Primary Lessons: A Memoir
by Sarah Bracey White

In this coming-of-age memoir, Sarah travels first from an idyllic childhood in Philadelphia - with her beloved Aunt Susie - to Sumter, South Carolina. There, in a poor, single-parent household, she struggles to maintain her sense-of-self under the yoke of Jim Crow segregation and family problems. Her dream is to escape the south and live the kind of life she reads about in books. In 1963, after her mother's unexpected death, Sarah takes a job at a summer camp in the White Mountains of Vermont, only to discover that there, racism masquerades as classism. Just as the March on Washington unfolds,
she enters Baltimore's Morgan State
Some survival lessons learned 
from her mother sustain her; others
be tossed, if she is to thrive.

Primary Lessons has gone into its second printing. It is available for purchase
on,,, Walmart, and at The Village
Book Store in Pleasantville, NY. 

The Women’s Voices List: Memoirs We Love

December 10, 2013 by    
Filed under BooksThe Arts

Memoir is where writers use their gift for creating a world on the page to elaborate on a world they knew. Great memoirs take us along on a journey through something we can barely imagine and often deliver us at a point of peace, if not triumph.

Falling into the hands of a really good memoirist is like sitting by the fire with someone who has lived through life-changing experiences and knows how to talk about them in a compelling way.

No wonder memoirs make such very good gifts.

Here are some of the most lauded memoirs written by women in 2013.  


Primary Lessons, by Sarah Bracey White. After a stay with a strong and loving aunt in a comfortable home in middle-class Philadelphia, young Sarah was transplanted to the segregated South of the 50s and 60s to live with her single mother, who has chosen keeping her children safe over breaking out of the crushing social system. White,  now a motivational speaker, never lost her determination or sense of self or her powers of expression, as this lauded volume attests.


 Journal News feature article and video --

About the author

    Sarah Bracey White was born in Sumter, SC. She is a librarian, teacher, arts consultant, motivational speaker and the author of a poetry collection, Feelings Brought to Surface. Portions of her memoir Primary Lessons were previously anthologized in Children of the Dream; Dreaming in Color, Living in Black and White; and Aunties: 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 She was a 2010/2011 Inaugural Fellow at the Purchase College Writers Center. Sarah is available for book talks and motivational speeches. Visit her on the web at  914-682-1574

Journal News article and video of a reading from "Primary Lessons."

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