My Soul Looks Back
In this captivating new memoir, award-winning writer Jessica B. Harris recalls a lost era—the vibrant New York City of her youth, where her social circle included Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, and other members of the Black intelligentsia.In the Technicolor glow of the early seventies, Jessica B. Harris debated, celebrated, and danced her way from the jazz clubs of the Manhattan's West Side to the restaurants of the Village, living out her buoyant youth alongside the great minds of the day—luminaries like Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, and Toni Morrison. My Soul Looks Back is her paean to that fascinating social circle and the depth of their shared commitment to activism, intellectual engagement, and each other.Harris paints evocative portraits of her illustrious friends: Baldwin as he read aloud an early draft of If Beale Street Could Talk, Angelou cooking in her California kitchen, and Morrison relaxing at Baldwin’s house in Provence. Harris describes her role as theater critic for the New York Amsterdam News and editor at then burgeoning Essence magazine; star-studded parties in the South of France; drinks at Mikell’s, a hip West Side club; and the simple joy these extraordinary people took in each other’s company. The book is framed by Harris’s relationship with Sam Floyd, a fellow professor at Queens College, who introduced her to Baldwin.More than a memoir of friendship and first love My Soul Looks Back is a carefully crafted, intimately understood homage to a bygone era and the people that made it so remarkable.

My Soul Looks Back Details

TitleMy Soul Looks Back
Author
FormatHardcover
ReleaseMay 9th, 2017
PublisherScribner
ISBN1501125907
ISBN-139781501125904
Number of pages272 pages
Rating
GenreAutobiography, Memoir, Nonfiction, New York, Biography

My Soul Looks Back Review

  • Sara
    March 6, 2017
    Read for work. I had never heard of her before, and now I'm on a Jessica B. Harris binge. James Baldwin and the entire black literary/cultural scene of Manhattan in the 70s (with visits to Hait, West Africa and the South of France), food, Greenwich Village when a beginner journalist could afford to live there... this is one of those memoirs that I imagine the author's friends have been telling her to write for years.
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  • Kristine
    May 12, 2017
    My Soul Looks Back by Jessica B. Harris is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early May.An extremely intuitive 1970s memoir in Manhattan with precise, local detail. I had really geeked out over the mention of James Baldwin being part of the author's circle of creative, sage, intellectual friends (since I just watched the documentary, I Am Not Your Negro). The author gains entry into this circle by way of Samuel Clemons Floyd III's involvement in the SEEK program (dates him and shares his inte My Soul Looks Back by Jessica B. Harris is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early May.An extremely intuitive 1970s memoir in Manhattan with precise, local detail. I had really geeked out over the mention of James Baldwin being part of the author's circle of creative, sage, intellectual friends (since I just watched the documentary, I Am Not Your Negro). The author gains entry into this circle by way of Samuel Clemons Floyd III's involvement in the SEEK program (dates him and shares his interests of sonorous gospel music, poetry, and golf) and attends/hosts flush & lush dinner parties. Recipes for New Years' kale, ten-boy curry. She describes her childhood, family, upbringing, going to United Nations International School (learns French), High School of Performing Arts, and Bryn Mawr; travels to Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, Haiti, Cote d'Ivoire (initially called a bitch by Nina Simone, but quickly recruited as a personal assistant once she finds that the author knows French). Sam's dies from complications of AIDS in the late 1980s and mourns him with Maya Angelou. The book finishes with aftermaths/postscripts on each member of her social circle.
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  • Erin
    May 31, 2017
    Ms. Harris (who I had never heard of prior to this book) wrote a memoir about having a seat at the cool kids' table. During 1970's New York City where icons-in-the-making like James Baldwin and Maya Angelou were members of an elite group of African American artists during a time when intelligence, creativity and activism were at its peak. While being surrounded by such creativity is worth recalling any chance you get, her story could have been better told as an essay in the New Yorker. After abo Ms. Harris (who I had never heard of prior to this book) wrote a memoir about having a seat at the cool kids' table. During 1970's New York City where icons-in-the-making like James Baldwin and Maya Angelou were members of an elite group of African American artists during a time when intelligence, creativity and activism were at its peak. While being surrounded by such creativity is worth recalling any chance you get, her story could have been better told as an essay in the New Yorker. After about 35 pages of "I knew James Baldwin" I couldn't finish.If this kind of book is of interest to you, keep an eye out for my debut novel, "I Once Saw LeBron James At Chipotle".
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  • Michelle Kidwell
    May 8, 2017
    My Soul Looks BackA Memoirby Jessica B. HarrisScribnerBiographies & MemoirsPub Date 09 May 2017 I am voluntarily reviewing My Soul Looks Back through the Publishers and Netgalley:In this new memoir award winning author Jessica B. Harriss recalls the vibrant New York of her youth. She talks about the city before AIDS and the economic downturn. She tells of a circle of friends that included James Baldwin,In the seventies, she was friends with the great minds of the day Toni Morrison, Maya Ange My Soul Looks BackA Memoirby Jessica B. HarrisScribnerBiographies & MemoirsPub Date 09 May 2017 I am voluntarily reviewing My Soul Looks Back through the Publishers and Netgalley:In this new memoir award winning author Jessica B. Harriss recalls the vibrant New York of her youth. She talks about the city before AIDS and the economic downturn. She tells of a circle of friends that included James Baldwin,In the seventies, she was friends with the great minds of the day Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou.I give My Soul Looks Back five out of five stars.Happy Reading...
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  • Susan
    May 23, 2017
    Don't want to give anything away but love, love this book--the 1970s in New York and Paris with this iconic circle of friends--page by page you share amazing meals with them and literature and trips all over the world. Music, food, liquor and friendship in the 1970s--a destination read. There are incredible recipes sprinkled in throughout the book [can we still buy ham hocks?] and a music list at the end for each chapter! This book is so special! My Soul Looks Back: A Memoir
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  • Judie Johnson
    May 29, 2017
    great book. I loved this book and Ms. Harris' writing 💖. Gave me a new / different aspect of two of my favorite people / icons of my youth....James Baldwin & Maya Angelou 😊. Ms Harris has had a truly blessed life, and I feel blessed she shared it with me!
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  • Read In Colour
    May 16, 2017
    An amazing memoir of the author's time in James Baldwin's inner circle of friends that included Maya Angelou, Rosa Guy, Paule Marshall, Toni Morrison and other literary wonders.
  • Darcysmom
    April 22, 2017
    I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley for free in exchange for an honest review. Jessica Harris has written a delicious memoir about her time with Sam Floyd and the entree that gave her to a circle of friends that is legendary. From James Baldwin to Maya Angelou and most of the African American intelligentsia of the 1970s forward, she was a part of a truly vibrant time in art, writing, and other creative endeavors.I really enjoyed the personal tone of the book. It was juicy without becom I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley for free in exchange for an honest review. Jessica Harris has written a delicious memoir about her time with Sam Floyd and the entree that gave her to a circle of friends that is legendary. From James Baldwin to Maya Angelou and most of the African American intelligentsia of the 1970s forward, she was a part of a truly vibrant time in art, writing, and other creative endeavors.I really enjoyed the personal tone of the book. It was juicy without becoming mean or gossipy. I loved that each chapter ended with a recipe - it tied her academic interests beautifully with her personal life and how important shared meals were.I read this book in one sitting. I didn't have the self-control to pace myself and savor each chapter. I plan to re-read it more slowly in the near future.
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  • gnarlyhiker
    May 11, 2017
    Straight as an arrow shooting forward memoir. The recipes added are nice touch. good luck**ARC/publisher/NetGalley
  • Justin
    March 25, 2017
    I have to admit that I had to look up who Jessica B Harris is as I was not familiar with her work, but the book description drove me to want to read the book. Harris has had so many interactions with really famous African American authors of the 70s, whom she considered friends. It was really incredible. Then she herself becomes a famous cookbook author! When I found that out, the structure of the book made a whole lot more sense as each chapter ends with a recipe that reflects the chapter.This I have to admit that I had to look up who Jessica B Harris is as I was not familiar with her work, but the book description drove me to want to read the book. Harris has had so many interactions with really famous African American authors of the 70s, whom she considered friends. It was really incredible. Then she herself becomes a famous cookbook author! When I found that out, the structure of the book made a whole lot more sense as each chapter ends with a recipe that reflects the chapter.This is an interesting biography that just slightly borders a bit of name dropping, but that is hard to avoid as she knew people like James Baldwin because of friends in her life. The good news is the biography never actually drops into the name dropping place. It is a great look into her life and what life was like for an African American woman navigating the 70s/80s. I really enjoyed it. I rated it 4 stars.I wish to thank NetGalley for the advanced copy. I received it in exchange for an honest review.
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