Rembert calls forth vibrant scenes of Black life on Cuthbert, Georgia's Hamilton Avenue, where he first glimpsed the possibility of a life outside the cotton field. As he pays tribute, exuberant and heartfelt, to Cuthbert's Black community and the people, including Patsy, who helped him to find the courage to revisit a traumatic past, Rembert brings to life the promise and the danger of Civil Rights protest, the brutalities of incarceration, his search for his mother's love, and the epic bond he found with Patsy.
Rembert’s memoir is not just a lens through which we can view American history; at its heart it is a love story ... documents racial and economic violence under white supremacy as a living history. It also gives us an example of how to live without bitterness or seeking revenge. From Rembert’s abandonment by his birth mother to the forced labor on the cotton fields and the abuses of the prison wardens, he remembers his struggle with acceptance, forgiveness, and often gratitude for the lessons he learned from his mistakes ... He was never going to outrun his blackness in Jim Crow or even in post-Civil Rights America, in the South or the North. Instead, he picked up some tools and paints and changed the arc of his story, placing black history at the center of it, transforming hate and humiliation into love and forgiveness.
... preserv[es] [Rembert's] easygoing manner and offhand wit in his recounting of otherwise dire circumstances ... An artistic eye shines through in his elegantly natural prose ... Rather than seeming redundant, the entwined forms serve as a gloss on one another, the words providing insights and unseeable detail, the images deepening our sense of the emotional impact of the narrator’s experiences ... Rembert’s memoir is cause for hope and shame. It’s a story about running and a story about having nowhere to go.
This is a book like no other, from Winfred Rembert’s unique and uniquely powerful autobiographical paintings to his disturbing and courageous life story, frankly told to philosophy professor Kelly ... With a foreword by Bryan Stevenson and superb color reproductions, Rembert’s self-portrait in word and image belongs in every library.