SOUTHERN DISCOMFORT by Tena Clark

SOUTHERN DISCOMFORT

A Memoir
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KIRKUS REVIEW

The Mississippi blues take on new meaning in this tragic yet uplifting memoir.

With its Southern setting and themes of racial conflict and civil rights, it’s easy to see how this book has been compared to The Help. But Clark’s debut is an entirely original—and true—story. In the Grammy Award–winning songwriter and producer’s memoir, she reveals a Southern gothic tale of growing up in 1950s Waynesboro, Mississippi, a lesbian raised by a womanizing father, an alcoholic mother, and a household of African-American help whom she’d sooner call family. Long before the author went on to become a renowned music producer, she was a little girl trying to make sense of her confusing world on the cusp of integration. The youngest daughter of four, Clark was the only one in the house by the time her parents had reached the height of their fisticuffs. The daughter of the wealthiest man in town, Clark watched her father’s adultery in action. “On any given day,” she writes, “Daddy would cruise around town, admiring his own image in his Cadillac’s rearview mirror, his left arm dangling out the window, a cigarette between his fingers. When he wasn’t entertaining some woman in his car, he and I would tool around town, making his daily rounds.” His womanizing drove Clark’s mother not only to drink, but to shoot, and the author saw her mother, on more than one occasion, take aim at her father. But this isn’t merely a story of parental dysfunction. The narrative is an investigation of what it meant to be a progressive during the Jim Crow era. Clark openly mocked Klan members, took her black nanny to lunch days after the passing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and tested her own family’s acceptance by marrying a woman. Yet throughout the book, the overarching theme is love.

A highly satisfying look at a flawed family, a conflicted South, and a fraught future.

Pub Date: Oct. 2nd, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-5011-6794-2
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2018




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