By Janet Cheatham Bell, Indiana University Press; $29.95
A personal memoir becomes a social history of a time and place because of Janet Cheatham Bell’s frankness about growing up black in Indianapolis. We hurt with her as she experiences the barriers, want to yell at her when she gets down and stays down, and then we revel with her when she rises above both society and herself to become an ordinary person of consequence.
Along the way we learn more about Indianapolis than we may care to acknowledge. But that information is what we need to absorb so as to understand who we are as a city and a citizenry. If the current thrust to “take back the neighborhoods” is to succeed we must read and talk about Bell’s memoir. Being invisible is a powerful put down. Having someone believe you can be visible is a powerful uplift. The message and the medium cut into you as you digest this conversational story of a life 1937 to the present.
Sister of the Solid Rock: Edna Mae Barnes Martin and the East Side Christian Center, by Wilma Rugh Taylor, published by Indiana Historical Society Press in 2002, and Gone But Not Forgotten, photo poems by O. James Fox, published by Indiana Historical Society Press in 2000, are important companions to Bell’s memoir, as is Wind Chimes and Promises: A Memoir by Phyllis J. Adair, published by Writers Club Press in 2000.