A poet explores her experiences as a mother, teacher, black woman, and “conscientious outsider.”
In this frank, revealing, and often lyrical memoir, Dungy (Creative Writing/Colorado State Univ.; Trophic Cascade, 2017, etc.) chronicles her travels across the country with her daughter, recording her thoughts on their place in American society. Whether she ponders why so many people are startled by the volume of her infant daughter’s hair, the history of the Civil War as it related to the rural farmers of Maine, or the loss of place and home when developers built behind her childhood home, the author’s voice rings out loud and clear. As a black woman who travels in circles that are often nearly all white, she has fears that others may never perceive. When she injured her ankle while hiking, she fretted about whether her weight was too much for the men in her group to handle in making it back down the mountain. When she flies, she has to rely on strangers to help with her stuff and her child, and she worries about who will take care of her daughter while she is teaching. On a powerful visit to Ghana to see the slave-holding pens along the coast, she considers her daughter's inability to pay attention to the horrific history all around them. Dungy also discusses the many surprises of being a mother, including the joys of nursing and watching her child learn new skills, which has opened her own eyes to new wonders. Each essay flows smoothly into the next, and they are all interlinked with themes of race, fear, joy, and love, bringing readers eye to eye with the experiences of being a black female poet, lecturer, mother, and woman.
Forthright, entertaining, often potent essays that successfully intertwine personal history and historical context regarding black and white in America.