Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Grace of Silence: A Family Memoir” as Want to Read:
The Grace of Silence: A Family Memoir
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Grace of Silence: A Family Memoir

3.8  ·  Rating details ·  2,041 Ratings  ·  396 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 revel
...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published September 6th 2011 by Vintage (first published January 1st 2010)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Grace of Silence, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Grace of Silence

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Laurie Halse Anderson
Michele Norris - journalist and former host of NPR's All Things Considered, among many other accomplishments - has written a tender, loving, honest book that is for anyone who cares about the people in their lives and the future of the United States.

Equal parts memoir and reflection on race in America, this book will likely open your eyes to things you never knew about. I had no idea, for example, of how the returning black veterans of WWII were treated (horribly) and how their response to the
...more
Sharon
Sep 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
...more
Sherry Lee
Jan 01, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...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
Terry
Oct 10, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Becky
Dec 26, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Paul
Feb 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Becky
Sep 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I haven't read a memoir in awhile and this was a good one. I learned more about my own neighborhood, how black WWII veterans served our country, but were treated with so much disrespect and racism. We still live in a divided country and I think this book can help start a conversation. From the book, "But all of us should be willing to remain at the table even when things get uncomfortable. We need to be fearless while unburdening ourselves, even as we respect the same effort in others. There is ...more
Lois Duncan
I seem to be the only one posting here who was not enthralled with this book. The author may well be a marvelous woman, I don't think she's that good a writer. This account wandered all over the place, as if she'd never made an outline. She addressed an important subject, but could have made it much more interesting to read about.
Caitlin
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Laura
Jan 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Grace of Silence is a moving family memoir about one woman’s journey as she digs into her family’s past and discovers much more than she had ever imagined. After Barack Obama’s historic win of the presidential nomination in 2008, NPR correspondent Michele Norris decided to take a deeper look into her African American family to see how they ended up where they are today. Once Norris started looking into it, she found her family had many secrets in their past and that maybe the best thing they ...more
Kathleen
Aug 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Michele Norris, co-host of NPR's All Things Considered, has written more than a memoir in The Grace of Silence. It's a family history and a family mystery combined, set against the evils of Jim Crow Alabama post World War II and subtler forms of racism in Minnesota.

Norris's discovery that her father had been shot by a white policeman comes as a shock. It was never mentioned during his lifetime. The more she probes the mystery, the more complex the issue becomes. She decides ultimately that many
...more
Becky
May 18, 2012 rated it liked it
This book was the selection for the first Minneapolis Reads this fall, and I hoped to learn a lot about the racial history of Minneapolis through reading it. Instead, I took a tour of Michele Norris' racial family history, which plays out mostly in other places.

The book's cover says it reveals family secrets from her grandmother playing an itinerant Aunt Jemima to her father's shooting by a Birmingham police officer. In point of fact, those are really the only two incidents the book addresses--
...more
Laura (booksnob)
Every family keeps secrets that are hidden from the next generation. Whether intentional or not, some secrets are stories that never get told. These stories may explain or define who we are but stay hidden beneath layers of memory.

Michele Norris started out writing a book to explore hidden conversations about race and what she found were painful secrets her parents kept hidden from their children. This is Michele's journey to unearth the secrets of her past and find meaning and grace in her pare
...more
K2 -----
Apr 11, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Jocie
Apr 09, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
‘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
...more
Michelle
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
Judy
Jan 21, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Michele Norris, the cohost of NPR's All Things Considered, writes about the lack of honest conversation about race in the United States. Before interviewing others on the subject, she comes to realize that her own family had not been open on the subject. Norris discovered that her father had been shot by a white Birmingham police officer just a few weeks after his discharge from the Navy after serving in World War II. He never mentioned the episode to either his wife or his daughter, but shortly ...more
Jo
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
Melanie
May 11, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult-nf
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
...more
Paula
Oct 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Barb
Nov 26, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Kim
May 04, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Patty
I know that many families don't talk much about the past and that often we keep secrets about our family histories, but Michele Norris' family kept quiet about a number of "big" topics. Norris had no idea how American history and racism had impacted both her grandmother and her father. I don't want to give the topics of this book away, but I am still trying to figure out how I would feel if life changing events were hidden from me.

What I liked best about this book was Norris' willingness to appl
...more
Barbara
May 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is definitely worth reading but not quite in the must read category. It's strength lies in its ability to tell one family's story against the backdrop of history and providing some universal insights while doing so. The author poses important questions, offers answers, but still leaves space for the reader's reflections and conclusions. There are times when she dwells on areas that are relatively unimportant, and some times other incidents are given short shrift, but on the whole this a mem ...more
Jeff Crosby
Jul 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Carol
Sep 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Beverly
Oct 10, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-book, memoir
I enjoyed this memoir. While the author urges all readers to find out their family history and to talk with the elders before it is too late, but as a Black American that is interested in history, this memoir once again showed me that all of our ancestors endured much to have me be able to be who I am today.
So agree with the author that Grace is measured by what you do once you have climbed up the difficult mountain.
Linda
May 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Michelle
Apr 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is a beautiful memoir of how the past isn't past. She retells the story of her father and grandmother, but more importantly she delves for significance and try to find the other side of the story. She tries to find the white cops who shot her father, but they're all dead. She does an excellent job of exploring the wounds of the past, but also the importance of having the grace to rise above the bitterness and anger.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • Dear Senator: A Memoir by the Daughter of Strom Thurmond
  • To 'Joy My Freedom: Southern Black Women's Lives and Labors After the Civil War
  • Red Summer: The Summer of 1919 and the Awakening of Black America
  • Oh, Beautiful: An American Family in the 20th Century
  • A Reason to Believe: Lessons from an Improbable Life
  • This Is NPR: The First Forty Years
  • Ties That Bind: The Story of an Afro-Cherokee Family in Slavery and Freedom
  • My Dyslexia
  • Life on the Color Line: The True Story of a White Boy Who Discovered He Was Black
  • The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir
  • American Tapestry: The Story of the Black, White, and Multiracial Ancestors of Michelle Obama
  • The Angela Y. Davis Reader
  • The Boy Who Loved Tornadoes
  • Lost in America: A Dead-End Journey
  • Seeking Peace: Chronicles of the Worst Buddhist in the World
  • Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud, A Memoir
  • Black White and Jewish
  • Mixed: My Life in Black and White
1123319
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
More about Michele Norris...

Share This Book

“There is often grace in silence. But there is always power in understanding.” 8 likes
More quotes…