Study Guide for Russell Baker, Growing Up
In Growing Up, Russell Baker recounts his childhood experiences during hard times in the 1930s.† The memoir gives us a different view of the Great Depression Ė one that is humorous, tragic, and reassuring all at once. This is a very easy read and shouldnít take you very long to finish. There will be a quiz on the book in class on March 26th.
This memoir looks at Russell Bakerís experiences growing up in
ē What was life like for Baker, his extended family, and other people he encountered during the Great Depression?
ē What effect did the Depression have on these everyday people? How did they cope with hard times?
†ē How did this book give you a better sense of what life was like during this period?† Do you have a different impression of life in the 1930s after having read Bakerís memoir?
1. What role did Russellís mother play in her sonís life? What are her values and how does she convey them to her children?
2. In what ways does Russell show that he is a different kind of person than his mother?
3. What was life like in Morrisonville?† What were the pros and cons of growing up in that kind of an environment?† How did the contrasts between Russellís mother and Ida Rebecca illustrate the broader contrasts between an isolated, rural environment and an urban, more cosmopolitan one?
4. Why did Baker include a whole chapter about Oluf? What does that chapter tell us about his mother? About the Depression and the effect it had on unemployed men?
5. How did growing up during the Great Depression shape Russell's values and ideas about life, work, leisure, being poor, and maintaining relationships with his extended family?
6. How did life in Uncle Allen's household reflect the challenging conditions of the Great Depression?† What strategies did Russellís extended family have for ďcopingĒ with hard times?
7. How did Russell's
family feel about
8. What kinds of entertainment are available to Russell during the Depression? Was Russellís Depression life ďdepressingĒ?
9. Why does Russell like Uncle Harold?† How is Uncle Harold different than Russellís mother?
10. What hints does this
book give us about race relations and gender roles during the 1930s?† For example, what does
11. How did Russellís upbringing leave him at something of a disadvantage when he got to college?† Despite being smart, why did Russell feel dumb?
12. How did Russellís family react to the dropping of the Atomic Bomb?† Was their reaction surprising to you?† How do you explain it?
13. Was Lucy a good
mother to her children? What were her strengths and limitations?