“Part memoir, part historical and cultural analysis, My Vanishing Country is an eye-opening journey through the South’s past, present, and future.
Anchored in in Bakari Sellers’ hometown of Denmark, South Carolina, Country illuminates the pride and pain that continues to fertilize the soil of one of the poorest states in the nation. He traces his father’s rise to become a friend of Stokely Carmichael and Martin Luther King, a civil rights hero, and a member of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), to explore the plight of the South’s dwindling rural, black working class―many of whom can trace their ancestry back for seven generations.
In his poetic personal history, we are awakened to the crisis affecting the other “Forgotten Men & Women,” who the media seldom acknowledges. For Sellers, these are his family members, neighbors, and friends. He humanizes the struggles that shape their lives: to gain access to healthcare as rural hospitals disappear; to make ends meet as the factories they have relied on shut down and move overseas; to hold on to precious traditions as their towns erode; to forge a path forward without succumbing to despair.
My Vanishing Country is also a love letter to fatherhood―to Sellers’ father, his lodestar, whose life lessons have shaped him, and to his newborn twins, who he hopes will embrace the Sellers family name and honor its legacy.”
-Synopsis from Goodreads
I was already familiar with Bakari Sellers from his appearances as a political analyst on CNN. My first impressions of him were that he was incredibly smart and well spoken and someone I would like to hear more from during each segment that he spoke. When I heard that he had a memoir coming out, I immediately added it to my TBR because I wanted to learn more about him.
As the synopsis mentions, this book is equally a memoir and a study of the history of North Carolina. It was a short read, under 230 pages, and it is by no means chronological. There is a lot of jumping around between different moments in his life. It was a little hard to follow at first, but you still get a sense of the important moments in his life during his childhood and his young adulthood when he entered the world of politics. There is a lot of local South Carolina history and American history mixed in with each vignette.
One thing that I was thinking about while reading is that I have always felt that I’ve learned more about U.S. history from books like this, memoirs of people who have lived in various areas of the country, than I have in actual history classes in school.
This was again the case while reading My Vanishing Country. I was not aware of the Orangeburg Massacre that Sellers mentions at the beginning of the book, which his father was a part of and which had such a big impact on his own life.
I think it’s unfortunate that so much of America’s recent past is not talked about, especially when it comes to people of color. I am so grateful for people like Sellers who are willing to tell their stories to provide context to history both past and more recent, and to inform and educate others.
Overall I found this book to be very insightful and thoughtful. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about Bakari Sellers, or enjoys reading memoirs, or books about American history and politics.