Outskirts of Hope by Jo Ivester

The Outskirts of Hope: A Memoir by Jo Ivester
(She Writes Press ~ April 7, 2015)

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

A heartbreaking memoir that is scarily close to today’s reality in much of our country today.

Thanks to Book Sparks for the review copy of this book.

Book Description (from Goodreads)

In 1967, when Jo Ivester was ten years old, her father transplanted his young family from a suburb of Boston to a small town in the heart of the Mississippi cotton fields, where he became the medical director of a clinic that served the poor population for miles around. But ultimately it was not Ivester s father but her mother a stay-at-home mother of three who became a high school English teacher when the family moved to the South who made the most enduring mark on the town. In The Outskirts of Hope, Ivester uses journals left by her mother, as well as writings of her own, to paint a vivid, moving, and inspiring portrait of her family s experiences living and working in an all-black town during the heights of the civil rights movement.”


First of all, let me be clear that I read stories of racism written by whites VERY carefully to determine whether it is being written from a “white savior” viewpoint. And YES, this is written from that viewpoint, however, it’s a memoir. It’s based on real events, and real feelings and real people. And Ivester did her research and fact-checked her mother’s journals with the citizens of Mound Bayou, so how can anyone say she can’t tell this story? Aura Kruger, by all accounts, appears to be a remarkable woman and reading her story was absolutely fascinating.

Reading about Mound Bayou itself, as well as the Jim Crow environment and the KKK, was difficult, especially given the parallels to today’s society, and I think Ivester did an admirable job of being careful to not give this story a fluffy and feel-good air. It’s a raw story, especially given Jo’s experiences, but she doesn’t sugarcoat that. I also didn’t get the impression that the Kruger family “saved” anyone – Ivester makes sure to let readers know just how much like outsiders they felt during their time in Mound Bayou, and how complex racial tensions were. The author’s own traumatic experiences during her time in Mississippi are dealt with in an understated but rightfully shocking way, giving readers an understanding of her reluctance to face this story until much later in life. Of course, reading a narrative by a black citizen of Mound Bayou about that same time period would be an amazing parallel read, and I will definitely be looking into more memoirs such as this but written from the opposite perspective.

I highly recommend this story to readers of nonfiction who are trying to make sense of racial issues in the US today ~ OUTSKIRTS OF HOPE provides some background in the format of a story that most of us haven’t been aware of.

TRIGGER WARNING: Sexual assault of a child

View all of my Goodreads reviews

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