cover image White is a State of Mind: A Memoir

White is a State of Mind: A Memoir

Melba Pattillo Beals. Putnam Publishing Group, $23.95 (338pp) ISBN 978-0-399-14464-6

Beals picks up her memoir where Warriors Don't Cry, her recollections of the 1957 integration of Little Rock's Central High School, left off. Few would dispute Beals's courage in risking her life to participate in the forcible integration of the Arkansas public school system. But this volume falls short of the standard set by her previous book. It opens at the beginning of what was to be Beals's senior year at Central High, when normal adolescent tensions were exacerbated as civil rights workers, school board members and citizens struggled to bring down or to uphold the status quo. After word that white segregationists would pay $10,000 for the death of the Little Rock Nine ($5000 if they were kidnapped alive), Beals moved to Santa Rosa, Calif., to finish her education. She continued her studies at San Francisco State, where student activity resulted in the creation of a ground-breaking black studies program. Despite family and cultural pressure to ""marry within her race,"" Beals married a young white man. But, apparently unable to cope with her independence, he deserted Beals and their five-year-old daughter, resurfacing a year later to file for divorce and sole custody of their child. Beals won custody, completed her studies and attended graduate school in journalism at Columbia University. Her story is both moving and instructive, but the prose is flat. At times, it seems as if Beals is attempting to describe her experience without allowing readers to know her true thoughts or emotions or the lessons she has learned from them. (Mar.) FYI: Warriors Don't Cry was awarded the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, and Beals has been nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor for her role in the civil rights movement.