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Memoir Review    

 

Multicolored Memories of a Black Southern Girl
Women in Southern Culture series
By Kitty Oliver
University Press of Kentucky, 2001
ISBN: 0-8131-2208-2

 

 
 

Oliver, an experienced Southern Florida journalist and Florida Atlantic University Writer-in-Residence, records her experiences in Jim Crow and integrated South Florida in her Multicolored Memories of a Black Southern Girl.

Oliver's account of segregation and desegregation are refreshing for their honest and attempts not to put an unrepresentative pretty face or black eye on the realities of Jim Crow Florida.

          Often when people recall the era of segregation as a time when communities were unified, nurturing, and egalitarian, I wonder where they lived. I must have come of age during the waning days. There might have been an absence of racial contrast, but there was certainly no absence of conflict. This was a time when richly diverse, opposing energies fermented and we reveled in the fact that there were all kinds of black people constantly jockeying for a superior position. …Like pockets of Italians, Irish, Jews, or Cubans found in other cities-or any community where people are the same color, religion, or language- we may have looked pretty homogeneous from the outside. Our confinement, of course, was even more complete because it was enforced by Jim Crow segregation laws. But human nature can be resourceful, even under the worst of conditions. In isolation, we divided ourselves as though we lived in the real world.

                 [Multicolored Memories, pg. 7-8]

 

In her memoirs, Oliver reminisces on her life and experiences as she prepares to give a lecture. The book tells of her experiences growing up in Jacksonville, Florida and as one of the first students to integrate University of Florida.

Throughout Multicolored Memories, Oliver takes a journey of self-discovery and to reconnect with her family's history (thus her own). Her storytelling is most poignant when Oliver touches upon the mysterious nature of the "Geechee" branch of her family. It is at these times, when she is recalling these unique, seemingly mythical relatives that her writing becomes the most memorable and compelling.

Her tale is significant for its reflection and study of segregation in Florida, familial ties as well as for its telling of one woman's success during turbulent times.

 

Tia Blassingame
Southern Scribe Reviews 

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