Book Review

pwk_logoPublishers Weekly - Nonfiction Book Reviews: 10/19/09

The Road to Someplace Better: From the Segregated South to Harvard Business School and Beyond Lillian Lincoln Lambert, with Rosemary Brutico. Wiley, $25.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-470-40166-8

This is an old-fashioned rags-to-riches story that traces Lambert's upbringing as the daughter of God-fearing Virginia subsistence farmers to becoming the first black woman to graduate from Harvard Business School, in year 1969, and later attaining success as a Maryland entrepreneur. Told in straightforward, no-nonsense prose, Lambert's memoir begins backward, from the shocking anecdote about arriving for a meeting of a group of powerful businesswomen in New York City in 1986 and being ushered to the kitchen. In fact, Lambert née Hobson worked as a maid when she first arrived in New York City in 1958, fresh out of high school from Ballsville, Va. (Her 1976 startup of a janitorial service in Maryland provides another irony.) Although her mother, a rare college graduate back in the rural South, wanted her daughter to go to college, Lambert resolved to support herself instead, faking references to get a job at Macy's, for example. After working as a clerk-typist in Washington, D.C., she finally applied to Howard University, where her marketing professor, H. Naylor Fitzhugh, one of the few black graduates of Harvard's business school told her she was “Harvard material” and should apply. She was accepted and in the fall of 1967 at 27 years old, she found herself homesick, overwhelmed by the work, but determined not to quit. Her account captures a historic epoch and offers some business strategies. (Jan.)


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