From Publishers Weekly
Silverstein set out to tell a story about being the unlikely minority in a politically charged time. In some ways, she succeeds. Her memoir is a delicately told, detailed account of the humiliation she experienced as one of 10 white students in an otherwise all-black junior high school in the early 1970s in Richmond, Va. As if dealing with puberty and her own father's untimely death weren't enough, Silverstein was laughed at and shut down repeatedly, becoming, in effect, a desegregation martyr. Her educational experience highlights the inevitable growing pains that accompany any lofty political idealism. Importantly, Silverstein reveals that it wasn't just the black kids and families who suffered as the buses rolled. Unfortunately, while Silverstein readily retells her painful childhood one small moment at a time, she fails to get at the brutal truth of how this has affected the rest of her life. She hints at it when she admits, "No matter how I look or where I move, there is no escape from my past. My experiences are lodged inside me like splinters of glass." Yet she neglects to explore how the same painful minutiae played out in her later life as a result of those struggles so many years ago.
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"This wonderful memoir inverts our understanding of desegregation, reminding us that the white students on the bus were just as heroic as their black counterparts. The story is at once a vivid description of a controversial social experiment, an intimate chronicle of a girl's turbulent journey through adolescence, and a loving tribute to a visionary father who died too young."—James S. Hirsch, author of Two Souls Indivisible
"White Girl is a fascinating memoir told from a perspective not often considered in histories of school integration. We learn not only what it was like for Clara Silverstein to be one of a handful of white students placed in a formerly all-black school, but also what it was like to be an adolescent girl experiencing the social changes of the late 1960s and early 1970s—the fashions, the music, the smoke from other people's marijuana."—Jennifer Ritterhouse, coeditor of Remembering Jim Crow
"There are few personal narratives written by whites that chronicle their desegregation experiences, as most of the attention has been focused on black pioneers, and with good reason. But in White Girl, Clara Silverstein has written an honest, balanced, and deeply personal memoir. With lively prose she describes what it felt like to be perceived as 'the enemy' and explains all the inherent contradictions in her own coming of age."—Robert Pratt, author of We Shall Not Be Moved: The Desegregation of the University of Georgia
"Wistful and evocative memoir . . . Silverstein has written an engaging account of her unhappy childhood. Moreover, her intensely personal reflections on this troubled time serve as an important addition to the existing literature.”—Southern Jewish History
"Clara Silverstein's account of the loneliness, despair, and fear experienced by a white adolescent caught up in the struggle to integrate Richmond's city schools in the early 1970s forcefully reminds us of the psychological and emotional costs of racism and segregation. This courageously honest work also informs us that not only can the ideal of racial justice be taught, it also can triumph over the adversities imposed by those who find identity and comfort in racial exclusiveness, a message as welcomed and needed today as three decades ago. Silverstein does, indeed, have much to tell us about racism and its evils, and she tells us with conviction and compassion."—Melton McLaurin, author of Separate Pasts, Growing Up White in the Segregated South and Celia, A Slave
"Sizes up integration well, both its vision and its pitfalls."—Chautauqua Literary Journal
"When readers of Clara Silverstein's White Girl: A Story of School Desegregation put down this book, they will not feel good. They will, however, better understand the destructive and dangerous, as well as poignant and painful, impact that racism has had on both white and black Americans."—Journal of Southern History
"It's easy to feel Silverstein's anguish, but her message is that positive social change is possible."—Library Journal