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- The Last Resort by Watkins, Norma
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The Last Resort , her compelling memoir, begins in childhood at Allison's Wells, a popular Mississippi spa for proper white people, run by her aunt. Life at the rambling hotel seems like paradise.
Yet young Norma wonders at a caste system that has colored people cooking every meal while forbidding their sitting with whites to eat. Once integration is court-mandated, her beloved father becomes a stalwart captain in defense of Jim Crow as a counselor to fiery, segregationist Governor Ross Barnett.
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His daughter flounders, looking for escape. A fine house, wonderful children, and a successful husband do not compensate for the shock of Mississippi's brutal response to change, daily made manifest by the men in her home. A sexually bleak marriage only emphasizes a growing emotional emptiness. Life at the rambling hotel seems like paradise. Yet young Norma wonders at a caste system that has colored people cooking every meal while forbidding their sitting with whites to eat. Once integration is court-mandated, her beloved father becomes a stalwart captain in defense of Jim Crow as a counselor to fiery, segregationist Governor Ross Barnett.
His daughter flounders, looking for escape. A fine house, wonderful children, and a successful husband do not compensate for the shock of Mississippi's brutal response to change, daily made manifest by the men in her home. A sexually bleak marriage only emphasizes a growing emotional emptiness. When a civil rights lawyer offers love and escape, does a good southern lady dare leave her home state and closed society behind?
The Last Resort
With humor and heartbreak, The Last Resort conveys at once the idyllic charm and the impossible compromises of a lost way of life. Sponsored Products are advertisements for products sold by merchants on Amazon. When you click on a Sponsored Product ad, you will be taken to an Amazon detail page where you can learn more about the product and purchase it.
To learn more about Amazon Sponsored Products, click here. This is a tale, first, of an enchanted childhood, then a murky drama of marriage and adultery, all played out against a background of bitter American struggle. I found it splendid in every way. It is a great read, pure and simple. It is a soul-searching work, one with which many women will identify. And what a life she has led. I was riveted from start to finish. Brave, honest, and open, Norma Watkins is a born writer through and through. The Last Resort is an absolute must-read for all southern women--and men, too--as she shines a light into some of the darkest, most secret and sacred areas of our culture.
This is one of the best memoirs I have ever read. Norma Watkins casts her spell with exquisite sentences and unerring evocative details. She is a writer of inordinate compassion and formidable intelligence. This unsparing and unsentimental memoir documents a woman's struggle for independence over the course of her lifetime and took great moral courage and ferocious honesty to write.
And let me add that this book is so much more than personal memoir. It is an eye on history. Norma Watkins puts us there at the white hot center of the struggle for racial equality in Jackson, Mississippi, in the turbulent fifties and sixties. Early versions of The Last Resort hid behind the mask of fiction. The first was set in south Florida years after the present memoir ends. I called it Wingate after the fictional hero, who was, of course, me. I invented a long list of fake names, but kept slipping up and using the real ones. I thought it was a book about love betrayed. Time passed, people died, and I felt easier using real names.
I began writing short autobiographical pieces for the Miami Herald's Sunday magazine and, later, for the St. Gradually, I came to see the story--mine and Mississippi's--more clearly. The Civil Rights movement blew us out of our comfortable lives. In the rubble, we looked around and saw things differently. Blacks were not content with separate and unequal. Seemingly placid white people, faced with integration, reacted with physical and economic violence. We chose sides and, as a liberal supporter of integration, I found myself isolated, part of a small, silent, fearful minority.
In the midst of this, the women's movement appeared. Reliable birth control arrived in the form of a pill women controlled. I realized I was not happy being a housewife. I wanted more education; I wanted to speak my mind and earn my own money in a larger world. The real story was not love betrayed, but freedom for the dark half of our population and, on a tiny scale, freedom for me.
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The Last Resort by Watkins, Norma
Write a customer review. Read reviews that mention last resort norma watkins civil rights allison wells jim crow resort taking rights movement james meredith mississippi cure governor ross ole miss ross barnett black help taking the mississippi dinner table well written highly recommend white people great read deep south.
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later. I came across this book through its connection to the resort the title alludes to. Allison's Wells was started by my great-great-grandmother sometime after the Civil War, I believe as an income strategy after my great-great-grandfather died--I'm still doing this research. It later came into the family of Norma Watkins. I have been looking for more insight into my family's roots as slave-owners, and I wanted to learn more about the place that has my name, but I was so delighted to learn about the life of the author.
This book, a memoir, is beautifully crafted, with well-drawn characters and details of place that make it lovely to read. It is so painfully honest. It is the story of a woman who tried very, very hard to lean into the myths that had been told her about race, about being a woman, about being a Southerner.
Willie Morris Books in Memoir and Biography
But there was something irrepressible in her, and that part of her finally overpowers the voices in her and around her telling her to stay where she was, as she was, in complicity with the repressed, insidious racism and sexism of her surroundings and a loveless marriage.
Some will be shocked by the choices she made; I see her as having no choice. I thought of Kate Chopin's Awakening when I read it. Some people have the stuff to be who they were made to be against incredible obstacles.