cover image My Soul Looks Back: A Memoir

My Soul Looks Back: A Memoir

Jessica B. Harris. Scribner, $25 (272p) ISBN 978-1-5011-2590-4

Author and educator Harris begins her memoir with her young adult life in New York during the early 1970s and the remarkable individuals who surrounded her, including notable black writers such as James Baldwin, Maya Angelou, and Toni Morrison. Harris is an accomplished woman as well, an award-winning culinary writer who has been inducted into the James Beard Who’s Who in Food and Beverage in America and recently helped the National Museum of African American History and Culture to conceptualize its cafeteria. Though Harris’s narrative begins in Manhattan, the boundaries of the story expand to include the south of France, Paris, California wine country, and Haiti. One point of focus is the author’s romantic relationship with Sam Floyd, an older fellow professor at Queens College, who first introduced her to the various artists he fraternized with. Harris has thoughtfully sprinkled in a few of her favorite recipes as well as a playlist: “from the dancing tunes of our raucous parties to the wailing notes of my grief, there was always music.” This is a lively, entertaining, and informative recounting of a time and place that shaped and greatly enriched American culture. (May)