in his Rolls-Royce), after she had been raped by a white bus driver. Intrigued by her uncanny wins at the lottery, James even installed a second telephone line in the house so that Jenniemae could keep track of her betsa decision that raised a few eyebrows at the time.
It is this extraordinary relationship that the Newmans daughter, Brooke, reveals in Jenniemae & James, as she elegantly weaves together the story of two very distinct and different people who each had a significant impact on her upbringing. In doing so, she also paints a vivid political and cultural picture of the timewhen the world was terrified by the possibility of nuclear war; when America was reeling from the McCarthy hearings; when technological advances like televisions, satellites, and interstate highways were changing the country; when America was just beginning to venture into Vietnam; and when African Americans were still considered second-class citizens with limited rights, before the explosion of racial tensions in the early 1960s.
Jenniemae & James is an inspiring, heartwarming memoir about friendship and love across the racial barrier.
"Get up with the sun, get to work by the gun, go to bed when you're done."
Jenniemae Harrington was an underestimated, underappreciated, extremely overweight woman who was very religious, dirt poor, and illiterate. She was uneducated, self taught, clever, and quietly cunning. Born on an unknown day of an unknown month during the harvest season of 1923 on a small sharecropper farm near Hissop, Alabama, Jenniemae picked October 18 as her birth date because on that date, at the age of four years, she had for the very first time been permitted to wear flowers in her hair to church.It was as memorable a day as any, and a very good day in a long line of difficult days. There were not many simple pleasures for the Harrington family, but at least on Sundays everyone tried hard to greet the Lord's Day with a smile, and wearing flowers in one's hair was a special way to celebrate church day.
Home was the farm. The farm, like most sharecroppers' farms, was located on the least ...
Jennimae & James is a smart and troubling memoir of bigotry and generosity, darkness and light, intellectual virtuosity and untapped talent, revelation and silence. The story of a family, it also records the routine and crushing injustice of life in segregated America, and honors the love African American women gave the white children and families in their care.
(Reviewed by Jo Perry).
Full Review (1199 words).
Bigger than the biggest thing ever and then some. Much bigger than that in fact, really amazingly immense, a totally stunning size, real 'wow, that's big,' time... Gigantic multiplied by colossal multiplied by staggeringly huge is the sort of concept we're trying to get across here.
- Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
Most of us can get our head around what a million looks like, but visualizing a billion, let alone a trillion can be challenging.
The image to the left is what a billion dollars looks like stacked on a pallet in $100 notes. Click the image to see what a trillion dollars looks like!
But a trillion pales into numerical insignificance compared to a googol, let alone a ...
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