/Southern Discomfort’ brings uncomfortable moments to readers

Southern Discomfort’ brings uncomfortable moments to readers

Clark’s memoir is anchored by this scene, but it’s not the only one. Southern Discomfort is Clark’s story of his difficult and privilege-filled childhood in Waynesboro (Mississippi), during the civil rights era. It’s a well-named book. Clark, who would later come out as a lesbian, and have a successful career in music production and songwriter, doesn’t fit into any conservative small-town Mississippi mold. Her parents are also her parents. Her father, Lamar Clark (a narcissist, unapologetic philanderer and narcissist), is Wayne County’s richest person. He achieved this status through scrappiness, possibly extra-legal, and other means. Vivian, her mother, is six-foot tall and towers six inches above her husband. Clark describes Clark as brilliant and has musical ambitions. Clark describes her as brilliant with musical ambitions. But Vivian, who was supposed to be the “save the marital baby” that didn’t save marriage, is now a child. Clark writes with wit that “She wasn’t the only drunk in town.” Clark writes, “But she wasn’t the town’s only drunk.” Clark’s writing is amazing when it comes to Clark’s parents. For example, Clark describes how her father forced her mother to get into his car to try to convince her to return to their marriage. She took a deep breath and let the smoke out slowly. Their smoke filled the car. It was decades before we could even consider secondhand smoke potentially lethal to children riding in the car. They were unable to see me sitting in the backseat. They loved me but I was invisibility to them.” Clark, now in her mid-60s renders her parents with admirable distance. She paints them not only as flashy characters but also as complex, real people. One of the most comical and colorful scenes in the book is about her mother’s unsuccessful attempt to kill her father. She had heard that he was enjoying joyriding with another woman. Clark can understand her mother’s anger. She also sees the absurdity in the situation. Mama was a straight-from-the-bottle whiskey drinker when she drove. She drove the car using her left hand and passed the bottle to her right, while holding her cigarette in her right. These are the mythic Southern characters Hollywood loves to make movies about. Clark has a less successful approach to race. Clark is less successful in dealing with race. The Ku Klux Klan makes several appearances. Her father is a staunch segregationist. After spotting her with a black child, her mother once raped her with a Brillo pad. Clark does not attempt to excuse or compensate for the flaws in her parents. Clark, however, doesn’t seem to be able to see her own complex role as someone who is theoretically against racism, but is still complicit in perpetuating it. Clark’s most difficult scene is the one where she describes how Thurgood Marshall’s appointment as U.S. Supreme Court justice inspired her to integrate a local restaurant that her family’s maid Virgie used to eat outside. Despite Virgie’s silent pleas to her to stop, Clark drags Virgie along to lunch. Clark admits that the attempt was a failure. Virgie, who essentially raised her without her parents, is sprayed with food and frozen. Clark doesn’t admit that she was able to force the woman she was referring to, who is her family’s employee, into the plan. Clark wrote earlier in the book about the predominantly African American community where Virgie lived. Clark said, “But as poor and their neighborhood looked to Daddy’s Cadillac through the windows, its residents, like those of a lot a black towns across South, felt lucky to be able to have a roof above their heads, regardless of whether it was better than what they had.” These moments aren’t often in the book but they are jarring. Clark used antiquated African American vernacular to quote dialogue from Virgie, and other black people, in her book. Despite the title of the book, Southern Discomfort is unlikely to be the type of discomfort her readers will feel. Check out our staff picks. We’ll keep you updated throughout the week.