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Book Corner
“White Gloves and Collards”
Virginia Lawrence | Caminito Del Rocio

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Reading Del Mar resident Helen Kaufmann’s “White Gloves and Collards” immediately after “Gone with the Wind” was a coincidence. “Gone with the Wind” is set in the deep South during the upheaval and aftermath of the Civil War. Eighty years later in Edenton, North Carolina, where Kaufmann was born, Southerners were still dealing with a changing society. Attitudes in Edenton were more veiled than in 19th Century Georgia, but nevertheless similar.

Rather than write her story from her adult perspective on race relations, Kaufmann decided to write ” White Gloves and Collards” from the perspective of herself as a growing child. Her writing style is wonderfully spare. She tells you only what you need to know in order that you discover for yourself the points she wants to make.

“Our coloreds are happy,” [declared] Aunt Mag soon after we arrived at her house for Friday night dinner. “Those young coloreds marched right in and took a seat on the lunch counter stools, just like they owned the place. Can you imagine such a thing?” I was only a fourth grader at the time and not quite sure what a sit-in was, but the distress in my great-aunt’s voice got my attention. [Mag had other strong opinions.] She couldn’t stand a Supreme Court judge named Earl Warren. “He and that court of his have no business telling us how to treat our coloreds,” she once said as [her colored maid] Lucy cleared the table.

Kaufmann did not interview anyone at all for her book; she wanted It to be her own. When asked why she had decided that her observations had to be age-appropriate, she explained that she wanted to remember how she had felt growing up, and how she had grown and changed. Having married a Bostonian, she had brought her own children to Edenton every summer. The children had seen it as a playground, but as they grew she wanted them to have a more nuanced picture.

“White Gloves and Collards” is Kaufmann’s first book. She signed up for a memoir writing class at UCSD in 2006 shortly after moving to Del Mar and then participated in two writing groups, one of which she helped form. It took her six years to complete her memoir.

Kaufmann and her husband married on the east Coast and then in 1994 moved to Silicon Valley. In 2006 they moved again and are now settled in Del Mar on Condesa Drive.

“White Gloves and Collards” is available on Amazon in different formats, including Kindle.

 

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