cover image How I Shed My Skin: Unlearning the Racist Lessons of a Southern Childhood

How I Shed My Skin: Unlearning the Racist Lessons of a Southern Childhood

Jim Grimsley, read by Henry Leyva. HighBridge Audio, , unabridged, 6 CDs, 7 hrs., $29.99 ISBN 978-1-62231-572-7

Accomplished narrator Leyva brings his considerable versatility to the new memoir from acclaimed novelist Grimsley, which recounts his experiences growing up as a white person in rural North Carolina during the school desegregation struggles on the 1960s and ’70s. Grimsley, who has made a name for himself in the realms of both Southern and gay fiction, homes in on how his effeminate mannerisms and nagging sense of being an outsider led to a special affinity with black female students in the earliest days of integration, when he was still in elementary school. Leyva makes his most memorable contributions as a vocal performer in these compelling exchanges between Grimsley and his friends. The delicate dance between being an outsider and being coconspirator in breaking down the Southern social order shines through, particularly in Leyva’s portrayal of Violet, the African-American girl who responds with confidence when Grimsley uses a vulgar racial term upon their initial introduction. Leyva also does an effective job of conveying the nuances and complexities of the present, when Grimsley experiences his hometown’s current racial polarization during a class reunion. An Algonquin hardcover. (Apr.)