cover image Up Home: One Girl’s Journey

Up Home: One Girl’s Journey

Ruth J. Simmons. Random House, $27 (224p) ISBN 978-0-593-44600-3

Simmons, who became the first Black president of an Ivy League institution in 2001 when she took that position at Brown University, chronicles the first 22 years of her life, in this poignant and inspiring memoir. Born to sharecroppers in 1945 Daly, Tex., Simmons was the youngest of 12 children. As soon as she was able to work, she joined her father, mother, and siblings in the cotton fields; though she felt “nestled in the bounty of [her] family’s care,” Simmons’s active imagination fostered her desire to escape “to distant, forbidden regions.” Following her mother’s death when she was a teenager, Simmons began to plot a path out of Texas, excelling in high school and earning a scholarship to Dillard University in New Orleans. There, she thrived, winning a Fulbright scholarship and admission to Harvard’s PhD program in romance languages. Though she ends the narrative at her college graduation, which may disappoint readers seeking insights into her career, Simmons skillfully maps the contours of her young mind and sets the stage for future volumes that explore her time in academia. The author’s humility (“I do not regard the circumstances of my childhood as more difficult or more glorious than another’s”) and tenderness make this a fiercely memorable debut.Agent: Wendy Strothman, Strothman Agency. (Sept.)