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Oct 30th

Book review: Ticket to Exile by Adam David Miller

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By Terri Schlichenmeyer

Imagine if a simple note passed could get you run out of town. That's what happened to Adam David Miller, and in his memoir "Ticket to Exile", you'll read about the life that lead up to one innocent afternoon.
"Pssst. Pass this back."

Remember all the trouble you got into when you were in school, passing notes to your friend in the next row? Oh, the teacher sure got mad at you for interrupting, but when you really think about it now, it was some pretty minor stuff.

Imagine if a simple note passed could get you run out of town. That's what happened to Adam David Miller, and in his memoir "Ticket to Exile", you'll read about the life that lead up to one innocent afternoon.

Born on the early edge of the Depression, A.D. Miller was the third child and first son of his mother, a God-fearing woman who left A.D. with relatives while she picked up her life after being abandoned by her husband. A.D. remembers his early years on his Grandma's farm, and the love he got from his aunts and uncle.

He remembers when his mother came to get him to take him back to Orangeburg, South Carolina, to a brand-new baby brother, sisters who barely recognized him, and a stepfather who never knew of his existence.

Growing up in Orangeburg, Miller says he was a rascally child who was always into everything. But aside from a yen to explore and question, Miller was deeply interested in something else: his education. He loved school, even though it was obvious to him that his school was far inferior to the one the white children attended. He never voiced his observations, Miller said, but he took notice.

Although Miller says there were affluential African Americans in town, his family lived in destitution. Often there was no money for rent, so the family moved dozens of times in a few short years. Even medical care was a luxury.

Miller's beloved older sister died of rheumatic fever.

And then, years later, the ultimate insult in his young life. Nineteen years old, Miller wrote a note – "I would like to know you better" – to a white girl who worked in a department store nearby. Within minutes of handing her the scrap of paper, he was arrested and charged with attempted rape.

In a time when race relations sometimes still seem shaky, "Ticket to Exile" is a powerful voice begging for someone to make sense for once.

Author Adam David Miller doesn't complain about his life in this memoir. Through poetry (at the beginning of each chapter) and sharp-as-barbed-wire remembrances, he tells how things happened, without much embellishment and with a touch of humor. He's willing to tell funny stories about himself, and those stories are rich in detail and feeling. But that's not why you should read this book.

You should read it because, historically speaking, Miller's tale is common but even now, some sixty years later, readers can sense the outrage in his voice.

If you grew up before the Civil Rights Movement, you're probably intimately familiar with Miller's story but you'll want to own it anyhow. Moreover, give this book to anyone under 40. "Ticket to Exile" may be their ticket to understanding.

"Ticket to Exile" by Adam David Miller
c.2007, Heyday Books
$14.95
237 pages
 

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