Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Coming up May 8th 9:00am - Tom Seeman's forthcoming book, ANIMALS I WANT TO SEE: A Memoir of Growing Up in the Projects and Defying the Odds




“When Tom Seeman told me the story of his childhood, I immediately said that he should write it all down and share it with the world. I am so glad he did. Animals I Want To See is a terrific and moving memoir about dreaming big and making great things happen.”

–President Bill Clinton


“Tom Seeman has penned an extraordinarily engaging book about his struggles as a youngster, the many folks who 'packed his parachute,' his spiritual journey culminating in finding deep meaning, and the joy he feels in helping others. Read it and be inspired.”

–Deepak Chopra, New York Times bestselling author


From child janitor to the Ivy League—a luminous, uplifting coming-of-age story


ANIMALS I WANT TO SEE

A Memoir of Growing Up in the Projects and Defying the Odds

By TOM SEEMAN


When Tom Seeman was seven, he moved with his parents and nine siblings from a cramped, dingy tenement to a house on Bronson Street. It was only a fifteen-minute drive to their new neighborhood in North Toledo, which didn’t look that different from their old neighborhood in East Toledo. Their home still belonged to the Housing Authority, and when they stepped inside and turned on a light, scores of cockroaches skittered in every direction. But their new house was bigger than the one they had before, with a field in the back that teemed with treasures: wild animals who made their homes among the trash that littered the weeds. To young Tom, it seemed like paradise.

In Animals I Want To See: A Memoir of Growing Up in the Projects and Defying the Odds (Post Hill Press; May 14, 2024, $30.00 hardcover), Tom Seeman, who went on to graduate summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Yale, nail a perfect score on his LSATs, and attend Harvard Law, looks back on his hardscrabble childhood in Toledo, Ohio, during the turbulent ‘60s and ‘70s. He doesn’t sugarcoat his neighborhood encounters with bullies, dog bites, broken glass, and other dangers—or his moments of shame over second-hand clothes and food stamps. Yet throughout, he focuses on the simple joys of friendship and holidays, unexpected acts of kindness and generosity, and the welcoming neighbors who made Bronson Street a community.

The fifth child of a brood that would reach a dozen, Tom was different from his siblings and often escaped their close quarters by working. Whether scrubbing toilets, cleaning coal chutes, planting vegetable gardens, or amassing a sizable paper route, he was grateful for every job and possessed a talent for finding wonder in the most unexpected places. Powered by a dream of one day getting to travel the world and see an ever-growing list of wild animals, Tom spent a lot of time alone, mapping out not only where he wanted to go, but who he wanted to be.


Blonde and Catholic, Tom was also different from most of the other kids in the projects, who battled racism along with poverty, and Animals I Want To See puts a fresh lens on the notion of separateness by viewing cross-racial friendships through the eyes of a child. The book follows Tom through his education at Catholic private schools on scholarships supplemented by his afterschool and weekend work as a janitor; his dedication as an altar server and struggles with his faith; his dream of getting into an Ivy League college; and his determination to achieve success. While getting caught up in Tom’s adventures, readers will meet and reflect on:


His Mom, “a seemingly endless well of calm,” who wound up married young to a man who drank too much. She gave birth to twelve children in fifteen years and channeled her creativity, resourcefulness, and sheer will into making the seemingly impossible possible. Whether baking cookies, turning scraps of fabric and sundries into clothes for her children and their stuffed animals (which she also made), or always finding a way to fill twelve Easter baskets, she had a knack for stretching a dollar and for making life’s ordinary moments feel magical.


His Dad, who rarely interacted with his children, preferring to spend his time at home sitting in his corner of the couch with a paperback novel, a cigar, and a beer—and his mother’s bachelor brothers, Uncle Dick and Harold, who took Tom and his siblings on duck feeding outings and secretly made sure that Santa never skimped on Christmas gifts.


The three Black men Tom counted among his heroes—Muhammad Ali; Mr. Noble, the neighbor who took him fishing; and Mr. Everett, the tough-to-impress teacher who encouraged him to shine in an interscholastic speech contest by reciting a poem about slavery by Paul Laurence Dunbar, a Black poet from Ohio, with “zest” and “soul.”


His boyhood friend, Jeffrey, who was smart and funny, and who didn't shy away from sharing his views; his adolescent foray into petty crime as part of The Halfs, a group of friends named for its two white and two Black members; and his resolve at age thirteen, after heaving pumpkins off a bridge and into traffic below, to choose a different path than delinquency, prison, and despair.


Thanks to his hard work and reliability, and the kindness and trust of neighbors, teachers, priests, coaches, bosses, mentors, and strangers, Tom’s impoverished childhood was filled with enriching experiences from summer camp to art lessons to meeting Jimmy Carter, which ultimately gave him the confidence to aim high and the conviction to live a purposeful life.


Tom Seeman shares the most important lesson he’s learned: “Every act of kindness, no matter how small makes a difference.” And every day, he tries to do something kind for a stranger. “Some days it’s something small, like letting someone into my lane in traffic,” he acknowledges, “and some days it’s something sizable, like creating a scholarship for underserved kids… Most days, my promise falls somewhere in between.” He hopes Animals I Want To See will inspire readers to both believe in their own ability to defy odds and be kinder to others.


More early praise for Animals I Want To See:


“Tom Seeman's Animals I Want To See is the book we need now. Tender, wise, gracefully written, this memoir tells one boy's life, but it does so much more: it revitalizes a sense of American optimism. … I couldn't put it down.”

–Thomas Christopher Greene, bestselling author of The Headmaster’s Wife


“Tender and insightful, Animals I Want To See takes readers on a profound journey from an impoverished community to the American Dream as a young boy defies expectations and succeeds against all odds. Prepare to be moved and inspired as you discover the transformative power of determination and the resilience of the human spirit.”

–David Ambroz, bestselling author of A Place Called Home: A Memoir




KIRKUS REVIEW


A philanthropist and business leader recounts a youth marked by poverty and other challenges.

Seeman grew up in a family of 14 in a housing project in Toledo, Ohio, a shoddy place where his mother stepped into a second-story hallway and nearly fell through to the floor below. It was a place where the bridge over a local roadway offered a useful metaphor: “On one side of it looms prison, despair, hunger of all sorts. On the other, freedom, pleasure, and the untold treasures that come from living a purposeful life.” He adds, “Which way will I go? Statistics say I will not choose wisely.” Allowing for a few mishaps, though, the author chose well, urged on by a wise football coach who cheered him and his teammates through losses as well as victories and by a teacher who raised difficult topics instead of “the solid kinds of questions that had unequivocal answers.” Seeman was aspirational from a young age; his title comes from a bucket list that he kept in school, quite literally enumerating animals that he wanted to see in their natural habitat. Years later, he succeeded in that goal—just in time in some cases, for the tigers he sought out in India have since been wiped out by poachers. So, too, were many of his young friends swept up by that despair and its sequelae—even as the author took every opportunity to gain an education, eventually winning a scholarship to Yale, where he continued his relentless work, “studying at the library until the last possible minute before running to make it on time to the next new experience.” His lists and life rules expanded accordingly, including one that guides him today: “Do something kind for a stranger.”

Inspirational without mawkishness, a satisfying rags-to-riches yarn.

ABOUT TOM SEEMAN

TOM SEEMAN grew up in a family of fourteen on welfare and food stamps in the projects of Toledo, Ohio, and went on to own and lead several businesses. He earned his B.A. in Economics from Yale, where he rowed on the crew team and graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, before going on to earn his Juris Doctor at Harvard Law. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston and on the Board of Trustees of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. He funded a scholarship that actively seeks disadvantaged students to attend St. Francis de Sales High School in Toledo—the same school that generously gave him a scholarship and that he credits for helping him fulfill his dream of attending a top college. He has worked across the globe, lived in five countries, and traveled to over one hundred. He makes his home in Massachusetts with his wife, four children, three dogs, and a cat.


ANIMALS I WANT TO SEE

A Memoir of Growing Up in the Projects and Defying the Odds

By Tom Seeman

Release date: May 14, 2024

ISBN: 9798888453568

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