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Posted April 28, 2012
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In Listening to Color, Blacks and Whites in Aberdeen, North Carolina, author Anne McKeithen dissects this little southern community with a keen eye and a certain tenderness that comes from having grown up there in the 1950’s. The heart of the book speaks to the often painful times of racial desegregation and beyond. It is the story of two populations learning to live together and to listen to each other.
Listening to Color sometimes reads like a suspense novel. Like an old Colombo mystery, it can put you on the edge of your seat even though you know pretty well how it’s going to end.
In a well balanced portrait of an imperfect town and its people, the author has tried to apply her title and listen. She meticulously avoids sensationalism and listens to both blacks and whites talk about their lives. Ultimately no individual villains and few heroes emerge, just a long road of ordinary men and women living together with lifetimes of resentments and prejudices and hopes and fears, sometimes standing up for principles, more often looking the other way.
The singularity of this history is that it also represents a personal journey of the author, whose family traversed the last century of local history. Ms McKeithen spent her first 20 years in Aberdeen, and as a mature woman she tries to grapple with her own feelings looking back at a time in the mid-century South when she, like most of her contemporaries, didn’t quite see all that was going on around her.
Aberdeen, N.C., would seem fairly unremarkable, a town like so many others without much to say. Yet, after reading Listening to Color, you realize there was a great deal to be said.
It is moving when you see that today --however difficult, however long it took and however much may remain to be improved-- things really did change. It is important to have books like this so that today’s generation and those of the future need not forget history’s lessons. --THE CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 20 April 2012