|The Pulitzer-Prize winning poet Tracy K. Smith, hailed for her “extraordinary range and ambition” (NYT,) has published a quietly potent memoir that explores coming-of-age and the meaning of home against a complex backdrop of race, faith, and the unbreakable bond between a mother and daughter. We invite you to a reading.The youngest of five children, Tracy Smith was raised with limitless affection and a firm belief in God by a stay-at-home mother and an engineer father. But just as Tracy is about to leave home for college, her mother is diagnosed with cancer, a condition she accepts as part of God’s plan. Ordinary Light is the story of a young woman struggling to fashion her own understanding of belief, loss, history, and what it means to be black in America.In lucid, clear prose, Smith interrogates her childhood in suburban California, her first experience of independence at Harvard, and her Alabama-born parents’ recollections of their own youth in the Civil Rights era. These dizzying juxtapositions—of her family’s past, her own comfortable present, and the promise of her future—will in due course compel Tracy Smith to act on her passion for “ecstatic possibility,” and her desire to become a writer.
Shot through with exquisite lyricism, wry humor, and an acute awareness of the beauty of everyday life, Ordinary Light is a kaleidoscope of self and family, one that skillfully combines a child’s and teenager’s perceptions with adult retrospection. Here is a universal story of being and becoming, a classic portrait of the ways we find and lose ourselves amid the places we call home.
Tracy K. Smith is the author of the acclaimed poetry collections The Body’s Questions,Duende, and Life on Mars, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. She has received a Whiting Writers’ Award and a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, and currently teaches at Princeton University.