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The grace of silence
Norris, Michele
Adult Nonfiction PN4874.N64 A3 2010

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From Publishers' Weekly:

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." (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

In examining her personal roots for this memoir, African American Norris (cohost, All Things Considered, NPR) found some skeletons in her family's closet. For example, she discovered that in the early 20th century her grandmother had dressed as Aunt Jemina to pitch pancake flour to the wives of white farmers in the Midwest. Using her skills as an investigative reporter, Norris also pieces together details of an incident in 1946 when her father was shot by a white policeman in Birmingham, AL. These facets of Norris family history were never discussed during her childhood. To a degree, this "graceful silence" shielded Norris from the indignities of race relations in America, enabling her to be raised in a somewhat sheltered environment that championed thrift, education, hard work, and dignity. Verdict The chronological flow of the book is awkward, but Norris's family history offers Americans of all races a moving and revealing account of the obstacles facing several generations of middle-class African Americans in the pre-Civil Rights era. [See Prepub Exploded, 3/18/10.]-Robert Bruce Slater, Stroudsburg, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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