978-0-375-42069-6 / 037542069X

An American Story

by Dickerson, Debra J.




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About the book:

Debra Dickerson's fiercely honest account of her journey from the black working class to the ivied halls of Harvard Law School couldn't be more aptly titled. What's more American than someone who reaches a political turning point as a result of buying a lousy car? At the time, Dickerson was a conservative supporter of Ronald Reagan who believed her north St. Louis neighbors were poor and jobless because of their personal failings--and of course, it wasn't really her lemon of a Renault Alliance that changed her mind. But after years of struggling to get an education while her brother Bobby threw away every opportunity, after finding an apparent refuge in the Air Force (just as her bitter, violent father had during World War II in the Marines), Dickerson was appalled that "a blameless person in uniform" was expected, by everyone from her superior officers to the lawyers she tried to hire to help her, to make payments on a car that wouldn't run. "That experience made it crystal clear to me whose side society was on," she writes. Without abandoning her belief in personal responsibility, Dickerson began to reassess her contempt for people like her brother, who had made mistakes but had never been given any margin for error. Her reconciliation with Bobby is the most moving moment in a book notable for its bruising candor on the uncomfortable subjects of race and class, as well as its complete lack of political and cultural platitudes. --Wendy Smith

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