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Last Updated on August 27, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 470


Growing Up is a personal memoir written by American writer Russell Baker. Published in 1982, it tells the story of his childhood and young adulthood during the Great Depression and World War II.

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Much of the memoir focuses on Baker’s relationship with his mother, Lucy, who has become senile in her old age. Baker regrets that he asked Lucy very little about her past when he had the chance, and that it is now too late for her to tell him about her life. Despite his children showing the same disinterest in his history that she showed in Lucy’s, he is determined to tell his children about his past while he is still able to.

Plot Summary

Baker is born in rural Virginia in 1925. His mother, Lucy, earns money for the family as a teacher, and his father, Benny, is an alcoholic. Baker has two sisters, Doris and Audrey. When their father dies in 1931, a paternal uncle adopts Audrey. Lucy, Baker, and Doris move to New Jersey to live with Lucy’s brother Allen and his wife, Pat. However, as the Depression is escalating, Lucy is unable to find work. At eight years old, Baker starts to earn some extra money for his family by selling newspapers, thus sparking his interest in a future career as a journalist.

Uncle Allen’s brothers, Charlie and Hal, move in with the family when they are living in New Jersey. Hal talks Lucy into giving him seventy-five dollars—which, at the time, was a great deal of money—to start a lumber business; however, he never starts the business, leaving Lucy worse off than before. After six years in New Jersey, Lucy, Baker, and Doris leave and move to Baltimore, motivated once more by Hal’s false promises of business opportunities.

Lucy wants a better life...

(The entire section contains 470 words.)

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