Jo Ivester ’77 got her birth name from Jo March, the impassioned protagonist of Louisa May Alcott’s book Little Women. After many years of family commitments delaying her career ambitions, Jo March declares to a friend, “I should have been a great many things.”
Ivester has certainly been a great many things, to which she can now add author. Her new book, The Outskirts of Hope, was published this spring by She Writes Press. Listen to an interview with Ivester about the book.
The story of her idealistic parents taking up the call to President Johnson’s Great Society and moving to Mississippi to start a rural health clinic, The Outskirts of Hope merges two women’s diaries of the turbulent civil rights south in the 1960s. Excerpting entries from a diary her mother kept during the move, Ivester adds her own memories, sometimes traumatic ones, of being the only white girl in an all-black school and witnessing stark living conditions in the Jim-Crow south.
“It started as [my mother’s] coming of age story,” Ivester says in this podcast, “starting to teach in her 40s in this unusual setting. And gradually it became my coming of age story as well, as I brought in my voice and in some cases told the same story from the perspective of a 10-year old child.”
The Outskirts of Hope came out in a year of heightened tensions in race relations in America.
“There’s still a huge amount to be done [in civil rights]…,” Ivester says. “It’s very easy for people who are living a comfortable life to assume that everything is fine now. That’s just not the case. We have come a long way…the more that people are willing to tell personal stories as I have done, the better off we’ll be.