Friday, February 24, 2012

Book Review: My Story My Song

About the Book:
This heartwarming memoir of 87-year-old Luciamarian Roberts, mother of Good Morning America's coanchor Robin Roberts, gives you a glimpse into pivotal moments in Mrs. Roberts' life, showing how faith in God has strengthened her and how God has guided and encouraged her through people of all ages and races. Good Morning America viewers have come to know and love Lucimarian Roberts, the 87-year-old mother of coanchor Robin Roberts. For many, the heartfelt connection began the day after Hurricane Katrina blew through the Gulf Coast. They eagerly watched as Robin stood among the remnants of her hometown and talked about her desperate search for her elderly mother, who had ridden out the storm in her Mississippi home. Once she knew that her mother was safe, Robin admitted that she was not surprised to learn that even as the winds howled and floodwaters rose, Lucimarian Roberts sang hymns. For all of her long life, Lucimarian Tolliver Roberts has drawn upon her faith in God for comfort and strength. Even today as she sits down at the piano, she can recite the lyrics to hundreds of hymns and spirituals learned in her childhood church in Akron, Ohio. In fact, she credits hymns for helping her, a black woman born in 1924, live faithfully through the turbulent times of the Great Depression, segregation, and racial prejudice even as the wife of a U.S. Air Force officer. Who would have thought that a poor black girl with an alcoholic father would one day attend Howard University on a scholarship and eventually chair the board of the New Orleans branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta? she asks with a smile. My Story, My Song brings together the pivotal moments of Lucimarian Roberts intriguing life with personal reflections from her daughter Robin. God has brought the most wonderful and sometimes the most unlikely people, of all ages and races, into my life to encourage and guide me on this spiritual journey of life, Mrs. Roberts says with a brightness in her eyes. Clearly, she is still singing her song.

My Comments:
I suspect a lot of people have a celebrity they know before that person became famous. Robin Roberts is "my" celebrity.  We lived in the same neighborhoods and attended the same schools in Izmir, Turkey and Biloxi, Mississippi,  from first through fifth grade. (She was much smarter and more popular than I was).   At that point our paths diverged slighly; both of our dads retired from the Air Force shortly thereafter (though her dad got an all expense paid trip to Viet Nam before retirement) and settled a town apart on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  I'd see her name in the paper periodically and we'd even run into each other every once in a great while.  I enjoyed watching her progress from working for the local TV station on the Coast to hosting Good Morning America.  When NetGalley offered this book by her mother I was eager to read it.  

Robin and I were never close friends (she hung with the popular kids) so I don't know if I ever met her mom or not, but my parents knew both her parents and have always had nice things to say about them. I never really thought about what an uphill climb it was for them to achieve what they did.  My Story My  Song is the story of that climb. 

One constant in Mrs. Robert's life has been music, particularly church hymns and she quotes them liberally in the book.  While her faith shines through in this book, I wouldn't call it preachy.  We follow her from her life as the daughter of a small business man in Akron Ohio to her college days at Howard University to her life as the wife of an Air Force officer during and immediately after the days of segregation.  She talks about Whites considering her to be too Black, and Blacks thinking she acted too White.  She mentions that when they were stationed in Alabama, her daughter Sally-Ann (who hosts the local morning show here in New Orleans) was astounded and thrilled to find other kids who looked like she did.  

While this is a book about an extraordinary woman (indeed, an extraordinary family) triumphing over racism,  it is not a book that bashes people, even racist people.  I loved Mrs. Robert's story of memorizing every detail of the Officers' Wives protocol book and showing up with her hat and white gloves (and a smile) even though she snubbed by some.  My mom had one of those books, and compared to today's casual world...

At the end of each chapter, Robin Roberts offers her reflections on the topics her mother discussed.  The love and respect these two have for each other is obvious.  

I'm sure that part of the appeal of this book for me is that it is about people I knew or knew of, but Lucimarian Roberts is a worthy role model for any young woman today and I'd recommend this book to anyone who thinks that where she is born is where she has to die.  Grade:  A.  

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