Tracy K. Smith is a
Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, a talent evident in every line of this crystalline
memoir. Hers is not the dysfunctional family story we've
grown accustomed to reading; in fact, Smith recalls her family of seven as "steady,
steadfast, happy, and whole."
Her dad was an Air
Force engineer, while her mom was a sometime teacher. In loving detail, Smith
recalls both the happiness and the complex questions of her childhood. Religion
is a force to be reckoned with again and again (at 8, her first reading of
Revelations leaves her terrified). Questions about race are also ever-present.
Growing up in suburban California in the 1980s, “It felt like...there
were limits to what I would let myself understand, limits to the whole to which
give myself access. I was ten years old, living with a vague knowledge that
pain was part of my birthright.” Smith is stung when
a blonde classmate asks, "Don't
you wish you were white?" And when her parents
urge her to be "twice as good as they
are at everything you do,"
she wonders about
that willingness to bear an unfair burden. Smith’s honest, unflinching
book offers an inspiring model for seeking the light in an "ordinary" life—ask the tough questions, look in the hidden corners, allow
yourself to understand and never stop searching for faith.
— Dawn Raffel