I try to load up my reading challenges with as much memoir and other non-fiction as I can these days. I’m down to three memoirs in my current set of challenges. This is one of them.
When I came upon Ordinary Light I was looking for memoirs that begin with “O” and fell in love with this simple title. Then the description solidified the choice. If you haven’t noticed from other memoirs, I’m a sucker for stories like this. I grew up thinking that everyone followed what their parents did and it was rare to break out from what you know but then I’ve met so many people that found themselves somewhere else. Movies I grew up with would have me believe that this only happened to people running from their parents and that parents had to be terrible for you to want to not recycle their lives but I’ve come to terms with that sometimes people just want different things. It’s not that parents are bad, necessarily, but that kids are not little clones with the same hopes and dreams. Nor should they be treated as such. Anyway, I’m veering away from the point. This book will possibly be my last memoir of the year. Has anyone read it yet?
From the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet: a deeply moving memoir that explores coming-of-age and the meaning of home against a complex backdrop of race, faith, and the unbreakable bond between a mother and daughter.
Tracy K. Smith had a fairly typical upbringing in suburban California: the youngest in a family of five children raised with limitless affection and a firm belief in God by a stay-at-home mother and an engineer father. But after spending a summer in Alabama at her grandmother’s home, she returns to California with a new sense of what it means for her to be black: from her mother’s memories of picking cotton as a girl in her father’s field for pennies a bushel, to her parents’ involvement in the Civil Rights movement. These dizzying juxtapositions–between her family’s past, her own comfortable present, and the promise of her future–will eventually compel her to act on her passions for love and “ecstatic possibility,” and her desire to become a writer. But when her mother is diagnosed with cancer, which she says is part of God’s plan, Tracy must learn a new way to love and look after someone whose beliefs she has outgrown. Written with a poet’s precision and economy, this gorgeous, probing kaleidoscope of self and family offers us a universal story of belonging and becoming, and the ways we find and lose ourselves amid the places we call home.