Southern Discomfort by Tena Clark

Southern Discomfort

For readers of beloved memoirs like Educated and The Glass Castle, a riveting and profoundly moving memoir set in rural Mississippi during the Civil Rights era about a white girl coming of age in a repressive society and the woman who gave her the strength to forge her own path—the black nanny who cared for her. Tena Clark was born in 1953 in a tiny Mississippi town close to the Alabama border, where the legacy of slavery and racial injustice s...

Details Southern Discomfort

TitleSouthern Discomfort
Release DateOct 2nd, 2018
PublisherAtria Books
GenreAutobiography, Memoir, Nonfiction, Biography, Biography Memoir, American, Southern

Reviews Southern Discomfort

  • Diane S ☔
    "My roots ran deep into the red earth; the land felt as much a part of me as my limbs, my heart. I hated it with a fury. I loved it with an all-consuming passion. This is the great paradox of the South. It's a Savage place, a complicated place, and yet it still burrows into you, like the fangs of one of the water moccasins I used to hunt as a young girl down the Chickasawhay River behind our farm. There's a venom in the soil. But there's an allur...
  • Tammy
    Clark grew up in the Jim Crow South with an alcoholic, largely absent mother and a cheating, pride-driven, successful father who is as mean as a snake. Add to this volatile mix, a daughter who does not fit the mold of Southern Belle and you might imagine what ignites. She loves ferociously and is guided through her childhood by a magnanimous and loving black housekeeper who provides stability for the frequently abandoned child. Clark tries, she r...
  • Michael
    From the outside, Tena Clark's family was one to aspire too. Father Lamar was the richest man in Waynesboro Mississippi, while his wife had beauty admired all over town. With her three older sister's beauty queens and majorettes, It seemed inconceivable that behind all this was a broken family. With Lamar's wandering eye and racist tendencies and Vivian's frustration that would see her drown her frustrations with alcohol, Tena's only unconditiona...
  • Janine
    Very interesting memoir about a girl who was the youngest in a family of four girls who grew up down south and expected to be "southern belles". But what happens when your mother is an alcoholic and your father is a philandering man, and you feel that you don't fit into their perfect southern world.Tena Clark grew up in a typical southern household in USA with an african american surrogate nanny who virtually brought her up as her mother couldn't...
  • Erika Babineau
    This is a complicated book. I feel like the description is totally misleading. It should say: This is a story about a girl growing up in a dysfunctional family in a small, Southern town in the midst of the Jim Crow era. Full stop.I had far more trouble with this book, as a Black woman, than I did with The Help. Yes, this book is a memoir, but Ms. Clark doesn't seem to do any self-reflection. Does she ever truly understand the danger she put Cindy...
  • Megan Bell
    At turns heartwarming, horrifying, comic, and eye-opening, this memoir, like the Southern family it chronicles, defies easy definition. Whether it’s her mother’s high-speed car shoot-out of her father and his mistress, the powerful mothering the family’s black maid Vergie shows her, or Tena’s coming out to this wild cast of characters, Tena Clark’s memoir of growing up in Jim Crow Mississippi touches on issues of racism, sexuality, fami...
  • Mainlinebooker
    Take one rural Mississippi town. Mix with a bigoted, wealthy, gun-toting, skirt-chasing, controlling father. Add in a stubborn, alcoholic, drug addicted mother. Blend with a warm effusive black housekeeper who is like a "second mamma". Fold in a gay lonely child with her three older beauty pageant sisters and you get Southern Discomfort. This compelling and engrossing novel kept me captivated for hours. The author, a Grammy award winning songwrit...
  • Gina
    Really engaging account of life in rural Mississippi during segregation. My only criticism is that the storytelling style is a little hokey for my taste. Tena has navigated a really rough road and shown compassion despite hurtful and cruel actions by her parents. I'm always impressed when someone can see truth despite being surrounded by people who are bigoted and prejudiced.
  • David Crow
    Having just finished my memoir, The Pale-Faced Lie, which will be out in May, I know first hand how hard it is to be completely honest when writing a memoir full of pain. Tena Clark has done that and more. She tells of her complicated family, aren't they all, of bigotry, alcoholism, coming to grips with sexual identity and the difficulty of facing it. This book, for all its sorrows, is uplifting with a powerful message about the equality of all p...
  • Betty
    Tena Clark grew up in rural Mississippi during the Civil Rights era, living in a small town that had deep racial divides and no interest in changing things because "that's just the way it is." As one of the daughters of the wealthiest man in town, she was expected to live her life a certain way, but she rebelled against it, determined to live her life the way she chose, no matter what.Southern Discomfort takes the reader back a time when men were...
  • Stephanie Stennett
    Firstly I had no idea who Tena Clark is. Big in music and to some extent theatre. So wasn't reading because *she* wrote it. I still don't think it covers much new ground. Feels pretty typical "here's my crazy southern childhood." Grits and guns! And lots of booze. An abusive father who is still loved and respected until his death. (I don't care if he is revealed to have done lots of secret magnanimous things after his death. He was still a bully,...
  • Lizy
    I'm utterly floored. The back of the ARC - I haven't seen the finished book, so I don't know if it's the same - says this is like The Help but with more guns and alcohol, yet is even more touching. There's no better way to summarize this memoir. The prose is absolutely magnificent. I was completely sucked in to the story. Every scene is perfectly vivid and expertly depicted. I Don't usually cry when reading books, let alone memoirs, but this had ...
  • David Ward
    Southern Discomfort: A Memoir by Tena Clark (Touchstone 2018) (Biography). This is hands-down the best written memoir I have read in a long time. My hat is off to you, Tena Clark, not only for writing such a touching and honest story, but also for sharing such a beautiful tale of survival and triumph.Tena Clark was born and raised in the poorest county in the poorest state in the U.S. (Mississippi) in the 1950's and was one of four sisters who we...
  • Sarah Conner
    I wasn’t sure about this book before I read it. This is about the same Deep South I grew up in, during the same time frame. Difference was I was not from a small town, wasn’t raised in a wealthy family or in privilege. But I remember a lot of the same prejudices and separation. Them and us. It was interesting to me to see the development of a liberal in all of that. She knew the injustices and recognized them for what they were at a very youn...
  • Jeanne Boudreau
    It’s hard to rate a memoir because you are saying you like someone’s life or you didn’t. Well, this was one dysfunctional family! A skirt chasing dad, an alcoholic mom who went after her husband with a .38 when she was tired of his infidelities, which was more often than not,the southern racial divide all lead to a disastrous childhood. Somehow Tena survived, thrived, made a success of herself and forgave her parents. It’s an interesting ...
  • Deirdre Wilson
    I absolutely loved this memoir. It was a true (or as true as Clark's memory served her) version of The Help. While times were changing, they were changing very slowly in the south, especially rural Mississippi. What I liked the most was while the family was beyond dysfunctional, nobody was all good or all bad. Even Clark, despite her best intentions, put some in precarious and uncomfortable situations. Heartbreaking, but thoroughly enjoyable read...
  • Kathleen Brunnett
    A memoir of an affluent white gal from Mississippi during the civil rights era. Her social activism (even from a young age) never sat well with her father let along when she shares she is gay. Interesting read of trying to stay true to yourself when society and family tell you different.
  • Christine McKeown
    I can’t remember why I picked up this book but so glad I did! Incredibly brave story... This was a really good read. I feel kooky saying “I enjoyed this book” because it was so incredibly sad in many parts and how do you enjoy someone else’s pain? but I really did enjoy this book! Interesting, descriptive but not “woe is me” at all. It definitely had “The Help” feel and I rarely ever look up authors after I read a book but I felt ...
  • Blue Cypress Books
    While this life story is definitely Ms. Clark's unique story, she brings all the best shades of Rick Bragg and Jeannette Walls to this most excellent memoir. Highly recommend.
  • Gareth Russell
    A sharp, funny, and painfully honest memoir that was one of the last "hard to put down" books I picked up.
  • Carrie Panetta
    Really enjoyed this book. Similarities to the Help.
  • Eileen Campbell
    This is a beautiful memoir of growing up in the Deep South in perhaps its most tumultuous period other than the Civil War. Tena Clark takes us into her home and life in a way that allows us to experience all the beauty and pathos that she grew up with. Highly recommended read!
  • Rick
    Both heart-lifting and heartbreaking, Tena Clark's memories of growing up in the deep south is a revelatory read. Clark's voice is comfortable and clear, like talking with an old friend. I loved this book!
  • Betsy
    I wanted to like this far more than I did, but I found the writing to be grating. While the damage Clark suffered at the hands of a violent and manipulative father, and a negligent alcoholic mother is surely substantial, I found her to be infuriatingly clueless about the depth of the danger she placed her beloved Virgie and Cindy in, in the name of her fantasy of being a crusading hero. Though in some cases she was a minor, she was old enough to ...
  • Hannah Safer
    I loved this book! I got it for free from the leader of my local book club chapter, and I finished it in just 2 days! I was so deeply moved by her story. She endured so many hardships but she always kept her sense of humor and her kind spirit. I was so enthralled by the book. At certain parts, such as when she would grab the gun from her fighting parents, or when her dad accidentally crashed the car over the side of a bridge, I forgot this was ac...
  • Paul Pessolano
    “Southern Discomfort” by Tena Clark, published by Touchstone.Category – Memoir Publication Date – October 02, 2018.Tena Clark grew up in rural Mississippi in the 1950’s. Her mother was a town beauty who married a young man who had little to show for himself, except an uncanny sense of business. Her father literally owned the town and the Clark’s were, by far, the wealthiest people in town. One would think that Tena would have lived a ...
  • Sandy Reilly
    "It's like The Help, but with more guns and alcohol." The only thing I would add to this pitch from Tena Clark's agent is to throw in a bit of Steel Magnolias, some Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, and a smidge of Go Set a Watchman. Yes, it's that dramatic.Clark's true account of growing up in the South with a filthy rich philanderer for a father and a fiercely outlandish alcoholic for a mother would make such a perfect movie that readers ...
  • Tracett
    This same story cast in a slightly different light could make a modern Southern Gothic memoir. I think many families are slightly bonkers, but Clark's family has that extra bonus of being monied, white, and Southern which gave them entree into being especially excessive, in a fact is stranger than fiction way. Clark's childhood views of racial inequality are poignant and sometimes bittersweet. (Note to book clubs - read this.) (Note to Hollywood ...
  • Julianne Godoy
    Would give this 3.5 for the writing if possible. A really great read though, and an incredible story. Felt like The Help meets The Glass Castle meets To Kill A Mockingbird. Would recommend to those who enjoyed the previous books listed!