"I remember my first ten years of life as a series of sumptuous Sunday dinners in Tupelo, Mississippi, where we traveled most weekends to visit my Grandmother Weaver."
So begins Ann Walling's Sunday Dinner: Coming of Age in the Segregated South. And from the very beginning, Walling pulled me in—all the while making me feel as though I was right there with her. It was as if I had traveled back in time to the days of segregated Mississippi and as if I had been invited to join her at the family table for Sunday dinners.
Drawing from her very personal childhood memories as well as those of some of her cousins, Walling has penned a deeply personal, very engaging, and highly enjoyable memoir that was a delight to read. Just like those scrumptious Sunday dinners around her family's table, I savored every word and came away from the feast fully satiated. Family photos are sprinkled throughout the book, adding yet another layer of inclusion for the reader.
If you were lucky enough to be invited to Sunday Dinner at Aunt Annie Belle's in the 1940's, you had a front row seat to the performance: a carefully choreographed dance of Southern culture, Methodist Church rites, and an intricate family pecking order, all of which had a hand in shaping my understanding of "right order."
Walling goes on to explain that right order meant that family members knew from birth who they were, how to act, and why it mattered. She also is quick to point out that "bloodlines, race, gender, old money and religion determined status and codes of conduct reinforced it."
With this information, Walling has set the stage to take her readers along for a journey back to her childhood in the segregated South.
Walling was raised by a father who taught her that women were vulnerable, not as smart as men, and not suited to civic life. He even went so far as to tell her that men were more important than women. Forbidden to attend public school, Walling found herself attending (and graduating from) a prestigious girls' private school. At the same time, she was participating in church celebrations. She writes "The stories and theology I heard at church became my secret and unspoken life... All of this coalesced into the person I became—a courteous but outspoken Episcopal priest...and a nonconformist..."
As if the memoir itself is not enough of a scrumptious feast, Walling's Appendix is a sharing of family recipes which are sure to delight your taste buds! Aunt Annie Belle's White Salad, Aunt Sallie's Scalloped Asparagus, Aunt Sallie's Date Cake from the 1880's, and Grandmother Weaver's Ice Box Rolls are just a few delights.
Ann Walling is a native of Nashville, Tennessee. By her own admission she "was born to a prominent Mississippi clan of wonderful storytellers with long memories."
Ms. Walling earned her undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University and an MA in theology from Scarritt College. In 2000, she became an ordained Episcopal priest.
She is the founding member of The Low Country Water Project—an activist organization with a mission to bring municipal water the native residents of Hilton Head Island, S.C.
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