cover image I've Known Rivers: Lives of Loss and Liberation

I've Known Rivers: Lives of Loss and Liberation

Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, Sara Lawrence Lightfoot. Basic Books, $25 (654pp) ISBN 978-0-201-58120-1

Responding to E. Franklin Frazier's somewhat disdainful Black Bourgeoisie , Harvard sociologist Lawrence-Lightfoot ( Balm in Gilead ) here portrays the complex lives, drives and commitments of six middle-aged ``African-Americans of privilege.'' Each subject, whom she interviewed over a period of several years, reveals something thought-provoking: Charles Ogletree, a criminal defense lawyer and Harvard professor, feels ``both burdened and inspired'' by the ghosts of his small-town past; Cleveland and Boston businesswoman Cheryle Wills describes learning the spiritual and material values of community at Cleveland's largest black funeral home; documentary filmmaker Orlando Bagwell recalls the abandonment (similar to the ``isolation'' noted by his subject, Malcolm X) he felt when his family moved to a rural white area. In a brief coda of analysis, the author has avoided some probing questons, such as the relationships of two subjects with white spouses. Also, Lawrence-Lightfoot allows the narratives to meander, following the line of her interview sessions; she might have done more to mold her subjects' stories. 75,000 first printing; author tour. (Sept.)