Book Review: ‘The Courage to Hope’
Authors: Shirley Sherrod with Catherine Whitney
Some days, you get a little bit of exercise.
You hear a good story, and you pounce on it. You spin it to make it funny, bend the facts for more entertainment, and jump to conclusions to make it interesting. The truth might get stretched but when you’re running a good tale, who cares?
Someone does—especially if it’s about to ruin their life. In the new book “The Courage to Hope” by Shirley Sherrod, with Catherine Whitney, (c.2012, Atria, $24.99 / $28.99 Canada, 240 pages, includes notes) you’ll read about one such event.
Shirley Sherrod was born facing racism.
Her father owned their family farm, but the county in which it sat was ruled by Whites who relished their positions. Jim Crow laws were enforced for longer than elsewhere and federal laws and mandates were basically ignored. Sherrod’s own father was killed by a White man who was never punished for it.
At this same time, though she didn’t know him then, Sherrod’s future husband was working hard within the Civil Rights Movement.
When they first met, she thought Charles Sherrod was too skinny. She admits she wasn’t very impressed with him—until she heard him speak. Weeks later, they were inseparable, later married, and Sherrod joined her husband in the movement.
Because she’d come from farmers, Sherrod knew she wanted to work on behalf of farm families.
The Sherrods purchased good Georgia land and established a communal farm, modeled on a kibbutz that Charles had visited. “Creativity” led to a farm-fresh market operated from the farm’s grounds.
But when the farm was lost, the activist in Sherrod reappeared. She fought discrimination that occurred during the loss, and started officially working for farmers. That ultimately led to an appointment to the position of Georgia Director of Rural Development.
Though it seemed, at first, that the office was meant to help Black farmers, Sherrod saw that farming wasn’t a racial issue. All farmers needed help and she was happy to get involved.
So happy, in fact, that she said so at an NAACP meeting.
It was a speech that was dissected, and started a firestorm.
Filled with grace, dignity, and indignity, “The Courage to Hope” seemed to me like a double book, one part then and one part now. Fortunately, both are impressive.
With a voice that still seems a bit baffled by what occurred, author Shirley Sherrod (with Catherine Whitney) writes about confusion and outrage following the manipulation of a bit of her speech that lead to her very public job loss in 2010. Sherrod very squarely lays blame in this book, and though she doesn’t accuse President Obama or his staffers, she’s not complimentary.
I liked Sherrod’s life story, which is the other part of this book. It shows readers the foundation that gave Sherrod strength, and it’s a very good (although cringe-worthy) peek back in time.
This is one of those books that makes you want to yell, cry, and stand up and cheer. It’s outrageous and triumphant, and if you can handle that then “The Courage to Hope” is a book to leap at.
Truthfully, the bad news came as no surprise.
Your Mom hadn’t been feeling well lately, and for weeks you’d heard your parents whispering. You knew she was having some tests done. Still, when they finally told you she had cancer, you couldn’t believe it. You cried for 20 minutes, ran out of the house, kicked the door, or just quietly went to your room to think.
The song always pops up when you least expect it.
There you are, minding your own business, you hear a few notes, and you’re pulled back to a wonderful-horrible time, starry dreams, laughter, bitterness, love lost. That old love song might be just a “precious melody,” but it almost brings you to your knees.
Six o’clock, right on the nose.
That’s when your family sat down for the evening meal when you were a kid, and nobody dared be late.
Back then, Dad sat on one end of the table, Mom on the other, and you ate what was put in front of you.
All for one, and one for all.
That could’ve been the motto for you and your two best friends. Growing up, you were the Three Musketeers, sharing gossip, secrets, crushes, families, and truths. Everybody knew that you three were close as paint on a wall, and where there was one the other two weren’t far away.
Lil Wayne is down on drugs — for others.
For himself, well, it’s a different story.
The man who infamously told Katie Couric during a 2009 interview “I’m a gangsta, Miss Katie. I don’t take nothing from no one. I do what I want to do,” has been equally outspoken about his use of “sizzurp” or “purple drank,” a prescription cough syrup made with a combination of promethazine and codeine.