GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Sarah Bracey White has been so busy living her life as a educator, motivational speaker and writer that it came as somewhat of a surprise that the life she was living should be the subject of a book.
Bracey White, the Director of Greenburgh Arts and Culture, shares the first 17 years of her extraordinary life in the coming-of-age memoir "Primary Lessons," the first of a ambitious, courageous and long overdue three-part work she plans to write. She will read from her book at the Greenburgh Public Library Tuesday at 7 p.m.
"Portions of this book were included in a family novel I wrote years ago -- a novel I could not sell," Bracey White said. "Back then, I was afraid to write my true story. I finally wrote "Primary Lessons" in an effort to understand my ambiguous relationship with my mother. I worked on it for about four years."
The author's life journey includes her work as a librarian, teacher, arts consultant, motivational speaker and the author of "Feelings Brought to Surface," a poetry collection.
While the author kept her audience waiting for closer glimpses into who she was, life, which began in Sumter, South Carolina, was filled with great change, stark revelations and a successful career. Bracey White recalls growing up in a poor, single-parent household where she was subject the racism of Jim Crow segregation and family problems. She longed for the better life she found on the pages of the first books she read.
"I never kept a journal," she said. "However, because I never expected "Primary Lessons" to be published, I just told my story as I remembered it. I wrote mostly between 8 and 11 pm, when I was too tired to lie. Nothing racy happens in it, but readers say I've been extremely honest about my life."
Portions of "Primary Lessons" were previously anthologized in her "Children of the Dream," "Dreaming in Color, Living in Black and White," "Aunties" and "35 Writers Celebrate Their Other Mother."
A section from the memoir was staged by the Hudson Valley Writers Center. The New York Times, The Baltimore Afro-American Newspapers, The Scarsdale Inquirer and The Journal News also have published many of her essays. Her award-winning folk tale, "Wanderlust." was published on the web by WomenWriters.net. She was a 2010/2011 Inaugural Fellow at the Purchase College Writers Center.
Bracey White said "Primary Lessons" is as intimate as her vivid memories would allow despite not having planned to write the book. She expects adults to relate to her experience and hopes the book will also tough young minds.
"This is not a young people's book, even though it can be read by young adults," she said. "However, I recently did a reading to the advanced students in a program I designed called 'The Kids' Short Story Connection.'
"After my reading, one student came up to me and said that she had wanted to write a memoir, but was hesitant. She said I had inspired her to write it. I reached my 60s before I had the courage to tell my truths. I hope my memoir will motivate older adults to tell their stories too."