Terri Schichenmeyer | 2/24/2010, 8 p.m.
Author: Ann Nixon Cooper with Karen Grigsby Bates
The picture wasn't in the best of shape. Over time, it suffered cracks and folds, sun and chemicals not meant for old black-and-whites.
You suppose the people in the picture might be relatives; grandparents, maybe, or greats. They appear to be at a carnival, and though it might've been summertime, he's dressed in a suit and she's wearing a heavy dress with long sleeves.
They're not smiling.
The picture makes you wonder what their lives were like. What were their worries, their joys? You wish you knew their story.
So why not try the next best thing? Read "A Century and Some Change" (c.2010, Atria Books, $19.99 / $27.00 Canada, 213 pages) by Ann Nixon Cooper, with Karen Grigsby Bates.
Annie Lou Nixon was born January 9, 1902 on a farm outside of Nashville. For many years, she was the baby of the family but she later got a chance to be a big sister when siblings arrived. She also took the chance to change her name - something that little black girls very rarely did in the early 1900s.
Though Ann had an idyllic childhood filled with family and friends, her mother died when Ann was barely eleven years old. Because it was "common practice" to split large families between relatives, young Ann was sent to live with kin in Nashville. The move changed her life.
Aunt Joyce worked for a bank president, which allowed her to buy anything she wanted from any store, an important thing in Jim Crow times. Aunt Joyce had lots of fine things in her home, and the life she and Cousin Irene created for Ann was genteel and mannerly. Irene was a popular girl who loved to dance, and at such a dance, Ann met her husband, A.B. Cooper, whom she called "Daddy" once their children were born.
Following her husband south, the new Mrs. Cooper became a catalyst for social change. Well-known in Atlanta, she founded clubs, utilized contacts, and made strategic "suggestions" to improve life for the city's black population. She knew the Kings, Martin and Coretta. And in November of 2008, she made further news when Barack Obama mentioned that, at age 106, Ann Nixon Cooper voted for him the morning he was elected President.
Looking for something you can enjoy, then pass over to your teenagers and Grandma to appreciate? This is that kind of book. It transcends generations.
Reading "A Century and Some Change" is like being treated by an elder to a few hours' worth of old stories. While a life well-lived has its ups, downs, and losses, it wasn't until I was done reading that I realized authors Ann Nixon Cooper and Karen Grigsby Bates focused mainly on the positive, inspirational parts of Cooper's life, which made this book a delight.
I think a good reader as young as ten might enjoy this book. I can see it used in history classes, book clubs and church groups. But if you just want a delightful, sweet book to read all by yourself, "A Century and Some Change" should definitely be in the picture.