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Chasing Me to My Grave: An Artist’s Memoir of the Jim Crow South, with a foreword by Bryan Stevenson

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Winfred Rembert grew up as a field hand on a Georgia plantation. He embraced the Civil Rights Movement, endured political violence, survived a lynching, and spent seven years in prison on a chain gang. Years later, seeking a fresh start at the age of 52, he discovered his gift and vision as an artist, and using leather tooling skills he learned in prison, started etching a Winfred Rembert grew up as a field hand on a Georgia plantation. He embraced the Civil Rights Movement, endured political violence, survived a lynching, and spent seven years in prison on a chain gang. Years later, seeking a fresh start at the age of 52, he discovered his gift and vision as an artist, and using leather tooling skills he learned in prison, started etching and painting scenes from his youth. Rembert's work has been exhibited at museums and galleries across the country, profiled in the New York Times and more, and honored by Bryan Stevenson's Equal Justice Initiative. In Chasing Me to My Grave, he relates his life in prose and paintings—vivid, confrontational, revelatory, complex scenes from the cotton fields and chain gangs of the segregated south to the churches and night clubs of the urban north. This is also the story of finding epic love, and with it the courage to revisit a past that begs to remain buried, as told to Tufts philosopher Erin I. Kelly.


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Winfred Rembert grew up as a field hand on a Georgia plantation. He embraced the Civil Rights Movement, endured political violence, survived a lynching, and spent seven years in prison on a chain gang. Years later, seeking a fresh start at the age of 52, he discovered his gift and vision as an artist, and using leather tooling skills he learned in prison, started etching a Winfred Rembert grew up as a field hand on a Georgia plantation. He embraced the Civil Rights Movement, endured political violence, survived a lynching, and spent seven years in prison on a chain gang. Years later, seeking a fresh start at the age of 52, he discovered his gift and vision as an artist, and using leather tooling skills he learned in prison, started etching and painting scenes from his youth. Rembert's work has been exhibited at museums and galleries across the country, profiled in the New York Times and more, and honored by Bryan Stevenson's Equal Justice Initiative. In Chasing Me to My Grave, he relates his life in prose and paintings—vivid, confrontational, revelatory, complex scenes from the cotton fields and chain gangs of the segregated south to the churches and night clubs of the urban north. This is also the story of finding epic love, and with it the courage to revisit a past that begs to remain buried, as told to Tufts philosopher Erin I. Kelly.

30 review for Chasing Me to My Grave: An Artist’s Memoir of the Jim Crow South, with a foreword by Bryan Stevenson

  1. 5 out of 5

    Alissa

    This book is a masterpiece. Anyone looking to learn more about the African American experience will be unable to put this book down, but the story juxtaposed with the artwork is what makes this book truly extraordinary. Rembert is a gifted storyteller, and while the story reads like an adventure, he doesn’t try to mask the pain and trauma he endured for so many years. His work is brilliant. This book should be required reading in schools across the country.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Susanne

    This is an astonishing memoir, both for the vivid recollection of what life was like for people of color in Cuthbert, Georgia during the 1940s, 50s and beyond, and for the art that that an extremely talented man managed to create to document that life. The images of his artwork (paintings on carved and tooled leather) will take your breath away. His story will break your heart. Those of us who believed what our parents told us, that racial discrimination had ended during our lifetime, and that a This is an astonishing memoir, both for the vivid recollection of what life was like for people of color in Cuthbert, Georgia during the 1940s, 50s and beyond, and for the art that that an extremely talented man managed to create to document that life. The images of his artwork (paintings on carved and tooled leather) will take your breath away. His story will break your heart. Those of us who believed what our parents told us, that racial discrimination had ended during our lifetime, and that anyone who was willing to work hard could "pull themselves up by their bootstraps" will find it especially painful reading. The foreward by Bryan Stevenson (author of "Just Mercy") makes it very clear that this is an extremely important book, with a message that needs to be heard.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    Amazing audiobook production of a very powerful voice.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    This book reads like sitting at the kitchen table listening to elders tell random stories of days gone by. Like those times, there is an intimacy, but also disconnect between the different vignettes that loses something for the people who are external to the people and events being discussed. A separation remains that I found very frustrating. There are portions of this book that WORK when the stories line up with the art and offer the human experience of social phenomena. A bit more editing and This book reads like sitting at the kitchen table listening to elders tell random stories of days gone by. Like those times, there is an intimacy, but also disconnect between the different vignettes that loses something for the people who are external to the people and events being discussed. A separation remains that I found very frustrating. There are portions of this book that WORK when the stories line up with the art and offer the human experience of social phenomena. A bit more editing and coherence would have this easily being a 5 star, adopt for school, recommend to everyone book. ***This is not in the narrative style or voice of Mr. Rembert, but rather tying the various stories together to better communicate the larger narrative.*** The intro left me thinking I would be reading about the art and the lived experience of Jim Crow that led to that art. Instead, it is a loose biography, with lots unsaid. There are other portions that left me saying What did I just read? Why is there no context to this? Why are they leaving the things that explain these actions out? The legacy of Jim Crow and how it appeared in later parts of Mr. Rembert's life is missing. It's implicit, but really needs to be explicit. The narrative unravels without it, and turns it into a scrapbook rather than an art exhibit, to follow the art world comparison. That said, it's a great jumping off point. Readers CAN and SHOULD do the work of finding the implicit connections here. If you have a book club that does that work, then this is a perfect read. If you don't do the work, then I would recommend other works that will better do that work for you. Doing it yourself is worth it. Thank you to Winfred Rembert, Erin I. Kelly, Bloomsbury USA, and Netgalley for an ecopy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion

  5. 4 out of 5

    Fatimah Omar

    I sat in silence after reading and listening to the end of this deeply moving memoir. I was touched on such a profound level it took me a while to come back to full consciousness and aware of my surroundings. There are so many layers to this story; I consider it divine intervention that this book found me. It was an honor to have read about Winfred Rembert the artist, father, man, friend, historical hero who embodies the power and strength of the black man's spirit. His wife is the eternal light I sat in silence after reading and listening to the end of this deeply moving memoir. I was touched on such a profound level it took me a while to come back to full consciousness and aware of my surroundings. There are so many layers to this story; I consider it divine intervention that this book found me. It was an honor to have read about Winfred Rembert the artist, father, man, friend, historical hero who embodies the power and strength of the black man's spirit. His wife is the eternal light that kept his fire burning; their love story is a god-given gift to us all. I can't describe how important this book is to our African-American story of power and raw truth. I am changed on a soul level from reading about his life and the way he was able to retell the intimate emotional experience of just living black in America. You must listen to the Audiobook's narrator, Dion Graham, who was powerful and embodied the full spirit of Winfred Rembert's soul. You must buy the book to enjoy the images of his artwork.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sandy (Ms Reads A Lot)

    Read for BookTube prize quarter final round.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    That a Black man can live through such hell and create stunning art from it is a testament to Winfred Rembert’s perseverance and talent. America discards its felons so quickly and without remorse, and Rembert’s book challenges that to its core. Compelling testimony and equally compelling reproductions of his art.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Susie Dumond

    Winfred Rembert is someone with so many experiences that it's hard to understand how he fit them all into one life. He's most known for his stunning art, scenes from his past imprinted and dyed on leather. But he was also a cotton picker in rural Georgia, a civil rights activist, a member of a prison chain gang for seven years, an attempted lynching survivor, and a loving husband and father of eight. This memoir tells his incredible life story, alongside images of his art. This book truly feels l Winfred Rembert is someone with so many experiences that it's hard to understand how he fit them all into one life. He's most known for his stunning art, scenes from his past imprinted and dyed on leather. But he was also a cotton picker in rural Georgia, a civil rights activist, a member of a prison chain gang for seven years, an attempted lynching survivor, and a loving husband and father of eight. This memoir tells his incredible life story, alongside images of his art. This book truly feels like sitting down and having a conversation with Winfred Rembert. His voice is so clear in the prose, and his art ties in perfectly with his memories. Rembert has had some incredible experiences in his life, but he doesn't shy away from sharing the hardest parts of his life either. This is a thoughtful, earnest memoir that packs in so much history of African American life from the 1940s through today. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jan

    This book had me at Intro by Bryan Stevenson. And then it had me without the intro. I didn't approach it anticipating loving it, just expected to find it interesting. It's a treasure--an art book (amazing) and a great story about a real person trying to live his life in the U.S. of A. while Black. I need to buy this one to keep. While I'm sure it's a terrific audio book, how sad not to be able to see the art, too. The book is printed on amazing paper stock so the art is rich and real. I would lo This book had me at Intro by Bryan Stevenson. And then it had me without the intro. I didn't approach it anticipating loving it, just expected to find it interesting. It's a treasure--an art book (amazing) and a great story about a real person trying to live his life in the U.S. of A. while Black. I need to buy this one to keep. While I'm sure it's a terrific audio book, how sad not to be able to see the art, too. The book is printed on amazing paper stock so the art is rich and real. I would love to see some of it in person.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Mobeme53 Branson

    A beautiful book, especially from an artistic standpoint. His story is harrowing and, if read correctly, reveals how short our memory is about civil rights. Jim Crow existed during my lifetime and even that of my children. The book itself is wonderfully done, with heavy paper and beautiful pictures. (Almost a coffee-table book) BTW there's an excellent documentary about Winfred Rembert, Ashes to Ashes, avaliable on YouTube. A beautiful book, especially from an artistic standpoint. His story is harrowing and, if read correctly, reveals how short our memory is about civil rights. Jim Crow existed during my lifetime and even that of my children. The book itself is wonderfully done, with heavy paper and beautiful pictures. (Almost a coffee-table book) BTW there's an excellent documentary about Winfred Rembert, Ashes to Ashes, avaliable on YouTube.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ma'Belle

    The events in this man's life are absolutely incredible, but I believe him. Fighting a sheriff off while locked in a jail cell and making off with his gun?! Surviving a lynching?! Selling heroine for years to provide for his family and somehow not being seduced into drug addiction?! There are so many times you would expect Winfred Rembert to have been killed in this memoir, and yet he lived just long enough to get his life stories written down for the rest of us - he completed the interviews for The events in this man's life are absolutely incredible, but I believe him. Fighting a sheriff off while locked in a jail cell and making off with his gun?! Surviving a lynching?! Selling heroine for years to provide for his family and somehow not being seduced into drug addiction?! There are so many times you would expect Winfred Rembert to have been killed in this memoir, and yet he lived just long enough to get his life stories written down for the rest of us - he completed the interviews for this book in March 2020 and then died in March of 2021 at the age of 75. Just 75 years and he experienced this much hate and violence from mobs of white people, prison wardens, judges, and potential employers! This is all so recent! He was about 25 years younger than my own grandparents but born into a culture out to dehumanize and kill him. And then late in life starts churning out incredible works of art on leather canvasses using skills he learned in prison and figured out himself. But it is clear by the end of this memoir that gaining fame, praise, and wealth did not remove the suffering, the physical and emotional scars that would keep him from sleeping well. Read this phenomenal memoir ASAP! I listened to it read by my favorite audiobook narrator - Dion Graham, who performed several wonderful James Baldwin novels - and then studied a physical copy of the book for all the paintings that you will miss out on otherwise. I definitely recommend that method, and it only took ~7 hours.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lee

    As I read Winfred Rembert’s memoir about growing up Black in Jim Crow Georgia in the 50s and 60s, I could not help but compare his life to that of my mom, a white lady from Northern Virginia. They were nearly the same age, yet their life experiences could not have been further from one another. Mom’s childhood and early adult years were idyllic; Winfred’s were traumatic. This book is fascinating because Winfred had been through so much in his life and he managed to come out on top, after one hel As I read Winfred Rembert’s memoir about growing up Black in Jim Crow Georgia in the 50s and 60s, I could not help but compare his life to that of my mom, a white lady from Northern Virginia. They were nearly the same age, yet their life experiences could not have been further from one another. Mom’s childhood and early adult years were idyllic; Winfred’s were traumatic. This book is fascinating because Winfred had been through so much in his life and he managed to come out on top, after one hell of a life that included every horrible thing you associate with the Jim Crow south; mass incarceration; police brutality; drug dealing and more. I admire this man for all that he accomplished in his life and I would love to get the chance to see his art some day. I was so sad to read that he passed away about 10 months ago. This book gave me a better grasp on what it was like for Black people to live in the horrific Jim Crow south and reminded me just how recent those times were in this country. Our country clearly has not worked through/gotten past it yet. It’s a fantastic read and I strongly recommend it. So does my hero, Bryan Stevenson, who wrote the foreword.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Edward Sullivan

    Rembert grew up working as a field hand on a Georgia plantation, later embraced the Civil Rights Movement, endured political violence, survived a lynching, and spent seven years on a prison chain gang. Years later at age 52, he discovered his gift and vision as an artist, and using leather tooling skills he learned in prison, started etching and painting scenes from his youth. Rembert recounts these experiences in stark, vivid prose and stunning images.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    There aren't enough stars available to rate this book. A moving and profound story of Rembert's life in the Jim Crow South. Kudos to the publisher as well. It's a beautiful book to read which includes photos of Mr. Rembert's incredible art. I've often been disappointed by Pulitzer Prize winning books- not this one. It deserves all the accolades! There aren't enough stars available to rate this book. A moving and profound story of Rembert's life in the Jim Crow South. Kudos to the publisher as well. It's a beautiful book to read which includes photos of Mr. Rembert's incredible art. I've often been disappointed by Pulitzer Prize winning books- not this one. It deserves all the accolades!

  15. 5 out of 5

    EAB

    I read this book a couple months ago & am delighted to see that it won a Pulitzer for biography! This is not a book to read online, & especially not on a Kindle (if it's even available on that mode). The artwork is full page, vibrant & intense. The writing is personal & also intense. It's a tragedy that the author died a few short months before the book's publication and how proud his family must be of this late recognition. I read this book a couple months ago & am delighted to see that it won a Pulitzer for biography! This is not a book to read online, & especially not on a Kindle (if it's even available on that mode). The artwork is full page, vibrant & intense. The writing is personal & also intense. It's a tragedy that the author died a few short months before the book's publication and how proud his family must be of this late recognition.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kazen

    A solid, fascinating memoir. Kelly does a great job capturing Rembert's voice and wow, the stories he has to tell. More thoughts in my Booktube Prize Semifinal Vlog. A solid, fascinating memoir. Kelly does a great job capturing Rembert's voice and wow, the stories he has to tell. More thoughts in my Booktube Prize Semifinal Vlog.

  17. 4 out of 5

    June

    This book was so fantastic that I read it in one day. This memoir depicting the events of his life from beginning to end were just so emotionally devastating and jarring. A must read.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Paul G. Caron

    Books 2022 #43: Chasing Me to My Grave: An Artist's Memoir of the Jim Crow South by Winfred Rembert. Winner of the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for Biography. Rembert was a unique artist who worked on leather creating vivid images of his life growing up in Jim Crow Georgia. Yes, he did some criminal acts and got what he deserved, but the legal racism, acts of violence on him, and closed doors all influenced his choices. While in prison, he learned his craft and honed it after his release. It was not until t Books 2022 #43: Chasing Me to My Grave: An Artist's Memoir of the Jim Crow South by Winfred Rembert. Winner of the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for Biography. Rembert was a unique artist who worked on leather creating vivid images of his life growing up in Jim Crow Georgia. Yes, he did some criminal acts and got what he deserved, but the legal racism, acts of violence on him, and closed doors all influenced his choices. While in prison, he learned his craft and honed it after his release. It was not until the new millennium was he noticed for this art and hailed as an artist who depicts the real nature of America. In the last twenty years, he received high praise and awards. This book tells the story of his growing up poor and ill-educated. How he was threatened with lynching and abused by authorities. However, he also tells of the people who supported him and loved him greatly. So greatly that he became one of the premier artists of our time. Check out his art work! Three out of five stars.

  19. 4 out of 5

    KC

    Winfred Rembert faced racism, hate, prison, and even survived a near lynching, but it never stopped him from trying to do better; to be a better man, husband, friend, father. After years of pain and anguish, Winfred needed to face his demons from his past, so he turned to art to finally tell his story. A moving, colorful, and inspirational telling of one man’s journey to serenity. This 2022 Pulitzer Prize winning book is for those who enjoyed JUST MERCY by Bryan Stevenson

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kerry

    BookTube Prize--Final round for top Non-fiction pick (6 books left total). Review with rating to follow in October.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tracy

    I think I grabbed this off of Overdrive's 'Currently Available' list before a trip, and I didn't know anything about it at all. It's a memoir, and I didn't realize that until a little ways into the book. I thought "this is just someone writing down stories their grandpa is telling them". It actually is, but the Grandpa is a famous artist, and the author is not his grandchild, but a real author. After I looked up the artist and saw more of his work (lots is included in the book- but I was reading I think I grabbed this off of Overdrive's 'Currently Available' list before a trip, and I didn't know anything about it at all. It's a memoir, and I didn't realize that until a little ways into the book. I thought "this is just someone writing down stories their grandpa is telling them". It actually is, but the Grandpa is a famous artist, and the author is not his grandchild, but a real author. After I looked up the artist and saw more of his work (lots is included in the book- but I was reading on kindle, which is not ideal), then I could appreciate the memoir better. The art work is unusual and really tells a story.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Courtney Ferriter

    ** 4 stars ** Really enjoyable reading. Rembert had a fascinating life and was a great storyteller. I recommend the physical book version of this so you can see reproductions of his paintings included in the volume. Would definitely recommend if you like nonfiction. Link to full review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3M1H... ** 4 stars ** Really enjoyable reading. Rembert had a fascinating life and was a great storyteller. I recommend the physical book version of this so you can see reproductions of his paintings included in the volume. Would definitely recommend if you like nonfiction. Link to full review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3M1H...

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sonia Schoenfield

    Rembert, a Black man, grew up in racially prejudiced Cuthbert, GA in the 1950s and 1960s. His mother gave him up when he was 3 months old and he was raised by his great aunt. His life is a microcosm of many Black lives in the south at that time. He loved hanging out at the “juke joints,” dancing and having a good time. He rarely went to school and didn’t learn to read until he was an adult. He was beaten, humiliated, almost lynched by the Whites in Cuthbert. He was sent to prison and worked on a Rembert, a Black man, grew up in racially prejudiced Cuthbert, GA in the 1950s and 1960s. His mother gave him up when he was 3 months old and he was raised by his great aunt. His life is a microcosm of many Black lives in the south at that time. He loved hanging out at the “juke joints,” dancing and having a good time. He rarely went to school and didn’t learn to read until he was an adult. He was beaten, humiliated, almost lynched by the Whites in Cuthbert. He was sent to prison and worked on a chain gang. He also learned to do leatherwork, which later became a beautiful creative outlet, a way to deal with the trauma of his past, and a source of income. The book is illustrated with his leather paintings. Patsy, the love of his life, is a shining star in Rembert’s story. If you want to read a hard book about the truth of a Black man’s life in the second half of the twentieth century, read this one.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Allison

    The remarkable life of artist Winfred rembert as told through interviews with his co-author is one of the most absorbing and heartbreaking stories I've read in a while. The layout of this book adds to its poignancy because we get to see his work scattered throughout the story. I was almost finished with the book when I learned that he passed away this year, which basically just made me cry even harder by the time I got to the beautiful ending of his story. The remarkable life of artist Winfred rembert as told through interviews with his co-author is one of the most absorbing and heartbreaking stories I've read in a while. The layout of this book adds to its poignancy because we get to see his work scattered throughout the story. I was almost finished with the book when I learned that he passed away this year, which basically just made me cry even harder by the time I got to the beautiful ending of his story.

  25. 5 out of 5

    =^.^= Janet

    Date reviewed/posted: December 17, 2020 Publication date: August 3, 2021 When life for the entire universe and planet has turned on its end, you are continuing to #maskup to be in #COVID19 #socialisolation as the #secondwave is upon us, AND the worst sciatica attack in your life means you MIGHT sleep 3 hours a night, superspeed readers like me can read 300+ pages/hour, so yes, I have read the book … and many more today. I requested and received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of this book f Date reviewed/posted: December 17, 2020 Publication date: August 3, 2021 When life for the entire universe and planet has turned on its end, you are continuing to #maskup to be in #COVID19 #socialisolation as the #secondwave is upon us, AND the worst sciatica attack in your life means you MIGHT sleep 3 hours a night, superspeed readers like me can read 300+ pages/hour, so yes, I have read the book … and many more today. I requested and received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley, the publisher and the author in exchange for an honest review. From the publisher, as I do not repeat the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it as they do it better than I do 😸. “A compelling and important history that this nation desperately needs to hear.” —Bryan Stevenson, New York Times bestselling author of Just Mercy and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative Winfred Rembert grew up as a field hand on a Georgia plantation. He embraced the Civil Rights Movement, endured political violence, survived a lynching, and spent seven years in prison on a chain gang. Years later, seeking a fresh start at the age of 52, he discovered his gift and vision as an artist, and using leather tooling skills he learned in prison, started etching and painting scenes from his youth. Rembert's work has been exhibited at museums and galleries across the country, profiled in the New York Times and more, and honoured by Bryan Stevenson's Equal Justice Initiative. In Chasing Me to My Grave, he relates his life in prose and paintings—vivid, confrontational, revelatory, complex scenes from the cotton fields and chain gangs of the segregated south to the churches and night clubs of the urban north. This is also the story of finding epic love and with it the courage to revisit a past that begs to remain buried, as told to Tufts philosopher Erin I. Kelly. Winfred Rembert’s artwork, exhibited at museums and galleries around the country and shown by the Adelson Galleries in New York, has been compared to the work of Jacob Lawrence, Horace Pippin, and Romare Bearden and was the subject of an exhibition at the Yale University Art Gallery. Rembert was honoured by the Equal Justice Initiative in 2015, awarded a United States Artists Barr Fellowship in 2016, and is the subject of two documentary films, All Me and Ashes to Ashes. He lives and works in New Haven, Connecticut. winfredrembert.com Erin I. Kelly is a Professor of Philosophy at Tufts University. She lives in Massachusetts. This is a deep book that screams "book club pick" to me - it is well written and surprisingly full of information that we should all know about: I recognized Mr. Rembert's artworks but I had never connected them with a particular artist. The Jim Crow laws were horrifying and most people probably had heard of them due to "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett and wondered why had I not known of them? (Well, I do live in Canada so missed most of these law's after-effects aside from the "coloured" window at Dairy Queen in Port Colborne, ON, which is now devoid of its sign but is still a bitter reminder of injustice that remains to this day. Read this book and take it to bookclub...you will thank yourself.

  26. 4 out of 5

    SadieReadsAgain

    I read this book for the Booktube Prize 2022, non-fiction category, quarterfinals. I ranked it 4th in its group of 6. My fellow judges didn't agree though, and this book has moved forward to the semifinals. This is the memoir of Winfred, who grew up and experienced the brutal realities of the Jim Crow era in Georgia. From a beginning in the cotton fields with his adoptive family, after his mother gave him up, to dancing and getting into trouble with the law, growing up to be a drug dealer and the I read this book for the Booktube Prize 2022, non-fiction category, quarterfinals. I ranked it 4th in its group of 6. My fellow judges didn't agree though, and this book has moved forward to the semifinals. This is the memoir of Winfred, who grew up and experienced the brutal realities of the Jim Crow era in Georgia. From a beginning in the cotton fields with his adoptive family, after his mother gave him up, to dancing and getting into trouble with the law, growing up to be a drug dealer and then later finding himself in his unique leatherwork art, this book is woven together with anecdotes and memories from his life. I really enjoyed the addition of so many of his works, which really added a layer to this memoir and brought it to life. And Rembert has a great way of sharing a story which is as vivid as his artwork whilst also feeling as if he's telling you in person. And through that, we get a unique and vitally important account of what horrors were acted out on the Black community in what is really not very distant history and of which there is unfortunately still too many parallels to the world we live in today. However, I wasn't really sold on some aspects of how he (or his collaborator) chose to frame this story. I expected this to be the memoir of someone who was entrenched in the Black right's movement, and I feel there was an effort to frame his mistreatment and imprisonments in that light. Although the racism and barbarism of how he and other Black people were treated is appalling and makes for very tough, upsetting reading, and is utterly inexcusable, I feel it is dishonourable to frame it as his punishment for fighting for Black rights. Both occasions of his imprisonment were due to breaking the law (one was car theft - which although he did steal the car to escape brutality at a Black rights march, he then doubled down on - and one was because he was a hugely successful drug dealer). Although his punishment, at least for the car theft, was far beyond what was just and right, and far beyond what a white person would have received, he wasn't being punished for being an activist. He was being punished for being a criminal, albeit a Black criminal. So while his treatment was certainly a Black rights issue, to frame him as a civil rights figure feels, to me, dishonest and a disservice to those who truly were activists. This is an important and interesting book, there is no denying that. I just feel Rembert's story is let down by trying to make it something it isn't.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Bradley Morgan

    Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Rembert’s memoir is a deeply personal account of turning violence and pain into love and art. Born and raised on a cotton plantation in the heart of Jim Crow era Georgia, Rembert grew up within some of the most darkest and vile aspects of systemic oppression in the 20th century, so much so that he came to understand the racism he experienced and the violence he witnessed were something beyond his understanding to the point of passive acceptance. Growing up in extrem Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Rembert’s memoir is a deeply personal account of turning violence and pain into love and art. Born and raised on a cotton plantation in the heart of Jim Crow era Georgia, Rembert grew up within some of the most darkest and vile aspects of systemic oppression in the 20th century, so much so that he came to understand the racism he experienced and the violence he witnessed were something beyond his understanding to the point of passive acceptance. Growing up in extreme poverty, and not able to read or write until many years later, Rembert endured a seemingly endless cycle of political violence, police abuse, brutal imprisonment, dangerous chain gangs, and even several lynching attempts. Breaking away from the violence of the Jim Crow south, he moved to Connecticut where he did everything he could to support his family, including selling heroin. After a judge showed him mercy for being a family man, despite his numerous arrests and spending nearly a decade in prison before, Rembert avoids a multiple decade prison sentence and changes his life. At the age of 52, he begins to portray his memories and experiences on leather, by sculpting scenes and then painting them with dye, something no other artist was doing. Creating artwork that told his story, no matter how outlandish he thought others may see it, Rembert put on leather working in the cotton fields, breaking rocks on a chain gang, prison violence, and even revisiting the night he was almost lynched. Though while Rembert could have solely focused on the negative experiences, he also turned to his art to express his love for the people and places that made him who he was, including his aunt who raised him, colorful characters in pool halls, and his wife Patsy who pushed him to tell his story on leather. Reframing his experiences, while facing the trauma and ghosts from his past, Rembert’s artwork allowed him to find peace and express his gratitude for the love he had during so many difficult years, a love that kept him human and that he wanted to show through in his art. A stunning read featuring beautifully colorful displays of his work, Rembert’s memoir is an essential read.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kristin

    This is a powerful memoir written in first person which makes it an intimate portrait of Winfred Rembert's life. I cannot recommend this book strongly enough. It shows the best face of memoirs with the added dimension of his life experiences portrayed in leather art. The art is bold, bright, detailed and filled with movement. Winfred Rembert tells details of his life starting in the mid-1940's. His start in life shows an emotional upheaval when his mother gives him away to his great aunt when he This is a powerful memoir written in first person which makes it an intimate portrait of Winfred Rembert's life. I cannot recommend this book strongly enough. It shows the best face of memoirs with the added dimension of his life experiences portrayed in leather art. The art is bold, bright, detailed and filled with movement. Winfred Rembert tells details of his life starting in the mid-1940's. His start in life shows an emotional upheaval when his mother gives him away to his great aunt when he is only two months old. Thus begins his search for understanding and identity which leads him to commit petty crimes for which he is cruelly punished. His severe experiences with white supremecy are anguishing and heart-wrenching to read. Along the way he does meet people who give him confidence and love that finally steer him toward the life he was meant to lead. I cannot adequately portray my gut-wrenching feelings I had while reading this book. Many times I had to put it down because I was so overcome with sadness and anger. Seeing human beings treated the way he was is so dispiriting and he makes it clear in this book, his experiences were by no means exceptions to the rule. Thankfully this book is not totally bleak. Many of his painting show the joy of singing and dancing while growing up. The love he showed for his wife is tender and admirable. Letters he wrote to her are shown here and one chapter is written from her point of view. Please pick up this book! It will remain memorable to me for all time and I plan to buy my own copy as I borrowed this book from the library.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Debbie

    Without it winning the Pulitzer Prize, I'd have never picked up this book to read. This is the life story of leatherwork artist Winfred Rembert. I was both fascinated and horrified by events in his life. But what struck me the most is that fury would have been the main sense for people who have been through what he has, yet there was not a sense of fury from him. What was most manifest was gratitude to his wife, his friends, and his family who helped him weather a storm of experiences that would Without it winning the Pulitzer Prize, I'd have never picked up this book to read. This is the life story of leatherwork artist Winfred Rembert. I was both fascinated and horrified by events in his life. But what struck me the most is that fury would have been the main sense for people who have been through what he has, yet there was not a sense of fury from him. What was most manifest was gratitude to his wife, his friends, and his family who helped him weather a storm of experiences that would have destroyed him were it not for them. The depiction of his art was fantastic and I was thrilled by their beauty. He spoke early about doing his art on leather. Yet, further into the book, I came to realize the pictures of his artwork was a only a dim representation. His leatherwork is 3 dimensional, impossible to show in a 2 dimensional print. Maybe someday I'll have a chance to see some of his artwork in real life. His story was one of beauty. The beauty of his artwork, the beauty of his relationship with his wife, the beauty of his relationship with those who, he almost said, saved him from himself and showed him the real path his life should take.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Julie Trapp

    Winfred Rembert grew up in a family of Georgia field laborers and joined the Civil Rights Movement as a teenager. He was arrested after fleeing a demonstration, survived a near-lynching at the hands of law enforcement, and spent seven years on chain gangs. During that time he met the undaunted Patsy, who would become his wife. Years later, at the age of fifty-one and with Patsy’s encouragement, he started drawing and painting scenes from his youth using leather tooling skills he learned in priso Winfred Rembert grew up in a family of Georgia field laborers and joined the Civil Rights Movement as a teenager. He was arrested after fleeing a demonstration, survived a near-lynching at the hands of law enforcement, and spent seven years on chain gangs. During that time he met the undaunted Patsy, who would become his wife. Years later, at the age of fifty-one and with Patsy’s encouragement, he started drawing and painting scenes from his youth using leather tooling skills he learned in prison. As he pays tribute, exuberant and heartfelt, to Cuthbert’s Black community and the people, including Patsy, who helped him to find the courage to revisit a traumatic past, Rembert brings to life the promise and the danger of Civil Rights protest, the brutalities of incarceration, his search for his mother’s love, and the epic bond he found with Patsy. [amazon synopsis] That about says it all. I am not a fan of the art, but recognize the impact it has.

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