Pushed Back to Strength is a moving memoir written by an
educated black woman who grew up in Memphis in the '40s. Reared in the projects by
intelligent and spiritual mother, Ms. Wade-Gayles doesn't sugar coat
she has toward white folks who kept her down.
As a white
woman, I sometimes felt that the author didn't mean for me to
read her book, and
although I'm against any form of racism, I'm not sure I could convince the author of
that. It's a real glimpse into her psyche and how it feels to be black in a world of
mean white people.
The author writes of department stores with "whites
only" signs and of having
to sit in the back of the bus or in a separate train car,
and you feel as if
you're being discriminated against with her. She talks of her
upbringing and describes rituals in black communities that are
interesting—such as the neighbors offering old newspapers to pregnant women as a
way of showing them that they're accepted in the community.
Wade-Gayles seems focused particularly on her hair, and she makes sure
the reader knows which style she was wearing at particular times in her life. (And she
also makes sure the reader knows she isn't copying white women's hairdos.) She takes
readers on a journey to buy a wig, searching for a store that wasn't owned by a white
person. She describes her mother washing her hair with lye soap and pressing it with
irons heated on the kitchen stove.
Pushed Back to Strength is a
book about remembering, and the author does it well. There are many
caused me to think, "Huh…I didn't know that." It's a real
eye-opener. And, while
sometimes she does go a bit overboard, it's easy
enough to see why.
wholeheartedly recommend this book for anyone and everyone—black, white, or
As a white person, it will make you think. And, making you think
just might make you
a better person.