By Guest Blogger Bertha M. Davis, Author and full-time Writer
Growing Up In Mississippi is a vivid and descriptive biography that grips at the very core of every human emotion as memories of growing up in somewhat painfully poor social conditions in Mississippi do not deter the family, but bond them together with the unified strength and triumph most prevalent in top movies like Soul Food, or even to overcome travesties as in The Color Purple. You will be intrigued by the strong development of characters like the wayward Uncle Wigley, a cursed character among many black families who resorts to inflicting abuse on family members. The relationship between Jay and Tish is a classic example of how women in the past wound up with larger unplanned families because love conquered all back then and even poverty.
The reader feels as if they are in the story and watching without speaking. It is evidenced that life was slower paced, but more fulfilling even with the absence of television. This is a modern day tale with a happy ending and heralds the rise of our families of the past through political and social upheavals as prevalent as The Civil Rights Movement.
This book is also about an African-American girl growing up with a single struggling mom of four who had to anchor the storms in her life to survive and take care of four children alone. Searching for food when there was none, working in the Mississippi hot sun from sun-up to sun-down, and haunted by racism are just a few obstacles one had to overcome. This book is certainly a book of history and you can listen to a sample of Growing Up In Mississippi Audio Book at: www.berthabooks.com on Bertha’s home page.
Additional comments from Bertha M. Davis about writing this book:
YBIYH: What was like to write the book and reveal your personal experiences with others in your life?
B: It was like revealing history to our future youth. In the beginning, my idea of writing “Growing up in Mississippi” (my personal experiences) was for my children and grandchildren so they could read about the struggles my life encountered as a child. I didn’t want them to have any excuse for fulfilling any dream life offered them. I certainly didn’t want them to get hung up on the crippling words, “I can’t.” Since my life had so many disadvantages, I felt compelled to tell them about my struggles and see my life as an example of how you can succeed in spite of obstacles. After only a portion of my book was read by family members, friends and book reviewers, I was encouraged to take it a step further so all readers could read my story.
YBIYH: Were you nervous about writing about other people whose actions and behavior would be exposed in your book?
B: No not really! People’s actions and behavior were already exposed in the towns and over the television during the Civil Rights Movements and before desegregation. If it wasn’t by personal contact, research was conducted before finalizing my book.
YBIYH: Also, what is it like for you now when you speak to others about your story? How does it feel for you? What do you see in them … in their faces? Do they say anything to you?
B: Sharing my life’s story with others is a challenge; history is reborn. I don’t live in the past. I live in the present but I never want to forget the days of defeat that God has allowed me to conquer. I feel honored to tell my life story, especially to the school children……I see in them a desire to learn more about the past….Their faces light up in amazement…..The students always say, “Thank you for coming and sharing your story with us.” The adults react differently; some of them will purchase a book because they want to know what is said, or they simply just like to read a memoir. There have been those who had sadness in their faces and most of them will say, “You are a strong woman,” or “You’ve been through a lot.” Some of my readers will send me a note to say how much they enjoyed reading the book.
YBIYH: What has been the most meaningful part of your experience with sharing a story that’s so personal and yet is benefiting so many?
B: One of the most meaningful parts of my experience while sharing my personal story and benefiting so many was when I went to Key Learning Junior High School here in Indianapolis to speak with fifth and sixth graders. It blew my mind. After my presentation, the students thanked me for coming, but a young frustrated girl came up to me and said, “I have been so ungrateful to my mom for the things she does for me and I sometimes talk back to her. But after hearing about your life and struggles, it gave me more of a sense of appreciation,” she said. About a week later, the young girl’s mom brought her by my house to buy her a book. It was so overwhelming just to get one child’s attention. She even emailed me several times to say hi and let me know that she really enjoyed reading Growing up in Mississippi.
Another meaningful experience was when Growing up in Mississippi was taught to fifteen students at Southwest Education Center in Phoenix, Arizona in 2006 during Black History Month. (15 books were ordered) The children who attend this private day school range between the ages of thirteen and eighteen and they absolutely enjoyed the book. The majority of the students came from a variety of ethnic backgrounds and had difficulty with reading but Growing up in Mississippi was comfortable enough for them to read without causing them any major frustration. “Growing Up In Mississippi has truly given some of my students the will and motivation to try to achieve a more prosperous destiny.” These words came from the Lead Teacher/High School Facilitator there.