Guidebook to Relative Strangers: Journeys into Race, Motherhood, and History by Camille T. Dungy [in Library Journal]
In writing about new motherhood, changing dynamics in her closest relationships, navigating a demanding career requiring extensive travel, and witnessing her tiny child grow into her own person, Camille T. Dungy (Tropic Cascade) is unabashedly forthright and perceptive. Her observations are made especially piercing when revealed through the lens of being an African American woman in a predominantly white, privileged world.
Dungy’s agility with language manifests naturally in this memoir remarkable for its precise prose. What glows through the concern for her child, apprehension about her own independence and individuality, and fear of challenges ahead is – again and again – the kindness of strangers, including fellow travelers, drivers, restaurant workers, and welcoming locals in the many towns Dungy visits with daughter Callie in tow.
For most of the narration, Allyson Johnson’s voice is richly layered and smoothly rhythmic. She falters, unfortunately, with voices other than Dungy’s. From the jarring squeak of young Callie to the inconsistent, unnecessary accent of Dungy’s Alaskan host, Johnson’s forays into multiple characterizations mar what should have been a satisfying performance.
Verdict: Despite occasional aural misinterpretations, Dungy’s exceptional insights comprise an essential, ultimately uplifting literary gift libraries will want to share.