Don't Throw Away Your Stick Till You Cross the River-The Journey of An Ordinary Man by Vincent Collin Beach was a 2008 Carter G. Woodson Award Winner for the most distinguished social science book appropriate for young readers that increases understanding of ethnicity in the United States.
This uplifting autobiography weaves personal stories with human crises as the author relies on homespun advice. Settings include schools on the Navajo Reservation and Chandler, Arizona. This story of an ordinary man trying to help others is a pleasant counterpoint to the mush we see at the grocery store checkout stand.
Pima County Public Library
Southwest Books of the Year 2007
Long-time Tucsonan Bill Broyles is a research associate at the University of Arizona's Southwest Center. An occasional writer himself, he says, "I hold books with awe and cradle them in my hands with care, for I have an idea how precious yet precarious they are for their anxious authors wondering 'Will they love me? Will they hate me?' God bless readers. Books are like sleds at the hilltop just waiting for daring readers to ride them to the end. Books scream, 'Try me! Try me!'"
Dear Vincent and Annie:
Just wanted you both to know how much I enjoyed the show yesterday. Vincent's story needs to be distributed especially to our youth: it may help some of them overcome their own obstacles in life. To this end I have placed a permanent link to Vincent's website on my website. It is listed on the top line menu under Invitational.
Over the past 82 years, Vincent has seen and experienced a lot-from war, to racism, to love found and lost and rediscovered, to the birth of his children, and the tragic deaths of two of them from Lupus. Each event was a river to be crossed. The old adage of his mother Miss Rosa has given him the perseverance and dedication to pursue life to its fullest despite setbacks, pitfalls, and tragedy.
I found the book to be interesting, exciting, and enlightening. I really wanted to finish the book right away without putting it down, however time would not permit me to do so. It is well-written and qualitative. I strongly recommend it. The photos are great.
Coy C. Payne
Former Mayor of Chandler, AZ
Educator and Community Activitist
Dear Vincent and Anni,
I just want to tell you how much I enjoyed reading your book. I'm not much of a reader, but I had no problem keeping my interest with the book. I read it cover to cover the morning after I bought it. It was the first time in my life that I have done that. The composition was so well done I even skipped breakfast until I finished the book, it was so interesting.
Ted Brennan, and Donna, too
Parish members of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Queen Creek, Arizona
Dear Anni and Vincent,
I loved the book! A wonderful example of the greatness of the human spirit--how to deal with life's many obstacles and still find happiness, love and fulfillment. My favorite part was the Anni/Vincent love story. And what a surprise seeing my name and what an honor to see the words "favorite priest." I was deeply touched!
Hey Mrs. Beach,
Well, first let me say thanks for the book. I got it Friday and I was finishing up my other book, so I started reading it today and I'm on Part 4 (1977-1984)Arizona. Well, let me tell you once I started reading I couldn't stop. I didn't know Mr. Beach's life was so interesting and fun. I mean he traveled everywhere, he got to see Malcolm X, and just how he got through all the struggles and came out on top. Also I didn't know he was so smart, he received all those degrees and his Master's. I'm looking forward to finishing it. Tell him I said, "What's up and what a great life story and book, and I'll never forget it." Oh, when I get out, I'll be more than happy to give him more violin lessons.
You know, Mrs. Beach, reading this book is very inspirational and motivational for me. Like I feel if Mr. Beach can do it in the hard life he had, I think I can bounce back from this and still be somebody.
I was laughing when I saw the picture of me and P.J. with the other kids in the book playing the canjos. Once again, thanks for the book and everything you both did for me.
Your fiddle player,
17 years old
Department of Corrections
I just finished reading your husband's wonderful book. I wanted to tell you both that I enjoyed it very much and learned a lot from it. It is awful to hear about the damage done by prejudice and hatred, and I was saddened over the loss of his two sons. However, the story of overcoming difficulties is uplifting. I especially liked the story of your romance.
Dr. Marjorie Vannoy Fields
Retired Professor of Early Childhood Education
University of Alaska
1/22/2007 - Don't Throw Away Your Stick till You Cross the River (Mar., $14.95) by Vincent Collin Beach with Anni Beach considers the life of an ordinary Jamaican in segregated America.
This book is a wonderful read and nearly impossible to put down. You both have done a stellar job at presenting this far from ordinary—in fact very special—story in a way that is so accessible, so readable and so enjoyable. I love the cover, and the production is so very good also...well put together, and it looks like this publishing house does a lot to support its authors.
Professional Editor, Photographer,
Writer and Musician
"The book surely is a joy. I sat down Sunday and finished it and I loaned it to a neighbor who by Tuesday had read it and handed it back. Now it's to be shared with my other friend Anne from Wisconsin.(She and her husband are Green Bay Packer fans). Then I'll reread it. And my family in Minnesota wish for us to bring it home."
"I loved Mr. Beachs' book. He and I have lived during the same time period but we have lived very differently. He had to endure so many hardships including the death of two sons but he retained his faith and courage throughout. I hated the discrimination he had to face---it made me ashamed of being a white person. But in spite of everything he loved life and he lived it to the fullest. He earned the love and respect of everyone who knew him and in his 80's he was able to say, "I'm at peace in the world. I have no grudge, no particular hang-up with anyone. If each man shows peace to his fellow man, he will live in peace himself." Wouldn't it be great if everyone in the world could feel like that!
Author Henry's Daughter
"Reading Don't Throw Away Your Stick Till You Cross the River, I was reminded of psychologist Carl Rogers writing about the paradox that "what is most personal is in fact what is most general." In a time of frequent family alienation where even meals together are infrequent, it was a pleasant contrast reading about Vincent Beach's obvious love and connection to his family.
Eight decades of service to the community are also reflected in this intimate/universal of a self-proclaimed "ordinary man." In his final triumphant chapter I could hear Aaron Copeland's "fanfare to the common man" in the background."
Daniel Eckstein, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Dept. of
Educational Leadership and Counseling,
Sam Houston St. University,
A truly inspirational, courageous, and motivational book filled with the reality of the life of a black man. Actually, the sub-title should be more appropriately changed to read “An Extraordinary Journey of an Extraordinary Man”.
Kenneth R. Hill
CMSgt (Ret.) / USAF
Assistant Principal, Anderson Junior High School
"An insightful and uplifting look into a life well-lived, the Vincent Beach story holds your attention and tugs at your heart."
Arizona State Representative Mark Anderson
Green Bay Packers
"As you are drawn into the pages of this book, you will witness resilience in the face of adversity, and you will see a work ethic in a man whose positive attitude has sustained him through extraordinary times and challenges. Quite simply, you will come to know my father. Inspired by his example, I was blessed to have received a full football scholarship to Colorado State University followed by a six-year career in the NFL. His lessons in how to truly love and live life have since enabled me to establish a successful financial practice. My dad’s priority for family has become mine as well, for I am continually thankful for my beautiful family — my wife Kristy and our four children, Kalpana, Makis, Tariq, and Jalen. May my father’s story help you, too, persevere, strive, hope, all while being joyful and positive."
Sanjay R. Beach
Former Wide Receiver for
the Green Bay Packers
Local Catholic reflects on 80 years of life in autobiography
By Andrew Junker, The Catholic Sun
March 1, 2007
Most autobiographers wouldn’t claim that their story is ordinary. If they did, they’d be lying.
People wouldn’t take the time to write a story about themselves unless they thought they were special or had something different to offer.
In this light, local Catholic Vincent Collin Beach is a strange breed.
“I’m an ordinary man,” he writes in the preface to his autobiography, “Don’t Throw Away Your Stick Till You Cross the River: The Journey of an Ordinary Man.”
“I didn’t achieve great success by the world’s standards, but I achieved moderate success through hard work, perseverance, and through the blessings of Almighty God and the Father of the universe.”
His writing shows him to be humble, reflective and wise. Happily, the reader doesn’t feel that this was his sole purpose in writing.
In fact, the unselfconscious memoir is a wonderful mix of the ordinary and extraordinary, the familiar and the strange. That’s what makes it something else altogether: oddly compelling.
Vincent Beach was born in Jamaica in 1924. Educated by American nuns, he grew up Catholic. In the first few chapters chronicling his childhood, Beach offers a full and vibrant picture of his homeland.
He takes care to describe his parents. His father, Mas T, was quiet and kind. His mother, Miss Rosa, was a harsh disciplinarian not given to displays of affection.
He rarely saw his parents act lovingly towards each other, or display any sense of closeness, and wonders if this affected his own relationships.
Yet Beach doesn’t blame his parent for his own mistakes. As an 82-year-old writer, his vision is circumspect. He can look upon stretches of his life without rancor, but instead with calm and wisdom.
After his childhood, Beach embarks on a series of sojourns that last the next few decades.
He joins Great Britain’s Royal Air Force during World War II.
After the war he remains in Britain and begins to teach himself how to play the saxophone and flute.
To further his musical ambitions, he immigrates to America, where he finds an oppressive racist atmosphere totally absent across the Atlantic.
Despondent, he returns to England briefly before returning to America, filled with resolve. He joins the armed forces and ends up playing in various Air Force bands for the next 20 years.
He marries. He has four boys in quick succession.
Beach is very frank about his shortcomings with his family.
He states early on that he is an ambitious man who had come from poverty. He worked hard and spent a lot of time away from his wife and children to provide for them.
That was what he thought a father should do. That was what he learned from his family.
He writes about this touchingly and convincingly. The reader believes him when he says he was genuinely surprised when his family unravels.
He realizes the unforeseen consequences of his decisions when his wife files for divorce.
Working far from where his children live in Chandler, he only sees them two weekends a month. Added to this, two of his boys contract lupus.
Beach is best during this section of the book. He writes simple, clear sentences, which propel the story along. At the same time, his prose is moving and honest, and shows a man coming to grips with the successes and failures of his life.
Faith in everyday life
Throughout, Beach always displays a natural and spontaneous belief in God. Prayers of both petition and thanksgiving pepper the book. He remains active in the Church — as recently as two years ago, he was a member of the choir at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Queen Creek.
In the book’s last chapter, Beach muses on the effect his “ordinary” life might have on others.
“It is my hope and dream that you, who have read these pages, will have found something useful to enhance your journey in this life,” he writes.
“Through the experiences of others, we can all hopefully learn how to avoid the pitfalls that can make our lives and others unhappy.”
Because of his faith, Beach can look back on his life and see the trials without becoming embittered or regretful. He can look on them and still see the goodness, the gifts that God has brought out from them.
That peace and wisdom is anything but ordinary.