Motherless Child, May 4, 2009
And yet, I was profoundly naïve.
You see, My first experience with `colored' people was as a kindergartener. They lived down the street from our company owned home in South Plainfield, New Jersey. I played with their children - they played with us. We went to their birthday parties, they came to ours. My earliest memory of church - and especially the glorious singing - was their church.
Time, life, and we moved on, and yet one thing remained constant. There were always `colored' people in the neighborhood where we lived, and to us growing up, they were just other neighbors. Not better, not worse, and not even really different. Just better tanned. I grew up in the racially tense 60's without ever really knowing that they were the racially tense 60's. In fact, it wasn't until high school in Miami Florida when Miami Dade's finest and a flock of Television news reporters showed up at our high school in Northwest Dade County to both film and quell a non-existent outbreak of racial tension that it finally dawned on me that these people with whom I'd grown up, played, shared meals, and some of whom were my best friends, were `different' and that we weren't supposed to get along. I was just another white kid in an integrated setting who got along and thought it was like that everywhere.
I give you this background as a point of reference, and a stepping off point for what comes next.
I just finished reading Motherless Child, Stories from a Life by Sarah Gordon Weathersby (©2009 by Sarah Gordon Weathersby. Published by LuLu.com ISBN 978-0-6152-1294-4 and available at Amazon.com, $17.99).
In her preface, Ms. Gordon Says this:
Imagine you gave a baby up for adoption forty years ago, and after years of trying to find her, she finds you. Now come the hard questions. She's healthy, beautiful, and successful, but she wants to know why you gave her away and why you didn't marry her father. And there is also the unspoken question of "What kind of black woman gives her baby away?" How do you explain to her that giving her away was the best gift you could offer?
Motherless Child is her `coming of age story from those same 50's and 60's, but from a world I never experienced. Sarah tells of her life growing up in the restless, racially violent days when it seemed that the only answer to someone who stood for equality was to shoot them down like dogs in a street. Sarah experienced racism first hand in ways of which I was frighteningly unaware, and could never have imagined. And, she experienced it in a completely unexpected way. Racial Invisibility.
And all of this while carrying the burden of being single, black, and pregnant in an era when `good girls' were neither. Sara bore the burden of having to make the ultimate decision to give up her child, and live with a guilt only someone in her circumstances could imagine, for the next forty years.
Motherless Child left me wanting to seek out this author myself, and hug her both for the child she was and the woman she became.
I strongly recommend this book to men and women of all races, but especially to anyone who wants to read an open hearted, eloquently stated epoch of the times, from a perspective few of us can imagine. It jumps around at times, and occasionally repeats itself, but I give Sara's story 9 out of 10 stars.
Oh - one last thing. Oprah, if you're listening, here are three things you really need to do:
1. Interview Sarah Gordon Weathersby on your television program
2. Make her book, Motherless Child, an Oprah selection
3. Turn this story into your next film project.
Scenes of Pathos and Humor,
July 14, 2008
That which seemed the greatest of tragedies in the 1960's, nearly 40 years later, mainly because of the many adjustments in societal mores in America, becomes bearable. It is bearable because the child had grown up in a loving home and became a doctor and a happily married mother. But the uncertainty of all those years almost consumes the author. The writing is so pointed and graceful at the same time. It points to the inward grief of a girl who becomes a woman in an instant, and it paints on a very large canvass of the 60's through the 90's multifaceted scenes of pathos and humor.
This story could have been about any girl faced with seemingly insurmountable odds, but because the story is about an African American girl in a typical African American family it has particular meaning for an America who almost never gets a glimpse into that class of families. So, often the stereotypes of "gangsta" rap, and of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the American sociologist and politician who advised Nixon's America to treat African Americans with "benign neglect", becomes easy substitutes for the complex society of African Americans in the United States. These approaches sometimes dull the sensitiveness of other Americans to the human element present in that society as in any other society.
"Motherless Child: The Story of A Life" almost single handedly draws the reader out of that silly cocoon into the realities of the red blooded life of a person who experiences tragedy and triumph in one life.
Dr. Michael V.W. Gordon
Professor Emeritus, Indiana University
Former Vice Chancellor/Dean of Students
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