My Soul Looks Back by Jessica B. Harris
A Memoir

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“My Soul Looks Back” was never, to this reader, uninteresting. It does suffer at times from a softness of focus. This is one of those volumes in which “rooms rang with laughter” and “rapier-fast wit” is prized, but it never makes you laugh.
-NY Times

Synopsis

In this captivating new memoir, award-winning writer Jessica B. Harris recalls a lost era—the vibrant New York City of her youth, where her social circle included Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, and other members of the Black intelligentsia.

In the Technicolor glow of the early seventies, Jessica B. Harris debated, celebrated, and danced her way from the jazz clubs of the Manhattan's West Side to the restaurants of the Village, living out her buoyant youth alongside the great minds of the day—luminaries like Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, and Toni Morrison. My Soul Looks Back is her paean to that fascinating social circle and the depth of their shared commitment to activism, intellectual engagement, and each other.

Harris paints evocative portraits of her illustrious friends: Baldwin as he read aloud an early draft of If Beale Street Could Talk, Angelou cooking in her California kitchen, and Morrison relaxing at Baldwin’s house in Provence. Harris describes her role as theater critic for the New York Amsterdam News and editor at then burgeoning Essence magazine; star-studded parties in the South of France; drinks at Mikell’s, a hip West Side club; and the simple joy these extraordinary people took in each other’s company. The book is framed by Harris’s relationship with Sam Floyd, a fellow professor at Queens College, who introduced her to Baldwin.

More than a memoir of friendship and first love My Soul Looks Back is a carefully crafted, intimately understood homage to a bygone era and the people that made it so remarkable.
 

About Jessica B. Harris

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Jessica Harris is the bestselling author of The Welcome Table, Sky Juice and Flying Fish, Beyond Gumbo, and Iron Pots & Wooden Spoons, among many others. Her work has appeared in Essence, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Cooking Light, and Eating Well. She is a contributor to food website zesterdaily.com and Saveur. Harris is a professor of English in New York City and scholar-in-residence in the Ray Charles Chair in African-American Culture, at Dillard University in New Orleans.
 
Published May 9, 2017 by Scribner. 272 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Cooking. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for My Soul Looks Back
All: 2 | Positive: 1 | Negative: 1

Kirkus

Good
on Mar 02 2017

Peppered throughout with favorite recipes, Harris’ book is a warm recollection of life-changing friendships and personal connections. At the same time, her story offers a unique perspective on some of the greatest African-American intellectuals and artists of the modern era.

Read Full Review of My Soul Looks Back: A Memoir | See more reviews from Kirkus

NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Dwight Garner on May 09 2017

“My Soul Looks Back” was never, to this reader, uninteresting. It does suffer at times from a softness of focus. This is one of those volumes in which “rooms rang with laughter” and “rapier-fast wit” is prized, but it never makes you laugh.

Read Full Review of My Soul Looks Back: A Memoir | See more reviews from NY Times

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