Review: The Grand Duke from Boys Ranch by Bill Sarpalius

THE GRAND DUKE FROM BOYS RANCH
EUGENIA AND HUGH M. STEWART ’26 SERIES
by
BILL SARPALIUS
foreword by Bill Hobby
Genre: Memoir / Texana / Politics / Eastern European History
Publisher: Texas A&M University Press
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Date of Publication: April 16, 2018
Number of Pages: 336 pages w/50 B&W photos
As a boy in Houston, Bill Sarpalius, his brothers, and their mother lived an itinerant life. Bill dug food out of trashcans, and he and his brothers moved from one school to the next. They squatted in a vacant home while their mother, affectionately called “Honey,” battled alcoholism and suicidal tendencies. In an act of desperation, she handed her three sons over to Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch north of Amarillo.

At the time, Bill was thirteen years old and could not read. Life at Boys Ranch had its own set of harrowing challenges, however. He found himself living in fear of some staff and older boys. He became involved in Future Farmers of America and discovered a talent for public speaking. When he graduated, he had a hundred dollars and no place to go. He worked hard, earned a scholarship from the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, and obtained a college degree. After a brief career as a teacher and in agribusiness, he won a seat in the Texas Senate. Driven by the memory of his suffering mother, he launched the Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse in an effort to help people struggling with addiction.
Sarpalius later served in the United States Congress. As a Lithuanian American, he took a special interest in that nation’s fight for independence from the Soviet Union. For his efforts, Sarpalius received the highest honor possible to a non-Lithuanian citizen and was named a “Grand Duke.”The Grand Duke from Boys Ranch is a unique political memoir—the story of a life full of unlikely paths that is at once heartbreaking and inspirational.

 
PRAISE FOR THE GRAND DUKE FROM BOYS RANCH: 

“The autobiography of Bill Sarpalius reads like a 20 -century version of the American dream – equal parts heartbreak and inspiration, culminating in an unlikely political career capped by three terms in the U.S. Congress.” — University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs
“The Grand Duke from Boys Ranch is an inspiring tale of perseverance and personal courage.” — Si Dunn, Lone Star Literary Life
 
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review
I thought that a memoir by a politician would read snooty and high falutin, but The Grand Duke from Boys Ranch is a real comfortable conversation with someone you just met but feel like you have known for years. I could imagine myself sitting on a porch, watching horses graze nearby, as I sip a mason jar of ice cold sweet tea and listen to Bill talk about his life.
To say that Bill attended the school of hard knocks would be an understatement. Bill was more like the janitor, ridiculed by staff and students alike, who worked hard and remained kind no matter what. That’s a metaphor by the way. Bill wasn’t a janitor, but he definitely would have taken on such a job since he was a honest worker who did whatever he could to make his life, and the lives of others around him, better.
From the humblest of beginnings, this man fought fairly and let God (and his heart) lead the way. There were some times that I thought things sounded a little too good to be true, but then a hammer dropped and his life would shatter. His faith and his true blue friends would see him through every rough spot in his life, and he would claw his way back to the top. Bill never quit. Bill never fought dirty. And what I really admired about Bill is that he really didn’t let the past get in the way of his future. His eye was ever on the silver lining.
For a book that is written in laymen’s language through and through, there were surprisingly very few errors. For the most part, this book is chronological and has a pretty nice flow to it. Bill has the gift of storytelling, but I think his life is so unique and interesting that I would have still been captivated even if a lesser author penned this book. Sometimes he explains things a little too on the nose, but I like to think that he’s done that for people who might need that extra help with reading comprehension. And anytime you start to wonder if he stretches the truth a little, he has photographic evidence of the people he’s met along the way.
I recommend this book to young people who are struggling in school, to people who are just struggling with life in general, to educators, to administrators, heck, to pretty much anyone who might need to find inspiration or are praying for divine intervention. I closed this book with a renewed spirit to do more and to do good in the world. No excuses, anything is possible.
BILL SARPALIUS represented the Texas 13th Congressional District from 1989 to 1995, and from 1981 to 1989 he served in the Texas State Senate. He currently is a motivational speaker and serves as CEO of Advantage Associates International. He divides his time between Maryland and Houston, Texas.
 
 
MEET THE AUTHOR! 
BARNES & NOBLE, #2665
2:00 PM
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 1, 2018
2415 Soncy Road
Amarillo, TX 79124
 

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