Cover Image: The Last Children of Mill Creek

The Last Children of Mill Creek

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Member Reviews

This was such an interesting book!  The author, Vivian Gibson, wrote it about her childhood growing up in the late 1950s in St. Louis.
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Absolutely amazing insight...I had no idea about life for folks having to get by like they did, yet manage to raise 8 children into good adults. Vivian has opened my eyes to a way of life that I- as a white woman- never knew of.
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This was a real heart wrenching read about one woman and what her family went through.  They were the last family to leave the area of Mill Creek, before homes in the area were demolished for a so called renewal project by the city.  Ms. Gibson highlights the highs and lows of her family, as well as some of what happened later on in life.  I enjoyed reading about her and her family.
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This memoir follows the author’s family from the great migration to the razing of their Mill Creek neighborhood during the urban renewal of St Louis. As one of 8 children raised in poverty in just 3 rooms I found their experiences interesting. However, I feel like the book fell short of its full potential and lacked emotion.
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The "The Last Children of Mill Creek" by Vivian Gibson is a memoir of the author's life growing up in an area of St. Louis that was destroyed in the late 1950s to build a highway. Gibson recounts the ups and downs of growing up in a large family in a poor, segregated neighborhood in the Mill Creek neighborhood of St. Louis. While there were many forces acting against the family from the outside and some challenging family dynamics, Gibson's mother and community members provided a lot of strength and support. I really enjoyed the book, but I was definitely hoping for a greater intertwining of and a more in-depth discussion of the historical details relating to the destruction of the neighborhood. Sadly, the depiction of overcrowded, segregated, underfunded schools is not a scenario that stayed in the past. Overall, this was a good and interesting read.
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A fascinating tale of the impact urban regeneration has on a community that is forced to relocate. Neither indulgent nor self-pitying I found this book to be an excellent piece of social history.
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I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I was raised in white poverty of the rural south and found it interesting to compare and contrast the culture and climate of this family to my own. This family's history is a successful story of what hard work, creativity and the support of a loving family and friends can do to uplift the human spirit. Instead of complaints about the restrictions of poverty, racism, and the many hardships faced this author relishes what was undoubtedly the nexus of her successful and creative adult life. It is a refreshing story that should serve as in inspiration to all races and cultures of what is out there if you are willing to work hard to overcome … the American dream.
Ms. Gibson richly describes the characters is this book and the writing flows beautifully. I would encourage the reading of this book especially to those who are interested in the culture and history of the  20th century of the south.
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Enjoyed this easy read memoir about segregation and the hardships this family faced.

Thank you Net Galley for the Advanced Reader Copy.
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Thank you to Belt Publishing and Net Galley for the Advanced Reader's Copy!

In her deft and nuanced autobiography, "The Last Children of Mill Creek," author, entrepreneur and fashion designer Vivian Gibson reflects on her childhood in the primarily black neighborhood of Mill Creek, which was later destroyed by gentrification. With simple yet meaningful examples, Gibson illustrates the Great Migration, her parent's shrewdness to provide for all her siblings and the mischief her siblings engaged in. By turns thoughtful and engaging, Gibson's down to earth language and frank storytelling will be sure to win you over!
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This is the kind of book that I consider an easy read.
Short and full of interesting stories, written wonderfully so that you just want to keep flipping the pages. 
This book gave a very real look into the past and a compelling look into family dynamics. 
I enjoyed it and would definitely recommend.
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Gibson proffers a beautiful story of her neighbors in St. Louis that was razed in 1959 for a highway. She shares vignettes of her childhood, the youngest daughter of a family of 10. She brings the neighborhood to life with her observations of its inhabitants, including her family. It's a loving testimony to a time and place that will never be again. I wish she would have shared more of her own personal story after she moved to NYC, as well as her siblings' stories. Perhaps there will be a follow up memoir.
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In this memoir, Gibson shares stories about growing up in Mill Creek Valley—a segregated neighborhood in St. Louis, Missouri—before a massive urban-renewal project emptied the once thriving community of its 20,000 residents and 800 businesses.

The book begins with an introduction giving an overview of Mill Creek's origins interspersed with anecdotes focusing mostly on the author's mother, and discusses what the book is about and how it came to be. It felt casual and conversational, and immediately made me want to get cozy and settle in for a lengthy reading session. (Which is exactly what I did.) That conversational tone carried on throughout the book. It reminded of how, when I was a little girl, I used to go over to the houses of a few elderly ladies who lived in the neighborhood. I loved listening to them talk about their families, because it felt like storytime to me. That same pleasant feeling was evoked as I read this book, and it made for a wonderful reading experience.

The Last Children of Mill Creek describes the final years of a community marked for destruction. The focus of the book is not on that impending doom, however. Stories about her large family (which included her parents, paternal grandmother, and seven siblings) are shared alongside vibrant details of everyday life in the close-knit community. Mill Creek and its former inhabitants sprang back to life through Gibson's words, taking the reader back to a time where sundown laws and segregation domineered the lives of African-Americans.

I couldn't help but be struck with a sense of loss, so to speak, when the author shared that she knew little about her parent's early lives. It made me reflect on how important those unknown details become after the loss of a loved one... and how easily the opportunities for those stories to be told slip away, often without notice. There have been so many times I regretted not knowing what shaped the early lives of people I loved. There were so many little things I wish I knew, unknown things that only became important to me after my chance to hear those stories was forever lost. If anything, it serves as a reminder to request those stories, and not to fall into the trap of thinking you have plenty of time and can do it later—because time always run out when you least expect it.

I realize the above may seem off-topic for a review, but it's actually highly relevant in illustrating the thoughts I had while reading this book. A single sentence informed the reader that there was much she didn't know about her parents... and yet, that sentence lingered in my thoughts throughout the entirety of the book, and was something I connected with on a deeply personal level.

One of the reasons I read books like this is to try to understand, as best I can, how racism impacts the lives of people who experience it. It's important to me to try to see the world through their eyes, so that I'm able to consider things not only from my own perspective, but that of others whose experiences are vastly different from my own.

I also look for the things I can easily connect with and understand, because I feel that is equally important. As people become increasingly divided over political and social issues in the U.S. and other countries across the world, the need for empathy and understanding are more crucial than ever—and I believe that begins with a willingness to discover the ways in which we are alike, as opposed to focusing solely on our differences.

I loved this book. In addition to be a great read, it sparked a several lines of thought (as shown above) that I expect to reflect upon for some time. The family stories are every bit as enthralling as the details surrounding the demise of the Mill Creek community, both of which I found fascinating to read.

Highly recommended for readers of memoirs/personal narratives dealing with segregation and racism with a strong focus on family life.

I received an advance reading copy of this book courtesy of Belt Publishing via Netgalley.
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The Last Children of Mill Creek is Vivian Gibson's debut novel.  It is beautifully written.  Raised in a large family in a tight knit neighborhood (where everyone knew everyone), the author is able to recreate her childhood and family in a way that makes one feel as though they are sitting at the table.  I especially loved the stories of her hardworking father (who worked two jobs, and didn't see the children until the weekend),  the daily chore each child had and playing outside with the kids in the neighborhood.  
I grew up listening to similar stories my mother told me (even though they grew up in Mississippi) and my aunts and uncles who grew up in segregated neighborhoods in Chicago and St. Louis.  
A beautifully written memoir that at times brought tears, and head nods and most definitely smiles.  I loved this book.
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When the historic black neighborhood of Mill Creek in St. Louis started to be razed in the 1950s, author Vivian Gibson's family had already moved out six months earlier. Her father had been badly hurt on one of his jobs, which fortunately did not leave him disabled; but still entitled him to a settlement that gave the family enough money to move. Getting out of Mill Creek was not what they really wanted, but a better and newer house. It was well known, too, Mill Creek was going to be torn down, after being labeled a slum by the powers that be.

This memoir is not really about that "urban renewal" project, or even about where everyone relocated and their feelings about doing so. No, this story is about Mill Creek before it was demolished, and about what it was like for the children growing up there. Ms. Gibson grew up in a family with seven siblings. Her mother was loving, resourceful and college educated. Her father was strict, a hard worker who had three jobs, and a man who loved his children in his own way. The neighborhood was a tight-knit black one, where the kids stayed outside to play until the lamp posts lit up.

Chores were endless, both at home and at their father's church. Well, not totally endless. The children obviously did have time to play, watch TV, listen to music, etc. But chores appeared to take priority over most everything else. The author doesn't talk about all they had to do in a disparaging way, either. They children tried to make doing chores fun, and Ms. Gibson was proud of all the cooking skills she was learning as a child. Besides hard work, church, education, resourcefulness, and a "positive self-image" were also considered important.

All of that could have been tedious reading coming from a mediocre writer, but fortunately Vivian Gibson is a wonderful storyteller. She is a keen observer of relationship dynamics, too. The end of the memoir came too soon, and one could only wish she would have continued writing about life in her new neighborhood, which eventually went from integrated to segregated. There is a "conclusion" chapter, however, where Ms. Gibson talks about her adult life, and tells what happened to other family members. By that time, you definitely wanted to know what happened to everyone.
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As a St. Louis resident, I am well aware of segregation, but this account of a young girl and her family makes it a truth in a time well before I knew it existed. Vivian Gibson is a tremendous storyteller who captures the reader’s attention and holds it throughout the book. Everyone should read it.
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"The Last Children of Milk Creek" is Vivian Gibson's debut novel and was an absolutely wonderful book. She was the 5th of eight kids raised in the 1940s in  Mill Creek Valley, located in downtown St. Louis. 
"I thought we had plenty of time for talking - Until we didn't." 

The author recreates the everyday experiences of the family and the stores in Mill Creek.  A tight-knit place where everyone knew the other. She tells of the chores they each had abd that if it wasn't done or done right when their father came in at night, he would get them all up to do it. I especially liked the story she told of being out with the neighborhood kids and their father standing on the porch whistling for them to come home. He just wanted them all in the yard . He worked two jobs and sometimes didn't see them until the end of the week. 
Her mother raised the kids at home while she created handmade crafts to sell. Their father's mother lived with them as well. 
I really enjoyed this memoir and the stories told. 

Thank you to Publisher and NetGalley for the eARC
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