The Grace of Silence: A Memoir

Michele Norris, Author
Michele Norris, Pantheon, $24.95 (208p) ISBN 978-0-307-37876-7
Reviewed on: 07/19/2010
Release date: 09/01/2010
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-299-22515-2
Compact Disc - 978-0-307-74891-1
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-0-307-47527-5
Downloadable Audio - 978-0-307-74894-2
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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.)
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