Necessary Trouble: Growing Up at Midcentury

Farrar. Aug. 2023. 320p. ISBN 9780374601805. $30. HIST
Historian and former Harvard president Faust (This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War), a finalist for the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, has written a memoir that covers a bit of her family history and focuses on historical events between the 1957 launching of Sputnik and the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. That includes the Hungarian Revolution, the threat of nuclear war, the beginning of the civil rights movement, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, and the building of the Berlin Wall. Faust grew up in 1950s Virginia, which was only 17 percent Black. There were no segregationist signs on water fountains, park benches, or waiting rooms, yet the only Black adults she knew worked for her family and used a separate servant’s bathroom. She says segregation was foundational to her upbringing, along with gender roles and anticommunism. In 1957, when she was nine, she became aware that she was white, she says. Realizing that her school had no Black children in it, she wrote to President Eisenhower to express her outrage.
VERDICT This memoir by a white historian is a necessary addition to collections. She come to terms with her racial past and learns how to affect change.
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