PUSHED BACK TO STRENGTH by Gloria Wade-Gayles

PUSHED BACK TO STRENGTH

A Black Woman's Journey Home
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A lyrical recollection of a segregated Memphis childhood, rich in love and wisdom, that, unfortunately, peters out in typical Sixties-generation preoccupations. Wade-Gayles (English and Women's Studies/Spelman College) grew up in a housing project in Memphis during the late 40's and early 50's at a time when a housing project ``was a stopping-off place. A decent, but temporary home you lived in until you were able to buy a real home.'' Her parents were divorced, and her father, though a railroad porter living in Chicago, was a vital presence in her life--as were her mother and grandmother, figures of outstanding courage and determination, and relatives like the tragically doomed Uncle Prince. It was Wade-Gayles's grandmother who responded, when the author complained of whites ``always pushing us back,'' that ``They don't know it, but they're pushing you back to us, where you can get strong''--a response that held the family together, set high standards of behavior and accomplishment, and gave Wade-Gayles the confidence to go to college and graduate school, to become an activist in the civil- rights movement, and, later, to teach college. Though segregation was a harsh presence in Memphis, the author poignantly contrasts life in the projects, in schools segregated but ``challenging and uncompromising in their insistence on excellent academic performance and exemplary character,'' and in the supportive black churches with the bleak killing-fields the inner-city has become today. Now married with two adult children, Wade-Gayles relates her somewhat undifferentiated opinions of whites; her belief in ultimate integration preceded by a period of racial separation; her ideas on gender; and a spiritual quest after her beloved mother's death that led to an encounter with an Ndepp priestess from Senegal. An evocative recollection of a community cruelly defined by race but sustained by loving strength and deep faith.

Pub Date: Oct. 7th, 1993
ISBN: 0-8070-0922-9
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Beacon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1993