Friday, August 03, 2012

Mama Makes Up Her Mind by Bailey White

Bailey White's collection of stories in her memoir, Mama Makes Up Her Mind, is subtitled "And Other Dangers of Southern Living". White writes in the tradition of other Southern storytellers. There are funny stories about eccentric family members mixed with a few essays with more serious tones. And, many of those stories have a moral. But, you can hear White's distinctive voice in every piece.

Last month, I mentioned that it's hard to review a collection of short stories. It's just as difficult to review a memoir that's put together with stories.White has told her stories before in other collections and on NPR's All Things Considered. And, every story of her odd family is worth reading.

Bailey White's mama is definitely the star of these pieces. She's eccentric, funny, outspoken, and independent.She never throws anything out, including the bathtub on the porch and the antique Porsche in the house. And, it's no big deal to have snakes in the house. They catch the rats and mice. She can sleep through a hurricane, and wander off for adventures with marine biologists. White's stories about her mama will make you laugh and smile.

But, my favorite story is "Maritime Disasters". Bailey White is a first grade teacher, one of those dedicated to teaching children to read. She mentions the various methods that were popular in teaching, including the one used to teach me, memorization of words on cards. But, White discovered a way to teach kids that hadn't really been used, a method that worked. She used maritime disasters, beginning with sea chanteys. "When children got the idea that written words can tell them something absolutely horrible, half the battle of teaching reading is won." And, even better than sea chanteys is the story of the Titanic.

Bailey White's Mama Makes Up Her Mind is a reprint. It originally came out in 1993. However, every piece in this collection is a timeless piece of Southern storytelling. Sometimes the best stories are ones of eccentric families, humor, and odd behavior. "Bless their hearts."

Mama Makes Up Her Mind: And Other Dangers of Southern Living by Bailey White. Da Capo Press. 1993. ISBN 9780306818028 (paperback), 225p.

FTC Full Disclosure - My copy was a gift from a beloved friend.


Beth Hoffman said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed this collection of stories. Honestly, no matter how many times I read them, I laugh.

The story titled "Good Housekeeping" is one of my favorites, and like you, I got a kick out of "Maritime Disasters" too.

Have a terrific weekend, Lesa!

Lesa said...

Thanks, Beth! Hosting a program at the library tomorrow & hanging pictures on Sunday. I bought 2 wonderful pictures at a favorite shop the other day. Now, I just have to hang them. Major job because they're 3 1/2 x 3 1/2 with heavy glass and frames.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this. I used to love hearing her on NPR. I've slept through several hurricanes by now I think. (Not advised unless as in my case my dad was watching.)


Jane R said...

Thanks so much for the review. A good friend of mine, who loves to read, is a southern girl through and through. You noted that you received your copy from a friend and that made my gray cells go into overdrive. This book is going to be a great gift!

Lesa said...


In my house in Florida, I was the one who prepared for the hurricane while my husband slept. Fortunately, Andrew didn't hit us.

Lesa said...

And, I'm going to booktalk the book on Wednesday, Jane. Oh, that southern girl is going to love it!

BV Lawson said...

I very much enjoyed your review, Lesa. My audio engineer hubster used to work at the radio station where he recorded Bailey's stories for NPR. He enjoyed every minute of it! She's as delightful in person as you'd expect from her stories.

Lesa said...

Oh, I would have loved to have met Bailey White, BV! That's so nice to know that she's that delightful. Thank you!

BPL Ref said...

How wonderful to see Mama reviewed! I love this book. Although I can't remember all the names of the essays, I remembered each description. The second book was also good, Sleeping at the Starlight Motel. The two essays I think of most are when Mama went to the doctor outside of the shopping mall (and good, old fashioned doctors they were, surgeons to judge from the amount of blood on their aprons)and the bed that folded up into the wall. Though Mama's choice of movies also delighted. .. . well, they ALL delighted!


Lesa said...

Jeanne, you're right. They were all delightful! I can't wait to introduce it to people on Wednesday. Just because it came out a few years ago doesn't mean everyone knows about it. I love to mix up my talks and include some wonderful older books.