The author shares engaging family stories that celebrate the wisdom, tenacity, and limitless love of her 95-year-old father.
“My dad has lived most of his life with his hand in the lion’s mouth,” Whitaker writes. “Being born a black man in the rural south, there was always the desire for a better life and big dreams against the lion’s trampling oppression of the Jim Crow era.” Green Whitaker, born in 1926, was the 18th of 19 children, 11 of whom were born to Green’s father, Isaac, and his mother, Estella Sabbath (“Big Momma”). The family lived on 80 acres of Whitaker-owned farmland in Holly, Louisiana. But when Green was 10, the family was forced to sell the farm: “And just like that, they went from landowners to sharecroppers, a family who worked and shared land on a plantation.” The author’s father was just a child when he began working long hours in the cotton fields. It was a reversal of fortune that could have shattered his sense of pride and determination. Instead, buoyed by the embrace of a loving family, his deep religious beliefs, and a kind heart, he grew into a dignified, resourceful husband and father of four. Whitaker, a singer/songwriter and the first Black woman to win the title of Miss Louisiana, writes with a conversational elegance that carries a hint of the musical lilt of her Shreveport upbringing: “The sense of belonging, the work and purpose of close knit families working toward shared goals, the enveloping love of like-minded people who had a deep abiding faith, was a sweet time in my dad’s life.” Each anecdote highlights a nugget of Green’s advice about how to navigate life’s challenges with confidence, courage, and love, spoken in words that are succinct, amusing, and often moving. When Whitaker once asked him if all White people were rich, he drove her through a poor White community and commented, “ ‘People are just people. We all the same, just come here in different skins.’ ”
A compelling and affectionate tribute, peppered with historical tidbits and brimming with sage, homespun counsel.