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 Memoir Review    

 

 

White Girl:
A Story of School Desegregation
By Clara Silverstein
University of Georgia Press, 2004
Hardcover, $22.95 (149 pages)
ISBN: 0-8203-2662-3
 
 
 

Clara Silverstein's parents were deeply committed to school desegregation. Idealistic and educated, they wanted their daughters to accept Dr. Martin Luther King's dream that, "Little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and black girls and together as sisters and brothers," a feat more readily accomplished in Chicago than the South. 

After her father's death, Clara's mother moved the family back to Richmond in order to be closer to her own mother. In the early 1970s, around the time Clara started sixth grade, the schools desegregated. Clara's older sister was sent to a predominantly white school while Clara was bused to a predominantly black school where she was unwelcomed. 

"My story is usually lost in the historical accounts of busing," she writes. At her predominantly black public school, Clara dealt with being spit on, having strangers touch her blonde hair, being threatened with physical violence, and the ostracism of being Jewish. Every year, Clara lost her few white friends to the private schools created for white flight. The adults around her, particularly her teachers, were unable to give her direction because they were either confused or counting the days until they could retire. 

White Girl is a powerful memoir written with brutal honesty and uncompromising idealism. An editor and writer for the Boston Herald, Silverstein is also a published poet and the program director for the Writers' Center at Chautauqua in upstate New York.

 

Pam Kingsbury
Southern Scribe Reviews
 

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