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In Search of the American Dream

by Janice S. Ellis

Pub Date: Feb. 13th, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-64114-753-8
Publisher: Christian Faith Publishing

In this debut memoir, a business executive and newspaper columnist recounts her path from a Mississippi farm to high-level positions in the Midwest, contending with racism and gender discrimination.

A black child of the 1950s and ’60s, born and raised on a family-owned farm in the heart of the segregated South, Ellis always knew she was not cut out for rural life. In 1964, at the age of 14, the author found her inspiration and direction from the broadcasts of Eric Sevareid, who was a regular commentator on Walter Cronkite’s CBS Evening News. “Someday, I am going to do what Sevareid does,” she told her mother. Years later, while completing her course work for a doctorate in communication arts, she was introduced to the writings of Walter Lippmann: “Eric Sevareid lit the flame within me to become a political columnist. Walter Lippmann set it ablaze.” Lippmann became the subject of her Ph.D. dissertation. Throughout most of her professional career in business and government, she continued to be a columnist for Milwaukee and Kansas City newspapers and blogs. Ellis married young, while still in college. The union produced two sons, but, according to the author, it soon became abusive and lasted only a few years. Several relationships followed, one of them also abusive. But more than 11 years after her divorce, she tied the knot with a man named Frank, to whom she is still happily married. In her book, enhanced by family photos, Ellis sets her personal battles within the context of the civil rights and feminist movements, both of which helped fuel her determination. She recounts stories of sexual harassment that are especially relevant in today’s #MeToo environment. And the early sections offer striking portraits of segregation, as she recounts cross burnings in front of her house and the murder of a friend’s father who was involved in voter registration. But her academic training sometimes gets in the way of a compelling narrative. A long section detailing the works and philosophies of Lippmann is a distraction from the engrossing personal tale and has the feel of a dissertation presentation.

Despite tangential wanderings, this account offers an important historical perspective on two continuing struggles.