The Outskirts of Hope

The Outskirts of Hope

by Jo Ivester

Overview: A moving, inspirational memoir about how living and working in an all-black town during the height of the civil rights movement profoundly affected the author’s entire family—and how they in turn impacted the community.

Gail Reid (01/06/15):This is the story of a white, Jewish Massachusetts doctor who uproots his family in 1967 and moves to rural Mississippi to start a clinic in a town populated totally by black residents. Told in diary format by the mother who balks at the move but ultimately embraces the experience and their 10 year old daughter who assimilates easily during the two year experience, the book should be required reading for young teenagers. While nowadays, there are many programs like the Peace Corps and Teach for America in which volunteers teach and serve in impoverished areas, in 1967 it was a bold and dangerous choice. The mother, Audra, found her calling in Mississippi as a teacher and cared strongly for both the academic advancement of her students as well as their self esteem and personal growth. The Outskirts of Hope is a short read with an impactful statement.
Rating: ****

Debbie Weiss (12/26/15): I would have to agree with Judy, that this was a very interesting book. The fact that it is a true story makes it even a more compelling read. Jo Ivester's father was a medical doctor and an idealist. He was given the opportunity in the 1960s to open up a clinic in a small, all black town in Missippi. He took the position and moved his wife and children from the safety of an upscale Boston suburb to the poor, rural setting.

Aura, Jo's mother, was less than happy about the move, but felt it was her obligation to follow her husband, as he was the breadwinner of the family. She was needed as a high school teacher in the understaffed public school and began teaching even though she did not have a teaching degree. She seemed to be a natural at it and loved the students and loved the job. The feeling was reciprocated and she definitely had a great impact on these young adult lives. Jo and her brothers seemed to adjust well to the new environment, as children usually are better at accepting change.

That being said, I felt that everything in the book was a bit idealized. Things seemed to happen too easily for all the family members. I cannot believe that they were so quickly accepted into this new community. I also got the feeling that Aura always felt that she was not a partner in the decision to move the family to Missippi and that it was subtly forced on her. It was no surprise to me to learn that Jo Ivester's parents did divorce after their subsequent move from Missippi to Florida. None-the-less, what the family did was admirable and certainly affected positively the many lives that they touched.
Rating: ****

Judy Stanton (11/05/15): What would you say if your husband wanted to move you and your young family out of the suburbs of North Atlanta to the inner city, so that he could work in that community. And your children would go to inner city schools, where they would be perhaps the only white students, and your family would definitely be the only Jewish people in a pretty isolated town. Aura Kruger didn't protest. It was the 1980s. Men's careers and decisions came first. She packed up her Boston home and moved to a small town in Mississippi with her three children, without even having a home to move into. Then, though she didn't have a teaching degree, she was roped into teaching in the public school. The Outskirts of Hope tells the story of Aura and Leon Kruger's courageous move and influence on a small town in the deep, rural south, in a time when segregation was still very prevalent. The author, Jo Investor, based the book on her mother's journals, but also tells her story from her 11-year-old perspective. I loved the book, the people, the real life community and political issues, and being brought back to the 1960s, to remember those growing up years. The journey changed the town as much as the town changed the family, especially Aura, who reached out to do whatever it took to educate and challenge young minds. Very compelling read.
Rating: *****

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