Story on Nashville Public Radio

On the day of the Parnassus event, Nashville Public Radio reporter Emily Siner spent the morning interviewing Ann Walling and Andrea Scott.

Below is the result of those interviews: Emily’s sensitive and well-told story, highlighting excerpts from Ann’s and Andrea’s writing, the story of their new friendship, and the beginnings of a candid dialogue between them about race and history, culture and class, and ongoing inequality of opportunity.

You can hear that story here.

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Reflections on a Visit

Annn & Andrea chairs 2

Andrea Scott:

I wasn’t sure what to expect as I drove up to the home of someone I’d never met, but with whom I still felt acquainted. My husband and I drove up from Valdosta late on Friday night, our eyes glued open by 7 hours of adrenaline, tired but ready to see what the next phase of this journey would bring.

When I walked into Ann Walling’s house that night, I could tell she was just as nervous and excited as I was. Surprisingly, we all were quite comfortable around each other and conversed as acquaintances that hadn’t seen each other in a while.

Saturday morning, Ms. Walling and I sat down to talk with Emily Siner, a reporter at Nashville Public Radio. I remember one of her final questions was something like, “How do you both feel sitting here? How have your conversations been?”

I have gotten what I prayed we both would gain from our meeting: just the blessing in it all.

We both agreed that we’ve always been quite comfortable during and after each conversation. Just sitting and talking with each other felt “normal.” I can’t help but feel that some of that familiarity is thanks to the spirits of our grandmothers. It has been reported they, too, could sit together, being just as connected as they were worlds apart.

The book signing that afternoon was an amazing experience. Sharing the stage with Ms. Walling was an honor. I am forever grateful for the invitation and the opportunity. To be able to voice my perspective on behalf of my revered ancestor, and really, a race of people, gave me a glimpse of hope that I’m not sure I ever saw before.

I stood in front of an audience full of faces that did not look like mine, but who seemed sincerely engaged in my story. Those upturned, open faces somewhat restored a small bit of faith in mankind that I thought current events in this country had taken from me.

As I started on this journey, I never had an “agenda” for our conversations or the book signing. That much is still true. However, I have gotten what I prayed we both would gain from our meeting: just the blessing in it all.

No one except for Ann Walling and me can really, truly, understand what that is, this blessing between two people who’ve known each other for a long time, but who just met. —A.S.

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Ann Walling:

There it was, Andrea’s signature on the page beside mine, exactly where it should be.

After all, Sunday Dinner, Coming of Age in the Segregated South is, in many ways, a story that belongs to us both. The book features the woman who connects our families — Mary Jane Fairfield Hodges Perlina Green Scott. She happened to be Andrea’s great-great-great grandmother.

I had heard about Mary Scott all of my life. My family even had a photo of me as a baby sitting on Mary Scott’s lap. She was a woman in her 90s who worked for my family, and I was a few months born. Large, gnarled, black, fingers laced around my tiny body as if to tie us together. Three generations later, Andrea walked in and signed that knot together.

A room full of mostly white people hung on every word a young black woman from Georgia uttered.

Andrea Scott and I read and talked and signed together at Parnassus Books in November. My new/old friend from Valdosta, Georgia told the folks at Parnassus about life in America, speaking in the name of Mary Scott and in her own name. She bravely and honestly raised questions about black lives in 21st century America. She shared her hopes and fears for her own sons and daughter as they grow into a world still fraught with issues surrounding race.

And a room full of mostly white people hung on every word a young black woman from Georgia uttered. Not only did they applaud her for her insights and courage, they wanted a book with both of our signatures on it. Two signatures in black and white on the title page of Sunday Dinner opened the door to big, audacious dreams about equality, opportunity, hope, reconciliation and peace. —A.W.

Ann & Andrea speaking 2

Parnassus event Saturday, Nov. 21

Hello everyone,

Parnassus Books in Green Hills has invited me to read and sign copies of Sunday Dinner on Saturday, November 21, at 2:00. Please join me at Parnassus Books for that event.

The opportunity to talk about my book at Parnassus came as an exciting opportunity, and then, it turned into an exceptional opportunity. Sunday Dinner is a memoir/social commentary about Southern society as I lived it as a little girl. Stories of my family and the African-American folks who worked for my family are at the heart of the book. In a most unlikely and wonderful happenstance, I recently met by email several descendants of an amazing African-American woman who worked for my family. Andrea Scott is the great, great, great granddaughter of Mary Scott, who was given as a gift to my great-grandmother when both girls were five years old.

After emancipation, Mary Scott continued to work as my great-grandmother’s maid for the rest of her life, and a big part of the story in Sunday Dinner is my struggle to come to terms with this relationship. As a little girl, I believed Mary Scott to have been a beloved member of our family. She was a legendary figure. But as I grew older, I came to see that she was not treated as an equal member. She was not invited to sit at the dinner table with us, and her possibilities in life were circumscribed in ways I didn’t fully grasp at the time. 

“The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times.”  —Justice Anthony M. Kennedy

“The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times,” wrote Justice Kennedy in the recent Supreme Court decision on marriage equality. That was certainly true of the South of my childhood, in the 40s and 50s: Many Southerners could not see the injustice all around them, even in their own homes.

I wanted to try to understand more about Mary Scott’s life and the lives of those who worked in my family’s household—people whom I never really knew, because Southern society in that era did not permit us to truly know each other. That’s why I reached out to Andrea Scott, and perhaps, that’s why she so generously agreed to meet me.

She is coming to the Parnassus Books reading, and we will share the stage.

I will talk about the book and tell a story or two about the characters in my life history. Andrea Scott will then add her perspective. All these generations later, Southern society has changed a lot, and it has also stayed the same a lot. Ms. Scott and I will talk from our different perspectives about how Southern society has shaped our families, our society, and our country, and how our lives today have the promise to reshape our families, our society and our country in ways we could never have dreamed a generation ago.

 Please join us for this conversation. —ABW

Parnassus Books / 3900 Hillsboro Pike Suite 14 / Nashville TN 37215 

November 21, 2015 / 2:00 P.M.

Mary Scott

Mary Scott with Ann as a baby