Home » Book Club » Book Club – The Grace of Silence

Book Club – The Grace of Silence

So. Y’all had me really scared to read this book.  I was thinking it was going to be the most horrid of the horrid.  I liked it.

I am a sucker for memoirs.  I like to think it is because I’m nosy as all get out delightfully inquisitive and enjoy reading about other people’s journeys through this wonderful life.  Do I think this was the best written memoir I’ve ever read?  Nope.  Did that surprise me slightly?  Sure did.  I was expecting a different read from Michelle Norris, but now that I think about it, I’m not certain why.  Just because I enjoy her on NPR doesn’t mean that she’s automatically going to be a supremely gifted writer.  But I think that she did a good job and I don’t regret reading this book at all.

I’ll tell you what – her response to learning about her father’s one night in jail could’ve knocked me over with a feather.  I realize that I  have no right to tell anyone else how they should react to something, but come on lady.  Finding out your father was accidentally shot in the leg and spent a night in jail is not as worthy of collapsing on the floor in a heap and remaining paralyzed for 2 hours as oh say, finding out your father killed someone in a bar fight or something along those lines…I actually went back and read that part 2 3 times because I was certain that I’d missed something.  I had not.

My favorite quote from the book was:  “Blacks often feel the dispiriting burden of being perceived willy-nilly as representing an entire race.  The idea made my head hurt, and it still does if I dwell on it too much.”  Yes! Yes! Yes!

Anyhoo lovelies, I know many of you do not share my feelings about the book – head on over to the comments and let’s get this discussion rolling.

Any suggestions for our next book which I think will be the last one for 2012.  Unless y’all think we can read and discuss two more books in the midst of all the activity and bustle that the holidays bring?  Let me know!

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7 thoughts on “Book Club – The Grace of Silence

  1. I’m reading your post and thinking to myself that this book sounds familiar. Imagine my surprise when I realized it was already on my kindle. I read it a while ago based on a recommendation. I thought it started off slow, but overall was an interesting book. To uncover all of that family history is amazing. I suppose I’d be shocked that my father had been shot and jailed-she had a completely different view of him and it was pretty startling.

    • I thought she did an excellent job uncovering her family history! I would be shocked if I found out similar information about my father, but I just cannot believe my reaction would be in any way similar to hers. Two hours curled up on the floor? Nah.

  2. What drew me into this book the most was is that Michelle Norris and I are about the same age. Her father was a few years older than my Father, my Father is a Korean War vet. And a lot of our memories of the 60’s are very similar. Our families both moved to predominately White neighborhoods that soon experienced “White Flight”. And our parents always dressed to impress and dressed us too.

    But because I was raised around all of my aunts, uncles and grandparents, plus I’m nosey, I tend to know lots of family secrets. So If I found out that my father had been shot and arrested, I don’t think I would have had quite that reaction. I mean her father was a Black vet, in the segregated South. Being shot and arrested would not have sent me on such a quest to find out why. I would have just assumed it was because he was a Black man in the South during those times. It seems as though the whole book took a left turn and concentrated soo much on finding out why. My guess is that she wanted to just wanted to honor her father by telling his story.

    All in all I enjoyed most of the book. I actually enjoyed the parts about her grandmother’s job of being a traveling Aunt Jemima. Much of that I didn’t know about. I tried to imagine any of my grandmothers doing that. And knowing them the way that I did, I just can’t. Now if I stumbled onto a family secret like that, then I would become obsessed with finding out why, how and mostly WHY?

    • That traveling Aunt Jemima part surprised me – I had no idea such a job even existed! Now that? I cannot imagine finding out anyone in my family would do such a thing.

      I wish she’d dealt a little more with who she is. I didn’t get a strong sense of “Michelle” from the book. I’d think she has some interesting stories of her own to share.

  3. I thought there was too much in the way of general history when she couldn’t find details on her family’s history. If there was more about her father or the rest of her family, I would’ve been all in. I love memoirs for that reason. This didn’t do it for me.

  4. I was pleased that I finished the book early on enough to think about what she was trying to accomplish Then I could reflect on the content.

    Michelle was trying to share her family research in such a way that created a desire in the reader to do the same. Get to know your family through documented events, family lore, told and re-told stories. That part I understood. I was disappointed in her writing style. She vacillated between her childlike writing and being a professional news correspondent. She tried to be accessible with language. Then she would try for profundity and depth to equal her radio reputation.

    I was not overly impressed with her telling of the stories in her life. However I did like the stories themselves. The Aunt Jemima Grandma was a story I had never heard before. I appreciated hearing about that part of her life. However, the father’s police encounter and arrest were drawn out and over-reported. That could have been condensed. Her relationship with her mother seemed strained and emotionless.

    Norris was successful in telling her families stories. It seemed as though it was a cathartic experience for her with little regard for her reading audience. I did not think it was reflective of her NPR career.

    I would give this book 3 out of 5 stars. Next.

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