Book Review Special Feature

The Inspiring Story of the African American, George Washington Carver

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Veena Gavankar came across the English biography, George Washington Carver, an African American agriculturist, botanist, inventor and environmentalist, written by Shirley Graham and George Lipscomb. She was fascinated with his life and wanted to share his inspiring story with her children. She went on to do a lot of research on Carver and his work and started writing this book in Marathi. A book review by Gauri. A Different Truths exclusive for the Special Issue on Africa.

 

Name of the book: Ek Hota Carver

Language               : Marathi

Writer                    : Veena Gavankar

No. of pages          : 184

Published by         : Rajhans Prakashan

 

“The whole Earth belongs to God and this God is your father”, these were the words that changed the life of little George. Along with this wisdom, Swiss agriculturist Hermann Jaegar also gave George a book to light the curiosity in his mind to study and learn about the world. Till then, George only had the kindness of the Carvers (Moses and Susan Carver) and the stories of his mother, Mary, who was abducted to be sold as a slave, with him.  This book then goes on to effortlessly tell the story of the African American agriculturist, botanist, inventor and environmentalist George Washington Carver (1860-1943).

Veena Gavankar, a mother, former librarian and an avid reader wrote this biography, in 1979. Since then, multiple editions of this book have been published. The book has also been prescribed by the Director for Education, Maharashtra for the educational institutions across the state.

The writer came across the English biography, George Washington Carver, written by Shirley Graham and George Lipscomb. She was fascinated with his life and wanted to share his inspiring story with her children. With this objective, she went on to do a lot of research on Carver and his work and started writing this book in Marathi. It took her over three years to finally publish the book.

I read this book first when I was 18 and have read it multiple times since. What touched me most was the simplicity with which this book infuses positivity amongst the reader’s minds even while talking about complex/serious matters such as racism, oppression, research and science.

The book maintains a beautiful flow (almost like life), while telling the story of George Washington Carver. It starts with describing the times just before the American civil war and after the civil war. It then goes on to narrate how the weak, stuttering, orphan black child went on to become a scientist, an agriculturist, a philosopher, a painter, a musician and a wonderful human being. All along this journey we come across good people (both blacks and whites) who fostered, helped, taught, mentored and befriended George. The fact that there are more good people than bad people is enough for restoring one’s faith in humanity.

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All along the common thread is George’s extraordinary talent, intelligence, humility, sensitivity, perseverance and his single-mindedness to help his people. Few incidents that transformed his life stay with the reader for a long time. One such incident is where when going to the Simpson College in Iowa Dan Brown says, “His hands are not made for copying the nature / creating the nature on paper through his paintings but they are made for nurturing life, nurturing creation”. This gave a direction to George’s thoughts and education. Another one is where Dr. Booker T. Washington invites George to Alabama to help his people transform the barren, infertile land into a green fertile land and George accepts the invitation. Alabama then becomes his “Karmabhoomi” (The land where he did his the most important work of his life, where he found his purpose).

This book is a must read for every Marathi reader of any age to learn about this great personality and his struggle and how his thoughts/ideas about environment conservation are still relevant. This book will make one think differently and do things differently, for George says, “When you do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.”

©Gauri Dixit

Photos from the Internet

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