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The Grace of Silence: A Family Memoir

3.76 of 5 stars 3.76  ·  rating details  ·  1,335 ratings  ·  335 reviews
A profoundly moving and deeply personal memoir by the co-host of National Public Radio’s flagship program All Things Considered.

While exploring the hidden conversation on race unfolding throughout America in the wake of President Obama’s election, Michele Norris discovered that there were painful secrets within her own family that had been willfully withheld. These revela
Paperback, 240 pages
Published September 6th 2011 by Vintage (first published January 1st 2010)
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Mar 27, 2012 Sharon rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Wow. Every American should read this book. It's so much more than it appears to be on first look. The reader expects a family memoir, and that is provided along with crucial and little-known American history. This book contains so much elegant wisdom, eloquently told. Further, it asks us to do more, to be more, to understand more.

I've been listening to Michele Norris on NPR for years without knowing anything about her. You won't find much that's current about her and her work in this book, but
Sherry Quan
I have been wanting to read THE GRACE OF SILENCE for some time having grown up in what I call South Scandinavian Minneapolis-a Black/Chinese girl passing for white. Although Michele Norris didn't delve into growing up in South Minneapolis as much as I was hoping, I wasn't disappointed.

She recorded history that made me realize there is so much I don't know. Her attention to detail has given me much to question-especially how different was it for my Chinese father, who also served in the Navy dur
This book DOES read like a novel in many ways, as other reviewers have mentioned. I think what particularly appealed to me about this memoir was the many insights she offered about a significant era in our civil rights history, one that (as Ms. Norris observes) is often overlooked. The veterans of WWII DID set the stage for future successes and paid a painful price in the process. I love the family and history mix...It may not appeal as much to those who weren't a part of the sixties and the str ...more
I read this book in a rush--skimmed it, really--when the person who was supposed to interview Michele Norris (National Public Radio, "All Things Considered") fell ill and I replaced her. It's not a great book, but Michele Norris is charming and articulate and I've been a fan for a long time. She was even better in person. The book is a memoir about her own family and the stories they never told her about their own experiences with race and racism in America--a silence she thinks common to famili ...more
Nanette Bulebosh
Norris is about my age and, like me, grew up in the Midwest (her Minnesota to my Illinois) in a middle-class family. We're both also the youngest of three girls. Yet, in some ways, our childhoods couldn't be more different. Both my parents grew up in relative poverty and, from a young age, were well aware of the limitations of their class. But my dad never had to worry about being targeted for harassment by cops because of the color of his skin. He never had to suffer the indignity of being call ...more
A refreshingly candid story of an African American family in MN, their roots in America, and particular the father's experiences coming from Birmingham, AL. There are various contrasts interwoven throughout: north/south, black/white, diverse cultural values within both white and black communities. And the author tells her story with pacing and drama to keep it a story, and not simple a monologue. The reader feels like he knows what it is like to be Michelle Norris, to know her parents and their ...more
‘The Wisdom of Love’ would be another appropriate title- her parents let go of bitterness and worked hard to show people they were intelligent, hard workers. I believe this allowed their children to move on from the atrocities of the past and become more fully integrated into their country.

This was a bit of a painful read- I was not aware of the extent of prejudice in our country. I was also surprised and hurt to find out that there are people who hate me because I am white.

This brought up some
K2 -----
I thoroughly enjoyed the pace of this book and the way she told her family's story about race in America. I do not know her work on NPR as I quit listening years ago, but she is a talented writer and skilled journalist.

As Obama rose to become the first African American president she began examining race in America in a new light and wanted to understand how it played a role in her own family's life. Her parents were both hard working postal workers who were proud and encouraged their daughters
Interesting memoir/racial relations commentary hybrid. It’s fascinating how (NPR host) Michele Norris weaves her quest to learn more about her parents’ past with the changing state of racial relations during her lifetime. This book is pretty short and the prose somewhat bland (clichés abound) but it is definitely a unique take on the topic, including some heretofore unknown pieces of American History, or at least unknown to me. Norris’s parents were amazing, not only in a general sense, but in c ...more
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I really enjoyed this book, although in the 2nd half I felt like she wandered away from the memoir part a little bit and explored the black military and post-military experience of the 1940s a bit more than was warranted. I enjoyed that part because
1. I did a project for a college symposium about the military as an intitution and in MY lifetime and experience have always felt that the military had better racial integration than the US as a whole. So I was interested to learn a little bit about
Michele Norris (she of the beautiful voice and great reporting on npr) has written a truthful, heartfelt account of her family history, which in many ways illustrates living issues of race in the 20th and early 21st centuries. She bravely explores this topic down to the bone, trying to meet the white police officer who shot her father in Birmingham, Alabama just days after his honorable discharge from the WWII navy, for example-- an incident her father had never told her about. She explores the ...more
Michelle's story of her family's past history and her life growing up in Minnesota was enlightening. It was not what I expected - it was more about the history of her family's struggles and triumphs over racism than it was about the direction of US Sentiment, post-Obama, which is what I expected after reading the jacket. Many of her father's struggles were hidden from her growing up; like harassment from the police and being shot in Alabama. He enlisted to fight during WWII but was relegated to ...more
This memoir is beautifully written and a wonderful ode to Norris's father. However, the author does not explore as much national dialogue on race as I had hoped. Although the dust jacket introduces the book as Norris' exploration of dialogue on race due to the Obama presidency, most of the text touches only on race in relation to her own family events. There is little dialogue explored in direct relation to Obama's presidency or other major sociological concerns of 2011. Since those topics were ...more
This is a beautifully written and heartfelt memoir exploring racial issues in this country and how they affected the author and her family. Norris, an NPR journalist and an African American woman born and raised in Minneapolis, began her book as a documentary about the racial dialog surrounding Barack Obama's election campaign. In the course of her writing she learned about the indignities and injustices her father, a post WWII veteran, suffered in the late 1940's in his hometown of Birmingham A ...more
Jeff Crosby
An elegant, poignant memoir from National Public Radio's Michele Norris focusing not only on her own story but more broadly, on issues of race in America - from the Birmingham, Alabama of Bull Connor and her father's childhood and young adulthood to the changing south-suburban Minneapolis neighborhood where she grew up in the 60s and 70s. There is wise counsel here for discussions of racial histories and hopes, if we would but listen. Including for the grace of silence, and the discipline of lis ...more
Enjoyed this book! Refreshing to hear how we are shaped by what we aren't told, rather than the continual major events which we do hear about throughout history. Norris' writing took an approach of how we are shaped in our routine daily lives, and how taking the road of being simply 'normal' has much to its credit. I was pleased this wasn't another book focusing on the difficulties of racial issues. Instead, Norris was able to relate to us as real people.

I have received this book as a Goodreads
Carol Brusegar
The Grace of Silence was an intriguing intertwining of a family's story with little known details of the times in which they lived.

Between south Minneapolis where Michele grew up and Birmingham, AL, where her father grew up and where she spent time every summer, threads of family stories were shared.

After learning only after his death about an incident involving her father in Birmingham when he was 20, Michele vigorously researched it. What she learned about her father, an African American just
Michele Norris's depiction of race relations and her own family's stories from Jim Crow Alabama was engaging, thought provoking, and difficult to read. The difficulty is due to the incredible violence and oppression characteristic of this time and area.

This is an essential piece of reading for understanding this period in our history. These are the stories of black men and women as told by them and their children - no revisions, just a lot of solid research and retrospect.

What better way to le
Michele Norris, of NPR, tells the story of her life growing up in Minneapolis, with regular visits to Birmingham, Alabama, where her grandparents lived. It is almost more about her father's life and experiences, after serving in the military in WWII, and adjusting to the segregation that was very much a part of civilian life. As an investigative reporter looking into her own history, she finds some family secrets.
I thought this book was one of the most heart-felt books about growing up African American in the United States that I have ever read. I loved what she did with the word "Grace". I have always respected Michele on the radio and have a new found respect for her as an author.
This lady is an NPR reporter who investigated her father's secrets many years after he died. As a black man in Alabama in the 1940's he suffered a lot, but he never told his daughter about it because he didn't want her to hate white people.
Excellent, it brought back so many menories of growing up in the 50's and 60's. Traveling across the country and my father going in the stores and restaurants and seeing if they served Negroes. How the parents kept secrets about their lives and lives of other family members. Going to see Sidney Poitier in the "Long Ships" in Danville, Ky and having to sit in the balcony. This was surprising for kids from Denver where only adults were allowed to sit up there. Not understand till years later why m ...more
Enjoyably fast yet deeply thought-provoking read, narrated by Michelle Norris' mellow voice in my head. This is a very personal look, through the eyes of comfortable, Minneapolis girl next door Michelle, at the effects on her WWII veteran father of Birmingham, Alabama's violent white supremacist police dept. She shares with us her hunt for information about a life-scarring incident her father & his family almost succeeded in hiding from his own wife & children for 60 years.
One thing I
Wow! Really upset me- takes you back to civil rights or whatever they're supposed to be.
John Wood
This memoir by Michele Norris, cohost of NPR's All Things Considered, delivers an informative, compelling view of race relations in the US. In uncovering long hidden instances from her family's past including her father being shot by a policeman and her Grandmother traveling around making pancakes as Aunt Jemima, she explores racism past and present. The book is thoughtful, informative and well researched. The ongoing struggle is also illuminated by examples from our nation's history. In additio ...more
When I first found out I had a summer assignment for the fifth year in a row, I'll admit that I was a little disappointed. However, I grudgingly sat down to read Michele Norris's "The Grace of Silence" and found myself enjoying it. Although it's probably not something that I would have read on my own, the issues of race and family history discussed in the book will stick with me for a long time. Norris tells the story of America's racism through her own family story, making the message personal ...more
Upon opening the book my reaction was, “oh no, certainly not a sista girl.” Michele definitely caught me off guard in the airport. But this was a good thing recognizing I was about to learn about the birth of decorum.

And then I started learning, to be split many ways as I delved deeper into the grace of silence. Suppressed pain. Invariable need to seek respect. Sensitivity. Strength. And sometimes too, dithering insight were a few of the divisions.

Largely, the father’s wit charmed me instantly.
I don't typically have many hours in my day to devote to reading, but I found this book MADE me find time. Ms. Norris does a great job of bringing to light the sacrifice of African-American military veterans, as well as the entire African-American community "then" and now. In the early part of the book, Ms. Norris focuses on her maternal grandmother's acting role - one that makes her family avoid talking about it. Most families have secrets. In the latter part of the book, her father's story ill ...more
In order to give a book a 5-star rating, I have to feel that reading it was a mind-expanding experience. This memoir was.

Michele Norris, co-host of NPR's All Things Considered, was inspired by the discussions of race relations that surrounded President Obama's election to delve into her own family history. The result is a family memoir, which chronicles the experiences and attitudes of her parents and grandparents and what they taught her -- and sometimes more importantly, what they chose not t
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Photo Credit: Mary Noble Ours

Michele Norris is one of the most trusted voices in American Journalism. Her voice informs, engages and enlightens listeners with thoughtful interviews and in depth reporting as one of the hosts of NPR’s flagship afternoon broadcast, All Things Considered. Michele uses an approachable interviewing style that is at once relaxed and rigorous. She’s interviewed world lead
More about Michele Norris...
NPR Classic Driveway Moments: Radio Stories that Won't Let You Go NPR American Chronicles: Civil Rights

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“There is often grace in silence. But there is always power in understanding.” 7 likes
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