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Our Southern Home: Scottsboro to Montgomery to Birmingham--The Transformation of the South in the Twentieth Century Paperback – October 7, 2011
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"Two 'isms' - racism and liberalism - make their way through Our Southern Home, a new carefully researched book...'I am haunted by my past,' Taylor exclaims at the end of the book...it does indeed read like a story about ghosts of racism that go on haunting not only the author but all of American society."
Jonah Raskin--Swans Commentary
"Memoir. Journalism. History. The book's title suggest all three genres. That is precisely what is presented..Alabama's moon has been the inspiration for both song and poetry. It takes a native Alabaman (now transplanted to the Bay Area) to reveal the dark side of the moon."
Dennis Halac--Mechanics' Institute Library
His [Mr. Taylor's] writing style is very readable...Mr. Taylor has retold these tragic stories that many of us know but he does it in such an entertaining yet sad way that the reader feels as if the story is being related this time more eloquently than before. This fascinating account of the civil rights struggle is highly recommended to you.
Taylor combines the story of his own family's history with the Scottsboro Boys and the burgeoning activism of Rosa Parks in the racially segregated and tumultuous South...Publicity of the case laid bare the racial attitudes of the post-slavery era, which Taylor recounts with remarkable finesse. He's critical without being harshly judgmental...It's an engrossing tale that marries fine attention to detail with a creative, engaging writing style. It's no mere retelling of history, as Taylor uses meticulous research to breathe vibrant life into the major players.
Afraid of the South and yet fascinated by it, I turned to Waights Taylor's history of Alabama...Taylor writes from his head; years of research went into his book. He also writes from his heart; there's an ocean of feelings behind the words...The book reads like a literary ritual in which the author aims to exorcise the ghosts of racism that have haunted him for much of his life...At the end of the book, the author himself, all alone, sifts through his memories and his dreams, and monitors emotions that "vary from joy to sadness to despair."
About the Author
Waights Taylor Jr., born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, lives in Santa Rosa, California. His professional career included twenty-four years in the aviation industry and then twenty-two years in management consulting. When his professional career was coming to an end, he turned to writing. He is an author, a poet, and a playwright. His first book, Alfons Mucha’s Slav Epic: An Artist’s History of the Slavic People, was published in 2008. He has written a number of short stories and plays. His first chapbook of poetry, titled Literary Ramblings, was published in 2011.
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Top Customer Reviews
If you are Waights Taylor Jr. you have to have the experience, talent and need to weave an honest personal biography of iconic events and individuals as they occurred and subsequently influenced your life.
This book is well researched, edited and beautifully written; Faulkner's sociological and moral discontinuity and the author's "southern voice" by cadence and phrasing reminding me of Shelby Foote and his cousin Horton.
As historical perspective Our Southern Home is currently relevant if you wish to understand the evolution or devolution of the underpinnings of the political beliefs and attitudes from the southern Dixiecrats to the Republican south of today.
The author's stated introspective experience of emotional guilt is," (to be) haunted by my past". For weaving such an "exquisite truth" Mr. Taylor deserves our grateful thanks and a literary absolution and exorcism for any past described omissions.
Waights Taylor Jr does a meticulous and thorough job of recounting the complex and heart-breaking story of the Scottsboro Trial’s defendants’ 45 year struggle for justice, as well as the life and times of Rosa Parks. In addition, he recounts his father’s history with admirable affection and appreciation, while still expressing his perplexity and disappointment at his father’s transformation into a Rush Limbaugh “ditto head.” The questions Our Southern Home raises about fate and influence are fascinating, and the book serves as a vivid reminder of some of the darkest and some of the brightest moments and figures in America’s on-going struggle for social justice.
It is a story told in intricate detail, important to revisit at this time as we make token and ceremonial nods to the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. All of the images of that era have been worn thin. The television news footage showing black people being attacked with firehoses and police dogs has deteriorated over the years, thanks to repeated duplication and re-editing. The iconic newspaper and magazine photos gradually have been winnowed in number to the point where there are only a few, used over and over. They've become odd artifacts, more notable for their peculiar appearance than their content.
We're so far removed from the courage and sacrifices of the civil rights movement that images of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking at the Lincoln Memorial have been sold by his heirs to be used in animated commercials peddling cell phone products.
We of the older generation, if not directly involved in the events of that time, have lost touch with the reality of what happened and why. Younger generations know only what they've been exposed to in school -- the same thing, year after year -- and the quality of that experience may vary greatly.
Waights Taylor tells the story of his family: white, privileged, educated. And the story of the Scottsboro boys, nine illiterate black teenagers, one age 12, accused of the rape of two young white women. He details the political as well as social fervor behind the nearly endless, repeated prosecution aimed at having them executed. He covers with equal diligence their exploitation by political factions wanting to be seen as coming to their rescue. His research is impeccable; his talent in telling the story of the people involved is rare and laced with insight.
While tracing the chronology of his family as it parallels the separate, unequal, and very dire circumstances of the Scottsboro defendants, Taylor also tells the life story of Rosa Parks. Her refusal to move to the back of the bus was a key event, but only one episode in a lifetime we need to understand in full.
All of this ties together in a meaningful tapestry, a dynamic portrait of racially charged life in Alabama and in American society. Taylor never engages in inflammatory exposition or gratuitous violence for shock value. The violence was real. He deals with it as a part of history necessary for understanding. And he does so by bringing the people and their circumstances to life.
Lest you ask, "Why bring it all up again? What purpose is served by fanning the old flames of racism anew?" please understand that Taylor's book does not do that. It is neither a rant nor a preachment. It is new material to many of us, vital to understanding where we've come from. Vital to see clearly where we're going.
My exposure to Waights Taylor's book came in the form of a review copy. I'm now buying it to give the author his due.