Sunday, November 22, 2009

Life Happens While We Are Making Other Plans. Terry Romanoff

Life Happens While We Are Making Other Plans. Terry Romanoff (

Somerville author Terry Romanoff was born in Maine but moved to the Paris of New England: Somerville, Mass as a mere babe. She has lived in Somerville her whole life and has worked as a social worker, outreach worker, resource counselor, and as a director of a senior center.

This is a collection of stories that concerns the wide variety of people she worked with in her role as a social worker over the decades. Like Studs Terkel, (The late, acclaimed Oral Historian), in his book “Working”, Romanoff celebrates the common man and woman, their struggles, their joys, and their search for dignity. The book is simply written, there are no purple flourishes or any evidence of training at an MFA mill. But the stories are moving and genuine, and at times even spiritually uplifting.

In her story “Grampy and Grammy,” Romanoff recalls the time an African-American family moved onto her block in Somerville when she was a young kid. This was quite an experience for her because her exposure to blacks was limited. As it turns out, the grandparents were actual slaves on a plantation. The young Romanoff wondered why the Grandfather always walked with his head down and his shoulders bent when he greeted her. His wife explained to the young writer.

“She sat me down and explained to me that she and Grampy had been slaves in the South many years ago…. Since the slaves weren’t allowed to speak or interact with the white people on the farm without the master’s permission, Grampy learned the best thing to do so as not to get into trouble was to walk with his head bent and just touch the tip of his hat brim and say: “How do.”

Also included in the collection is the story of Gus, a down-at-the-heels alcoholic, who late in the game turns his life around. When he is on his deathbed he asks Romanoff what in his life made it worthwhile. Romanoff provides just the right answer and gives the man a chance to sing a peaceful swan song.

This book has accounts of Holocaust survivors, people struggling with the wounds of racism, etc…. This is a moving first collection, and I hope we here more from Terry Romanoff.


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