I'VE KNOWN RIVERS
Mixing autobiography and biography, and casual talk with soul-baring revelations, Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot reveals the complex, nuanced lives of six African-American achievers: Katie Cannon, a tenured professor of theology; Charles Ogletree, a renowned criminal defense lawyer teaching at Harvard Law School; Toni Schiesler, a research chemist and former nun; Tony Earls, a psychiatrist studying the roots of violence; Cheryle Wills, a successful entrepreneur; and Orlando Bagwell, a documentary filmmaker.
In strikingly candid portraits, they explore the experiences and events that have shaped their identities and influenced the courses of their lives, the inevitable losses that accompany success, and the struggle to stay connected to one’s culture and roots even as one moves up and away from them.
I’ve Known Rivers is about loss and triumph, rage and love, blackness and sexuality, trauma and healing, and the challenging journeys of life. The courage and insight of these storytellers and the wisdom of Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot as she presents their memories, struggles, and dreams inspire recognition and hope.
Marian Wright Edelman
A compelling and nuanced group portrait of black achievers who are haunted by, rather than dismissive of, their backgrounds.
Maureen Corrigan, New York Newsday
A refreshing and inspiring look into the lives of six successful African-Americans. Lawrence-Lightfoot presents people determined to remember where they—individually and as a people—came from, and she brings her formidable storytelling gifts to their lives.
In this deft and loving volume Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot brings us into conversation with men and women who, inspiring us to affection and respect, can shape our lives.
Mary Catherine Bateson, author of Composing a Life
Lawrence-Lightfoot and the men and women who trusted her to capture their voices and the complex realities of their journeys generously share with every reader their compelling and involving stories.
Mary Carroll, Booklist
It is not easy to invent a new genre but that is what Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot has done in her latest book.
Fascinating…the stories read as passionately as if the accounts were straight from personal diaries. In the end, Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot brings them together as one mighty river. She leaves it to the reader to see the connections and understand the universality of these experiences.
Detroit Free Press
There exists one book, which, to my taste, furnishes the happiest treatise of natural education. What then is this marvelous book? Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot’s “I’ve Known Rivers: Lives of Loss and Liberation” is the 20th-century answer to Rousseau’s 18th-century question, “What is this marvelous book?” After considering the works of Aristotle, Pliny and Buffon, Rousseau wrote in “On Education” that he decided on Defoe’s “Robinson Crusoe.” A wise choice, however, for today’s readers — particularly African Americans seeking that evanescent formula for success, and others who do not shun the periphery of voyeurism to gain insight — is Lawrence-Lightfoot’s collection of case studies of six achievers who have successfully negotiated the currents and undertows of the American dream. Assuming the posture of a social scientist, she acts as a recorder of testimony about human survival and a conduit for the griot-like conveying of wisdom to forward generations.
Linda Quilian, University of the District of Columbia