Cover image for He included me : the autobiography of Sarah Rice
He included me : the autobiography of Sarah Rice
Rice, Sarah, 1909-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Athens : University of Georgia Press, [1989]

Physical Description:
xvi, 181 pages ; 23 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E185.97.R53 A3 1989 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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A rare first-person account of life in the twentieth-century South, He Included Me weaves together the story of a black family--eight children reared in rural Alabama, their mother a schoolteacher, their father a minister--and the emerging self-portrait of a woman determined, like her parents, to look ahead.

Sarah Rice recalls her mother's hymn of thanks--"He Included Me"--when God showed her a way to feed her family, and hears again her mother's quiet words, "It's no disgrace to work. It's an honor to make an honest dollar," spoken when her children were embarrassed that she took in white people's laundry. Rice speaks, finally, of the determination, faith, and pride that carried her through life.

In a document that spans more than three-quarters of the twentieth century, He Included Me presents the voice of a single woman whose life was rich in complexity, deep in suffering and joy; yet it also speaks for the many black women who have worked and struggled in the rural South and always looked ahead.

Author Notes

Louise H. Westling is a professor of English at the University of Oregon. She is the author or editor of several books, including The Green Breast of the New World: Landscape, Gender, and American Fiction and Sacred Groves and Ravaged Gardens: The Fiction of Eudora Welty, Carson McCullers, and Flannery O'Connor (both Georgia).

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

In homespun words, strong-minded Rice, born in 1909 in rural Alabama, bears witness to her hard life as a black woman. Warm and pleasantly meandering, this oral autobiography tells of her large, devoutly religious family, her schooling, marriages, work as a maid in the homes of whites in Florida and later as a teacher: ``Just to think that from my grandfather not being able to read or write, or his wife either, and coming up from slavery, all this family grew.'' Rice's comments on social and racial issues, especially when based directly on her experiences as an employee of white families, are instructive; sensitive yet objective, she proves able to reckon with differences, not just take sides. She seems always to say exactly what she means. With the aid of Westling ( Sacred Groves and Ravaged Gardens ), Rice makes a welcome contribution to the informal history of black Americans. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Now in her 80s, Rice has spent her life in the deep South. As a girl, she lived in small rural towns or on farms, as her father worked as an itinerant AME minister. As an adult, Rice labored at the jobs available in the South to a black woman with some education: as a teacher in segregated schools; as a domestic in white households; as a worker on an airforce base during World War II. This oral history, artfully edited by Louise Westling, allows Rice to speak for herself, describing life in rural Alabama, her life as a school teacher, her two failed marriages, and, finally, the happiness she achieved with her third husband. Viewing her life with a sharp intelligence, always frank, compassionate, and informed by a deep religious faith, Rice offers an autobiography that often reads with the narrative sweep of a novel. For both larger public libraries and history and African-American collections in academic libraries.-- Ann H. Sullivan, Tompkins-Cortland Community Coll., Dryden, N.Y. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Based on interviews conducted in the 1930s with elderly ex-slaves, the "slave narratives" have given readers glimpses into the lives of slaves. More significant, such collections have given respectibility to oral history as a method of capturing the traditions of peoples who are often missing from written history. Westling has emulated this method in interviewing, transcribing, editing, and publishing the oral autobiography of a 20th-century southern black woman. Sarah Rice, a thrice-married, often impoverished black school teacher in the segregated rural schools of the South, tells a compelling, instructive, and otherwise unavailable story. It provides insight into black women struggling with the world of black males as well as with contemporary American society. Readers, however, will be disappointed. The story is allowed to stand alone. There are no notes to explain the references in the narrative; there is no family tree to keep the characters in place. No maps are included to trace Rice's migratory pattern. There is no introduction and no bibliography. Without these the reader is left with only a good story rather than something that can be readily analyzed for its larger historical and social meaning. -T. F. Armstrong, Georgia College