Written in the Sky: Lessons of a Southern Daughter (Paperback)

Written in the Sky: Lessons of a Southern Daughter By Patricia Foster Cover Image

Written in the Sky: Lessons of a Southern Daughter (Paperback)


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"A powerful, often heart-wrenching collection of essays tackling the history of the American South."  —Kirkus Reviews
In Written in the Sky: Lessons of a Southern Daughter, Patricia Foster presents a double portrait of place and family, a book of deeply personal essays that interrogate the legacy of racial tensions in the South, the constriction of caste and gender, and the ways race, class, and white privilege are entwined in her family story. After interviewing girls at Booker T. Washington High School in Tuskegee, Alabama, visiting the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, and exploring Africatown in Plateau, Alabama, Patricia Foster was moved to reflect on the racial scars and crossroads in her southern past as well as to reckon with the intimate places of her own wounding and grief.

The story of place, she discovers, emerges not only from family histories and cultural traditions but also from wrestling with a culture’s irreconcilable ideas: the hard push to determine what matters. What matters to her are the shadow stories beneath our mythologies, the complicated and radiant narratives that must be excavated and reckoned with, stories that have no neat or binary resolution, stories full of luminous moments and riveting facts, and stories where the secrets hide. Written in the Sky presents the best of nonfiction storytelling: searingly honest portraits, dramatic encounters, and lyrical narratives that will interest teachers and students as well as social justice advocates, policymakers, and readers compelled by stories of awakening and the white-hot beauty of language.
Patricia Foster is professor emerita at the University of Iowa’s MFA Program in Nonfiction, where she taught for twenty-five years. She is author of numerous books, including Girl from Soldier Creek, Just Beneath My Skin, and All the Lost Girls: Confessions of a Southern Daughter.
Product Details ISBN: 9780817360962
ISBN-10: 0817360964
Publisher: University Alabama Press
Publication Date: September 26th, 2023
Pages: 224
Language: English
"A powerful, often heart-wrenching collection of essays tackling the history of the American South." 
Kirkus Reviews

“Taking a cue from James Baldwin, who found the innocence of privileged white Americans appalling, Patricia Foster has recounted her own trajectory from clueless small-town Southern girl to a hard-won loss of innocence about the reality of racism, in this stunningly written, unique and vital memoir.”
—Phillip Lopate, author of To Show and To Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction

"Reading Patricia Foster’s artful and heart-wrenching memoir, I found myself thinking about James Baldwin. To me, no other essayist in American letters has written more powerfully than Baldwin about the issue of race, wrapping the brutality at the heart of the American experience in language so beautiful that we can bear it. Foster has entered that terrain. But if Baldwin lays bare the Black experience, Foster writes as a white southern woman raised in small town privilege and coming, over the course of her life, face to face with the truth. Others of us have had that experience, but almost none have written about it in language more lovely or truthful or hard. In the end, Foster’s leap of moral imagination is where we all must go to find hope."
—Frye Gaillard, co-author of The Southernization of America

"This probing, insightful, and often lyrical book reflects a lifetime of meditating about what it means to be a child gradually becoming aware of a wider world, a Southern woman, and a citizen of a country still wrestling with the demons of race, class, and a rural-urban divide. It is a treat to have these thoughtful essays collected in one volume."
—Adam Hochschild, author of American Midnight: The Great War, a Violent Peace, and Democracy's Forgotten Crisis

"I could recommend Written in the Sky: Lessons of a Southern Daughter on the basis of its stunning prose alone; it also just so happens to be as courageous and moving an explication of race, family, and culture. Whether contemplating her privileged southern white upbringing in the midst of black suffering; her efforts to make her way as an artist and writer against her father’s expectations; or the crushing loss of an idolized sister who succumbs to illness, one thing is clear: Foster’s mastery of the essay is in full bloom."
—Jerald Walker, author of The World in Flames: A Black Boyhood in a White Supremacist Doomsday Cult and Street Shadows: A Memoir of Race, Rebellion, and Redemption

"This is an honest, moving book about one southern-born woman's grappling with intricate issues of race and culture, a book for our present time and our future." 
—Lee Martin, author of Telling Stories: The Craft of Narrative and the Writing Life

"Foster has done an artful job of creating a collection. The arrangement of sections and essays within them reminds me of the way we conceive of albums, as curated collections of individual songs that create their own atmosphere and story."
—Jay Lamar, Associate Director, Alabama Writers' Forum

"[Foster] writes movingly of her experience at the Peace and Justice Memorial, with the descriptions there of grotesque lynchings, and thoughtfully about her own efforts to come to terms with the racial ignorance of her youth and her work over the years to achieve an empathy for the racial injustices of her time.
—Don Noble, Alabama Public Radio.