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Trudier Harris will tell you that African Americans who consider
themselves southern are about as rare as summer snow. But Harris has
always embraced the South, and in Summer
Snow, her collection of poignant autobiographical essays,
Harris explores her experiences as a black southerner and how they have
shaped her into the writer and intellectual she has become.
Harris grew up in the racist environment of Tuscaloosa, Alabama in the
1950s and '60s. A member of a black southern family whose father was
born in 1885 and whose mother died in 2001, she claims three centuries
of blackness and southernness as pivotal forces in her life. Not
surprisingly her most important influence was her mother. The book
opens with a charming essay about how her mother chose the name
Trudier, not Trudy, as her daughter's first name. Additionally, Harris
includes a funny piece about her mother's use of "cotton-pickin'
authority," an entertaining tribute to her mother's lifelong love of
fishing, and a touching story of her mother's final heroic years in a
Harris's family, church, and community served as antidotes to the white
racism that surrounded her. Whether writing about the family front
porch, where storytelling prevailed, or the church choir, where black
voices could sing as loudly as they liked, Harris depicts sites where
black life thrived and prospered. Within her black community, though,
colorphobia did affect her high school experiences, and sexual
harassment by black professors followed her to the black college she
is filled with wonderful stories and wry wit. But it also containtes a
number of tough-minded essays -- one, about the price blacks have paid
for desegregation, and another on the "staying power of racism." In
still anothter moving piece, Harris remembers a white teenager who
propositioned her for sex when she was twelve years old, in exchange
for five dollars.
Eloquent and spirited, Summer
Snow joins a long and illustrious tradition of
autobiographies by black women. It also stands as a testament to one
woman's ability to transcend insurmountable odds.
Unflinching in her assessment of white souther culture, yet deeply
attached to a South many black intellectuals have abandoned, Harris in Summer Snow takes
readers on a surprising tour of one woman's life, loves, and lessons.
by Trudier Harris
Hardcover, 186 pages