Up from the Deep South
Autobiography,Biography & Memoirs
When Thais "Grace" Roberson is born in the mid-1930s in a small town in southern Mississippi, a world of rattlesnakes and fragrant honeysuckle, her family is on the cusp of the middle class. But a move into the country to build their own home soon brings difficulty. There is no running water or electricity for the Roberson's growing family, and when a fire destroys the house they've put everything into, the family of six moves into the back of a gas station, where they sleep on the floor and black widow spiders lurk in the outhouse. They attempt once more to build a home, but job loss forces her parents to move again, deeper into rural Mississippi. Grace is left to negotiate adolescence, including episodes of bullying and sexual assault, on her own, with occasional help from her sister Willene. But there are also lighter moments—Gene Autrey and Tarzan movies to watch at the theater, and biscuits and bacon breakfasts on Saturday mornings when Dad is not away preaching in another town. In understated but lyrical detail, Barry shares the story of an ordinary girl and her family surviving and ultimately triumphing in the face of unemployment, crushing physical labor, illness and loss, while WWII rages in the backdrop. Her unforgettable tale is one of grit in the face of adversity, but also one of human imperfection and frailty, and the power of education to change lives.