The Grace of Silence by Michele Norris
A Memoir

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Synopsis

In the wake of talk of a “postracial” America upon Barack Obama’s ascension as president of the United States, Michele Norris, cohost of National Public Radio’s flagship program All Things Considered, set out to write, through original reporting, a book about “the hidden conversation” on race that is unfolding nationwide. She would, she thought, base her book on the frank disclosures of others on the subject, but she was soon disabused of her presumption when forced to confront the fact that “the conversation” in her own family had not been forthright.
 
Norris unearthed painful family secrets that compelled her to question her own self-understanding: from her father’s shooting by a Birmingham police officer weeks after his discharge from the navy at the conclusion of World War II to her maternal grandmother’s peddling pancake mix as an itinerant Aunt Jemima to white farm women in the Midwest. In what became a profoundly personal and bracing journey into her family’s past, Norris traveled from her childhood home in Minneapolis to her ancestral roots in the Deep South to explore the reasons for the “things left unsaid” by her father and mother when she was growing up, the better to come to terms with her own identity. Along the way she discovered how her character was forged by both revelation and silence.
 
Extraordinary for Norris’s candor in examining her own racial legacy and what it means to be an American, The Grace of Silence is also informed by rigorous research in its evocation of time and place, scores of interviews with ordinary folk, and wise observations about evolving attitudes, at once encouraging and disturbing, toward race in America today. For its particularity and universality, it is powerfully moving, a tour de force.
 

About Michele Norris

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Michele Norris, host of All Things Considered, is cowinner of the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award for The York Project: Race and the '08 Vote and was chosen in 2009 as Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists. She has written for, among other publications, The Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, and the Los Angeles Times. As a correspondent for ABC News from 1993 to 2002, she earned Emmy and Peabody awards for her contribution to the network's 9/11 reporting. She has been a frequent guest commentator on Meet the Press, The Chris Matthews Show, and Charlie Rose. Norris lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and children.
 
Published September 21, 2010 by Vintage. 210 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Grace of Silence

Kirkus Reviews

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Kirkus Reviews talks with Michelle Norris, author of "The Grace of Silence" at the Texas Book Festival.

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Kirkus Reviews

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The author was able to track down relatives of the friend and piece together what occurred, and she learned that her father was probably a participant in one of the marches led by returning veterans who refused to accept second-class citizenship.

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Publishers Weekly

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In this eloquent and affecting memoir, Norris, co-host of NPR's All Things Considered, examines both her family's racial roots and secrets.

Jul 19 2010 | Read Full Review of The Grace of Silence: A Memoir

Kirkus Reviews

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Michele Norris wrote one of the best nonfiction books, The Grace of Silence, of 2010.

Dec 13 2010 | Read Full Review of The Grace of Silence: A Memoir

Los Angeles Times

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An NPR reporter offers up family secrets as a testimony to racism's power and reach.

Sep 28 2010 | Read Full Review of The Grace of Silence: A Memoir

Christian Science Monitor

NPR radio host Michele Norris raises questions of race as she explores the secrets kept by her Midwestern family.

Sep 27 2010 | Read Full Review of The Grace of Silence: A Memoir

Denver Post

Although Maggie is close to the perpetually dieting Brenda, a fellow real estate agent who aspires to become mayor of Birmingham, Maggie feels she doesn't have anyone — or much of anything — to live for.

Dec 12 2010 | Read Full Review of The Grace of Silence: A Memoir

Bookmarks Magazine

What started as a proposed national dialogue on race in the wake of President Obama's election soon veered into much more personal territory when Michele Norris, a journalist and cohost of NPR's All Things Considered, began to interview her own family members.

Sep 26 2010 | Read Full Review of The Grace of Silence: A Memoir

Washingtonian

She also learned that her grandmother—a stylish lady whose braids sat on her head “crownlike, as in Frida Kahlo’s self-portraits”—had spent years donning the stereotypical garb and patois of a black mammy to sell Aunt Jemima pancake mix for Quaker Oats.

Oct 27 2010 | Read Full Review of The Grace of Silence: A Memoir

Statesman.com

At one point, Norris describes black men going to voting booths, and, after waiting in line for hours, being turned away for having supposedly filled out their paperwork incorrectly.

Oct 03 2010 | Read Full Review of The Grace of Silence: A Memoir

Eurweb

Damn Near White: An African-American Family’s Rise from Slavery to Bittersweet Success – by Carolyn Marie Wilkins.

Dec 28 2010 | Read Full Review of The Grace of Silence: A Memoir

Marie Claire

Those conversations inspired Norris to continue thinking about race, and the results became a memoir about race in Norris's personal history — including her father's shooting by the Birmingham police within weeks of his discharge from service in World War II.

Oct 06 2010 | Read Full Review of The Grace of Silence: A Memoir

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