My Soul Looks Back: A Memoir by Jessica B. Harris, Scribner, US $25.00, Pp 272, May 2017, ISBN 978-1501125904
Jessica B. Harris is a leading food historian who came on the culinary scene at a time when America was transitioning to a racially mixed society in the aftermath of civil rights movement. She lived at a great historical time for America. In My Soul Looks Back, Jessica B. Harris tells us about herself and her times.
Jessica B. Harris says that she is not central to the story although she has lived it. Rather, it is an extraordinary circle of friends such as Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, and Sam Floyd)who came together, lived outrageously, loved abundantly, laughed uproariously, and savored life while they created work that would come to define the era. That they knew one another was interesting, that they partied together, savored one another’s company, encouraged one another’s endeavors, celebrated one another’s achievements, and mourned one another’s losses is extraordinary.
Jessica B. Harris says this tale is also the story of a city, New York City, its neighborhoods and its vibrant life, is also a character, for no other place in the world could have spawned and celebrated their lives with such intensity. Paris had a Belle Époque, the 1920s, and the existentialist 1950s; London had the swinging sixties, and the New York City in the early 1970s was the hub-of-the-universe. It was a city in the throes of a major transition, when restaurants could offer a glimpse into the fading world of café society or bubble with the excitement of the new era that was being created, and the clubs that existed for every possible social stripe throbbed nightly with the excess of the sexual and moral revolution that had been ushered in the 1960s. Life was lived in wide screen Technicolor in ways that had never before existed. It was the city before AIDS and economic downturns made it a very different place. Memory has muted some of the vibrancy of the colors, and the dates fade into a continuum, but the vitality of the friendship, the commitment to activism, and the joie de vivre of those heady days remain as palpable as the intertwined connective tissue of the lives that were lived then.”
My Soul Looks Back is an attention gripping memoir of one of few African American excelled in the culinary world. Jessica B. Harris takes readers in the 1970s New York. It is so beautifully written that reader feels as if they are living in the city which is transitioning from legal segregation to a cosmopolitan city. You will feel the city of Irish pubs turning into a city of international cuisine. It is an inspiring memoir about a city we all love. It is a memoir which is virtually a history book everybody will enjoy reading.