OverviewIndie Excellence Award - Finalist - Regional Non-Fiction - 2009A Whole-Hearted LifeOn Valentine's Day, 1950, a beautiful and determined child was born with a birthmark between her eyebrows in the shape of half a heart. She spent the rest of her life living fully, caring deeply for those around her, and advocating for the things she believed in, particularly the dignity of all work and all workers. She recognized early the growing service and clerical sectors of the economy and the need to unionize this overlooked group of low-paid employees. An utterly compassionate and confident woman, she sparkled with excitement and mystery. Her intelligence and passion were formidable. She lived easily in a world of comfort and high culture as well as that of the streets, the workplace, and the tough, male-dominated union halls. Regina V. Polk was a Teamster. A warrior. A champion. A humanitarian. And the most remarkable American labor leader you haven't heard of until now.
Reviews"The story of Polk's life is told well in the biography and includes a wealth of information on a truly dedicated unionist." —Teamster Magazine
"After working in the cotton mills from 1956 until 1973 when I was fired from J.P. Stevens in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, for working to organize a union, I can appreciate the hard work and challenges that Regina Polk faced as one of the first woman Teamster leaders. It is sad that I had not heard about Regina Polk before reading I Am a Teamster. Polk was a woman with so much love, courage, and knowledge of labor laws. She was a woman as dedicated, as intelligent, and as tough as her idol Jimmy Hoffa. This is a wonderful educational book for anyone who wants to know about organizing the unorganized. It also does a wonderful job of honoring a woman who 'felt that it was more important to actually help one person than to talk about saving the world.'"—Crystal Lee Sutton, The Real Norma Rae
"Imagine an environment dominated by men unconsciously comfortable with sexism, racism, and brute force. Further imagine a young working-class woman courageously embracing the principle of justice for all workers and compelled to navigate a terrain dominated by complex, flawed, sometimes deeply compromised and always powerful men. Such elements are typically the ingredients of wonderful fiction, but in Terry Spencer Hesser's colorful and personal portrait of labor leader Regina V. Polk, we have a truly inspirational story for anyone who believes in fighting against the power of patriarchy and abusive employers. I Am a Teamster is how Regina Polk defined herself and in the accounts of her tragically brief life, as told by Ms. Hesser, the reader finds an exemplary model of what the very best of union leaders can offer workers and society."—Robert Bruno, Director of Labor Education Program, University of Illinois
"After reading about Regina Polk, you'll wish you had known her, especially if you are of her generation—a baby boomer in your late fifties or early sixties. This biography by Terry Spencer Hesser portrays a dynamic, determined organizer who pried doors open for women in the labor movement and who entered the world of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Local 743 and rose to leadership in the large Chicago local. . . . It is likely appealing to a youthful audience that would find Polk's life story unusual and interesting. Undergraduates or young working people might take inspiration from Polk's commitment and zest for life . . . The contributions to labor of Regina Polk and other women of her generation need to be compiled, examined, and cherished." —Labor Studies Journal
Author BiographyTerry Spencer Hesser has had the pleasure of telling stories in print, on television, and on the stage for three decades. A recipient of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Gold Award, three Emmys, and a host of other honors, she has searched for vampires in Transylvania, Limburger Cheese in Wisconsin, the meaning of a black canvas at The Art Institute of Chicago, and told the life stories of people ranging from Robert McCormick to Regina Polk. She has also taught children about AIDS and adults about mental illness. Her book Kissing Doorknobs received an ALA award and her play about Elvis was called "the funniest show in town" by FOX News. She has enjoyed working with Audrey Hepburn, Oprah Winfrey, and R. Kelly. Her story on Mackinac Island documents one perfect summer day on Michigan's treasured island. Terry is currently working on two more programs on islands without cars (Sark, in the English Channel and Hydra in Greece) and is busy documenting Homer Bryant's Chicago Multi-Cultural Dance Academy Center. An avid skier, former scuba diver, and boxing fan, Terry is a world traveler and eager student of…whatever captures her imagination next.