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The Steps We Take: A Memoir of Southern Reckoning
The Steps We Take
by Ellen Ann Fentress

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First Edition. Signed.

Price: $25.00


Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi (September 15, 2023)

First Edition. Signed.

As new in dust jacket.

A clear-eyed account of white southern womanhood.

Ellen Ann Fentress is a veteran writer for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and The Atlantic. She’s also a seasoned southern woman, specifically a white Mississippi one. “Women do a lot for free, no matter the era, no matter the location,” she observes in The Steps We Take: A Memoir of Southern Reckoning. As a good southern woman, Fentress felt a calling to help others. As a teenager, she volunteered as a March of Dimes quarter collector and sang hymns at a soup-and-salvation homeless shelter. Later, she married, reared two daughters, renovated a 1941 Colonial home, practiced her French, and served as the bookkeeper for her husband’s business. She followed the scripts she was handed by society.

But there were the convenient lies and silences that she and most southern—make that American—white women have settled on in the name of convention and, to be honest, inertia. For Fentress, her dodges both behind her front door and beyond became impossible to miss. Eventually, along with claiming a personal second act at midlife, she realized the most urgent community work she could do was to spur truth-telling about the history she knew well and participated in. She was one of the nearly one million students in the South enrolled in all-white “segregation academies,” a sweeping movement away from public education that continues to warp the Deep South today. To document and engage with this history, she founded the Admissions Project: Racism and the Possible in Southern Schools, which has been featured in the Washington Post, Slate, Forbes and other publications.

The Steps We Take tells how one woman reckons with both a region’s history and her own past. Through a lens ranging from intimate to the widely human, through moments painful and darkly comic, Fentress casts a penetrating light on what it means to be a white southern woman today.

Ellen Ann Fentress, Jackson, Mississippi, is a journalist, filmmaker, and podcaster. She produced and directed Eyes on Mississippi, a 2016 documentary on iconic civil rights journalist Wilson F. Minor that has screened at universities and institutions across the country. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, The Atlantic, the Washington Post, The Baffler, Oxford American, Scalawag, storySouth, and New Madrid, as well as on Mississippi public radio, where she was a reporter.

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