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Reviewed by Tammy Ruggles for Readers' Favorite
These Walls Between Us: A Memoir of Friendship across Race and Class by Wendy Sanford is an important, moving memoir for our times, based on a friendship that was never meant to be, but flourished nevertheless. Set in New England in the 1950s, Mary White (now Mary Norman) was a 15-year-old African American when she began working for 12-year-old Wendy's family as a live-in domestic. Their racial differences created a divide not meant for friendship, but in time, a friendship and long-term connection was forged that rose above race. As adults, they found themselves divorced with children. Mary was a corrections officer and Wendy was a feminist activist in the health field. Their friendship rekindled as they took nighttime walks on the beach, discussing their families, careers, and friendship.
Sanford's story is a fresh take on the memoir genre, as it seeks to relay and understand the societal forces that shaped her friendship with Mary. It demonstrates the valuable lesson that race doesn't matter when it comes to friendship, but it also goes back to explain how race relations were in past decades. I love that this account is based on letters, texts, phone calls, and personal visits between the two, and I appreciate that Wendy made an effort to understand Mary's situation the best she could. Racial inequality and injustice still occur, and this book should go a long way in exploring and illustrating that. You will find deep emotion in their story, as well as honest commentary on politics, culture, and relationships. I like that the people in this narrative come across as real, complex, and all too human, including the descriptions of the differences between classes. There are many things to like about this book, but something that impressed me is the growth of Mary and Wendy. A powerful memoir on race and an unlikely friendship. "She said that honest relationships between white women and Black women could forward the hard work of racial healing" is one of my favorite lines. These Walls Between Us: A Memoir of Friendship across Race and Class by Wendy Sanford is one you won't want to miss.