Skinny House-A Memoir of Family
Skinny House is an absolutely beautiful memoir told through the eyes of Julie Seely about her grandfather Nathan and her father Tom and all the members of their family. Yes, the story is centered around a house that is “skinny,” but the history behind the house and the people who lived in it is what really makes this story special. After finding a brochure from Nathan’s business, Julie started digging deeper into her family history and putting together the pieces. Nathan Seely was a black man living in Mamaroneck, New York, during the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression. His business as a builder of homes for black people was booming in the twenties. He built a wonderful house for his family, which included his wife Lillian, son Tom, and daughter Lillian, also known as Sugar and whom everyone called Sug. As the Great Depression crept along, it took Nathan’s business with it, and along with that, his pride and the house he had built for his family. After doing some research, Julie found that there was a small strip of land in between the house Nathan built and the house next to it. This land was not claimed and so, in a time of desperation, Nathan built a “Skinny House” that was only ten feet wide but three stories high on this land for his family to live in. Under great pressure, eventually Nathan and Lillian’s marriage fell apart. Both Tom and Sug could feel their parent’s animosity towards one another. And in the end, Nathan moved out of their Skinny House.
The story of the Skinny House represents how the environmental and political climates of the country could change an entire family’s existence. The Seelys were a very intelligent clan, and their skillsets were worth a lot. Most African Americans did not possess these skills and were out on the streets. Tom and Sug grew up to have their own families. Julie was raised by her mother Doris and father Tom, alongside her siblings Diane and Nate (twins), Michael, and Robbie. I especially loved the pictures she includes in the book. The expressions of her dad as he was growing up were especially somber because of the dealings at home, and Julie acknowledges this in her writings. She also tells of her regrets about not having a closer relationship with her grandfather before he passed.
Skinny House is a fascinating look into the lives of the Seely family, their trials and tribulations, and the dynamic relationships that they had.
This page was created by an City Book Review staff member.
|Author||Julie L. Seely|
|Page Count||222 pages|
|Publisher||Skinny House Press|
|Amazon||Buy this Book|
|Category||Biographies & Memoirs|