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Southern Discomfort: A Memoir

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For readers of beloved memoirs like Educated and The Glass Castle, a riveting and profoundly moving memoir set in rural Mississippi during the Civil Rights era about a white girl coming of age in a repressive society and the woman who gave her the strength to forge her own path—the black nanny who cared for her. Tena Clark was born in 1953 in a tiny Mississippi town close For readers of beloved memoirs like Educated and The Glass Castle, a riveting and profoundly moving memoir set in rural Mississippi during the Civil Rights era about a white girl coming of age in a repressive society and the woman who gave her the strength to forge her own path—the black nanny who cared for her. Tena Clark was born in 1953 in a tiny Mississippi town close to the Alabama border, where the legacy of slavery and racial injustice still permeated every aspect of life. On the outside, Tena’s childhood looked like a fairytale. Her father was one of the richest men in the state; her mother was a regal beauty. The family lived on a sprawling farm and had the only swimming pool in town; Tena was given her first car—a royal blue Camaro—at twelve. But behind closed doors, Tena’s life was deeply lonely, and chaotic. By the time she was three, her parents’ marriage had dissolved into a swamp of alcohol, rampant infidelity, and guns. Adding to the turmoil, Tena understood from a very young age that she was different from her three older sisters, all of whom had been beauty queens and majorettes. Tena knew she didn’t want to be a majorette—she wanted to marry one. On Tena’s tenth birthday, her mother, emboldened by alcoholism and enraged by her husband’s incessant cheating, walked out for good, instantly becoming an outcast in society. Tena was left in the care of her black nanny, Virgie, who became Tena’s surrogate mother and confidante—even though she was raising nine of her own children and was not allowed to eat from the family’s plates or use their bathroom. It was Virgie’s acceptance and unconditional love that gave Tena the courage to stand up to her domineering father, the faith to believe in her mother’s love, and the strength to be her true self. Combining the spirit of poignant coming-of-age memoirs such as The Glass Castle and vivid, evocative Southern fiction like Fried Green Tomatoes, Southern Discomfort is about the people and places that shape who we are—and is destined to become a new classic.


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For readers of beloved memoirs like Educated and The Glass Castle, a riveting and profoundly moving memoir set in rural Mississippi during the Civil Rights era about a white girl coming of age in a repressive society and the woman who gave her the strength to forge her own path—the black nanny who cared for her. Tena Clark was born in 1953 in a tiny Mississippi town close For readers of beloved memoirs like Educated and The Glass Castle, a riveting and profoundly moving memoir set in rural Mississippi during the Civil Rights era about a white girl coming of age in a repressive society and the woman who gave her the strength to forge her own path—the black nanny who cared for her. Tena Clark was born in 1953 in a tiny Mississippi town close to the Alabama border, where the legacy of slavery and racial injustice still permeated every aspect of life. On the outside, Tena’s childhood looked like a fairytale. Her father was one of the richest men in the state; her mother was a regal beauty. The family lived on a sprawling farm and had the only swimming pool in town; Tena was given her first car—a royal blue Camaro—at twelve. But behind closed doors, Tena’s life was deeply lonely, and chaotic. By the time she was three, her parents’ marriage had dissolved into a swamp of alcohol, rampant infidelity, and guns. Adding to the turmoil, Tena understood from a very young age that she was different from her three older sisters, all of whom had been beauty queens and majorettes. Tena knew she didn’t want to be a majorette—she wanted to marry one. On Tena’s tenth birthday, her mother, emboldened by alcoholism and enraged by her husband’s incessant cheating, walked out for good, instantly becoming an outcast in society. Tena was left in the care of her black nanny, Virgie, who became Tena’s surrogate mother and confidante—even though she was raising nine of her own children and was not allowed to eat from the family’s plates or use their bathroom. It was Virgie’s acceptance and unconditional love that gave Tena the courage to stand up to her domineering father, the faith to believe in her mother’s love, and the strength to be her true self. Combining the spirit of poignant coming-of-age memoirs such as The Glass Castle and vivid, evocative Southern fiction like Fried Green Tomatoes, Southern Discomfort is about the people and places that shape who we are—and is destined to become a new classic.

30 review for Southern Discomfort: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    "My roots ran deep into the red earth; the land felt as much a part of me as my limbs, my heart. I hated it with a fury. I loved it with an all-consuming passion. This is the great paradox of the South. It's a Savage place, a complicated place, and yet it still burrows into you, like the fangs of one of the water moccasins I used to hunt as a young girl down the Chickasawhay River behind our farm. There's a venom in the soil. But there's an alluring beauty to it as well" Teny grew up in Waynesbor "My roots ran deep into the red earth; the land felt as much a part of me as my limbs, my heart. I hated it with a fury. I loved it with an all-consuming passion. This is the great paradox of the South. It's a Savage place, a complicated place, and yet it still burrows into you, like the fangs of one of the water moccasins I used to hunt as a young girl down the Chickasawhay River behind our farm. There's a venom in the soil. But there's an alluring beauty to it as well" Teny grew up in Waynesboro, Mississippi, deep in the Jim Crow south. Her parents married when her mom was only fifteen, her dad from a very poor background. Yet, he became the richest man in the county, built a big house for his wife and four daughters. Their marriage beyond dysfunctional by the time of Tenys birth, she the youngest by ten years. Her mother sucuumbing more and more to alcohol to drown her unhappiness with her husband and his constant adulteries. Screaming, yelling their fighting the background to her days. Their black housekeeper Virgie providing the only consistency and unconditional love in which she could depend. Sixties and race relations were changing, but no where more slowly than in Mississippi. The ku Klux Klan were still active and a threat to those blacks and whites that didn't toe the line. Times that for the longest time Tent couldn't understand. The dysfunction in her family, ever present, led her to forge her own path. Surprisingly there was also occassins of love, times when her parents surprised her with their understanding. She was also gay, something she could not acknowledge nor tell her parents until her college years. Her parents, their relationship with her were complicated, and at the end the people they were surprised her the most. A fascinating look at Southern mores, a changing racial world, and a family that despite their lack of money problems, had more than its fair share of unhappiness.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tammy

    Clark grew up in the Jim Crow South with an alcoholic, largely absent mother and a cheating, pride-driven, successful father who is as mean as a snake. Add to this volatile mix, a daughter who does not fit the mold of Southern Belle and you might imagine what ignites. She loves ferociously and is guided through her childhood by a magnanimous and loving black housekeeper who provides stability for the frequently abandoned child. Clark tries, she really does, to be the person her family wishes her Clark grew up in the Jim Crow South with an alcoholic, largely absent mother and a cheating, pride-driven, successful father who is as mean as a snake. Add to this volatile mix, a daughter who does not fit the mold of Southern Belle and you might imagine what ignites. She loves ferociously and is guided through her childhood by a magnanimous and loving black housekeeper who provides stability for the frequently abandoned child. Clark tries, she really does, to be the person her family wishes her to be but it simply isn’t who she is. Her keen sense of social injustice compels her to behave in ways that are potentially dangerous, specifically for those whom she feels have been mistreated. I don’t read many memoirs but this is filled with heart wrenching scenes that I won’t soon forget. I was moved. I was moved to tears.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    From the outside, Tena Clark's family was one to aspire too. Father Lamar was the richest man in Waynesboro Mississippi, while his wife had beauty admired all over town. With her three older sister's beauty queens and majorettes, It seemed inconceivable that behind all this was a broken family. With Lamar's wandering eye and racist tendencies and Vivian's frustration that would see her drown her frustrations with alcohol, Tena's only unconditional love would come from her black nanny, Virgie who From the outside, Tena Clark's family was one to aspire too. Father Lamar was the richest man in Waynesboro Mississippi, while his wife had beauty admired all over town. With her three older sister's beauty queens and majorettes, It seemed inconceivable that behind all this was a broken family. With Lamar's wandering eye and racist tendencies and Vivian's frustration that would see her drown her frustrations with alcohol, Tena's only unconditional love would come from her black nanny, Virgie who at the time had zero rights and had an era of hatred against her and her people. When her mother inevitably walked out after years of fights it was Virgie that was the rock that not only got her through such a traumatic time but also gave her the courage to stand up to what she hated. Not only would she challenge the racial hate that hung on for years in Waynesboro, but Tena would also stand up to her domineering father and in the end would find peace with him and her mother who for all their complications did love Tena in their own ways. One word that comes to mind after reading this book about the author is bravery. Growing up in the Jim Crow South she would mock clan members, marry a woman in what was a clear test for her family and took Virgie after the passing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act out for lunch days despite her second mamma's reservations. Reading about a young girl trying to make sense of a changing world in a chaotic household was at times harrowing but in the end brings a sense of contentment and love.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Janine

    Very interesting memoir about a girl who was the youngest in a family of four girls who grew up down south and expected to be "southern belles". But what happens when your mother is an alcoholic and your father is a philandering man, and you feel that you don't fit into their perfect southern world. Tena Clark grew up in a typical southern household in USA with an african american surrogate nanny who virtually brought her up as her mother couldn't cope and sought solace in a bottle. You felt like Very interesting memoir about a girl who was the youngest in a family of four girls who grew up down south and expected to be "southern belles". But what happens when your mother is an alcoholic and your father is a philandering man, and you feel that you don't fit into their perfect southern world. Tena Clark grew up in a typical southern household in USA with an african american surrogate nanny who virtually brought her up as her mother couldn't cope and sought solace in a bottle. You felt like you were having a history lesson while reading this book which was nice. Tena showed her life, the racial prejudice, family expectations of her and what she put up with was amazing. Then to realise that she didn't fit the mould (she was gay) and how that alone affected all around her was quite incredible. It chronicled the treatment of african americans who were still treated unjustly long after other states had declared that all should be treated equal. Tena was quite a revolutionary and tried to fix things at times risking both her life and those of her african american friends. She came through it all and went on to become a grammy award winning songwriter working with some of the biggest stars. A fascinating glimpse of her life - and hard to believe the way it was back then. I really enjoyed this book. Thank you to Simon & Schuster for the review copy in exchange for my opinion.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Megan Bell

    At turns heartwarming, horrifying, comic, and eye-opening, this memoir, like the Southern family it chronicles, defies easy definition. Whether it’s her mother’s high-speed car shoot-out of her father and his mistress, the powerful mothering the family’s black maid Vergie shows her, or Tena’s coming out to this wild cast of characters, Tena Clark’s memoir of growing up in Jim Crow Mississippi touches on issues of racism, sexuality, family, and the hair-pulling complexities of the South.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mainlinebooker

    Take one rural Mississippi town. Mix with a bigoted, wealthy, gun-toting, skirt-chasing, controlling father. Add in a stubborn, alcoholic, drug addicted mother. Blend with a warm effusive black housekeeper who is like a "second mamma". Fold in a gay lonely child with her three older beauty pageant sisters and you get Southern Discomfort. This compelling and engrossing novel kept me captivated for hours. The author, a Grammy award winning songwriter and producer, has created a novel full of warts Take one rural Mississippi town. Mix with a bigoted, wealthy, gun-toting, skirt-chasing, controlling father. Add in a stubborn, alcoholic, drug addicted mother. Blend with a warm effusive black housekeeper who is like a "second mamma". Fold in a gay lonely child with her three older beauty pageant sisters and you get Southern Discomfort. This compelling and engrossing novel kept me captivated for hours. The author, a Grammy award winning songwriter and producer, has created a novel full of warts and ugliness while managing to shine a light on a different way of showing love and forgiveness. Indeed her ability to find peace and compassion is truly magnanimous. This is a southern novel at its best; do not miss it.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kelsey

    If this was submitted as a novel it would be rejected on the grounds of being too out-there to be believable. Tena’s family is one for the ages.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Betty

    Tena Clark grew up in rural Mississippi during the Civil Rights era, living in a small town that had deep racial divides and no interest in changing things because "that's just the way it is." As one of the daughters of the wealthiest man in town, she was expected to live her life a certain way, but she rebelled against it, determined to live her life the way she chose, no matter what. Southern Discomfort takes the reader back a time when men were the breadwinners while women were meant to stay h Tena Clark grew up in rural Mississippi during the Civil Rights era, living in a small town that had deep racial divides and no interest in changing things because "that's just the way it is." As one of the daughters of the wealthiest man in town, she was expected to live her life a certain way, but she rebelled against it, determined to live her life the way she chose, no matter what. Southern Discomfort takes the reader back a time when men were the breadwinners while women were meant to stay home and raise babies, a time when the Jim Crow laws enforced segregation and the KKK terrorized people of color. Clark tells it like it was, whether she's writing about racial issues of the time or about her dysfunctional family. Her deep love for Virgie—the black nanny who raised her after her mother left in a drunken rage—made her painfully aware of the racial injustices that permeated her hometown. Not content to let it go, she fought against it when the opportunity to do so presented itself, despite the very real possibility of putting herself and those she cared for in danger. The memories she shares are raw, often uncomfortable, and sometimes powerful as recounts the events of her life. Clark sugarcoats nothing, instead leaving readers with the full impact of all things ugly, heartbreaking, and sorrowful. There is also joy, however, as she learns to embrace her sexuality and live the life she wanted as an award-winning songwriter and producer, rather than the life her parents expected her to have. If you enjoy reading Southern memoirs, I definitely recommend this one. It put me through the wringer, emotionally, but overall it was a very enjoyable book. I received an advance reading copy of this book courtesy of Touchstone via Netgalley.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jeanne Boudreau

    It’s hard to rate a memoir because you are saying you like someone’s life or you didn’t. Well, this was one dysfunctional family! A skirt chasing dad, an alcoholic mom who went after her husband with a .38 when she was tired of his infidelities, which was more often than not,the southern racial divide all lead to a disastrous childhood. Somehow Tena survived, thrived, made a success of herself and forgave her parents. It’s an interesting read. Your family will probably seem quite normal compared It’s hard to rate a memoir because you are saying you like someone’s life or you didn’t. Well, this was one dysfunctional family! A skirt chasing dad, an alcoholic mom who went after her husband with a .38 when she was tired of his infidelities, which was more often than not,the southern racial divide all lead to a disastrous childhood. Somehow Tena survived, thrived, made a success of herself and forgave her parents. It’s an interesting read. Your family will probably seem quite normal compared to hers.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lizy

    I'm utterly floored. The back of the ARC - I haven't seen the finished book, so I don't know if it's the same - says this is like The Help but with more guns and alcohol, yet is even more touching. There's no better way to summarize this memoir. The prose is absolutely magnificent. I was completely sucked in to the story. Every scene is perfectly vivid and expertly depicted. I Don't usually cry when reading books, let alone memoirs, but this had me weeping. Highly, highly recommend.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Blue Cypress Books

    While this life story is definitely Ms. Clark's unique story, she brings all the best shades of Rick Bragg and Jeannette Walls to this most excellent memoir. Highly recommend.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Eileen Campbell

    This is a beautiful memoir of growing up in the Deep South in perhaps its most tumultuous period other than the Civil War. Tena Clark takes us into her home and life in a way that allows us to experience all the beauty and pathos that she grew up with. Highly recommended read!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Betsy

    I wanted to like this far more than I did, but I found the writing to be grating. While the damage Clark suffered at the hands of a violent and manipulative father, and a negligent alcoholic mother is surely substantial, I found her to be infuriatingly clueless about the depth of the danger she placed her beloved Virgie and Cindy in, in the name of her fantasy of being a crusading hero. Though in some cases she was a minor, she was old enough to know that it was not all about her. Sometimes she I wanted to like this far more than I did, but I found the writing to be grating. While the damage Clark suffered at the hands of a violent and manipulative father, and a negligent alcoholic mother is surely substantial, I found her to be infuriatingly clueless about the depth of the danger she placed her beloved Virgie and Cindy in, in the name of her fantasy of being a crusading hero. Though in some cases she was a minor, she was old enough to know that it was not all about her. Sometimes she reminded me too little of Jeannette Walls and too much of Pat Conroy at his most self-congratulatory.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Safer

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I loved this book! I got it for free from the leader of my local book club chapter, and I finished it in just 2 days! I was so deeply moved by her story. She endured so many hardships but she always kept her sense of humor and her kind spirit. I was so enthralled by the book. At certain parts, such as when she would grab the gun from her fighting parents, or when her dad accidentally crashed the car over the side of a bridge, I forgot this was actually a true story! This story was at times sad, I loved this book! I got it for free from the leader of my local book club chapter, and I finished it in just 2 days! I was so deeply moved by her story. She endured so many hardships but she always kept her sense of humor and her kind spirit. I was so enthralled by the book. At certain parts, such as when she would grab the gun from her fighting parents, or when her dad accidentally crashed the car over the side of a bridge, I forgot this was actually a true story! This story was at times sad, at times funny, and at times scary and disturbing. It was a true slice of life. For full disclosure, I could definitely relate to her family background, although my upbringing did not involve guns. Also, while I grew up in NY, I went to college in Florida and I feel she captured the feelings I share of being somewhat in love with, and somewhat horrified by, the South. I will recommend this book to everyone I know!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Paul Pessolano

    “Southern Discomfort” by Tena Clark, published by Touchstone. Category – Memoir Publication Date – October 02, 2018. Tena Clark grew up in rural Mississippi in the 1950’s. Her mother was a town beauty who married a young man who had little to show for himself, except an uncanny sense of business. Her father literally owned the town and the Clark’s were, by far, the wealthiest people in town. One would think that Tena would have lived a life of luxury and happiness; after all she was given a brand “Southern Discomfort” by Tena Clark, published by Touchstone. Category – Memoir Publication Date – October 02, 2018. Tena Clark grew up in rural Mississippi in the 1950’s. Her mother was a town beauty who married a young man who had little to show for himself, except an uncanny sense of business. Her father literally owned the town and the Clark’s were, by far, the wealthiest people in town. One would think that Tena would have lived a life of luxury and happiness; after all she was given a brand new Camaro at the age of twelve. Tena may have lived a life of luxury but definitely not one of happiness. Her father paid little attention to the family and was a woman chaser of the first magnitude. This well have been what led her mother to become an alcoholic, attempted suicide, and threatened her husband with a gun several times. When her mother finally left home, Tena was brought up by Virgie, her black nanny. She also had strong relations with Virgie’s children which helped shape her perspective of segregation. Tena also found herself in a quandary over her sexuality. She discovered that she had an eye for girls, not boys. This did not stand well with her upbringing in the Deep South. A great read that is not only a memoir of Tena Clark but a historical perspective of race relations at this time in history.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Stennett

    Firstly I had no idea who Tena Clark is. Big in music and to some extent theatre. So wasn't reading because *she* wrote it. I still don't think it covers much new ground. Feels pretty typical "here's my crazy southern childhood." Grits and guns! And lots of booze. An abusive father who is still loved and respected until his death. (I don't care if he is revealed to have done lots of secret magnanimous things after his death. He was still a bully, a womanizer, a cheating husband, a child abuser, Firstly I had no idea who Tena Clark is. Big in music and to some extent theatre. So wasn't reading because *she* wrote it. I still don't think it covers much new ground. Feels pretty typical "here's my crazy southern childhood." Grits and guns! And lots of booze. An abusive father who is still loved and respected until his death. (I don't care if he is revealed to have done lots of secret magnanimous things after his death. He was still a bully, a womanizer, a cheating husband, a child abuser, a racist.) Mama who deserved better, had unrealized talent, "loved her babies." (An unrepentant alcoholic, drunk driver, firer of guns with other people- her own children- in area, as well as when drink driving, with a double standard to her own racism that is almost more repulsive than her husband's traditional form.) The black maid who basically reared and parented her- who never did a bad thing, said a bad thing, even thought a bad thing her whole, entire life. (I have a category of books I think of as Happy Black People Books. Written by white people, often memoirs or first novels, the black characters are practically saints. Two dimensional, unrealistic.) She does admit to now seeing how terrible it was of her to make black peoples in her life her pawns in desegregating Mississippi in the 1970's.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sandy Reilly

    "It's like The Help, but with more guns and alcohol." The only thing I would add to this pitch from Tena Clark's agent is to throw in a bit of Steel Magnolias, some Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, and a smidge of Go Set a Watchman. Yes, it's that dramatic. Clark's true account of growing up in the South with a filthy rich philanderer for a father and a fiercely outlandish alcoholic for a mother would make such a perfect movie that readers will be torn being sympathetic for all she went th "It's like The Help, but with more guns and alcohol." The only thing I would add to this pitch from Tena Clark's agent is to throw in a bit of Steel Magnolias, some Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, and a smidge of Go Set a Watchman. Yes, it's that dramatic. Clark's true account of growing up in the South with a filthy rich philanderer for a father and a fiercely outlandish alcoholic for a mother would make such a perfect movie that readers will be torn being sympathetic for all she went through and being jealous of all the action-packed drama.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tracett

    This same story cast in a slightly different light could make a modern Southern Gothic memoir. I think many families are slightly bonkers, but Clark's family has that extra bonus of being monied, white, and Southern which gave them entree into being especially excessive, in a fact is stranger than fiction way. Clark's childhood views of racial inequality are poignant and sometimes bittersweet. (Note to book clubs - read this.) (Note to Hollywood - make a movie out of this please.)

  19. 4 out of 5

    Julianne Godoy

    Would give this 3.5 for the writing if possible. A really great read though, and an incredible story. Felt like The Help meets The Glass Castle meets To Kill A Mockingbird. Would recommend to those who enjoyed the previous books listed!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Holland

    Would do 3.5 if I could. Looking forward to discussing.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Philip

    Yikes! Surviving in a generationally dysfunctional family but still have congenial relations. This is that story.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Erika Babineau

    This is a complicated book. I feel like the description is totally misleading. It should say: This is a story about a girl growing up in a dysfunctional family in a small, Southern town in the midst of the Jim Crow era. Full stop. I had far more trouble with this book, as a Black woman, than I did with The Help. Yes, this book is a memoir, but Ms. Clark doesn't seem to do any self-reflection. Does she ever truly understand the danger she put Cindy in during the incident with the KKK? Does she eve This is a complicated book. I feel like the description is totally misleading. It should say: This is a story about a girl growing up in a dysfunctional family in a small, Southern town in the midst of the Jim Crow era. Full stop. I had far more trouble with this book, as a Black woman, than I did with The Help. Yes, this book is a memoir, but Ms. Clark doesn't seem to do any self-reflection. Does she ever truly understand the danger she put Cindy in during the incident with the KKK? Does she every truly realize the humiliation she heaped on Vergie during BOTH incidents in the diner? Ms. Clark takes for granted that these two women continue to love and respect her even after both of these incidents that put thier very lives in danger and though I believe she loves them back, I think she would be bewildered if she were asked to be held accountable for her actions. Those women could have be killed. Their children could have been killed. These were real dangers. Ms. Clark's life was obviously not idyllic. I don't begrudge her the love of her housekeeper...honestly that child deserved any bit of love she could get. I just don't think this book deserves to be praised as some kind of eye-opening, raw look at the Jim Crow South. We all know what that looked like. Tena Clark isn't telling us anything we didn't already know. I just wish she would have really examined her own motivations a little more...maybe been a little more honest with herself and us about why she felt she needed to expose people she loved to harm. Or, in the end, why she kept trying to offer to buy Vergie things. Retelling the facts is only half of the story.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kathy Ridenour

    If I could give Tena Clark's book Southern Discomfort a 10 I would. I received my book in the mail just this afternoon and once I started reading it I couldn't stop until I finished it. It is a riveting, true life story that pulls you into Tena's life so strong that you actually feel like she is sitting beside you telling you her story in person. Tena is one gutsy lady to have lived the life that she lived and not only survive it, but flourish in spite of it. Who would dare as a teenager to stan If I could give Tena Clark's book Southern Discomfort a 10 I would. I received my book in the mail just this afternoon and once I started reading it I couldn't stop until I finished it. It is a riveting, true life story that pulls you into Tena's life so strong that you actually feel like she is sitting beside you telling you her story in person. Tena is one gutsy lady to have lived the life that she lived and not only survive it, but flourish in spite of it. Who would dare as a teenager to stand up to the KKK all alone to defend her black nanny? Tena had the guts to stand up for what is right without thinking or worrying about the consequences of her actions. All she cared about was doing what she felt was the right and proper thing to do. Tena holds nothing back in this tell all book about her dysfunctional family and her journey to find acceptance not only from her parents, but from within herself. And she had to do this in the deep south where she also had to struggle with all the prejudice that she saw all around her. Tena's book is deeply moving. Even with all the turmoil and chaos in her life Tena rises above it all. It is a triumphant journey that leads her to a life filled with love, forgiveness, tolerance, and happiness. This is one powerful book that needs to be read. It will make you laugh and cry, but most of all it will fill you with admiration and love for the journey that Tena went through to come out the strong woman she is today.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jody

    I was completely fascinated with this book; actually read the last few pages while frying okra! How Southern is that? I knew of Tena as I went to school in Waynesboro for 6 months 1968/1969. I recall her playing the drums which was unique for a girl at the time. I am very happy to see she has succeeded as a world renowned musician and business professional. Everything she writes about living in Waynesboro during that time is spot on! I recall being a newcomer to town and surprised the schools wer I was completely fascinated with this book; actually read the last few pages while frying okra! How Southern is that? I knew of Tena as I went to school in Waynesboro for 6 months 1968/1969. I recall her playing the drums which was unique for a girl at the time. I am very happy to see she has succeeded as a world renowned musician and business professional. Everything she writes about living in Waynesboro during that time is spot on! I recall being a newcomer to town and surprised the schools were segregated. It was a curious situation for me, but completely normal for seemingly everyone else - that's how it was. "Let it be" as Tena says was the Southern mantra. Verses being the daughter of the richest man in town; my mother, sisters and I had to rent a trailer because there weren't any apartments in town. That was an additional cultural experience for us. Another connection was years later my father became the director of Mississippi State Hospital "Whitfield", the mental institution. Yes, Southern legend that men were able to send their alcoholic wives there for treatment was true. Too bad women at the time didn't have more support through medication and therapy instead of institutional commitment to deal with life's issues such as their adulterous spouses! I attended University of Southern Mississippi with her, but was not in the same sorority. We lived in the same dormitory. It's a great read, much like "The Help", only I know the leading character and am so happy she is now happy and successful.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ruth

    I overheard someone describe this book as “The Help” with guns and, oh by the way, guess what, it’s true! I loved it! I haven’t read a book in a long time that was so compelling a read that I couldn’t put it down. Ms. Clark’s words provoked brilliant imagery of what seemed like an idyllic happy southern small-town privileged childhood. I can just see little Ms. Tena walking hand in hand with her sweet Virgie, the black nanny who lovingly cared for her. There is humor, and beauty in her journey. I overheard someone describe this book as “The Help” with guns and, oh by the way, guess what, it’s true! I loved it! I haven’t read a book in a long time that was so compelling a read that I couldn’t put it down. Ms. Clark’s words provoked brilliant imagery of what seemed like an idyllic happy southern small-town privileged childhood. I can just see little Ms. Tena walking hand in hand with her sweet Virgie, the black nanny who lovingly cared for her. There is humor, and beauty in her journey. I found myself laughing out loud at times. Then the story turns into a lonely and confusing whirlwind for Ms. Clark. Her mother even leaves her marriage and little Ms. Tena on her 10th birthday to try and save herself. And then the crazy chaos really gets going. “Southern Discomfort” is about a southern family’s dysfunction. Let’s face it, all families have it! It is also about Ms. Tena’s struggle to find forgiveness, and redemption within the thick cloud of racism she experienced in southern Mississippi, and yet still hold on to what she loves and ultimately who she LOVES. Read it, you’ll love it too!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kirk

    My copy was given to my daughter by the author after a lecture to her university class. I had previously heard Clark's interview on an Atlanta public radio station, so I knew what was in store. In the interview, Clark revealed how she had been mentored by Stevie Wonder against her father's wishes, but this part of her life isn't covered in the book. Much of her life outside Mississippi is skimmed over, not unreasonably since her life in Waynesboro and her family are the crux of the memoir. As one My copy was given to my daughter by the author after a lecture to her university class. I had previously heard Clark's interview on an Atlanta public radio station, so I knew what was in store. In the interview, Clark revealed how she had been mentored by Stevie Wonder against her father's wishes, but this part of her life isn't covered in the book. Much of her life outside Mississippi is skimmed over, not unreasonably since her life in Waynesboro and her family are the crux of the memoir. As one of the same generation also raised in the South, although radically differently, I can appreciate the environment quite well. Nothing written here rings untrue. My only issue with the text is that the timelines are often unclear, with the narrative moving forwards and back; often it was hard to tell how old she was at the time of a particular happening or the date itself unless a historical even like MLK's assassination is mentioned.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Catherine Mincy

    While the gentrified old south Mississippi that Clark writes of is very different from foothills of the Appalachian northeast Mississippi where I grew up and live today, what she writes is authentic and accurate. Clark is also 15 years older than me. However, I am thankful that she wrote this book and gives voice to so many people I know who grew up with similar experiences. I wanted to laugh at points because I recognized behavior that so many outsiders would find outlandish and unbelievable. (A While the gentrified old south Mississippi that Clark writes of is very different from foothills of the Appalachian northeast Mississippi where I grew up and live today, what she writes is authentic and accurate. Clark is also 15 years older than me. However, I am thankful that she wrote this book and gives voice to so many people I know who grew up with similar experiences. I wanted to laugh at points because I recognized behavior that so many outsiders would find outlandish and unbelievable. (A young girl grabbing mama’s pistol and throwing it in the pool...repeatedly.) I wanted to cry at points because I recognized behavior that so many outsiders would find so casually cruel, as to be unbelievable. Most of all, I found it poignant and telling that a place that held so many bad memories is so obviously still HOME for Ms. Clark...a feeling that so many of us in this confusing, contradictory state can relate to.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kim Swartz

    A first person account of growing up in the Deep South during the 1950s and 60’s. Underneath the thin veneer of southern hospitality lies a lot of ugliness. The guns, the alcohol, the Klan operating in the open as if it was the Rotary Club. The entire populace of Tena Clark’s hometown seemed unable to move beyond the smothering oppression of patriarchy, bigotry and twisted religious fervor. As Tena shared all the personal dysfunction of her family I kept wondering how much could be tied to the o A first person account of growing up in the Deep South during the 1950s and 60’s. Underneath the thin veneer of southern hospitality lies a lot of ugliness. The guns, the alcohol, the Klan operating in the open as if it was the Rotary Club. The entire populace of Tena Clark’s hometown seemed unable to move beyond the smothering oppression of patriarchy, bigotry and twisted religious fervor. As Tena shared all the personal dysfunction of her family I kept wondering how much could be tied to the overall toxic environment of Mississippi. Clark spoke often about pushing the envelope for social change. I didn’t find any of her exploits particularly inspiring or brave. She was white and came from money. Her self-described acts of “civil disobedience” often put others in real danger. She may have escaped and found her own personal freedom but many others weren’t so fortunate.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Fredde

    I chose this for my book club to read. The story, the writer, the voice of the writer -- blew us all away. We do not always agree. During the reading of the book, I got updates from the women in my club, raving. When the memoir was done, I got a few crying ovation phone calls. The characters, Tena's mother and father were so developed that I felt I stepped into her life -- growing up in the south in the civil rights era. Tena found love and solace in her relationship with her African American na I chose this for my book club to read. The story, the writer, the voice of the writer -- blew us all away. We do not always agree. During the reading of the book, I got updates from the women in my club, raving. When the memoir was done, I got a few crying ovation phone calls. The characters, Tena's mother and father were so developed that I felt I stepped into her life -- growing up in the south in the civil rights era. Tena found love and solace in her relationship with her African American nanny -- because her home life was dysfunctional. I'm being careful to not give too much away. Read Southern Discomfort, you won't be sorry. The only other book our club all agreed and sparked to was Sally Mann's memoir, Hold Still.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jenn

    Memoirs are moving up my ladder of favorite genres, and this is a good one. What a great story, filled with interesting and colorful characters, in a setting that is troublesome and rife with tension. At times I was shaking my head at the horrors I was reading about -- and the fact that the racial segregation in that area continued so late, was shocking. Growing up in So Cal not much later than she did was amazingly different. Tena's life story flows along at a perfect pace and I was riveted. Th Memoirs are moving up my ladder of favorite genres, and this is a good one. What a great story, filled with interesting and colorful characters, in a setting that is troublesome and rife with tension. At times I was shaking my head at the horrors I was reading about -- and the fact that the racial segregation in that area continued so late, was shocking. Growing up in So Cal not much later than she did was amazingly different. Tena's life story flows along at a perfect pace and I was riveted. This is probably a 4.5 in my opinion. What a perfect title for this book!

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