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We Are Not Afraid: Strength and Courage for Our Nation From the Town of "October Sky"

Review

We Are Not Afraid: Strength and Courage for Our Nation From the Town of "October Sky"



In the avalanche of inspirational books written in the aftermath of
the horror of September 11, 2001, comes this book by the author of
three inspiring books about the town of Coalwood, West Virginia.
However, it stands above them by its very warmhearted approach to
truths that touch each of us. 

Hickam is a born storyteller and shares stories from his own
memories of a town now enshrined in his best sellers ROCKET BOYS
and SKY OF STONE. This town could be Anytown, USA, in the 1940s and
1950s, but what set it apart was its sole reliance on one industry
--- the production of coal. The coal company owned everything in
town –-- the stores, the homes --- they hired the doctor, the
dentist, even the ministers. The only function of the town was to
produce coal from the dangerous mines that lay beneath the
spectacular mountains and valleys of West Virginia. The people of
Coalwood learned to rely on one another perhaps more than people in
towns with a diverse economy, but that very same insular society
gave these people a core of strength to be admired, especially in
our seemingly rootless times. Hickam's down home storytelling style
brings home some subtle, and often not so subtle, truths about
ourselves. Chief among them is the knowledge of who you are and
what you are capable of.

Hickam outlines Four Coalwood Attitudes: (1) We Are Proud of Who We
Are, (2) We Stand Up for What We Believe, (3) We Keep Our Families
Together, (4) We Trust in God but Rely on Ourselves. And then sums
up the book with The Coalwood Assumption: WE ARE NOT AFRAID.

In the first section, "We Are Proud of Who We Are," Hickam says,
"Figure out where you stand in the long line of people and events
that got you where you are. I am confident that if you take the
time to do that, you're going to find yourself surprisingly
impressed about who you really are. Simply by existing, you had to
come from a long line of survivors who managed to get through
perilous times, even more perilous than these today. And, not only
did they survive, they had families who branched out and had other
families. Your ancestors got through droughts and flood and arduous
ocean crossings. They fought in wars, got beat down, only to stand
back up again. Perhaps they were slaves but got themselves free
through sheer will, courage and perseverance. Whatever they had to
do, they did it, or you wouldn't be alive. They endured. And as
they endured, so can you --- and prosper, too."

The book arose from public reaction to a speech that appeared on
C-SPAN, and Hickam was elated when HCI said they'd like to publish
it. "That's all I needed to hear!" he said. However, Hickam is
quick to disavow any claim to being a philosopher, minister,
psychologist, or sociologist. "Any wisdom I might have," he says in
an interview, "came from the people who raised me, so I started
talking about the things they believed, and how they conquered fear
and taught me to be unafraid." Through these poignant memories of
his youth, Homer Hickam helps lead you beyond fear to find the
courage and strength to live more happily and look toward a future
with optimism.

Reviewed by Roz Shea on January 24, 2011

We Are Not Afraid: Strength and Courage for Our Nation From the Town of "October Sky"
by Homer Hickam

  • Publication Date: February 1, 2002
  • Genres: Essays, Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: HCI
  • ISBN-10: 075730012X
  • ISBN-13: 9780757300127