The memoirs of Amtrack brakeman/conductor, Linda Niemann.
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A crisp, often startingly frank, reminiscence - marred by excessive technical detail and some purple writing - of one of the first women to be hired as a brakeman by the Southern Pacific railroad. Niemann was an unlikely "boomer" - a brakeman who migrates around the country as work becomes available. She has, first of all, a Ph.D. in English from Berkeley. Moreover, by her own admission, she was "an intellectual" who "looked like an all-American bimbo," and a bisexual who was a product of the middle class. She also had a history of drug and alcohol addiction. How she managed to adjust to the rigors of life as a "boomer" and to find spiritual and emotional strength in the process makes for an appealing yam. Many readers, however, may find Niemann overly detailed in her descriptions of the brakeman's duties. The fact that she incorporates much railroading jargon into her prose - "bullringer," "dog catching," "kicksign" - often merely confuses, though she does provide a glossary of terms at the end of the book. This problem aside, Niemann is straightforward in recounting her often steamy/stormy love affairs, her struggles with the bottle, her problems with her mentally disturbed mother. She is especially successful in capturing the rough-and-tumble world of the freightyards and the relationships between the men and women who work there. When she turns her attention to the satisfactions to be found in sobriety, though, she occasionally overwrites, as when she states, "I was still restless and blown around by detoxifying emotions which, like cloud horses, thundered across my psychic sky." Still, despite its flaws, Niemann's autobiography is a lively, worthwhile addition to the feminist-studies shelf. (Kirkus Reviews)