Time and Place That Gave Me Life

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Janet Cheatham Bell's riveting memoir recounts her experiences coming of age as an African American girl in Indianapolis during the 1930s to the mid-1960s. In taut chapters, Bell introduces the reader to a life defined largely by race and racial discrimination. She begins with her birth in 1937 and her parents' early struggles after relocating to Indianapolis from Tennessee. Bell describes her first job as a maid in a wealthy white household and her humiliating experiences at a "white" high school. She describes experiences of racism at Indiana University and how she copes with personal tragedy that she is able to overcome. Devoid of hyperbole or the trauma that defines so many memoirs, particularly those of celebrities, the strength and appeal of Bell's memoir lies in her direct, but personal tone, and her deft use of anecdotes. "I think of myself as ordinary," writes Bell, "but the lives of ordinary people are not identical, and the details of those lives are worth knowing."

Indiana University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Indiana Magazine of History
"With wit, aplomb, and a candor born of bitter experience, Janet Cheatham Bell has crafted a compelling memoir about growing up in Indiana." —INDIANA MAGAZINE OF HISTORY, December 2008
Julian Bond

"This is more than a memoir. Janet Cheatham Bell has seasoned her personal story with some little-known history of African Americans in Indiana." —Julian Bond, author of A Time to Speak, A Time to Act, and Board Chairman, NAACP

A'Lelia Bundles

"Janet Cheatham Bell's beautifully written memoir is both a tender meditation on her close-knit Midwestern black family and a searing indictment of the mid–20th century racism that circumscribed their lives. Her spirit and resilience—as she grows from Depression era toddler to confident Civil Rights era woman—will keep you captivated and cheering." —A'Lelia Bundles, great great grandaughter of Madam C. J. Walker and, author of On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker

Nancy Gabin

"Bell’s is the best form of social history: a story that focuses on an ordinary individual but also illuminates the experiences of many over time." —Nancy Gabin, author of Feminism in the Labor Movement: Women and the United Auto Workers, 1933–1975


"With wit, aplomb, and a candor born of bitter experience, Janet Cheatham Bell has crafted a compelling memoir about growing up in Indiana." —INDIANA MAGAZINE OF HISTORY, December 2008

From the Publisher
"With wit, aplomb, and a candor born of bitter experience, Janet Cheatham Bell has crafted a compelling memoir about growing up in Indiana." —INDIANA MAGAZINE OF HISTORY, December 2008
The Herald-Times
Janet Cheatham Bell thought her experiences coming of age as a black person in Indiana would make a good novel, but the truth made a better story than fiction.
—Steve Hinnefeld
Indianapolis Monthly
A memoir about her formative years that is also a riveting social history about the African-American experience in Indiana.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780253348777
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.08 (d)

Meet the Author

Janet Cheatham Bell is a native Hoosier and publishing entrepreneur. A former education consultant for the Indiana Department of Education, Bell has also taught African American literature at a number of colleges and universities. She lives in Bloomington, Indiana.

Indiana University Press

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Table of Contents


1. Rigged Outcome: The Overture
2. My Gifts
3. Daring to Hope
4. Priceless, but Not Material
5. Warring Ideals
6. Powerful Lessons
7. Hard Work and Talent
8. Being Invisible
9. Some Times Are Worse
10. Passing the Baton
11. What a Feeling!
12. The Cost of Ignorance
13. Evading the Dragon
14. Walking in My Sleep
15. Paying the Price
16. Moving Forward
17. Altering My Images
18. Discarding Fantasies
Why a Memoir


Indiana University Press

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