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Download The Grace of Silence: A Memoir Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample The Grace of Silence: A Memoir Audiobook, by Michele Norris Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (914 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Michele Norris Narrator: Michele Norris Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: September 2010 ISBN: 9780307748928
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In the wake of talk of a “postracial” America upon Barack Obama’s ascension as president of the United States, Michele Norris, cohost of National Public Radio’s flagship program All Things Considered, set out to write, through original reporting, a book about “the hidden conversation” on race that is unfolding nationwide. She would, she thought, base her book on the frank disclosures of others on the subject, but she was soon disabused of her presumption when forced to confront the fact that “the conversation” in her own family had not been forthright.
Norris unearthed painful family secrets that compelled her to question her own self-understanding: from her father’s shooting by a Birmingham police officer weeks after his discharge from the navy at the conclusion of World War II to her maternal grandmother’s peddling pancake mix as an itinerant Aunt Jemima to white farm women in the Midwest. In what became a profoundly personal and bracing journey into her family’s past, Norris traveled from her childhood home in Minneapolis to her ancestral roots in the Deep South to explore the reasons for the “things left unsaid” by her father and mother when she was growing up, the better to come to terms with her own identity. Along the way she discovered how her character was forged by both revelation and silence.
Extraordinary for Norris’s candor in examining her own racial legacy and what it means to be an American, The Grace of Silence is also informed by rigorous research in its evocation of time and place, scores of interviews with ordinary folk, and wise observations about evolving attitudes, at once encouraging and disturbing, toward race in America today. For its particularity and universality, it is powerfully moving, a tour de force. Download and start listening now!


Quotes & Awards

  • “Revelatory, heart-piercing.”

    Baltimore Sun

  • “Beguiling…Powerful…Her well-rounded view of the world demonstrates wisdom given by her strong, intelligent mother and her hard-working, proud father.”

    Louisville Courier-Journal

  • “Jaw-dropping. Can’t put down…Riveting…[Norris] uses her signature calm and steady voice to open up about her complicated relatives.”


  • “An open and honest examination of race relations in her family’s and the country’s past.”

    Chicago Tribune

  • “Exquisite…[A] rich account of family history.”

    Seattle Times

  • “Powerful and heartbreaking…[Norris] explores race within her family history while tracing its complex legacy in the United States.”

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • “A deeply personal reflection on what her parents and grandparents did and did not tell her about her history and identity as a black woman…A fresh and candid reflection on this most important conversation.”

    Minneapolis Star Tribune

  • “Gracefully written and carefully researched, it offers up long-buried family secrets as a testimony to racism’s power and reach.”

    Los Angeles Times

  • “A powerful plea to readers to doggedly pursue their families’ story lines. She reminds us that speaking candidly about race in America starts not at the president’s teleprompter but at our own dinner tables.”

    Washington Post

  • An insightful, elegant rendering of how the history of an American family illuminates the history of our country. Toni Morrison
  • A riveting, inspiring memoir of an at once singular and representative American family. Norris takes us on a painful yet triumphant journey of self-discovery. She relies on her formidable skills as an investigative reporter to unearth shocking family secrets kept from her by her father and mother when she was growing up. Feeling hurt and betrayed, she learns that their lack of forthrightness allowed her to rise in a country haunted by its racial past. Powerful and tender, The Grace of Silence reveals our human complexity in exemplary fashion. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., University Professor and Director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute, Harvard University, and author of Colored People
  • History at its best is about telling stories—stories about people who lived before, about events in the past that create the contours of the present…In the hands of a gifted storyteller, a memoir becomes more than a chronicle of the writer’s life. It becomes the history of a time and a place. So it is with this magnificent memoir—one of the most eloquent, moving and insightful memoirs I have ever read. Doris Kearns Goodwin, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and author of the New York Times bestseller Team of Rivals
  • Michele Norris takes us on a riveting personal journey from north to south and back again through the tangled landscape of race in America—and teaches anew about the pain and possibilities of our past and future. Tom Brokaw, author of New York Times bestsellers The Greatest Generation and Boom
  • A soaring memoir that pays powerful tribute to the quiet and dignified heroes among us. Norris’ remarkable family, and her courageous journey to tell their story, creates an inspiring portrait of America that will stay with you forever. I loved this book. 
                —Dave Isay, founder of StoryCorps
  • In this exquisite memoir, Michele Norris turns her formidable powers of interviewing and storytelling onto her toughest subjects: herself, her family, and this country’s scar tissue. What follows is a journey of discovery into some of the darkest corners and brightest stars of the greatest generation. The Grace of Silence is sometimes raw, often gripping, and always graceful. A remarkably moving and enriching experience. Richard Wolffe, author New York Times bestseller Renegade: The Making of a President
  • A revealing, affectionate and sometimes painful memoir which dispenses with stereotype to get to the heart of what makes a family. Gwen Ifill, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer
  • A 2010 San Francisco Chronicle Best Book for Nonfiction
  • One of the 2010 Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books for Memoir

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jan | 2/20/2014

    " "How well do you know the people who raised you? . . . Look around at your loved ones, especially the elders. . . . If you don't already know the answers, the people who raised you will most likely remain a mystery, unless you take the bold step and say: Tell me more about yourself. . . . There is grace in silence, and power to be had from listening to that which, more often than not, was left unsaid." "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Debbe | 2/5/2014

    " I heard the author speak at LFPL. Good book and excellent speaker. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Peggy Jeffcoat | 1/21/2014

    " This memoir by the journalist Michele Norris is a thought provoking book about growing up black and about what her parents endured in their childhoods in the South. It is probably a 3+. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tom | 1/1/2014

    " I liked it because it didn't feel like a 'famous person's' memoir; it came across as honest, unassuming, and straightforward. In the same way, the historical context she gives is sufficient without being overly detailed or preachy. As a result, some of her insights and observations seem more poignant and moving than they might otherwise be. Worth a read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Andy Plonka | 12/19/2013

    " I have sort of a love hate relationship with this book. While I sympathize with the plight of her grandparents, who struggled as blacks to be good neighbors in an all white neighborhood in Minneapolis at a time when segregation though technically illegal was openly practiced. However there were too many references to black oppression by whites as if the blacks were the only segment of the population that was or is discriminated against. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sarah | 12/12/2013

    " nothing especially new or insightful. it kind of felt like she was forcing a message out of an experience her father had. but as a reporter she probably was avoiding adding fluff that other memoirs have these days. i like npr a lot so it felt a little like listening to an extended piece on there. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mary Peterson | 1/3/2013

    " Really well done. I enjoy listening to Michele Norris & in reading her book I can see how her upbringing lead to the success she has today. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Autumn | 12/22/2012

    " Though occasionally slow in getting there, Silence helped me to understand the complexity of racism during and after WWII. The shooting for Norris's father wasn't "just" an act of hatred; it was part of a much much larger picture. Thanks for giving me much to chew on. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Erika | 9/1/2012

    " After reading this book, I want to hear the stories of my own relatives. Well written, very engaging. Highly recommend for anyone to read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sheyna Galyan | 6/30/2012

    " Opens the door to talk about race in America in a new way. Beautifully written! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mary Ann | 2/24/2012

    " Beautifully written. Provides history of the treatment of African Americans in the South - particularly in Alabama - in the 1940s and beyond. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lisa Ruminski | 1/27/2012

    " An insightful and moving read about family secrets...and the price we pay for them. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Doreen | 12/9/2011

    " Thoughtful, challenging. I really enjoyed her personal reflections and honesty about the subject of race in America through her father's story. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jean Kelly | 6/3/2011

    " The author presents a loving story about her family and the difficulty of Black men in America who served their country in WW II and came home to Jim Crow laws unchanged. Silence about the difficulties of this situation was the answer of her family members to maintain their pride and grace. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Gayla | 5/7/2011

    " What a tribute to her father. This book had a very graceful flow and I enjoyed it thoroughly. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Cathy | 4/29/2011

    " A very personal story about learning about one's family behind the persona. It is an excellent look at race in our society and how our history changes us all. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Paulette | 4/27/2011

    " Michele Norris of NPR wrote this book about the hidden conversations on race and ended up unearthing painful family secrets that compelled her to question her own self-understanding. Another view point on race--this time from the point of view of a solid middle class MN family. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sara | 3/3/2011

    " This really made for some interesting discussions with my husband. Very thought-provoking, there are so many facets of 'race' I've never thought about before. The audio version is great...her voice is so soothing. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Emily | 2/10/2011

    " just couldn't really get through it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mariel | 2/9/2011

    " Already a fan of NPR's Michele Norris, I found The Grace of Silence to be a well-researched book that took a frank and insightful look into the effects of integration on contemporary America. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Beth/Sr. Elizabeth | 2/1/2011

    " Beautifully written story about her own family. Racism is, unfortunately, alive and well in this country today. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sue | 1/31/2011

    " In some ways a companion to Henrietta Lacks. Norris's family is unremarkable, but marked nonetheless by the prejudices and mores of both southern and northern America in the mid-20th century. "

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About the Author
Author Michele Norris

Michele Norris, cohost of All Things Considered, is cowinner of the Alfred I. du Pont-Columbia University Award for The York Project: Race and the ’08 Vote and was chosen in 2009 as Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists. She has written for, among other publications, the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and Los Angeles Times. As a correspondent for ABC News from 1993 to 2002, she earned Emmy and Peabody awards for her contribution to the network’s 9/11 reporting. She has been a frequent guest commentator on Meet the Press, The Chris Matthews Show, and Charlie Rose. Norris lives in Washington, DC, with her husband and children.