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From Liberty to Magnolia deserves a mention of honor among the many books about race and gender discrimination. In this memoir, author Janice S. Ellis has penned a personal and valuable account of a black woman’s journey. She spent most of her youth on a farm in Mississippi, “the poorest and most racist state of the Union.” There, Ellis suffered from discrimination both because she was black and because she was a woman, but she did not surrender. She found her path in life, a life which was successful thanks to her academic achievements first, and a rewarding career later.
From Liberty to Magnolia tells a story of hope and redemption. The author is a wonderful spokeswoman for everything related to discrimination. She has highlighted sad, violent, and unfair reality but has not indulged in self-pity and accusation. Ellis is a strong woman with deep social consciousness from whom we can learn a lot. With her plain and consistent style, she stigmatizes heinous actions and thoughts. She remembers the KKK burning a cross in front of her house and the murdering of a friend’s father. There is no need to add criticism; these deeds stand out by themselves.
Ellis remembers Martin Luther King, Jr. when she refers to the power of words. This is an inspiring mention, but it makes you reflect on Ellis and her own ability to use words. She delivers her message of freedom and equality with the utmost clarity. Her writing, apart from precision and lucidity, is worthy of admiration for her emotional honesty. She is straightforward when she describes her family life and hopes. She tackles many topics like religion, school, a difficult marriage, and politics. In each of them, she reveals rare frankness. Together with her awareness of social issues, this candor is the other great feature of this memoir.
The only thing I somewhat dislike about From Liberty to Magnolia is that descriptions of minor episodes are too long at times. Boyfriends’ and siblings’ stories are not dull, but they distract from the main themes. I would have preferred a little more incisiveness in these sections and focus on other aspects.
Finally, I have found this a well-edited book, so I rate it 4 out of 4 stars. I recommend it to every reader interested in recent history and race and gender discrimination. Ellis’ account is an excellent starting point. It is valuable both as a personal testimony and an inspiration. The hope is that her memoir will make people reflect, encouraging others to add their voices to hers.
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