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Andrew John Robinson delves into his childhood memories in Martha’s Vineyard: My Island, My Memories. Nostalgia reigns throughout each story, but the entire collection also holds a warning to today’s generation as well as those of the future. By looking back at the joyful simpleness of the past, Robinson becomes more and more aware of the selfishness that encompasses the present day society. Whether it is the lack of imaginative play in favor of video games or the lack of a fulfilling childhood because of the fear of a legal dispute, Robinson leaves readers with a sense that they have forever lost a part of their childhood.
Younger generations may have trouble understanding a few of the memories that Robinson retells, especially the one about a carousel where you catch golden rings, but this does not take away from the intrigue of getting a glimpse into the personal life of an author. It has been said many times that writers include pieces of themselves in their writing whether they notice it or not.
Purposely putting personal stories out into the public takes great courage because it allows readers and reviewers alike to criticize them. Robinson may not give away great details of his personal problems, but reading between the lines allows readers to see that behind these nostalgic tales there were times of turmoil; a divorce that caused Robinson to question himself, as well as the pain of a father who took solace in alcohol.
Robinson does not dwell long on the discomforts of the past, though. He provides readers with glimpses into an era they may never see again. From a bakery that gave out free apple fritters at midnight to playing on the roofs of cottages to the familiarity of neighbors, Robinson makes readers jealous that they could not experience a similar childhood.
Coloring these memories, though, are realizations that they would not be the same if they were to occur in the present day. The free fritters turned into another way to make a profit, the roofs deemed too dangerous to climb upon, and that neighbor that was more like an uncle would be a suspected sex offender today.
As the memories progress, Robinson’s way of telling them becomes more and more appealing. More details are given in each chapter and the way he is able to recall the thoughts that go through a young boy’s mind is astounding. It allows readers to look at children and understand what in the world could be going through their ever developing minds. Sand becomes more than just a tool to build castles, now it can build race cars. Imagination is not the only process Robinson explores.
He also explores the thought process of fear, death, and realization through his childhood memories. The most poignant instance of a child’s thoughts comes when Robinson, at the age of seven, questions segregation. He continually asks his mother and father why there is a separation and even though they give him numerous explanations it all just doesn’t make sense. It is amazing how, at such a young age, a child has a feeling when something just isn’t right.
Overall, Martha’s Vineyard: My Island, My Memories is a refreshing collection of memories that the younger generations should read if they wish to understand their elders. Readers must take care to read the stories in the right tone, however, because Robinson uses a lot of “Yeah, I know”s and parentheticals to back up his points when he believes readers may find them unbelievable.
At times it may seem a bit defensive, but readers should remember that the memories presented in this book are extremely dear to the author. What person does not become at least a little defensive about something he or she cares dearly about?