White Bear Lake, Minn. — Century College will host author and radio journalist Michele Norris, a co-host of National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, on Tuesday, Oct. 2, at 7 p.m. in the West Campus Theatre. Her talk is free and open to the public.
Century College has chosen Norris’ book The Grace of Silence, a memoir about growing up black in Minneapolis in the 1960s, as its 2012-2013 Common Book. Century students, faculty and staff members will be reading and discussing the book in classes and at events during the year.
During a campus visit to Century in July, Norris talked about how writing the book uncovered family secrets and changed her life in unexpected ways. “I have always thought that Americans engage in secretive conversations about race,” she said. “I wanted to capture that in the book, and I ended up writing my family story, unearthing secrets about the people who raised me. It became an accidental memoir.”
Norris maintains that it is healthy to have a national conversation about race to uncover how Americans talk and think about race in their private spaces. While she always hated the phrase “playing the race card,” she decided it was better to confront the phrase rather than flee from it. As a result of writing the book, she began a national exercise called “The Race Card Project” that allows people to share their family stories. To participate, a person must jot down on a postcard or via social media just six words that express his or her thoughts about race. The six words can relate to experiences, thoughts, triumphs, theory or laments. The six-word essays are then posted on a website called “theracecardproject.com.”
The project has touched a nerve with people across the country. Norris has received over 10,000 postcards from all 50 states. “Sometimes I feel like I am drowning in cards,” said Norris. She noted that one of her favorite six-word essays is “Underneath we all taste like chicken.”
As a result of writing the book and starting The Race Card Project, Norris said she has a deeper understanding of how people of all races feel about being “the other” in society. “I realize there is still so much I don’t know,” said Norris.
Norris’ appearance at Century is part of the college’s ongoing Speaker Series that brings national speakers to campus several times per year. For more information, please call Nancy Livingston at 651-779-3222.