Bob Valenzuela The Hollister Pinnacle, May 29, 2002

…No Steinbeck prose to romanticize the hard life…or to deify the poor… It would make an excellent screenplay…"

Jeannette C. Velasquez, Hollister, CA

"I just started my third reading of this book; I concluded that I would like to see a sequel.
I first met the Hughart family at our one room school in Panoche Valley in San Benito County, California in 1963. I met them again through their travels in Ron's book. You will enjoy and grow to love reading this book about the Hugharts. It will take you with them on their travels though California looking for work. A young boy grows to manhood. You will laugh and you will cry for this family. I remember that they always were happy being with us at our grammar school, now I know why.
The book has a power of it's own. It captures a bygone era of the 1950's and 1960's; I promise, you will enjoy their journey.
"Every person who loves and cares for their family, who works for or with children and wants to make a difference in the world should read this book. Children are a gift from God. "To learn about the different backgrounds of children is the gift this author gives to readers. After your journey with the Hughart family, you learn and remember that not everyone lives like you do. So many lessons we learn in life are so very simple; all we need to do is be kind, and kindness will come back to us ten fold.
"The Place Beyond the Dust Bowl makes a great gift for any time of the year to anyone you cherish."

Lewis Grizwold, The Fresno Bee, Visalia Week, May 11, 2002

... The beauty of the book is that it could be the story of any child of migrant workers from Oklahoma..."

Dan Roche (Exeter, CA USA)

Teachers looking for migrant biographies will find this book an excellent resource. Ron Hughart writes in a comfortable "talkative" style. He makes the reader ponder his own life and how events shape the way one sees the world. The reader may also wince a time or two pondering the lasting effects of childhood labels like "sissy," "sickly" or "retarded." The book is a unique mixture of sad and happy moments. But it is mainly a story of how the human spirit triumphs over fumbling school and family systems that are primarily concerned with their own survival. These systems often fail children, and that Ron eventually learns to fly is an outstanding testimony to the indomitable hopes of a child. An excellent read.

"sue1960" (Visalia, CA United States)

WOW! I just finished reading this book for the third time and I am still overwhelmed at the author's generosity. To share such a truly personal and emotional story of his childhood with us is a gift in itself.
I was born and raised in Central California, in the heart of agriculture, there were many kids like Ron in my life while I was growing up. This book will make you stop, reflect and wonder about those friends you had for such a short time, before they "moved on."
It's a wonderful piece of California history and a marvelous book no matter how or where you grew up. What a great story... an excellent gift for giving!

Terry Goeckner (Downey, CA)

I had the pleasure of meeting Ron Hughart before ever knowing he was an author. This provided me a truly different perspective when reading this book. It was a pleasure reading about Ron's childhood, coming of age, and life experiences from a different generation than my own. The book describes in simple terms Ron's daily struggle with hunger, work, school, girls, and the natural elements around him. There are many of "Life's Lessons" to be learned through this author's own experiences.

I'm sure this book will have special meaning to migrant families and their descendants, but I am not from that generation or geographical area and found it completely satisfying. I could identify with almost every David vs. Goliath experience described by Ron (dealing with childhood bullies, overcoming poverty and hunger, doing what's right in life over the wrong thing).

I could probably count the number of books I have read cover-to-cover on one hand. This is a book I will read AGAIN! Thank you Ron for sharing "The Place Beyond the Dust Bowl." The pleasure was all mine!

Danny Ramos (Porterville, CA USA)

This is an excellent book. Once I started reading it I didn't want to stop. The content was really engaging. The writer done such a good job writing the book that I felt like if I personally knew him once I was done reading the book. I recommend this book to anyone who hasn't read it. I learned many things by reading this book.

Gin Paim (Tulare California)

I am very glad we had your book as a mandatory reading in my English 1 class. Not only was it interesting, but it intrigued me in my own families history. I am also a descendent of Okies, my grandparents came from Oklahoma. It made me a little more aware of the trials and tribulations of the journey. I am very glad my ancestors took the journey to California. It was very interesting to read about your story and life in the Valley. My father is now reading your book and I will recommend it to any other friends or family that are ancestors of Okies.

Jeff (Sacramento, CA, USA)

An incredible book. I was captured by this story within the first 3 pages! The author's vivid descriptions of his survival (and ultimately, enrichment of self) through harsh, yet realistic, conditions provides the reader with an extremely personal view of what life was like for many children in California during this time. I highly recommend this book.

 Shilene (California)

This book was required reading in my English 1 class. I enjoyed it very much, and learned a lot about my own relatives who came to California in the 30's. It was very enlightening, interesting and thought provoking. I look forward to the next book.

Louise Maynard

Right on--yup, this was our lives here in the San Joaquin. A fine account, with great pics to back it up. Great job, thanks, Ron.

Earnest C. Imbach (Visalia, CA)

Many other books I've read authentically reflect what dust bowl people had to endure to survive and maintain "hope." Ron Hughart's book is more of an autobiography where he shares many similar stories, but at a later date - one or two generations removed. It amazes me that someone the age of my own children experienced the "Grapes of Wrath" way of life - just trying to survive by constantly moving on from one migrant camp to the next. Hoping, looking for work of any kind just to stay alive. Ron's book emphasizes the importance of "the place" in their memories or their hope.
"The Place" represented land (usually 40 acres) to plant seed, a home, a barn, a pond with fish, animals, etc. Most remembered "the place" (even as share croppers) or looked forward to it in the future - it kept them going! Philosophically, basic needs were met differently than many of us have experienced: Survival, almost a full-time job under very trying circumstances; New experience, hoping for a new and better life and future; recognition - through all the suffering, a constant showing of respect and politeness to each other with a willingness to help their neighbors; Intimate Response - the need for close relationships within the family and without.
In The Place Beyond the Dust Bowl, Ron Hughart proves to be a good story teller. When I started the book, I found it hard to put down. It moves smoothly and beautifully through experiences which gradually validate him as to who he really is: The Place beyond the dust bowl - a person who was diagnosed as "retarded" in the second grade, but used his own life process to become a person able to write a book! Many people helped to nurture Ron. His parents: Dad - who worked hard, looked for work or worried about finding work. a full-time job, but able to keep the family together; Mom - kept the family going - feeding, cleaning (many times under horrible conditions), counselor and friend; Both - living and teaching lasting family and life values. Mr. Light - teacher at Panoche School with a total population of 20 students - four of them Hughart's. Ron writes, "...I liked .. Mr. Light ... because he praised me... " Irvy - the hermit prospector and philosopher - who taught Ron... "It's important to know that each day is special and if you worry too much, time will pass quickly, but if you enjoy today, time will seem to pass more slowly. If you slow down and allow yourself to be who you are, your thoughts will be more interesting and special. In turn, you'll become more special and interesting to others around you. Ronnie, a better life is yours for the taking." Jim and Darrell - the cowboys in Ron's life who taught him so much - not just out on the range, but dealing with life experiences and how to use them in building a sense of self-worth and confidence.
Several personal quotations from Ron's book reflect the process of "working through" his transition from being diagnosed "retarded" to finding the "place" in which he finds himself now - free to be himself and continue his growth as an authentic person:
"... This move would prove to be the beginning of my life's struggles with success and defeat. I was embarking on a journey of rights and wrongs and a catalogue of mistakes that would mold me into the person I am today ... Living with the excitement of hope and feeling the very real pain of hopelessness, I began a trek of where the realization of assimilation and life's lessons started for me. I withdrew from those around me and lived within my own thoughts." "I decided right then I was going to take Irvy's advise, listen to everyone, and use only the parts I thought most helpful to me in becoming successful." "I continue to exist, only able to fantasize of a place where everyone could be happy and proud."
Even though the details are different, I find it easy to identify. It is a highly personalized story. Since "that which is most personal is most common," it is no wonder that it is easy to identify with this story. This is a "good read," and, as a retired educator, I would recommend it as a "must read" for Jr. High and High School students as well as adults.