A Seat at the Table, a memoir depicting the Negro struggle during the post-slavery days in the Jim Crow South. Divided into two sections, the first is a narrative of one family’s struggle to overcome astronomical odds for survival during and following the “Great Depression”. It is also a story of hope, courage, fortitude, perseverance, commitment, love and the fulfillment of a dream.
The second section of A Seat at the Table paints a vivid picture of the racial minefield traversed by blacks daily, and offers the reader a rare and personal look at the painful emotions experienced by victims of racism.
“It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one destiny, affects all indirectly.”
― Martin Luther King, Jr. “A Christmas Sermon on Peace,” 1967
Several years ago at a writer’s conference in Modoc County, one of the most remote, beautiful and forbidding areas of California, I worked with other writers in a loft above the Warner Mountain Weavers Studio. Local women worked below us on looms, shuttlecocks flying. As we talked writing, they turned wool yarn made from the fleece of Marino sheep flocks that graze the nearby Great Basin into shawls, scarves, hats, and sweaters.
I found a fringed shawl, woven in threads ranging from aquamarine to indigo, with a shiny teal-colored ribbon running through the fabric’s overall design. I tried the shawl on each morning for a week before beginning the writing work. Delicate and sturdy at the same time, the shawl felt like a hug, a protective cloak, a personal tartan. I’d look at the price tag for this wearable art and put the shawl back on the rack. On the last day of the conference, as I prepared to drive alone through the mystical Black Rock Desert, I went back to the weavers’ studio and bought it, put it on and drove without fear through the unforgiving desert. When I wear it today, people stop to touch it and ask about its origin and history, captured, as I was, by its inescapable beauty.
Dr. King points out that life is like a shared garment made of intricately woven cloth; each thread adding meaning and value to the overall design of our lives. Stand back, look. See the garment as a whole: there’s the drape of history, the hem of suffering, the cuff of desire, buttonholes of joy and the swirl of a beribboned skirt made for dancing. In sharing individual experiences, in telling our personal stories, we provide a chance for others to touch the woof and warp of life, study the looming of our shared destiny and find peace.
Gloria Parker’s triumph in telling her personal story is her contribution to our cloak of many colors. By rendering the weave of her life into the whole cloth of a book, she allows us to wrap up in her experience, if only for a moment. A Seat at the Table clothes us in love and humility, ties us with shiny ribbons of humor and joy, but doesn’t wrinkle under the weight of indignities suffered under Jim Crow laws in the South or shrink from grief and loss. She carries the artist’s mantle, the poet’s song, the painter’s eye as she weaves this tale of destiny while dancing softly and triumphantly across the pages of our mutual and inescapable history.
— Kate Campbell
Award-winning writer, editor, photographer, journalist