The only thing I want more than to read Michele Norris’s new book, The Grace of Silence, is a few hours freedom to actually sit and read it. Norris relates stories of her own family’s experience to the overall backdrop of race relations in the United States, both then and now. Specifically, Norris examines how her family remained silent on some of their most personal racial incidents, including Norris’s father being shot by a police officer after serving in WWII and her grandmother’s job – no joke – as a traveling Aunt Jemima.
Using the intimacy of personal story to extrapolate grander issues is one of the most powerful ways memoir can touch us as readers. It’s a way of using true-to-life specificity as a relatable experience that readers can compare and contrast with their own. I say this as one who detests anecdotal evidence and meandering anecdote, something one of my instructors would likely call a “bathtub story.” However, listening to Norris report on a wide variety of prescient, fascinating topics over the years, something tells me she knows precisely how to make her family’s story not only interesting but relevant and meaningful to readers who are willing to explore their lives and how race relations affects it.
Listen to Tom Crann’s 12-minute interview with Norris from Minnesota Public Radio news today.
If you’ve read the book, please let me know what you think.