Books & Literature

Book Review: Southern Discomfort, by Tena Clark

A powerful and moving memoir about a white girl coming of age in the South in the 1960s and the black woman who inspired her to forge her own path.

Long time songwriter, Grammy Award winner, and the founder & CEO of DMI Music, Tena Clark, has used her amazing song writing skills to write her first novel. If you know who Tena Clark is, it will be of no surprise that her first book, a memoir, is flawlessly written.

Tena Clark grew up as a dissident child in a turbulent and fractured time. Born into white privilege to a rich, powerful father and an enchanting alcoholic mother, she was largely mothered by her black nanny Virgie and her older sister Georgia. Infidelity, alcoholism, racism, dysfunctional love and wealth shaped Tena’s home environment. Her sexuality, ability to forgive, yearning for acceptance and her personal integrity defined how she behaved within it. Prevalent throughout is the strength of the family unit.

Southern Discomfort is written in dual perspective by Tena. The absolute intensity of Tena’s feelings and the way you are fully immersed into the milestones of her life allows you to intensively and painfully feel her experiences. She often comments on the same experiences with the contemplativeness of an adult; it is this introspection that makes it such an intriguing novel.

Whilst the memoir largely focuses on her childhood and how she eventually outgrew it, it also highlights her ongoing connection to the South into adulthood.

In a sense, Tena Clark has not grown up. She is still very much the unshakeable, determined activist she was as a child. If you are a fan of Tena Clark now, you will very much enjoy reading about her defiance as a child. On the other hand, even if you don’t know who she is, Southern Discomfort is a fantastic novel encompassing so many aspects of the civil rights era; a time when rampant racism and political sentiment directly affected your social mobility.

Definitely a must-read.

Reviewed by Rebecca Wu

Rating out of 10:  10

Distributed by: Simon & Schuster Australia
Released: October 2018
RRP: $32.99 trade paperback, $14.99 eBook

[adrotate banner="159"]
To Top