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Combining family stories of the everyday and the extraordinary as seen through the eyes of her twelve-year-old self, Willie Mae Brown gives readers an unforgettable portrayal of her coming of age in a town at the crossroads of history.
As the civil rights movement and the fight for voter rights unfold in Selma, Alabama, many things happen inside and outside the Brown family’s home that do not have anything to do with the landmark 1965 march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Yet the famous outrages which unfold on that span form an inescapable backdrop in this collection of stories. In one, Willie Mae takes it upon herself to offer summer babysitting services to a glamorous single white mother—a secret she keeps from her parents that unravels with shocking results. In another, Willie Mae reluctantly joins her mother at a church rally, and is forever changed after hearing Martin Luther King Jr. deliver a defiant speech in spite of a court injunction.
Infused with the vernacular of her Southern upbringing, My Selma captures the voice and vision of a fascinating young person—perspicacious, impetuous, resourceful, and even mystical in her ways of seeing the world around her—who gifts us with a loving portrayal of her hometown while also delivering a no-holds-barred indictment of the time and place.
About the Author
Willie Mae Brown left Alabama at the age of seventeen in 1970 to start a new life in Brooklyn, New York, where she worked for the New York Telephone Company until 2003. A visual artist as well as an author, she began writing stories about her childhood in 2012 and reading them in public in 2015. Known for infusing her personal narratives with the vernacular of her Southern upbringing, Brown has read at numerous public events including Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations at Brooklyn Borough Hall, as well as at many special events across the city, in her home state, and beyond. My Selma is her first book.
A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection
“In this powerful memoir, artist Willie Mae Brown recounts striking stories of growing up in Selma, Alabama during the early years of the civil rights movement. Her salient first-hand narrative places readers directly into the sights, smells, and sounds of her hometown.” —The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“Vivid sensory language is the book’s great strength . . . A beautiful evocation of time and place . . . In her afterword, Brown says that ‘hope is in the telling,’ and her stories offer a strong voice still needed in the ongoing struggle for justice.” —The Horn Book
“Poignant . . . By balancing personal struggles with racism with everyday joys of community, family, and resilience, Brown authentically imbues this clear-eyed tale with salient detail and historical resonance.” —Publishers Weekly
“Brown uses language effectively to bring the times to life, and emerging from the retelling of her history are portraits of people who shaped her thought patterns and ways of being in her formative years. A panoramic yet intimate depiction of a family experiencing radical social changes.” —Kirkus Reviews
“In this poignant, episodic, and dialogue-driven memoir, told in her Southern dialect, Brown describes heartfelt memories of her hometown, strong mother, sibling bonds, and the unexpected thrill of meeting Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. . . . Never shying away from the painful realities of the time, she also shares heart-wrenching stories of hatred, violence, and the anger and fear of being a young Black girl with no rights . . . A thought-provoking, intimate perspective on America’s troubled history.” —Booklist
“School librarians will definitely want to add this title to their collection.” —School Library Connection