Rosa Parks was not the first woman to refuse to give up her seat on a bus for a white person. I know, I didn't know this either. It's not our fault....moreRosa Parks was not the first woman to refuse to give up her seat on a bus for a white person. I know, I didn't know this either. It's not our fault. Claudette Colvin had done the same nine months before. She was not considered by African American civil rights leaders to be a suitable symbol for the campaign against segregationist legislation. She was too young (she was fifteen), perceived to be too fiesty and too emotional, and too working class to be an appropriate figurehead to inspire revolution among her fellow African American residents of Montgomery, Alabama. She suffered more at the hands of the police than Ms. Parks (Colvin was jailed, among other things), more scorn from her neighbours and supposed friends than Ms. Parks, and yet she's been conveniently forgotten by the press, the historians and the public.
But she isn't bitter about it. In fact she understands why Rosa was the better choice, she was everything Claudette wasn't - a well respected introvert, a middle class and middle aged woman. Colvin was understandably hurt when she wasn't informed about victories or included in celebrations, and was completely shunned by everyone when she fell pregnant just a few months after she took a stand, by a married - and supposedly white - man. She was a teenager, an unwed mother - a shameful thing. Her parents forced her to keep the name of the father secret so apart from her immediate family she was without support from the community that once revered her for her bravery. The movement took what they wanted from her and then ignored her when she became the object of shame. The irony is astonishing - the movement rallying against unjust persecution while also persecuting a vulnerable member of their community.
Anyway, Colvin never sought fame or criticized the movement's leaders, she quietly tried to rebuild her life. Her dream of becoming a civil rights lawyer shattered once she became pregnant. Her school kicked her out as it did any pregnant teenager and she was forced to bear and raise her son in isolation, constantly looking for work since she was fired every time her employers discovered who she was.
This is an exceptionally well-rounded account of events surrounding the bus boycotts and the reversal of the segregation of schools in Montgomery, Alabama in the mid-1950s. Colvin's point of view and personal history is interspersed with accounts from other sources and there are plenty of detailed explanations of how things worked and were organised and funded. It's quite amazing what the co-operation of a community accomplished, and what they had to sacrifice. There are many examples of unjust events that precipitated Colvin's impromptu decision to make a stand.
The narration is perfect. Not once did I become bored or frustrated. I highly recommend this anyone that wants to know more about Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and the civil rights movement in Alabama.
ETA: I forgot to add that I was surprised to hear that Colvin stopped straightening her hair while she was in high school because she was proud of her African heritage. Unfortunately her classmates and her boyfriend didn't understand and began to pressurize her on the subject. But she was adamant. Her natural hair was beautiful. She didn't want to spend hours every morning trying to make her hair look like a white woman's. She was African and that was that.
I didn't like the ending. Stupid, I know. It's right there in the title. I found it so upsetting, I ran into my mother's bedroom, woke her up and hugg...moreI didn't like the ending. Stupid, I know. It's right there in the title. I found it so upsetting, I ran into my mother's bedroom, woke her up and hugged her tightly. I have been taking her for granted. She won't be around forever and I must appreciate her more now while she still has all of her faculties despite her difficulties with her mental and physical health. The next day I ran out and bought her flowers, chocolates and her favourite cheesecake as early Mother's Day gifts.
This is a collection of short autobiographical articles covering 10 years, originally written for the author's column in The Guardian. We begin with an 89-year-old independent grandmother called Clarice deciding to move from her home on the coast in Brighton to live with her 54-year-old daughter and 18-year-old granddaughter in London.
Generational gaps and culture clash / shock provide plenty of friction. Friends to compete, argue and console with are entertaining distractions. And frustrations take the form of form-filling and jobsworth bureaucracy, health issues with the associated numerous endless hospital and GP appointments, the expensive no value for money nursing homes, and the appalling attitude NHS hospital staff have towards the elderly and mentally ill. Quite a few of these things I've experienced myself with my own mother so I sympathise.
Hanson's mother is painted as an honest-to-a-fault, opinionated, food porn loving, make-do and mend scrimper and saver of money. She is sweet, brazen, stubborn and fascinated by all the sex on TV. In a word, she is lovable. I wish I'd had a grandma like her. As it is, my mother's got the honest to a fault part down. Getting her to lie is impossible. Even little white ones. "Does my bum look big in this?" "Yes, you need to lose weight." "I know! No need to tell me."
While Michele writes in a middle-aged, southern England mildly posh and slightly melodramatic and comedic way, her daughter Amy's extra long chapter towards the end is poignant and heartbreaking. Her grandmother's birthday wish for many years was to die and instead she seems to receive a new ailment. A stroke causing aphasia - a difficulty in communicating, particularly talking, was the worst. A previously animated, chatty and opinionated woman is at first reduced to silence and life became one long game of Charades, and then gradually she was able to say a few words at a time but they aren't always the right ones. Her daughter and granddaughter became excellent translators.
My mother was lucky. Her mini-strokes happened all at once, resulting in amnesia - including forgetting how to eat - and referring to herself in third person, taking months to recover.
I understood Amy's painful guilt, her inability to watch the indignities of ageing, the simple everyday activities we carry out and take for granted that become embarrassingly difficult and messy as her grandmother's body deteriorates and malfunctions.
It's amazing that Clarice lasted as long as she did, to a ripe old age of 99. Had she moved into a nursing home instead, I doubt she would've lasted 3 years let alone 10. Michele couldn't do that to her mother, didn't want the guilt or the worry that goes with letting others care for someone you love. She did everything she could to keep her mother mentally and physically active, and raising Clarice's spirits when she was depressed and longing for death.
Right now I'm doing the same. I've become concerned that my mother's mental agility is in peril. Dementia has become a concern and I've realised she has little stimulation since she fills her day with repetitive OCD activities. The jigsaw I bought was for us to do together but I suspect the number of pieces and the complexity intimidated her. Trying to get her to read new books is a nagging exercise, in fact anything and everything I try to introduce is outright rejected or reluctantly accepted but never done. This is going to be an uphill battle.
I recommend Living with Mother to everyone because not only will many of us be responsible for caring for our parents as life expectancy increases, but we are all ageing. Hanson's account informs us of what's in store for us in our futures, enabling us to decide on how we're going to cope.(less)
An entertaining and hysterical autobiographical telling of Mark's sexual adventures as a young man. I highly recommend reading this. I shall never loo...moreAn entertaining and hysterical autobiographical telling of Mark's sexual adventures as a young man. I highly recommend reading this. I shall never look at watermelons the same way again.(less)