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Mama Makes Up Her Mind and Other Dangers of Southern Living
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Mama Makes Up Her Mind and Other Dangers of Southern Living

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  4,113 ratings  ·  366 reviews
In this national bestseller, Bailey White--whose accounts of Southern eccentricity have enchanted millions of listeners to National Public Radio--offers a humorous, touching, story-filled memoir of her home in south Georgia.
Trade Paperback, 229 pages
Published April 12th 1994 by Vintage (first published 1993)
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Average rating 3.96  · 
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 ·  4,113 ratings  ·  366 reviews

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Feb 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
Whether written (in books such as this) or spoken (in her oral essays on NPR), I love Bailey White's voice. It is honest, original, entertaining and yet carries insight that can be quite biting at times. Better still, it is oh so southern. She is a master storyteller who manages to fit whole stories into the space of a short essay. Aspiring writers should study her opening lines and paragraphs to see how a great writer draws a reader in. How about these for opening sentences? "We should have ...more
This is relentlessly cute. I mean it's lovely, really. Funny and sweet and weird and in complete contrast to The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America which I was reading concurrently. How can these two works come from even vaguely the same place? At the very least the same nation. Bailey - how can you possibly be called Bailey? What sort of a name is that for fuck's sake, was she named after a sickly cream and whisky liqueur? (wouldn't be entirely inappropriate if she were) -anyway ...more
Aug 18, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fellow Southerners, so we can laugh at ourselves, and Yankees, to let them in on the joke.
Shelves: southern, shorts
I had forgotten about this one until Sheryl put it up on her "to-read" shelf. I'm going to have to pull it down and read it again. It was passed along to me by a good friend with whom I share a very Southern sense of humor, and so was a huge hit.

It's no secret that I adore Southern fiction and non-fiction, and prefer it to any other genre of literature. This charming little book is a prime example of the appeal for me. While this book is not "great literature" by any means, it's very real.
Oct 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: southern, non-fiction
The jacket of this book mentions that Bailey White is a former first grade teacher. I was very lucky to be in her class the last year she taught. My mother was worried about the class because her room had no decorations in it, which made my mother assume she was not very creative. Within a week or two, my mother visited the room again to find it was filled with many different art projects that Miss White had led her students in making.

Like my first grade classroom, this collection of stories
Sep 13, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommended to Jeanette by: Mom
3 1/2 stars

Fun little 2-6 page pieces about her life in Georgia. Great book to have around for nights of insomnia when you need something light and not too taxing. Most of the funniest pieces are the ones about her mom, early in the book. "Porsche" and "Birth of the Blues" made me laugh out loud. "An Interesting Life" gave me chills. What an experience to look back on! "Mortality," about her old car, cracked me up. All of the stories were enjoyable, and full of colorful individuals who might
Jan 26, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
As a general rule, collections of short stories drive me nuts. This was a book full of 2-3 page vignettes that had no connection to each other besides the fact that the author's mother was in each story and each story happened in the South. It was a bunch of anecdotes told in the way a mother would tell stories of her childhood to her children - which would have been fine if there was a logical flow, or the stories built on each other, but they didn't. I could tell within twenty pages that this ...more
What an absolute gem. These short story memoirs were my light bedtime reading and I enjoyed my retreat thoroughly. My absolute favorites were the Gardening, Fireman for Life, and the final Finding Myself. Such great stories.
JG (The Introverted Reader)
You should see my copy of this book. One of my co-workers, who, for various reasons, has only recently seen how much I read, saw all the neon post-it flags sticking out of the side of my book and asked me what on earth I was doing. I blushed and tried to explain how the people in Bailey White's humorous little reflection on life in the South kept reminding me of people I know, so I was just marking the pages. She said that she'd never heard of anyone doing that, looked at me like I was weird, ...more
Bailey White is a southern treasure. I first heard her on NPR, when she used to read her essays during "Morning Edition". With her raspy voice, I thought she was about 90. Then one day I heard she was doing a book signing here in town. I raced to see her (nearly got a ticket on the way- the only reason I didn't was that the nice police officer liked Bailey White too and could understand my hurry.) Got there and there is Bailey White, closer in age to me than to my grandmother ( or to my mother ...more
Jan 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: at-home, favorites
This is a great book and is best read aloud with a friend. Anyone who has ever had a kooky elderly relative, (don't we all?)lived in the South, or just wants to have a heart warming laugh will love this book.

My daughter and I have read "the Mama book" as we fondly call it to each other several times. We laugh at Mama's antics every time as if we had never heard the stories contained within this charming book. We sometimes form an "o" with our thumbs and index fingers to peek at each other
Sep 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Mama Makes Up Her Mind and Other Dangers of Southern Living brings many laughs but with some introspection, too. The book is a collection of vignettes from Bailey White's life, most of which center around "Mama". Mama knows what she wants and how to get it. Mama can be hilarious, charming or set in her ways (but not in a cantankerous way.)

The book reads fast and makes for a nice segue between heavier reads or long books.

4 stars
Apr 19, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pl_easton, nf_memoirs
This might be OK as an audio book if you just want to hear a voice other than the DJ's on a long lonely drive, but as a book-book it was terribly boring. It's a random collection of short vignettes that are neither interesting nor funny. I couldn't finish it and I don't give up on books that often.
Apr 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
"Patchwork Crazy Quilt of Southern Hospitality"

Mama deserves her own sitcom! Her eccentric no-nonsense brand of maternal philosophy, how she handles neighbors and man-handles strangers provide riotous reading—no matter what corner of the country you hail from. The cover of the Vintage Books 1994 edition offers a broad hint into the zany nostalgia inside: a red Porsche and a claw foot bathtub share front porch honors at Mama’s homestead, shameless mementoes of Mama’s past, permanently ensconced
Funny, sweet, charming vignettes of an unusual lifestyle. The author is a 1st grade teacher and I wonder if she isn't a bit like Miss Frizzle of The Magic School Bus. She takes alligators in stride and her mother can sleep outside calmly during a hurricane. It was worth reading.
Kaethe Douglas
Jul 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I love listening to White on the radio. Imagine my shock to discover she's about fifty years younger than she sounds. Just as funny in print.
Aug 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Bailey White takes a wide open view of her relatively quiet existence. But she certainly makes a lot seem to happen when it doesn’t seem like anything is happening. Kind of like my life. I want her with me when I go to buy a car. Or visit an antiquarian bookstore.
Sep 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: paige-loaned
A quite enjoyable collection of short stories. One of my good friends recommended Ms. White's books and I chuckled my way through these stories about life!
Jan 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays, humor
Bailey White can do more in two pages than some other writers can do in two hundred. In this book of essays about her life (and her Mama) in Southern Georgia, she sheds light on the subtle absurdities, the small kindnesses, the beautiful moments and the sad facts of everyday life.

The essays are usually very funny, but they also touch a part of your soul so that even when you're done laughing, you're still thinking. Imagine finding that magical key that makes the first graders you're teaching
Apr 21, 2010 rated it it was ok
Comparing this author to Fannie Flagg is a discredit to the fantastic works of Flagg. Bailey White has a lot of potential to become a great author, but she hasn't reached it yet. I do not understand the great heaps of praise that this book has received. The characters are flat and unexplored beyond the tiny little stories they are featured in, and the stories have no connection between them other than that they were all experienced by the same person, and that Mama is involved someway in almost ...more
Jan 28, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010
This had lots of fun stories about growing up in the south. I really enjoyed the one about her watching scary movies and then being afraid to do anything at home. I can relate to that!

My favorite was when she was talking about her first grade class, and how they couldn't go on a field trip to the reptile center because of budget cuts. So she gets a snake from her house and brings it to school. In the process, they have to ice the snake to calm him down, he gets loose in the room, and it bites
Mar 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Re-reading at the laundromat, while recovering from the dishwasher disaster. I was actually inspired to re-read by a passage from another of her books, Sleeping at the Starlite Motel. My disaster story pales compared to hers:

MY AUNT ELEANOR WAS TAKING A SHOWER THE other day when the whole bathroom fell right through the floor and landed in the dust under the house. Dripping wet and all lathered up, picking soap and tile grout out of her ears, Aunt Eleanor crawled out of the debris and through
Theresa Powers
Aug 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This was a funny book full of stories about the author's family; mostly her eccentric mother. She talked about the small town she lived in and the characters you might come across. These were stories that warmed my heart, because the people reminded me of people I know. At the very end of the book, she talked about being a first grade teacher and some funny happenings. One was where she brought in a snake for her reptile lesson, because the school district could not afford to send the class to a ...more
Melea Rose-Waters
Jul 21, 2008 rated it did not like it
7/21/08.. I started reading this the other day... not exactly what I had expected from a memoir. It's basically a series of short (SHORT!) stories.. maybe 2 or 3 pages each. It's pretty much mindless chatter that is only bits and pieces of her life. I think if she had written it in the true sense of a "memoir" it would be very fascinating.

8/12/08... I just can't finish this book. I hate to get half way through a book and put it down, but I can't waste another minute on this book. Very
Aug 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing
OMG! A friend of mine gave this book to me and said that the 'Mama' in the book reminded her of my mother so I should read it. I read it, then gave it to my mother to read without telling her what my friend had said. My mother read it, called me up and said, "That Bailey White, she reminds me of YOU!" Lordy, it was like looking in the mirror! Bailey White is a delight. I later got the audio version and it is even better to listen to the author's raspy southern accent. Read it!
Mar 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Just as good the second time around. This time I read it aloud for a senior citizen literature class. It is easy to read aloud and everyone found it just as amusing as I did. Life with her mother is funny and inspiring. Her essays about teaching first grade are wonderful. I read "Maritime Disasters" at every teacher workshop I teach and it never fails to give me the big inspirational ending I'm looking for.
Tom Adams
Feb 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I first became aware of Bailey White when I heard her reading brief stories on NPR. She was irresistible - reciting droll tales about simple but fascinating episodes in her life, delivered in a charming Southern accent. This book is a collection of such stories, many revolving around her wonderful mama - a stubborn, eccentric, botanically brilliant, and unforgettable character. Very highly recommended. (I don't know how she does it, but I swear she writes with a Southern accent as well).
Diane Barnes
Apr 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: re-reads
I loved every piece in this short collection. Each one was like picking a piece of chocolate from a box, rationing them out so they would last longer. Then, Oh No! The box is empty! I'm done. Fortunately there's another collection to be read.
These essays about her life in Georgia were written 20 years ago, and don't feel dated at all. I can read them in another 20 years and I bet they will still retain their freshness. You can't say that about a box of chocolates.
Dec 03, 2008 added it
What can you say about Bailey White? Every thing I read by her I hear her wonderfully raspy, very Southern voice, reading it to me. It helps that the stories are deeper than they seem, and yet full of a whimsy that somehow only seems to show up in Southern writers. If you have a decent Dixie accent, you should read it aloud. If not, shut up and read it to yourself.
Jan 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
Perfect little book for those times when you want to get into someone else's life. Bailey's momma is a treasure, and a good example of someone who lives on her own terms, without worrying about inconsequential things. I'd love to have a bathtub on my front porch.
Mary Radmacher
my friend, kathleen, gifts me today with this book. a book, she says, that helps her believe in the love of the world when her belief is waning.

i see what she means.

it was fun just to read an essay or two as i had time. sweet, well written stories.
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Bailey White was born in 1950 in Thomasville, Ga. She still lives in the same house in which she grew up, on one of the large tracts of virgin longleaf pine woods. Her father, Robb White, was a fiction writer and later a television and movie script writer. Her mother, Rosalie White, was a farmer, and worked for many years as the executive director of the local Red Cross Chapter. She has one ...more
“I'm tired of being set upon by crazed Christians one minute and unbridled libertines the next. Girls, I'm going camping.” 20 likes
“When Mama starts to move across a room, people pay attention. You can never be sure she's not going to grab you by the top of the head to steady herself. And she's pretty free with that walking stick, too.” 11 likes
More quotes…