A Long Way from St. Louie

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"Grandmother Anna Belle Lee: 'Chile, they got some of us everywhere.' Thus began my wanderlust."

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Overview

"Grandmother Anna Belle Lee: 'Chile, they got some of us everywhere.' Thus began my wanderlust."

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
McElroy is an addict, addicted to travel. In this high-spirited, fresh and beautifully written memoir, the poet (What Madness Brought Me Here) and English professor at the University of Washington describes her lifelong need for physical movement. First expressed in dancing, that need became an irrepressible appetite for seeing the world. At every chance, she has taken off for distant places, to study, to research a project or just to explore. Her adventures are special not only because of her empathy and curiosity, but also because she experienced them as a black woman in countries that traverse the spectrum of cultures and the understanding of race. Although skin color is not the primary focus of this delightful book, it is never far from her consciousness, nor from the memory of her grandmother's stories of distant places and the older woman's belief "that there are black folks everywhere on this earth." Among absorbing tales of people and places, she tells of studying in Germany, island hopping in Fiji, exploring Malaysia, climbing Machu Picchu and, at age 58, motorcycling across the Australian desert and encountering aborigines. This is no ordinary travel book or tour guide, but rather, as she says in her introduction, "impressions of journeys, memories held in fragments like footprints on a sandy beach... or the special spice in a dish prepared by a favorite cook." (Apr.)
Library Journal
McElroy, a poet (What Madness Brought Me Here, Univ. of New England, 1990) and teacher (English, Univ. of Washington), turns her attention to her travels in this varied collection of essays and poetry. She includes anecdotes from her childhood in St. Louis and homage to role models such as Josephine Baker and Ethel Waters, who helped prepare her for her life of travel. Then she hits the road, starting with Route 66 and venturing over the years to most parts of the world. Her work takes the form of an interior memoir rather than a guidebook. A useful addition to collections of African American literature and culture.Mary Ann Parker, California Dept. of Water Resources Law Lib., Sacramento
Kirkus Reviews
A lovely, lyrical memoir of an African-American woman's travels through life.

McElroy (Queen of the Ebony Isles, etc.; English/Univ. of Washington) is a professor and poet with a yen for travel that goes back to her youth as an army brat and has continued throughout her life. Looking back at that life now, McElroy finds much that is amusing, thought-provoking, poignant, and above all beautiful to relate to her readers. This is not so much a travelogue, as the author herself admits, as a rumination, a meditation, a poem. McElroy tells us about learning to dance in St. Louis, about her experiences as a university student in postWW II Germany, her encounters with butterflies and intestinal ailments in Mexico, the limitations of tour groups and guides ("Here is the burial place of Saint What's-his-halo, and in that crypt, What's-his-sword the Great"), the difficulty of getting to Ulcinj in Yugoslavia ("An interesting place . . . but no one ever goes there"), and the importance of a smile in Japan ("a land where everything was compact and space was at a premium"). She writes prose poems about the midnight market in Lima, Peru, and a series of lyrical pieces, "The Moon and Malaysia," that flow in and out of time and space. And through it all, McElroy's marvelous sense of humor shines out and her deeply felt sense of her otherness—as an American abroad and as a black woman everywhere—colors her musings, giving them texture and depth.

This is a stunning piece of writing, and a fitting summary of a life led to the fullest.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781566890595
  • Publisher: Coffee House Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/1997
  • Pages: 200
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction
Going Home 1
Route 66 13
Swinging and Swaying with Arthur Murray-in-a-Hurry 23
The Butcher's Ear 39
Wandering in the Time of Butterflies 50
Blood Kin 69
Tickets Please 79
To Market to Market 92
The Moon and Malaysia 105
Journey to Ulcinj 118
How Not to Cross the Border 134
Island Hopping: Fiji and the Dragon Caves 151
In the Season of Plum Rain 166
Take Me where the Road Turns 186
Brief Moments when I Thought of Something Called Love 197
Mississippi Montage 218
No Stops until Darwin 232
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