The Grace of Silence, by Michelle Norris
Former NPR All Things Considered journalist Michelle Norris has a particularly elegant way of reporting. It is at once fluid, deep, articulate, enlightening and pensive. Her memoir is no different. The Grace of Silence is a book encompassing race in America and how it affects family ties, social cohesion and upward mobility.
Norris grew up in Minnesota. Her parents were well dressed, house proud, hardworking Americans and also black. When it snowed, her father was up hours before their white neighbors. When white neighbors put their houses up for sale on the very day her family moved in, they carried on maintaining their corner lot with meticulous attention to detail. Her grandmother worked as a living Aunt Jemima, promoting the brand, despite its complex racial connotations.
After her father died, Norris learned that he had been shot in the leg shortly after returning from the war by a police officer. Her father had never told her the story. Investigative journalist at heart, she took it upon herself to delve into the details and discover what had happened. What transpired was a complicated journey through the United States’ segregation era.
Norris astutely gathers facts from both sides of the story and pieces together the life and times her father grew up in. It is not an easy read, but it is a necessary one. She also recalls other news stories of other veterans returning from war who find out that they can fight for their country but on arrival back in the states are still treated as second class citizens. They demand change and are no longer willing to settle for an inferior social status. Norris recounts several harrowing stories of racial discrimination.
Norris highlights the fact that there perhaps is no such thing as a post-racial America; that just because a black man was elected as the President of the United States, does not mean that everything has been fixed. The scars of segregation are still evident in the everyday lives of black Americans. Norris opens up a completely accessible dialogue that is at once honest and practical. It’s a way to move forward. Everyone should read this book as it offers great insight into a subject all Americans need to address and talk about.
For more information on what Michelle Norris is doing, check out her work at The Race Card Project (racecardproject.com) and submit your own suggestion.