ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: San Francisco Chronicle, The Christian Science Monitor, Kansas City Star.
A profoundly moving and deeply personal memoir by the co-host of National Public Radio’s flagship program All Things Considered.
While exploring the hidden conversation on race unfolding throughout America in the wake of President Obama’s election, Michele Norris discovered that there were painful secrets within her own family that had been willfully withheld. These revelations—from her father’s shooting by a Birmingham police officer to her maternal grandmother’s job as an itinerant Aunt Jemima in the Midwest—inspired a bracing journey into her family’s past, from her childhood home in Minneapolis to her ancestral roots in the Deep South.
The result is a rich and extraordinary family memoir—filled with stories that elegantly explore the power of silence and secrets—that boldly examines racial legacy and what it means to be an American.
In this eloquent and affecting memoir, Norris, co-host of NPR's All Things Considered, examines both her family's racial roots and secrets. Spurred on by Barack Obama's campaign and a multipart NPR piece she spearheaded about race relations in America, Norris realized that she couldn't fully understand how other people talked about race until she understood how her own family dealt with it, particularly with their silence regarding two key events. She intersperses memories of her Minneapolis childhood with the events that shaped her parents' lives: her maternal grandmother's short career as a traveling "Aunt Jemima," which always embarrassed her mother, and her father's shooting by a white policeman in Alabama in 1946. It is the shooting, which occurred soon after Belvin Norris Jr. was honorably discharged from the navy, that forms the narrative and emotional backbone of Norris's story, as she travels to Birmingham to try and piece together what happened. Though the quest is a personal one, Norris poignantly illuminates the struggle of black veterans returning home and receiving nothing but condemnation for their service. The issue of race in America is the subject of an ongoing conversation, and Norris never shies away from asking the same difficult questions of herself that she asks of others because "all of us should be willing to remain at the table even when things get uncomfortable."
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My Kind of Book
If you like memoirs as do I, then you may want to invest in this book. This book was a great escape for me. The author is sensible, calm, collect, and quite frankly a good story teller. I would liken this book to "Gifted Hands" by Benjamin Carson.