The Steps We Take: A Memoir of Southern Reckoning

About Ellen Ann

My friend and fellow native of Jackson, Mississippi, Ellen Ann Fentress has written a masterpiece of a “debut” memoir. I say, “debut” but Ellen Ann is not a debut writer.

Her essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The Baffler, Oxford American, The Bitter Southerner, Scalawag, Dorothy Parker’s Ashes and New Madrid, as well as on Mississippi public radio, where she was also a reporter.

Three years ago, Ellen Ann launched The Admissions Project an online forum about the impact of the South’s circa 1970 segregation academies on its past and present.

Her documentary Eyes on Mississippi, a 56-minute film on the career of iconic civil-rights journalist Bill Minor, has screened at universities and other venues around the country.

The Steps We Take

The Steps We Take: A Memoir of Southern Reckoning is about growing up in a private academy that was created to perpetuate racial segregation in Mississippi in the 1970s and beyond. But it’s also about looking back on that experience—and many others, like volunteering, marriage, divorce, writing in “a room of her own,” domestic help, teaching, and more—through a heart that has had many awakenings to what really happened in her beloved state after the supreme court attempted to force integration on its public schools in 1970. As author Katy Simpson Smith says:

In this arresting and clear-eyed memoir . . .the messenger is Fentress’s confessional, warm and often hilarious prose. Reading The Steps We Take, I felt both exposed and embraced, as after any honest conversation with a true friend.

That’s how I felt, too. How will you feel? There’s only one way to find out . . . .