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For readers of beloved memoirs like Educated and The Glass Castle, a riveting and profoundly moving memoir set in rural Mississippi during the Civil Rights era about a white girl coming of age in a repressive society and the woman who gave her the strength to forge her own path—the black nanny who cared for her. Tena Clark was born in 1953 in a tiny Mississippi town close For readers of beloved memoirs like Educated and The Glass Castle, a riveting and profoundly moving memoir set in rural Mississippi during the Civil Rights era about a white girl coming of age in a repressive society and the woman who gave her the strength to forge her own path—the black nanny who cared for her. Tena Clark was born in 1953 in a tiny Mississippi town close to the Alabama border, where the legacy of slavery and racial injustice still permeated every aspect of life. On the outside, Tena’s childhood looked like a fairytale. Her father was one of the richest men in the state; her mother was a regal beauty. The family lived on a sprawling farm and had the only swimming pool in town; Tena was given her first car—a royal blue Camaro—at twelve. But behind closed doors, Tena’s life was deeply lonely, and chaotic. By the time she was three, her parents’ marriage had dissolved into a swamp of alcohol, rampant infidelity, and guns. Adding to the turmoil, Tena understood from a very young age that she was different from her three older sisters, all of whom had been beauty queens and majorettes. Tena knew she didn’t want to be a majorette—she wanted to marry one. On Tena’s tenth birthday, her mother, emboldened by alcoholism and enraged by her husband’s incessant cheating, walked out for good, instantly becoming an outcast in society. Tena was left in the care of her black nanny, Virgie, who became Tena’s surrogate mother and confidante—even though she was raising nine of her own children and was not allowed to eat from the family’s plates or use their bathroom. It was Virgie’s acceptance and unconditional love that gave Tena the courage to stand up to her domineering father, the faith to believe in her mother’s love, and the strength to be her true self. Combining the spirit of poignant coming-of-age memoirs such as The Glass Castle and vivid, evocative Southern fiction like Fried Green Tomatoes, Southern Discomfort is about the people and places that shape who we are—and is destined to become a new classic.


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For readers of beloved memoirs like Educated and The Glass Castle, a riveting and profoundly moving memoir set in rural Mississippi during the Civil Rights era about a white girl coming of age in a repressive society and the woman who gave her the strength to forge her own path—the black nanny who cared for her. Tena Clark was born in 1953 in a tiny Mississippi town close For readers of beloved memoirs like Educated and The Glass Castle, a riveting and profoundly moving memoir set in rural Mississippi during the Civil Rights era about a white girl coming of age in a repressive society and the woman who gave her the strength to forge her own path—the black nanny who cared for her. Tena Clark was born in 1953 in a tiny Mississippi town close to the Alabama border, where the legacy of slavery and racial injustice still permeated every aspect of life. On the outside, Tena’s childhood looked like a fairytale. Her father was one of the richest men in the state; her mother was a regal beauty. The family lived on a sprawling farm and had the only swimming pool in town; Tena was given her first car—a royal blue Camaro—at twelve. But behind closed doors, Tena’s life was deeply lonely, and chaotic. By the time she was three, her parents’ marriage had dissolved into a swamp of alcohol, rampant infidelity, and guns. Adding to the turmoil, Tena understood from a very young age that she was different from her three older sisters, all of whom had been beauty queens and majorettes. Tena knew she didn’t want to be a majorette—she wanted to marry one. On Tena’s tenth birthday, her mother, emboldened by alcoholism and enraged by her husband’s incessant cheating, walked out for good, instantly becoming an outcast in society. Tena was left in the care of her black nanny, Virgie, who became Tena’s surrogate mother and confidante—even though she was raising nine of her own children and was not allowed to eat from the family’s plates or use their bathroom. It was Virgie’s acceptance and unconditional love that gave Tena the courage to stand up to her domineering father, the faith to believe in her mother’s love, and the strength to be her true self. Combining the spirit of poignant coming-of-age memoirs such as The Glass Castle and vivid, evocative Southern fiction like Fried Green Tomatoes, Southern Discomfort is about the people and places that shape who we are—and is destined to become a new classic.

30 review for Southern Discomfort: A Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    "My roots ran deep into the red earth; the land felt as much a part of me as my limbs, my heart. I hated it with a fury. I loved it with an all-consuming passion. This is the great paradox of the South. It's a Savage place, a complicated place, and yet it still burrows into you, like the fangs of one of the water moccasins I used to hunt as a young girl down the Chickasawhay River behind our farm. There's a venom in the soil. But there's an alluring beauty to it as well" Teny grew up in Waynesbor "My roots ran deep into the red earth; the land felt as much a part of me as my limbs, my heart. I hated it with a fury. I loved it with an all-consuming passion. This is the great paradox of the South. It's a Savage place, a complicated place, and yet it still burrows into you, like the fangs of one of the water moccasins I used to hunt as a young girl down the Chickasawhay River behind our farm. There's a venom in the soil. But there's an alluring beauty to it as well" Teny grew up in Waynesboro, Mississippi, deep in the Jim Crow south. Her parents married when her mom was only fifteen, her dad from a very poor background. Yet, he became the richest man in the county, built a big house for his wife and four daughters. Their marriage beyond dysfunctional by the time of Tenys birth, she the youngest by ten years. Her mother sucuumbing more and more to alcohol to drown her unhappiness with her husband and his constant adulteries. Screaming, yelling their fighting the background to her days. Their black housekeeper Virgie providing the only consistency and unconditional love in which she could depend. Sixties and race relations were changing, but no where more slowly than in Mississippi. The ku Klux Klan were still active and a threat to those blacks and whites that didn't toe the line. Times that for the longest time Tent couldn't understand. The dysfunction in her family, ever present, led her to forge her own path. Surprisingly there was also occassins of love, times when her parents surprised her with their understanding. She was also gay, something she could not acknowledge nor tell her parents until her college years. Her parents, their relationship with her were complicated, and at the end the people they were surprised her the most. A fascinating look at Southern mores, a changing racial world, and a family that despite their lack of money problems, had more than its fair share of unhappiness.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tammy

    Clark grew up in the Jim Crow South with an alcoholic, largely absent mother and a cheating, pride-driven, successful father who is as mean as a snake. Add to this volatile mix, a daughter who does not fit the mold of Southern Belle and you might imagine what ignites. She loves ferociously and is guided through her childhood by a magnanimous and loving black housekeeper who provides stability for the frequently abandoned child. Clark tries, she really does, to be the person her family wishes her Clark grew up in the Jim Crow South with an alcoholic, largely absent mother and a cheating, pride-driven, successful father who is as mean as a snake. Add to this volatile mix, a daughter who does not fit the mold of Southern Belle and you might imagine what ignites. She loves ferociously and is guided through her childhood by a magnanimous and loving black housekeeper who provides stability for the frequently abandoned child. Clark tries, she really does, to be the person her family wishes her to be but it simply isn’t who she is. Her keen sense of social injustice compels her to behave in ways that are potentially dangerous, specifically for those whom she feels have been mistreated. I don’t read many memoirs but this is filled with heart wrenching scenes that I won’t soon forget. I was moved. I was moved to tears.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    From the outside, Tena Clark's family was one to aspire too. Father Lamar was the richest man in Waynesboro Mississippi, while his wife had beauty admired all over town. With her three older sister's beauty queens and majorettes, It seemed inconceivable that behind all this was a broken family. With Lamar's wandering eye and racist tendencies and Vivian's frustration that would see her drown her frustrations with alcohol, Tena's only unconditional love would come from her black nanny, Virgie who From the outside, Tena Clark's family was one to aspire too. Father Lamar was the richest man in Waynesboro Mississippi, while his wife had beauty admired all over town. With her three older sister's beauty queens and majorettes, It seemed inconceivable that behind all this was a broken family. With Lamar's wandering eye and racist tendencies and Vivian's frustration that would see her drown her frustrations with alcohol, Tena's only unconditional love would come from her black nanny, Virgie who at the time had zero rights and had an era of hatred against her and her people. When her mother inevitably walked out after years of fights it was Virgie that was the rock that not only got her through such a traumatic time but also gave her the courage to stand up to what she hated. Not only would she challenge the racial hate that hung on for years in Waynesboro, but Tena would also stand up to her domineering father and in the end would find peace with him and her mother who for all their complications did love Tena in their own ways. One word that comes to mind after reading this book about the author is bravery. Growing up in the Jim Crow South she would mock clan members, marry a woman in what was a clear test for her family and took Virgie after the passing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act out for lunch days despite her second mamma's reservations. Reading about a young girl trying to make sense of a changing world in a chaotic household was at times harrowing but in the end brings a sense of contentment and love.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Janine

    Very interesting memoir about a girl who was the youngest in a family of four girls who grew up down south and expected to be "southern belles". But what happens when your mother is an alcoholic and your father is a philandering man, and you feel that you don't fit into their perfect southern world. Tena Clark grew up in a typical southern household in USA with an african american surrogate nanny who virtually brought her up as her mother couldn't cope and sought solace in a bottle. You felt like Very interesting memoir about a girl who was the youngest in a family of four girls who grew up down south and expected to be "southern belles". But what happens when your mother is an alcoholic and your father is a philandering man, and you feel that you don't fit into their perfect southern world. Tena Clark grew up in a typical southern household in USA with an african american surrogate nanny who virtually brought her up as her mother couldn't cope and sought solace in a bottle. You felt like you were having a history lesson while reading this book which was nice. Tena showed her life, the racial prejudice, family expectations of her and what she put up with was amazing. Then to realise that she didn't fit the mould (she was gay) and how that alone affected all around her was quite incredible. It chronicled the treatment of african americans who were still treated unjustly long after other states had declared that all should be treated equal. Tena was quite a revolutionary and tried to fix things at times risking both her life and those of her african american friends. She came through it all and went on to become a grammy award winning songwriter working with some of the biggest stars. A fascinating glimpse of her life - and hard to believe the way it was back then. I really enjoyed this book. Thank you to Simon & Schuster for the review copy in exchange for my opinion.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Erika Babineau

    This is a complicated book. I feel like the description is totally misleading. It should say: This is a story about a girl growing up in a dysfunctional family in a small, Southern town in the midst of the Jim Crow era. Full stop. I had far more trouble with this book, as a Black woman, than I did with The Help. Yes, this book is a memoir, but Ms. Clark doesn't seem to do any self-reflection. Does she ever truly understand the danger she put Cindy in during the incident with the KKK? Does she eve This is a complicated book. I feel like the description is totally misleading. It should say: This is a story about a girl growing up in a dysfunctional family in a small, Southern town in the midst of the Jim Crow era. Full stop. I had far more trouble with this book, as a Black woman, than I did with The Help. Yes, this book is a memoir, but Ms. Clark doesn't seem to do any self-reflection. Does she ever truly understand the danger she put Cindy in during the incident with the KKK? Does she every truly realize the humiliation she heaped on Vergie during BOTH incidents in the diner? Ms. Clark takes for granted that these two women continue to love and respect her even after both of these incidents that put thier very lives in danger and though I believe she loves them back, I think she would be bewildered if she were asked to be held accountable for her actions. Those women could have be killed. Their children could have been killed. These were real dangers. Ms. Clark's life was obviously not idyllic. I don't begrudge her the love of her housekeeper...honestly that child deserved any bit of love she could get. I just don't think this book deserves to be praised as some kind of eye-opening, raw look at the Jim Crow South. We all know what that looked like. Tena Clark isn't telling us anything we didn't already know. I just wish she would have really examined her own motivations a little more...maybe been a little more honest with herself and us about why she felt she needed to expose people she loved to harm. Or, in the end, why she kept trying to offer to buy Vergie things. Retelling the facts is only half of the story.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mainlinebooker

    Take one rural Mississippi town. Mix with a bigoted, wealthy, gun-toting, skirt-chasing, controlling father. Add in a stubborn, alcoholic, drug addicted mother. Blend with a warm effusive black housekeeper who is like a "second mamma". Fold in a gay lonely child with her three older beauty pageant sisters and you get Southern Discomfort. This compelling and engrossing novel kept me captivated for hours. The author, a Grammy award winning songwriter and producer, has created a novel full of warts Take one rural Mississippi town. Mix with a bigoted, wealthy, gun-toting, skirt-chasing, controlling father. Add in a stubborn, alcoholic, drug addicted mother. Blend with a warm effusive black housekeeper who is like a "second mamma". Fold in a gay lonely child with her three older beauty pageant sisters and you get Southern Discomfort. This compelling and engrossing novel kept me captivated for hours. The author, a Grammy award winning songwriter and producer, has created a novel full of warts and ugliness while managing to shine a light on a different way of showing love and forgiveness. Indeed her ability to find peace and compassion is truly magnanimous. This is a southern novel at its best; do not miss it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Megan Bell

    At turns heartwarming, horrifying, comic, and eye-opening, this memoir, like the Southern family it chronicles, defies easy definition. Whether it’s her mother’s high-speed car shoot-out of her father and his mistress, the powerful mothering the family’s black maid Vergie shows her, or Tena’s coming out to this wild cast of characters, Tena Clark’s memoir of growing up in Jim Crow Mississippi touches on issues of racism, sexuality, family, and the hair-pulling complexities of the South.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie Stennett

    Firstly I had no idea who Tena Clark is. Big in music and to some extent theatre. So wasn't reading because *she* wrote it. I still don't think it covers much new ground. Feels pretty typical "here's my crazy southern childhood." Grits and guns! And lots of booze. An abusive father who is still loved and respected until his death. (I don't care if he is revealed to have done lots of secret magnanimous things after his death. He was still a bully, a womanizer, a cheating husband, a child abuser, Firstly I had no idea who Tena Clark is. Big in music and to some extent theatre. So wasn't reading because *she* wrote it. I still don't think it covers much new ground. Feels pretty typical "here's my crazy southern childhood." Grits and guns! And lots of booze. An abusive father who is still loved and respected until his death. (I don't care if he is revealed to have done lots of secret magnanimous things after his death. He was still a bully, a womanizer, a cheating husband, a child abuser, a racist.) Mama who deserved better, had unrealized talent, "loved her babies." (An unrepentant alcoholic, drunk driver, firer of guns with other people- her own children- in area, as well as when drink driving, with a double standard to her own racism that is almost more repulsive than her husband's traditional form.) The black maid who basically reared and parented her- who never did a bad thing, said a bad thing, even thought a bad thing her whole, entire life. (I have a category of books I think of as Happy Black People Books. Written by white people, often memoirs or first novels, the black characters are practically saints. Two dimensional, unrealistic.) She does admit to now seeing how terrible it was of her to make black peoples in her life her pawns in desegregating Mississippi in the 1970's.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Gina

    Really engaging account of life in rural Mississippi during segregation. My only criticism is that the storytelling style is a little hokey for my taste. Tena has navigated a really rough road and shown compassion despite hurtful and cruel actions by her parents. I'm always impressed when someone can see truth despite being surrounded by people who are bigoted and prejudiced. Really engaging account of life in rural Mississippi during segregation. My only criticism is that the storytelling style is a little hokey for my taste. Tena has navigated a really rough road and shown compassion despite hurtful and cruel actions by her parents. I'm always impressed when someone can see truth despite being surrounded by people who are bigoted and prejudiced.

  10. 5 out of 5

    David Crow

    Having just finished my memoir, The Pale-Faced Lie, which will be out in May, I know first hand how hard it is to be completely honest when writing a memoir full of pain. Tena Clark has done that and more. She tells of her complicated family, aren't they all, of bigotry, alcoholism, coming to grips with sexual identity and the difficulty of facing it. This book, for all its sorrows, is uplifting with a powerful message about the equality of all people and the hope that one day it may happen. And Having just finished my memoir, The Pale-Faced Lie, which will be out in May, I know first hand how hard it is to be completely honest when writing a memoir full of pain. Tena Clark has done that and more. She tells of her complicated family, aren't they all, of bigotry, alcoholism, coming to grips with sexual identity and the difficulty of facing it. This book, for all its sorrows, is uplifting with a powerful message about the equality of all people and the hope that one day it may happen. And the writing is elegant and fun to read. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Betty

    Tena Clark grew up in rural Mississippi during the Civil Rights era, living in a small town that had deep racial divides and no interest in changing things because "that's just the way it is." As one of the daughters of the wealthiest man in town, she was expected to live her life a certain way, but she rebelled against it, determined to live her life the way she chose, no matter what. Southern Discomfort takes the reader back a time when men were the breadwinners while women were meant to stay h Tena Clark grew up in rural Mississippi during the Civil Rights era, living in a small town that had deep racial divides and no interest in changing things because "that's just the way it is." As one of the daughters of the wealthiest man in town, she was expected to live her life a certain way, but she rebelled against it, determined to live her life the way she chose, no matter what. Southern Discomfort takes the reader back a time when men were the breadwinners while women were meant to stay home and raise babies, a time when the Jim Crow laws enforced segregation and the KKK terrorized people of color. Clark tells it like it was, whether she's writing about racial issues of the time or about her dysfunctional family. Her deep love for Virgie—the black nanny who raised her after her mother left in a drunken rage—made her painfully aware of the racial injustices that permeated her hometown. Not content to let it go, she fought against it when the opportunity to do so presented itself, despite the very real possibility of putting herself and those she cared for in danger. The memories she shares are raw, often uncomfortable, and sometimes powerful as recounts the events of her life. Clark sugarcoats nothing, instead leaving readers with the full impact of all things ugly, heartbreaking, and sorrowful. There is also joy, however, as she learns to embrace her sexuality and live the life she wanted as an award-winning songwriter and producer, rather than the life her parents expected her to have. If you enjoy reading Southern memoirs, I definitely recommend this one. It put me through the wringer, emotionally, but overall it was a very enjoyable book. I received an advance reading copy of this book courtesy of Touchstone via Netgalley.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Betsy

    I wanted to like this far more than I did, but I found the writing to be grating. While the damage Clark suffered at the hands of a violent and manipulative father, and a negligent alcoholic mother is surely substantial, I found her to be infuriatingly clueless about the depth of the danger she placed her beloved Virgie and Cindy in, in the name of her fantasy of being a crusading hero. Though in some cases she was a minor, she was old enough to know that it was not all about her. Sometimes she I wanted to like this far more than I did, but I found the writing to be grating. While the damage Clark suffered at the hands of a violent and manipulative father, and a negligent alcoholic mother is surely substantial, I found her to be infuriatingly clueless about the depth of the danger she placed her beloved Virgie and Cindy in, in the name of her fantasy of being a crusading hero. Though in some cases she was a minor, she was old enough to know that it was not all about her. Sometimes she reminded me too little of Jeannette Walls and too much of Pat Conroy at his most self-congratulatory.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lizy

    I'm utterly floored. The back of the ARC - I haven't seen the finished book, so I don't know if it's the same - says this is like The Help but with more guns and alcohol, yet is even more touching. There's no better way to summarize this memoir. The prose is absolutely magnificent. I was completely sucked in to the story. Every scene is perfectly vivid and expertly depicted. I Don't usually cry when reading books, let alone memoirs, but this had me weeping. Highly, highly recommend. I'm utterly floored. The back of the ARC - I haven't seen the finished book, so I don't know if it's the same - says this is like The Help but with more guns and alcohol, yet is even more touching. There's no better way to summarize this memoir. The prose is absolutely magnificent. I was completely sucked in to the story. Every scene is perfectly vivid and expertly depicted. I Don't usually cry when reading books, let alone memoirs, but this had me weeping. Highly, highly recommend.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kelsey

    If this was submitted as a novel it would be rejected on the grounds of being too out-there to be believable. Tena’s family is one for the ages.

  15. 4 out of 5

    David Ward

    Southern Discomfort: A Memoir by Tena Clark (Touchstone 2018) (Biography). This is hands-down the best written memoir I have read in a long time. My hat is off to you, Tena Clark, not only for writing such a touching and honest story, but also for sharing such a beautiful tale of survival and triumph.Tena Clark was born and raised in the poorest county in the poorest state in the U.S. (Mississippi) in the 1950's and was one of four sisters who were trained from birth to be Southern Belles. She w Southern Discomfort: A Memoir by Tena Clark (Touchstone 2018) (Biography). This is hands-down the best written memoir I have read in a long time. My hat is off to you, Tena Clark, not only for writing such a touching and honest story, but also for sharing such a beautiful tale of survival and triumph.Tena Clark was born and raised in the poorest county in the poorest state in the U.S. (Mississippi) in the 1950's and was one of four sisters who were trained from birth to be Southern Belles. She was raised in a virulently racist town in which the Ku Klux Klan was still publicly active in the 1960's and 1970's.Her father was an uneducated man who became a self-made millionaire. He was also extremely demanding as well as an inveterate serial womanizer. Her mother was an uncontrolled alcoholic (two to three fifths of bourbon per day for years, the author reports) who was given to fits of rage. Fortunately for the author, she was loved unconditionally by a Black nanny / housekeeper who became a sympathetic surrogate mother for the child.The author was a tomboy from birth who realized at a young age that she was gay. In the rural South. In Mississippi. In the Jim Crow era. Talk about being an outsider....goodness!This is a story of survival, of persistence, and of acceptance.I loved this story. My rating: 8/10, finished 9/4/19 (3384).

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sarah McBee Conner

    I wasn’t sure about this book before I read it. This is about the same Deep South I grew up in, during the same time frame. Difference was I was not from a small town, wasn’t raised in a wealthy family or in privilege. But I remember a lot of the same prejudices and separation. Them and us. It was interesting to me to see the development of a liberal in all of that. She knew the injustices and recognized them for what they were at a very young age. Then she had to face the same discrimination fr I wasn’t sure about this book before I read it. This is about the same Deep South I grew up in, during the same time frame. Difference was I was not from a small town, wasn’t raised in a wealthy family or in privilege. But I remember a lot of the same prejudices and separation. Them and us. It was interesting to me to see the development of a liberal in all of that. She knew the injustices and recognized them for what they were at a very young age. Then she had to face the same discrimination from her family against herself. Her life has been wildly interesting an enlightening. This is a great book.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jeanne Boudreau

    It’s hard to rate a memoir because you are saying you like someone’s life or you didn’t. Well, this was one dysfunctional family! A skirt chasing dad, an alcoholic mom who went after her husband with a .38 when she was tired of his infidelities, which was more often than not,the southern racial divide all lead to a disastrous childhood. Somehow Tena survived, thrived, made a success of herself and forgave her parents. It’s an interesting read. Your family will probably seem quite normal compared It’s hard to rate a memoir because you are saying you like someone’s life or you didn’t. Well, this was one dysfunctional family! A skirt chasing dad, an alcoholic mom who went after her husband with a .38 when she was tired of his infidelities, which was more often than not,the southern racial divide all lead to a disastrous childhood. Somehow Tena survived, thrived, made a success of herself and forgave her parents. It’s an interesting read. Your family will probably seem quite normal compared to hers.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Deirdre Wilson

    I absolutely loved this memoir. It was a true (or as true as Clark's memory served her) version of The Help. While times were changing, they were changing very slowly in the south, especially rural Mississippi. What I liked the most was while the family was beyond dysfunctional, nobody was all good or all bad. Even Clark, despite her best intentions, put some in precarious and uncomfortable situations. Heartbreaking, but thoroughly enjoyable read. I absolutely loved this memoir. It was a true (or as true as Clark's memory served her) version of The Help. While times were changing, they were changing very slowly in the south, especially rural Mississippi. What I liked the most was while the family was beyond dysfunctional, nobody was all good or all bad. Even Clark, despite her best intentions, put some in precarious and uncomfortable situations. Heartbreaking, but thoroughly enjoyable read.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kinzie Mackey

    I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir! Being from Mississippi myself, I definitely resonated with a lot of the same issues as Tena did growing up. Alcoholism runs in both sides of my family, and even though I've never personally dealt with most of the things she did firsthand, I have heard war stories from my father's youth and such. I have, however, experienced some of the things firsthand. For instance, being a tomboy, and always feeling completely out of place. That also comes along with me being I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir! Being from Mississippi myself, I definitely resonated with a lot of the same issues as Tena did growing up. Alcoholism runs in both sides of my family, and even though I've never personally dealt with most of the things she did firsthand, I have heard war stories from my father's youth and such. I have, however, experienced some of the things firsthand. For instance, being a tomboy, and always feeling completely out of place. That also comes along with me being an old soul, which I feel like she is as well. Unfortunately, I have also experienced hearing blatant racial slurs and remarks while feeling completely eaten up with rage at the thought that speaking up would not make that much of a difference. Believe me, I've tried. Her willingness to fight for social justice at such a young age was also something I resonated with deeply. I recommend this book so hard!!!! Please go read it! Also, I met her recently at a conference I attended and she was very sweet! When she won her award and made her speech, I was in tears the entire time. When I spoke with her afterwards, and thanked her for her beautiful book, she gave me a hug and said that she could feel my presence up on stage! That is a moment that I will always remember and be immensely proud of!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen Brunnett

    A memoir of an affluent white gal from Mississippi during the civil rights era. Her social activism (even from a young age) never sat well with her father let along when she shares she is gay. Interesting read of trying to stay true to yourself when society and family tell you different.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Christine McKeown

    I can’t remember why I picked up this book but so glad I did! Incredibly brave story... This was a really good read. I feel kooky saying “I enjoyed this book” because it was so incredibly sad in many parts and how do you enjoy someone else’s pain? but I really did enjoy this book! Interesting, descriptive but not “woe is me” at all. It definitely had “The Help” feel and I rarely ever look up authors after I read a book but I felt compelled to look up Tena Clark and learn more about her.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Ladd

    Timely with all the unrest in the country. Unfortunate that not much seems changed. Hope she and her sisters sought help for the abuse. The story never reveals if they talked about it. Her focus really was on the love and maybe that was on purpose

  23. 5 out of 5

    Blue Cypress Books

    While this life story is definitely Ms. Clark's unique story, she brings all the best shades of Rick Bragg and Jeannette Walls to this most excellent memoir. Highly recommend. While this life story is definitely Ms. Clark's unique story, she brings all the best shades of Rick Bragg and Jeannette Walls to this most excellent memoir. Highly recommend.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Gareth Russell

    A sharp, funny, and painfully honest memoir that was one of the last "hard to put down" books I picked up. A sharp, funny, and painfully honest memoir that was one of the last "hard to put down" books I picked up.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Carrie Panetta

    Really enjoyed this book. Similarities to the Help.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jules

    I really need to stop getting sucked in by the $6 books at various pop-up book shops - enticing blurbs never live up to their potential!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Eileen Campbell

    This is a beautiful memoir of growing up in the Deep South in perhaps its most tumultuous period other than the Civil War. Tena Clark takes us into her home and life in a way that allows us to experience all the beauty and pathos that she grew up with. Highly recommended read!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rick

    Both heart-lifting and heartbreaking, Tena Clark's memories of growing up in the deep south is a revelatory read. Clark's voice is comfortable and clear, like talking with an old friend. I loved this book! Both heart-lifting and heartbreaking, Tena Clark's memories of growing up in the deep south is a revelatory read. Clark's voice is comfortable and clear, like talking with an old friend. I loved this book!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    I jumped into this book because I am from Mississippi and was interested to see how an LGBT person was affected by growing up in this state in the 1950s - decades before I grew up there - because being LGBT is still a harrowing experience for people in the South. However, this memoir is not really about Tena grappling with her sexuality. Rather, the memoir focuses on Tena’s abusive family and the Civil Rights Movement (as it affected her). Tena has been through trauma at the hands of her sex-add I jumped into this book because I am from Mississippi and was interested to see how an LGBT person was affected by growing up in this state in the 1950s - decades before I grew up there - because being LGBT is still a harrowing experience for people in the South. However, this memoir is not really about Tena grappling with her sexuality. Rather, the memoir focuses on Tena’s abusive family and the Civil Rights Movement (as it affected her). Tena has been through trauma at the hands of her sex-addicted father and alcholic mother. But she doesn’t seem to recognize her relationship with her parents as toxic. There are hints at the end (her mother dying making Tena feel like she is finally free), but her love for her parents and her desire to see the good in them complicates her ability to see them clearly. It feels unfair to compare Tena’s story to another memoir, but I read Educated earlier this year, and I was struck by the stark contrast between how these women chose to manage their relationships with their toxic families. Tara (Educated) chose to end that relationship. Tena (Southern Discomfort) chose to endure. I’m not necessarily saying Tena’s choice is the wrong choice; both are about survival. But the way Tena portrays her relationships with her parents, especially with her father toward the end and her desire for approval from him, was incredibly painful to read and left me hurting for her. And kept me thinking that it just didn’t seem worth it. But it was just as painful to read Tena’s perspective on the Civil Rights Movement and her botched attempts to “help” the black people around her. My biggest issue with this is that in her attempts, she put black lives in danger but did not do a lot to acknowledge or apologize for her actions. Granted, this memoir isn’t very introspective and focuses more on events than unpacking emotions - but the way she talked about these instances left me shocked that she didn’t contextualize them. Tena’s pride and desire to help/save the black people around her was youthful naivité and stupidity, but her reflections on those instances lacked an acknowledgment and sincere apology. She doesn’t confront her white saviorism. The closest she comes to seeming properly ashamed is when she admits that she has no idea where her black maid/caregiver, Virgie, went to the bathroom. Because the Civil Rights Movement and the treatment of black people in MS are such a large focus of Tena’s story and obviously impacted her, I feel that she should have spent more time unpacking her actions, the intention behind them, and her perspective on them now. Now, the main reason I was interested in this book - what was life like for a young LGBT person growing up in MS in the 1950s? From Tena’s perspective - surprisingly good. And that’s where I became disappointed. Not because she didn’t suffer - I am so happy that she didn’t. But because this isn’t the reality for LGBT people today. When she talked about bringing her partner home to MISSISSIPPI to meet her FAMILY, my jaw dropped. That’s not something LGBT people feel comfortable doing TODAY. And she did it in the 1980s?! Although her being LGBT in the South wasn’t (or doesn’t seem to be) a traumatizing experience for her, it was difficult to read her breeze over her experiences without acknowledging suffering that usually accompanies people in her community. Throughout the book, a theme runs clear: Tena’s life was privileged in a lot of ways. Her family was horrible, but she benefited from their wealth and status and was protected from a lot of things (and thankfully the black people whose lives she put in danger were, too). Ultimately, this is Tena’s story, and she experienced a traumatic and unstable childhood that I can’t help but be impressed she survived and even found success and happiness. I’m so glad she did. I got sucked into Tena’s journey, and I couldn’t put the book down until I finished. It takes great bravery to share what she did, but I can’t help but feel disappointed that she didn’t dig deeper and acknowledge the privilege that allowed her to come out unscathed.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Safer

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I loved this book! I got it for free from the leader of my local book club chapter, and I finished it in just 2 days! I was so deeply moved by her story. She endured so many hardships but she always kept her sense of humor and her kind spirit. I was so enthralled by the book. At certain parts, such as when she would grab the gun from her fighting parents, or when her dad accidentally crashed the car over the side of a bridge, I forgot this was actually a true story! This story was at times sad, I loved this book! I got it for free from the leader of my local book club chapter, and I finished it in just 2 days! I was so deeply moved by her story. She endured so many hardships but she always kept her sense of humor and her kind spirit. I was so enthralled by the book. At certain parts, such as when she would grab the gun from her fighting parents, or when her dad accidentally crashed the car over the side of a bridge, I forgot this was actually a true story! This story was at times sad, at times funny, and at times scary and disturbing. It was a true slice of life. For full disclosure, I could definitely relate to her family background, although my upbringing did not involve guns. Also, while I grew up in NY, I went to college in Florida and I feel she captured the feelings I share of being somewhat in love with, and somewhat horrified by, the South. I will recommend this book to everyone I know!

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