Cover image for From the soul : stories of great Black parents and the lives they gave us
From the soul : stories of great Black parents and the lives they gave us
Harris, Phyllis Y.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2001.
Physical Description:
243 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E185.86 .H37 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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From the Soul cuts away at the long-held stereotype that blacks can't parent. Instead, it celebrates great black parenting. This is a book that blacks have been yearning for, a work that honestly portrays the emotionally rich, intensely family-oriented experience of growing up black in America.For a year and a half, Phyllis Harris interviewed black men and women about their memories of childhood. In particular, she wanted to capture their stories -- stories that depicted the black family as a source of enormous love, resilience, support, and understanding, celebrating their strength through the best and the worst of times. Here are the voices of the sons and daughters honoring the parents -- and grandparents -- who instilled in them the strong sense of self, confidence, and integrity that have been the foundation upon which they've built successful lives.From the Soul is a unique tribute -- highly personal, candid, emotionally honest, and poignant -- to the power of family, in which all readers will be inspired to see themselves. Illustrated with wonderful family photographs, here is a book that no reader, regardless of ethnic background, will ever forget.

Author Notes

Phyllis Y. Harris is a writer living in New York City. She has long been an advocate for children and families, and began her career as a Dyson Fellow for the Children's Defense Fund in Washington, D.C. She was educated at Yale University, the University of Paris, and East Carolina University.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Harris, a family advocate, notes that the black family is a much maligned institution in the U.S. and the purported site of many of the problems of the black community. Harris counters that stereotype with a look at the black family as a foundation of love, strength, and endurance. She profiles 10 black men and women, born to and raised by black families of divergent backgrounds--they come from families of comfortable or modest means, they were raised in the rural South or the urban North, and they live in the U.S. or abroad. The commonality is vivid recollections of solid families: a father whose singing and laughter left indelible memories; a father who had another family the whole time but never neglected his son emotionally; a South African father who taught school during the day and was a freedom fighter with the African National Congress at night; a mother who encouraged learning about other cultures as the family moved from Germany to Cambodia following a father with a military career, the whole time maintaining a sense of racial identity. A powerful tribute to family love. --Vanessa Bush

Publisher's Weekly Review

Former children's advocate Harris believes that the black family is the most "maligned institution in America"; her response is this collection of 10 moving tributes to parents from their successful and grateful children, a "thank-you card" to black mothers and fathers and a celebration of familial love and sacrifice. In "A Time for All Things," a physician recalls her widowed father's extraordinary will in raising his five children alone, juggling jobs as a carpenter and a minister. Even in the face of spiritual struggle in the segregated South, Rev. Isaiah Derius Bagwell taught his children grace and strength. "No one can ride your back unless it's bent," he'd say. The narrator of "The Way Things Were" recounts a story of personal and political struggle in Swaziland, Mozambique and South Africa: Phola's parents were ANC freedom fighters forced to spend much of their lives in exile. While they were fierce in their attacks on the racist South African government, Phola also witnessed the tenderness of their love for each other. The tales are honest reflections on black families, "warts and all," as the powerful, complicated, sustaining institutions they are. Harris's idea is bold, and the outcome is beautiful. This is a quiet and powerful response to those who would venture to say that the solid black family unit doesn't exist. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Little recent child-rearing literature focuses on African American parents and children. These two well-written works belong in all public libraries because they contribute substantially to filling that void. In From the Soul, Harris collects poignant stories of family life from thirty- to fiftysomething, upwardly mobile African Americans. The ten stories have different settings they show a military family traveling abroad, a child growing up in the Deep South, and another in New York City, for example but all of them bear witness to the strength and hope mothers and fathers were able to transmit despite racism, poverty, and many other trials. While these stories were written to give tribute and inspiration to African American parents of older generations who, as Harris says, could not climb the "American ladder of opportunity," white readers can also learn valuable lessons. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.