How I Shed My Skin: Unlearning the Racist Lessons of a Southern Childhood

Jim Grimsley


How I Shed My Skin: Unlearning the Racist Lessons of a Southern Childhood

How I Shed My Skin: Unlearning the Racist Lessons of a Southern Childhood

  • Title: How I Shed My Skin: Unlearning the Racist Lessons of a Southern Childhood
  • Author: Jim Grimsley
  • ISBN: 9781616203764
  • Page: 421
  • Format: Hardcover



White people declared that the South would rise again Black people raised one fist and chanted for black power Somehow we negotiated a space between those poles and learned to sit in classrooms together Lawyers, judges, adults declared that the days of separate schools were over, but we were the ones who took the next step History gave us a piece of itself We ma White people declared that the South would rise again Black people raised one fist and chanted for black power Somehow we negotiated a space between those poles and learned to sit in classrooms together Lawyers, judges, adults declared that the days of separate schools were over, but we were the ones who took the next step History gave us a piece of itself We made of it what we could Jim Grimsley More than sixty years ago, the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v Board of Education that America s schools could no longer be segregated by race Critically acclaimed novelist Jim Grimsley was eleven years old in 1966 when federally mandated integration of schools went into effect in the state and the school in his small eastern North Carolina town was first integrated Until then, blacks and whites didn t sit next to one another in a public space or eat in the same restaurants, and they certainly didn t go to school together Going to one of the private schools that almost immediately sprang up was not an option for Jim his family was too poor to pay tuition, and while they shared the community s dismay over the mixing of the races, they had no choice but to be on the front lines of his school s desegregation What he did not realize until he began to meet these new students was just how deeply ingrained his own prejudices were and how those prejudices had developed in him despite the fact that prior to starting sixth grade, he had actually never known any black people Now, than forty years later, Grimsley looks back at that school and those times remembering his own first real encounters with black children and their culture The result is a narrative both true and deeply moving Jim takes readers into those classrooms and onto the playing fields as, ever so tentatively, alliances were forged and friendships established And looking back from today s perspective, he examines how far we have really come Does to explain the South than anything I ve read in a long, long time Simply put, a brilliant book While I was reading, I kept thinking two things One, this is totally shocking Two, it s not at all shocking but a familiar part of my life and memory Grimsley s narrative is straightforward and plain spoken while at the same time achingly moving and intimately honest Josephine Humphreys, author of No Where Else on Earth I not only believed this account but was grateful to see it on the record The boy in this narrative is becoming a man in a time of enormous change, and his point of view is like a razor cutting through a callus Painful and healing Forthright and enormously engaging This is a book to collect and share and treasure Dorothy Allison, author of Bastard Out of Carolina Jim Grimsley s unflinching self examination of his own boyhood racial prejudices during the era of school desegregation is one of the most compelling memoirs of recent years Vivid, precise, and utterly honest, How I Shed My Skin is a time machine of sorts, a reminder that our past is every bit as complex as our present, and that broad cultural changes are often intimate, personal, and idiosyncratic Dinty W Moore, author of Between Panic and Desire In all his beautiful works, Jim Grimsley has told hard, hidden truths in luminous, subtle prose Here, he renders history not on the grand, sociological scale where it is usually written, but on very personal terms, where it is lived This is an exquisite, careful story of a white boy of simple background and great innocence Moira Crone, author of The Not Yet Grimsley probes the past to discover what and how he learned about race, equality, and democracy in this revelatory memoir Kirkus Reviews Acclaimed writer Grimsley offers a beautifully written coming of age recollection from the era of racial desegregation Booklist, starred review


Recent Comments "How I Shed My Skin: Unlearning the Racist Lessons of a Southern Childhood"

I wasn't sure just how honest a look at racism a book written by a white man could be. When it came to his own racist attitudes. Jim Grimsley was way more honest than I expected. There are not a lot of people who would admit to such attitudes regarding black people and white people. I am sure some of the people in this book would claim not to be a racist, despite their behavior. Jim never realized such attitudes were present (or even that there was anything wrong with that) until the forced inte [...]

I was just sitting down to write a short review of this book when I was alerted to the fact that our Supreme Court just ruled same-sex marriage as lawful and constitutional. This is an historic day in the epic story of American civil rights, and anything I might say about this book, examining the experience of a Southern white boy's perspective on 1960's desegregation, resonates with the euphoric feeling I have right now on learning our nation's Court's slim majority ruling. But I am also remind [...]

There is no dramatic story arc, but this memoir about the integration of public schools in rural North Carolina has a ring of truth to it. Jim Grimsley was a white insider (southern small town religious background) who was part of the community, but also just enough of an outsider (closeted gay, hemophiliac)to move a bit beyond the segregated cliques that everyone took for the natural order of life.

This was an interesting read on racism. Honestly, I found it quite shocking. Every time I hear or read racial slurs it feels like a punch in the chest, so I ended up skimming a large portion of this book.

Jim Grimsley grew up in Jones County, North Carolina during the period of integration. A class of '73 high school graduate, Jim shares stories of his experiences learning to interact with African Americans after being raised to think that having white skin made him superior to those with black skin. He remembers, when he was young, how dark-skinned people where practically “invisible” to him. I thought of Ralph Ellison's book Invisible Man and compared this same feeling from the black perspe [...]

I read the ARC of this book. This is an interesting take on racism coming from a white male, particularly a gay Caucasian writer at that, who is trying to come to terms with his inner prejudices as he grew up at the cusp of the Civil Rights movement.I'm a fan of Jim Grimsley's Dream Boy book so to read his life story as he dealt with his inner racism and vague struggles with his sexuality during the 60's fascinates me. The book comes off as a piece of therapy as Jim tries to make sense of his fe [...]

In all fairness, I only got halfway through this book before I had to stop. I'nm sure the author had it rough. I'm sure the author is a nice person who genuinely loves everyone based on who they are. And I'm sure that he has reached acceptance with himself and others. But this isn't a life-changing book for me. And while I'm comfortable with the N-word, I'm just not comfortable with entire pages of it showing up to justify why someone was once racist and no longer is. So I stopped reading it and [...]

In 1966 Grimsley was a middle school student in North Carolina. He was, of course, attending a segregated school. Not having had much to do with any black people, and as a closeted gay and a hemophiliac, he was very different from most other students. The memoir explores how things were forty years ago when an abrupt decree stated that there would be no more separate schools. Wealthy whites were able to create private schools but Grimsley, from a poor family, attended public schools through high [...]

Grimsley brings home racism as he experienced it in his life, in his town, his school, his neighborhood in the 1960's. Anecdotal and told with much candor, Grimsley was a square peg in a round hole, awkward and shy. I learned a great deal about how Southern culture operates, in this biography. Grimsley has insights into the minds of many frightened people who did not want to desegregate the schools, wondering what would come next, including his parents and neighbors. In light of recent racist ev [...]

Memoir of growing up in racist eastern NC by Jim Grimsley, who is exact same age as me. Described the process of racial desegregation at his junior high and senior high school in the 60's. Same experience as I had in SC, except I have better stories. He mentions he was intimidated by James Brown's music but to us he was a homie because he always lived nearby. Grimsley does have a good writing style. Good motivation for me to finish writing my book!

Grimsley pulls no punches nor spares himself in this memoir of a rural Southern county when school desegregation is implemented. His recollections of all the ways in which racism pervaded the thoughts, words, and actions of himself, his family, his classmates, and his community had me wincing more than once -- and sometimes in rueful recognition. Much food for thought.

Jim Grimsley's memoir HOW I SHED MY SKIN is a documentation of a white boy growing up in the South in a typical segregated society. With candor and honesty, Grimsley examines the way he was raised to believe racism is normal and for the greater good. Grimsley's story isn't an unusual one, but it is special in the way he seeks to understand the history of the family and community.

Such a strong, clear-eyed view of growing up in the Deep South in the 1960s and being the first generation that struggled with desegregation, with integration. It's this point that is driven home. As Grimsley writes: ".ration was a term that could not have frightened white people more if it had been designed to do so. In our eyes, integration assumed the white race was obsolete and would be superseded in the new order of things." It especially helped me understand some of what my own parents exp [...]

Full disclosure first: I know Jim Grimsley and have met him a handful of times. We have friends in common and we are contemporaries. I am little older, but we both graduated from high school in North Carolina in 1973. We both grew up in a South in transformation, he in Jones County, which is Down East, and I, in the Piedmont, Orange County, Chapel Hill. We both attended UNC-Chapel Hill at the same time, although we didn't meet until many years later, I think at a science fiction convention. I ha [...]

This book is tricky to approach context-wise, but my biggest complaint was with writing its self. While the premise is interesting and I was curious to see how the author was able to recognize his ignorance and grow from it, I don't feel like that was this book. Most of the book takes place while the author was in grade school as a reflection and yet most of the book reads as if written by a young man still in that experience. With sentences like "So I don't know how the parents were invited." i [...]

Horribly boring. Initially I was very intrigued by a tale of a Southern white man relating how he was surrounded by racism and came to eventually shed those lessons. Although I was somewhat leery about reading his from a white man's perspective, the premise sounded really fascinating. Unfortunately, the book does not live up to the hype. It traces Grimsley's childhood until graduation of high school (with a bit of an epilogue of reunions and post school) and society around him. How casual dropp [...]

This book was recommended to be my a college friend, a fellow Southerner who has relocated to another part of the country. I am still in the deep South, and deeply troubled by the persistent personal and systemic racism of our country and region. As someone who is committed to rooting out racism within myself and in bringing up my child differently, I was very interested in discovering how this author rid himself of racism. The first section of this book really resonated with me. Like the author [...]

The topic is important, interesting, and timely, but the writing style turned me completely off of this book. The idea fell short of the impact it should have had, solely with the way Grimsely told his story. He was so careful in making sure his readers knew that his memory was imperfect that half of the book felt like conjecture or mere possibilities. He relies on newspaper articles for events he can't remember, just after mentioning how unreliable the newspapers are. He also comments how certa [...]

potentially interesting premise -- memoir of growing up in North Carolina just as schools were desegregating. He links his own feeling like an outsider, as a closeted gay teen, to his being ahead of the curve in accepting integration.Seems like a great guy, but at least in my reading there just isn't much to it; it's not as though he played a leading role in social change, or had a dramatic epiphany, or methodically worked on himself to overcome racism. Short vignettes of mostly minor incidents, [...]

Thanks for the recommendation, David Dykes. Interesting read, but I was hoping for more. The author is just six years younger than me, but he remembered a lot more about growing up during the times of desegregation than I can. I just wish he had deeper memories. Perhaps the years that have passed is what made his recollections vague and repeated at times. Having grown up during the integration crisis in Little Rock, I am always hungry to learn more about that period. Because if there is one thin [...]

I took this book as a biography. After all is how *I* shed my skin. But there is nothing about shedding any skin. Which is normal, I'd find it hard to believe someone who woke up one morning without any trace of racism after that kind of upbringing.So it is a biography. But also it is presented as a chronicle of the time as seen from South Carolina. Good. I like that. Than I find out that was all gathered from memories decades old supplemented by reading local newspapers.The author is 'a sissy'. [...]

I listened to this audiobook after reading a very positive review of it in a book newsletter. I liked it OK, but did not love it. Since I am about the same age as the writer, I identified with many of the things he mentioned as going on at the time. I was interested to see how his experience in being among the first to experience school integration in the south differed from my memories of the time, growing up in the Midwest. Obviously, it was a very different atmosphere. For example, I do not r [...]

How I Shed My Skin : Unlearning the Racist Lessons of a Southern Childhood by Jim Grimsley (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill 2015) (Biography). This is the story of the Jones County, North Carolina Senior Class of 1973. Our narrator was a member of the school class that underwent forced integration in this teeny rural high school and community. The actual community is Pollocksville, NC, which is just across the bridge from little New Bern, NC. Not only is our narrator a member of the class being i [...]

The goal of exploring one's past from the vantage point of age is solid.Grimsley certainly sometimes captures clearly key characters in his early life in eastern NC, near New Bern.He's effective when focused on school and teachers and church and local families, depicting their clear dictum that there's a clear line between races. Be polite, but don't mingle.As he grows to a senior in high school, he sometimes secures the moving lines of integration in his schools, but the style of writing often [...]

I was somewhat disappointed in this book - perhaps only because it did not live up to my expectations. Maybe the book was everything the reviews and book jacket says, only I having also grown up in the South around the same time was hoping for something more gripping, more powerful. Much of what the author described was ordinary high school life in the late 60's/early 70's, little connection with adults and little understanding of the world outside of small town. I wanted something more. I guess [...]

Race and racism have been on a lot of people's minds recently. One only has to turn on the news or any social media to see that as far as we've come, we have so much farther to go. I was very interested in reading this book because I, too, was raised in a way that laid down the foundation for racist thoughts and reactions. I've managed to deprogram myself, but some traces of it linger and that makes me sad and angry at the people who laid that foundation. I'm deeply ashamed that in that half-sec [...]

Jim Grimsley writes candidly and unflinchingly about race in this memoir of growing up in rural North Carolina in the late 1960's when the schools were desegregated. Many people will have a difficult time hearing the POV of a gay white man on this topic, but what I found truly interesting was the candor with which he spoke about racist attitudes that all white people share-which I suspect all people share really-because we are taught early on in life about differences which truly become a part o [...]

I think this is a thoughtful & thought provoking book on black-white race relations based on the author's experience of integration as a 9th grader in rural Eastern NC. Grimsley provides detailed personal analysis and reflection on his past viewed through the lens of race. He does an excellent job of being honest about calling a classmate "black bitch" and what her reaction did to light the way for this book. It was so interesting to read about the Friday night football games and how that wa [...]

When Jim Grimsley was a sixth grader in a desegregating North Carolina middle school, I was a senior in a high school in northeastern Tennessee wich had aslo just instituted a "freedom of Choice" plan. There was a single African American student in my senior class.Grimsley's discussion of racial attitudes in such schools - where they came from and how they evolved - felt both fascinating and familiar to me. His writing is personal and thoughtful, full of insights both general and particular to h [...]

I was a year behind and half a state away from Jim Grimsley, when the schools in NC desegregated. This book took me back, gently, firmly to a time when I could have become a racist. I hear people say that there is no such thing as race, color is not something that they see. But I know, as long as there are people in this world that hate others because of the color of their skin, I will be aware. This is a terrific book, for anyone interested in the impact of desegregation in the 1960's. It was i [...]


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    Published :2018-09-16T06:18:37+00:00