Tracy K. Smith’s Memoir Is For Mothers, Daughters Everywhere
Unlike other works that explore the dysfunctional family bond, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Tracy K. Smith’s Ordinary Light: A Memoir is a beautiful ode to the strong tie that exists between a mother and a daughter. Her poetic and poignant memoir paints a complex picture not only of family bonds but also the devastating effects of cancer.
Smith, who had been raised by her stay-at-home mother and engineer father, has never known true loss until her mother was diagnosed with cancer before she went off to college. In an attempt to honor her mother’s life and explore her own memories, she paints a fascinating picture of her parents’ memories of the Civil Rights movement and juxtaposes the hardships they faced with her own cosseted childhood in California and the independence she faced when she attended Harvard.
However, there’s not always a tragic tone or the age-old warning of “hindsight is 20/20” ringing in readers’ ears as they devour her words, since Smith also includes a touch of wry humor and an acute awareness of the ephemeral glory of everyday life in her memoir, too. But what makes Ordinary Light such a heartbreaking read is Smith’s fantastic storytelling. She weaves a web of snapshots of her family’s life as they struggle to come to terms with her mother’s cancer, showing how the loving family of her childhood was forever changed in the future.