Reminiscences of growing up white and middle-class in the Deep South during the late 1960s.
Marsh (Religion/Univ. of Virginia; God’s Long Summer, not reviewed) details his experiences as an adolescent with disarming candor and wit. In 1967, his father, the Reverend Bob Marsh, accepted a post at the First Baptist Church of Laurel, Mississippi, unaware that he was sailing into a maelstrom. The Marsh family arrived in a community deeply divided along racial lines. However, in an effort to avoid antagonizing his congregation, Reverend Marsh initially chose to avoid speaking out on the issue, rationalizing his decision with the claim that segregation was a matter of “politics,” and not an appropriate topic for the pulpit. Living and working in one of the most prominent FBI-KKK battlegrounds of the late 1960s made this stance increasingly uncomfortable for the pious minister, and his internal conflict began to spill over both at home and in church. He briefly considered leaving the pulpit to teach, until a series of events combined to encourage the reverend to change his tune. The remainder of the text details the town’s efforts to comply with the federally mandated desegregation of its public schools; the author offers humorous, touching anecdotes describing his own experiences and interactions with his new classmates. While anticlimactic, the ending is realistic and evokes considerable sympathy for the difficulties white Mississippians had to face when their long-held perceptions of reality were overruled by national popular opinion.
Personal and interesting, though the hesitancy and complacency of Reverend Marsh and the good citizens of Laurel are less than inspiring.