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Southern Discomfort: A Memoir
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Southern Discomfort: A Memoir

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  267 ratings  ·  52 reviews
For readers of beloved memoirs like Educated and The Glass Castle, a riveting and profoundly moving memoir set in rural Mississippi during the Civil Rights era about a white girl coming of age in a repressive society and the woman who gave her the strength to forge her own path—the black nanny who cared for her.

Tena Clark was born in 1953 in a tiny Mississippi town close
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published October 2nd 2018 by Touchstone
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Diane S ☔
Jan 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
"My roots ran deep into the red earth; the land felt as much a part of me as my limbs, my heart. I hated it with a fury. I loved it with an all-consuming passion. This is the great paradox of the South. It's a Savage place, a complicated place, and yet it still burrows into you, like the fangs of one of the water moccasins I used to hunt as a young girl down the Chickasawhay River behind our farm. There's a venom in the soil. But there's an alluring beauty to it as well"

Teny grew up in Waynesbor
Aug 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Clark grew up in the Jim Crow South with an alcoholic, largely absent mother and a cheating, pride-driven, successful father who is as mean as a snake. Add to this volatile mix, a daughter who does not fit the mold of Southern Belle and you might imagine what ignites. She loves ferociously and is guided through her childhood by a magnanimous and loving black housekeeper who provides stability for the frequently abandoned child. Clark tries, she really does, to be the person her family wishes her ...more
Dec 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: for-review
Very interesting memoir about a girl who was the youngest in a family of four girls who grew up down south and expected to be "southern belles". But what happens when your mother is an alcoholic and your father is a philandering man, and you feel that you don't fit into their perfect southern world.

Tena Clark grew up in a typical southern household in USA with an african american surrogate nanny who virtually brought her up as her mother couldn't cope and sought solace in a bottle. You felt like
Megan Bell
Aug 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
At turns heartwarming, horrifying, comic, and eye-opening, this memoir, like the Southern family it chronicles, defies easy definition. Whether it’s her mother’s high-speed car shoot-out of her father and his mistress, the powerful mothering the family’s black maid Vergie shows her, or Tena’s coming out to this wild cast of characters, Tena Clark’s memoir of growing up in Jim Crow Mississippi touches on issues of racism, sexuality, family, and the hair-pulling complexities of the South.
Sep 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
Take one rural Mississippi town. Mix with a bigoted, wealthy, gun-toting, skirt-chasing, controlling father. Add in a stubborn, alcoholic, drug addicted mother. Blend with a warm effusive black housekeeper who is like a "second mamma". Fold in a gay lonely child with her three older beauty pageant sisters and you get Southern Discomfort. This compelling and engrossing novel kept me captivated for hours. The author, a Grammy award winning songwriter and producer, has created a novel full of warts ...more
Sep 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018-arcs
Tena Clark grew up in rural Mississippi during the Civil Rights era, living in a small town that had deep racial divides and no interest in changing things because "that's just the way it is." As one of the daughters of the wealthiest man in town, she was expected to live her life a certain way, but she rebelled against it, determined to live her life the way she chose, no matter what.

Southern Discomfort takes the reader back a time when men were the breadwinners while women were meant to stay h
Jeanne Boudreau
Nov 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
It’s hard to rate a memoir because you are saying you like someone’s life or you didn’t. Well, this was one dysfunctional family! A skirt chasing dad, an alcoholic mom who went after her husband with a .38 when she was tired of his infidelities, which was more often than not,the southern racial divide all lead to a disastrous childhood. Somehow Tena survived, thrived, made a success of herself and forgave her parents. It’s an interesting read. Your family will probably seem quite normal compared ...more
Oct 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I'm utterly floored.

The back of the ARC - I haven't seen the finished book, so I don't know if it's the same - says this is like The Help but with more guns and alcohol, yet is even more touching. There's no better way to summarize this memoir. The prose is absolutely magnificent. I was completely sucked in to the story. Every scene is perfectly vivid and expertly depicted. I Don't usually cry when reading books, let alone memoirs, but this had me weeping. Highly, highly recommend.
Blue Cypress Books
Oct 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
While this life story is definitely Ms. Clark's unique story, she brings all the best shades of Rick Bragg and Jeannette Walls to this most excellent memoir. Highly recommend.
Eileen Campbell
Oct 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a beautiful memoir of growing up in the Deep South in perhaps its most tumultuous period other than the Civil War. Tena Clark takes us into her home and life in a way that allows us to experience all the beauty and pathos that she grew up with. Highly recommended read!
Dec 14, 2018 rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this far more than I did, but I found the writing to be grating. While the damage Clark suffered at the hands of a violent and manipulative father, and a negligent alcoholic mother is surely substantial, I found her to be infuriatingly clueless about the depth of the danger she placed her beloved Virgie and Cindy in, in the name of her fantasy of being a crusading hero. Though in some cases she was a minor, she was old enough to know that it was not all about her.
Sometimes she
Hannah Safer
Aug 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 23, 2018 added it
Shelves: for-work
If this was submitted as a novel it would be rejected on the grounds of being too out-there to be believable. Tena’s family is one for the ages.
Paul Pessolano
Aug 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
“Southern Discomfort” by Tena Clark, published by Touchstone.

Category – Memoir Publication Date – October 02, 2018.

Tena Clark grew up in rural Mississippi in the 1950’s. Her mother was a town beauty who married a young man who had little to show for himself, except an uncanny sense of business. Her father literally owned the town and the Clark’s were, by far, the wealthiest people in town. One would think that Tena would have lived a life of luxury and happiness; after all she was given a brand
Stephanie Stennett
Aug 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Firstly I had no idea who Tena Clark is. Big in music and to some extent theatre. So wasn't reading because *she* wrote it.
I still don't think it covers much new ground. Feels pretty typical "here's my crazy southern childhood." Grits and guns! And lots of booze. An abusive father who is still loved and respected until his death. (I don't care if he is revealed to have done lots of secret magnanimous things after his death. He was still a bully, a womanizer, a cheating husband, a child abuser,
Sandy Reilly
"It's like The Help, but with more guns and alcohol." The only thing I would add to this pitch from Tena Clark's agent is to throw in a bit of Steel Magnolias, some Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, and a smidge of Go Set a Watchman. Yes, it's that dramatic.

Clark's true account of growing up in the South with a filthy rich philanderer for a father and a fiercely outlandish alcoholic for a mother would make such a perfect movie that readers will be torn being sympathetic for all she went th
Jul 30, 2018 rated it liked it
This same story cast in a slightly different light could make a modern Southern Gothic memoir. I think many families are slightly bonkers, but Clark's family has that extra bonus of being monied, white, and Southern which gave them entree into being especially excessive, in a fact is stranger than fiction way. Clark's childhood views of racial inequality are poignant and sometimes bittersweet. (Note to book clubs - read this.) (Note to Hollywood - make a movie out of this please.)
Julianne Godoy
Jul 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Would give this 3.5 for the writing if possible. A really great read though, and an incredible story. Felt like The Help meets The Glass Castle meets To Kill A Mockingbird. Would recommend to those who enjoyed the previous books listed!
Jun 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Would do 3.5 if I could. Looking forward to discussing.
Aug 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Yikes! Surviving in a generationally dysfunctional family but still have congenial relations. This is that story.
Erika Babineau
This is a complicated book.
I feel like the description is totally misleading. It should say: This is a story about a girl growing up in a dysfunctional family in a small, Southern town in the midst of the Jim Crow era. Full stop.
I had far more trouble with this book, as a Black woman, than I did with The Help. Yes, this book is a memoir, but Ms. Clark doesn't seem to do any self-reflection. Does she ever truly understand the danger she put Cindy in during the incident with the KKK? Does she eve
Kathy Ridenour
Oct 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing

If I could give Tena Clark's book Southern Discomfort a 10 I would. I received my book in the mail just this afternoon and once I started reading it I couldn't stop until I finished it. It is a riveting, true life story that pulls you into Tena's life so strong that you actually feel like she is sitting beside you telling you her story in person. Tena is one gutsy lady to have lived the life that she lived and not only survive it, but flourish in spite of it. Who would dare as a teenager to stan
Dec 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was completely fascinated with this book; actually read the last few pages while frying okra! How Southern is that? I knew of Tena as I went to school in Waynesboro for 6 months 1968/1969. I recall her playing the drums which was unique for a girl at the time. I am very happy to see she has succeeded as a world renowned musician and business professional.

Everything she writes about living in Waynesboro during that time is spot on! I recall being a newcomer to town and surprised the schools wer
Oct 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I overheard someone describe this book as “The Help” with guns and, oh by the way, guess what, it’s true! I loved it!
I haven’t read a book in a long time that was so compelling a read that I couldn’t put it down. Ms. Clark’s words provoked brilliant imagery of what seemed like an idyllic happy southern small-town privileged childhood. I can just see little Ms. Tena walking hand in hand with her sweet Virgie, the black nanny who lovingly cared for her.
There is humor, and beauty in her journey.
Nov 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
My copy was given to my daughter by the author after a lecture to her university class. I had previously heard Clark's interview on an Atlanta public radio station, so I knew what was in store. In the interview, Clark revealed how she had been mentored by Stevie Wonder against her father's wishes, but this part of her life isn't covered in the book. Much of her life outside Mississippi is skimmed over, not unreasonably since her life in Waynesboro and her family are the crux of the memoir.

As one
Catherine Mincy
Nov 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
While the gentrified old south Mississippi that Clark writes of is very different from foothills of the Appalachian northeast Mississippi where I grew up and live today, what she writes is authentic and accurate.

Clark is also 15 years older than me. However, I am thankful that she wrote this book and gives voice to so many people I know who grew up with similar experiences.

I wanted to laugh at points because I recognized behavior that so many outsiders would find outlandish and unbelievable. (A
Kim Swartz
Dec 14, 2018 rated it liked it
A first person account of growing up in the Deep South during the 1950s and 60’s. Underneath the thin veneer of southern hospitality lies a lot of ugliness. The guns, the alcohol, the Klan operating in the open as if it was the Rotary Club. The entire populace of Tena Clark’s hometown seemed unable to move beyond the smothering oppression of patriarchy, bigotry and twisted religious fervor. As Tena shared all the personal dysfunction of her family I kept wondering how much could be tied to the o ...more
Dec 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I chose this for my book club to read. The story, the writer, the voice of the writer -- blew us all away. We do not always agree. During the reading of the book, I got updates from the women in my club, raving. When the memoir was done, I got a few crying ovation phone calls.

The characters, Tena's mother and father were so developed that I felt I stepped into her life -- growing up in the south in the civil rights era. Tena found love and solace in her relationship with her African American na
Nov 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Memoirs are moving up my ladder of favorite genres, and this is a good one. What a great story, filled with interesting and colorful characters, in a setting that is troublesome and rife with tension. At times I was shaking my head at the horrors I was reading about -- and the fact that the racial segregation in that area continued so late, was shocking. Growing up in So Cal not much later than she did was amazingly different. Tena's life story flows along at a perfect pace and I was riveted. Th ...more
Patsy S
Jan 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was fantastic! As I listened to the audiobook read by the author, Tena Clark I literally felt like I was experiencing everything she did. She spoke every line with such true passion that I felt every emotion she felt. Tena's voice carries you right to where she is.

If you experienced your own version of the discomforts of southern living as I did, you will surely love this story that is so well written and spoken.

I could not stop listening and I didn't want it to end.

God bless you, Tena
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From the Author's website:

What musical touchstone does President Barack Obama share with Aretha Franklin, dubbed the greatest singer of the rock era by Rolling Stone Magazine? The answer is the expertise of Tena Clark. A musical compass has guided Clark from humble beginnings as a drummer and engineer in rural Mississippi, to being discovered by Stevie Wonder and mentored in Hollywood. She has wri
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