Form and Content
Editors Robert Patterson, Mildred Mebel, and Lawrence Hill, in On Our Way: Young Pages from American Autobiography, set out deliberately to choose “adventures” as they selected passages from the youthful sections of a wide range of autobiographies. The incidents described are exciting and quite varied. The excerpts are arranged alphabetically, by the author’s last name. Each selection is preceded by a headnote providing background information and is followed by an endnote telling of the person’s adult life.
Some episodes recounted deal with family life. Writer Sherwood Anderson tells a haunting story of his learning to accept and love his flamboyant and usually irre-sponsible father. Emily Kimbrough gives a timeless picture of the unkindness of cliques and the difficulties of being “the new girl” in a school with new “big city” ways. Eddie Foy and Victor Heiser give graphic accounts of two of the biggest disasters of the late nineteenth century: the Great Chicago Fire and the Johnstown Flood, respectively. Foy staggered through the burning streets, seeking refuge with hundreds of others beside the lake. Entrusted with his infant brother, Foy clutched the screaming baby and fought for their survival. Heiser saw both of his parents swept away in seconds; he survived by scrambling to keep his footing on roofs that rotated or sank, leaving him to leap desperately from one to another.
Several selections give important...
(The entire section is 499 words.)