A meditation on ritual and collectiveness that explores how older forms of inquiry-from song to prayer to ways of public gathering-might help us all survive violent times and address America's shared history.
Both a memoir and an examination of race relations in America ... Reads like both a travelogue of the journey toward that soul — largely an interior journey — and, with its descriptions of Smith’s spiritual practices, a rite to conjure that soul ... Much of what is so finely done in Smith’s memoir can be seen in the sentences quoted above: the musicality of her prose ... Smith’s plea that the woman will sing a new song.
Smith...writes prose at once dazzling and exacting. On nearly every page of this book is a phrase or sentence to marvel over ... So luscious that it often reads less like a collection of essays than like a work of prose poetry. Its six long sections and brief coda are not neatly contained narratives or discrete arguments, but threads in one continuous web of reminiscence and observation ... Many of Smith’s flights of fancy are attempts to imagine all that the historical record conceals — to endow skeletal statistics with flesh and blood — and her lively lyricism is an antidote to the slick obfuscations of bureaucratic language ... Nothing could be less like institutional abstractions; nothing could be more lavishly particular.