*Brown Face, Big Master*, by Joyce Gladwell

One of the most rewarding parts of preparing for my chat with Malcolm Gladwell earlier this week was discovering the autobiographical memoir of his mother, Joyce Gladwell, published in 1969.  It covers growing up in Jamaica, women’s rights and recognition, a mixed-race marriage in the England of the 1960s, and a Christian journey through this world.  The most striking passages are the account of a sexual assault on a ship and a stranger in the street hurling a racial epithet at her and her sons, in addition to Malcolm’s brief cameo as a very very young man on p.178.  Most of all, this is a tale of a contemplative humility, and an account of how struggle and “the medicine of acceptance” can blend together into a successful and fulfilling life.  It is especially valuable as a reflection of how a particular kind of quiet grace is closely tied to Jamaican heritage.  Here is a short summary of the book.

What was striking on a second reading is how much this is also a memoir of how she lost her faith in adolescence, and wandered through part of her life without it, only later returning to the fold.

Here is some background information on Malcolm and his mother.  Here is a 2007 radio chat with Malcolm and his mother, definitely recommended, despite her humble demeanor she has an amazing media presence and is not afraid to overrule her son.  Malcolm also profiles her in Outliers, but that section makes more sense when you have read her directly.


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