cover image Watch Me Fly

Watch Me Fly

Myrlie Evers-Williams. Little Brown and Company, $23 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-316-25520-2

Although Evers-Williams begins with the caveat that ""this book is not about the civil rights movement, the NAACP, [or] Medgar Evers,"" it is largely about precisely those things. The memoir opens with the 1994 guilty verdict in the third trial of Byron de la Beckwith, the murderer of Medgar Evers, and then retraces Evers-Williams's life. Raised primarily by a grandmother who was a schoolteacher, she went on to marry civil rights hero Evers and, after he was murdered, completed undergraduate studies, worked in advertising, ran for L.A. City Councilwoman and became chairwoman of the NAACP--on whose board she now sits. The facts of Evers-Williams's life are nothing if not inspirational, but the book hovers uncomfortably between two impulses: to tell a history of her engagement with the civil rights movement and to offer a personal story of single motherhood and self-discovery. She succeeds much better in the second endeavor, particularly in her edgy description of her marriage to Evers: shortly after meeting her, he told his future wife he would ""shape her into the kind of woman he wanted her to be,"" and he later dismissed her by saying she ""dried [his] soul."" The best sections focus on Evers-Williams's awakening to the realities of life as a single, black mother, realizing she knew nothing about how to establish a credit rating or how to finance education for herself and her children. Unfortunately, her writing is too full of cliches, hyperbole and sermonizing to make her account of the civil rights movement more than a footnote to other, more stirring histories of those epochal events. (Feb.)