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Southern Discomfort: Author Tena Clark

  • Flannery O'Connor Childhood Home 207 East Charlton Street Savannah, GA, 31401 (map)

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.

Rave Reviews…

"Raw and deeply honest....What Clark shows so beautifully is that the people she discusses, as unredeemable as they may at first seem, are much more complex....Clark’s narrative draws the reader in to a wonderful story of the South going from old to new." – Publishers Weekly, starred review

“The Mississippi blues take on new meaning in this tragic yet uplifting memoir. With its Southern setting and themes of racial conflict and civil rights, it's easy to see how this book has been compared to The Help. But Clark's debut is an entirely original—and true—story… the overarching theme is love. A highly satisfying look at a flawed family, a conflicted South, and a fraught future.” -Kirkus Reviews