Charlotte author Judy Goldman has published two books of poetry and two novels, but she is best known for her memoirs. Her first memoir, Losing My Sister, came out in 2012, and her second memoir, Together: A Memoir of a Marriage and a Medical Mishap, came out in 2019. These two earlier memoirs are now joined by Child: A Memoir, which the University of South Carolina Press released on May 5, 2022. For more information about Judy and her books, please click on the following link: http://judygoldman.com/
In all three of her memoirs, Judy delves into the complexities of her relationships with important people in her life, such as her sister and her husband. In Child, Judy writes about her relationship with Mattie Culp, the Black woman who cared for Judy as a white Jewish girl growing up in Rock Hill, South Carolina, during the 1940s and ‘50s.
When writing her memoirs, Judy does not shy away from difficult or controversial topics. One of the reasons her memoirs are so memorable is that they are not simple retellings of the surface details of her life. In the case of Child, Judy writes about how the racism of the Jim Crow South affected her relationship with Mattie. Judy brings up this topic in the very beginning of her book. In her prologue, she writes, “Like thousands of white southerners in my generation, I was raised by a Black woman who had to leave her own child behind to work for a white family. … Our love was unwavering. But it was, by definition, uneven.”
Child, as the title suggests, focuses on Judy’s childhood and the role that Mattie Culp played in it during this period in Judy’s life. However, Judy does not limit the book to her own childhood. She also writes about Mattie’s life. In preparation for writing this memoir, Judy researched Mattie’s childhood, her education at a Rosenwald School built for Black children, Mattie’s relationship with Judy’s mother, and Mattie’s life after Judy grew up. In Child, Judy covers many of the details of Mattie’s life, but she avoids speaking for Mattie. As Judy told Dannie Romine Powell in a recent interview published in The Charlotte Observer, “In my memoir, I tried to be careful never to presume to know what Mattie might be thinking and only convey what she actually said to me. Any reflection I included was my own.”
Judy’s three memoirs are all deeply personal stories. While they are certainly autobiographical, I don’t think of them as autobiographies per se. I see them more as candid meditations about some of the relationships that have shaped Judy’s life. Within the context of her life, these relationships transcend the particularities of dates. Thus, even though Judy is now eighty years old, she infuses Child with a sense of immediacy. Her descriptions of the small moments that she and Mattie shared in the late 1940s are written as if they happened yesterday. In a sense, Judy’s readers feel as if they are participants in these moments, too. Judy invites the readers of Child and her other memoirs to form their own relationships with the people who figure in her narratives. Judy has a gift for writing memoirs that are unique to her life, but at the same time, speak to readers whose lives are far different from her own. In my opinion, with the publication of Child, Judy has established herself as Storied Charlotte’s leading writer of memoirs.