In the bestselling tradition of The Help comes a powerful and moving memoir about a white girl coming of age in the South in the 1960s and the black woman who inspired her to forge her own path.
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 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 walked out on her philandering father for good, instantly becoming a social outcast. 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 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.
In the spirit of The Glass Castle and Fried Green Tomatoes, Southern Discomfort is about the people and places that shape who we are - and is destined to become a classic.
'Tena Clark is a pioneering force of nature, and her story is as powerful, riveting, and inspiring as she is. Do yourself a favor. Get comfortable and start reading.'
– Maria Shriver
'Tena Clark weaves her deeply personal, private struggles together with the painful, shameful struggles she witnessed in Mississippi during the Civil Rights era in her beautiful, bravely shared memoir.'
– Jill Conner Browne, author of The Sweet Potato Queens' Book of Love
Tena Clark's riveting memoir shows us that even in the midst of fear, anger, and hate ... tolerance, forgiveness, and love will rise. A triumphant journey and an inspiring read!'
– Sela Ward
'Tena Clark's memoir SOUTHERN DISCOMFORT, a true coming of age story, reads like a Tennessee Williams play. Set in the deep south where Magnolias, catfish, the Bible, guns, alcohol, racism and carnal knowledge collide, Tena's story confronts the heartbeat of America's identity crisis. A crisis of faith, family, freedom and truth. This story will make you laugh out loud, cry, and hope that one day you can stand as tall as Tena.'
– Debbie Allen
'Tena Clark’s astounding memoir engaged me so deeply that I felt the pain of a lonely child in a chaotic home, and, happily at the end, the exhilaration of her hard won freedom. A wonderful read.'
– Norman Lear
‘Here is a slice of the late-twentieth century South that goes all the way to the bone … Southern Discomfort is a dysfunctional family romance with all the trimmings, and it will also tell you a thing or two about that time and that place that you didn’t already know.’
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