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An American Childhood by Annie Dillard

By Annie Dillard

A publication that immediately captured the hearts of readers around the state, An American Childhood is Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Annie Dillard's poignant, shiny memoir of growing to be up in Pittsburgh within the Nineteen Fifties.

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Our particular treat was to have the crust that formed on top of the cream as it was laid out in wide dishes close to the kitchen range. Oh, what gourmet days! There was one incident, however, that has stayed with me all these years. I was in one of the barns with a couple of other boys, and we saw a swallow nesting in the rafters. In a moment of complete madness–I can think of no other reason–I threw a stone and the bird fell dead to the ground. This had such a profound effect on me that, as a consequence, I am completely opposed to any form of blood sport whatsoever where animals are injured or killed.

The war was really with us. This was the start of the Blitz, and for the next two hours the explosions continued all around. The noise was deafening; the bombs and the anti-aircraft fire were combined with the clanging of fire engines and ambulances. From time to time the ground shook under us. After a couple of hours, there came an eerie silence. Dad opened up the shelter and the bombardment seemed to be over. Looking up, there was no more blue sky, just dark grey billowing smoke clouds drifting overhead.

I don’t know what the condition was called, but it was as if his face was one big running sore. He had hardly any eyelids and in winter the cold would make his eyes run incessantly. He could never go to a restaurant as unkind and ignorant people would stare. On buses or trams they would move away from him. As far as I was concerned I had never seen him any different and he was the kindest man I knew. His best friend, Dick Wilde was a carpenter and worked at the Elephant and Castle, an area of South London not far from Stockwell, and the birthplace of Michael Caine.

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