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Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming: A Memoir

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SIBA Okra Pick Nationally syndicated columnist Rheta Grimsley Johnson, winner of the Ernie Pyle Award for human interest reporting, turns her sharp eye on herself in this frank, exhilarating, wise, poignant, and brave memoir. Her territory ranges from childhood memories of ritual pre-interstate trips in the family station wagon to visit foot-washing Baptist relatives to you SIBA Okra Pick Nationally syndicated columnist Rheta Grimsley Johnson, winner of the Ernie Pyle Award for human interest reporting, turns her sharp eye on herself in this frank, exhilarating, wise, poignant, and brave memoir. Her territory ranges from childhood memories of ritual pre-interstate trips in the family station wagon to visit foot-washing Baptist relatives to young-girl fixations on the Barbie dolls of the title, from the simultaneous exuberance and proto-feminist doubts of young marriage to the aches of loves lost through divorce and death. Her memorable journalism career, which began on her college newspaper and rural weeklies and moved on to prestigious big-city dailies, was punctuated by her distinctive writing voice and an unerring knack for revealing her much-loved South through uncommon stories about its common people. This is a big-hearted book that will leave no reader unaffected.


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SIBA Okra Pick Nationally syndicated columnist Rheta Grimsley Johnson, winner of the Ernie Pyle Award for human interest reporting, turns her sharp eye on herself in this frank, exhilarating, wise, poignant, and brave memoir. Her territory ranges from childhood memories of ritual pre-interstate trips in the family station wagon to visit foot-washing Baptist relatives to you SIBA Okra Pick Nationally syndicated columnist Rheta Grimsley Johnson, winner of the Ernie Pyle Award for human interest reporting, turns her sharp eye on herself in this frank, exhilarating, wise, poignant, and brave memoir. Her territory ranges from childhood memories of ritual pre-interstate trips in the family station wagon to visit foot-washing Baptist relatives to young-girl fixations on the Barbie dolls of the title, from the simultaneous exuberance and proto-feminist doubts of young marriage to the aches of loves lost through divorce and death. Her memorable journalism career, which began on her college newspaper and rural weeklies and moved on to prestigious big-city dailies, was punctuated by her distinctive writing voice and an unerring knack for revealing her much-loved South through uncommon stories about its common people. This is a big-hearted book that will leave no reader unaffected.

30 review for Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming: A Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Charlene

    I enjoyed this. It's a series of vignettes so I read it in pieces over several months, while reading other books. The parts about her very Southern childhood and early newspaper career are funny but the last third of the book about her husband and loss are sad. I appreciated her honesty and openess in her writing; that can't have been easy. Good combination of writing about career and personal life and how they intertwined. I read her column in the Atlanta Constitution when she "replaced" Lewis I enjoyed this. It's a series of vignettes so I read it in pieces over several months, while reading other books. The parts about her very Southern childhood and early newspaper career are funny but the last third of the book about her husband and loss are sad. I appreciated her honesty and openess in her writing; that can't have been easy. Good combination of writing about career and personal life and how they intertwined. I read her column in the Atlanta Constitution when she "replaced" Lewis Grizzard and wish that it was still available in a Georgia newspaper. I think we need more human interest writing and less of the constant political columns.

  2. 5 out of 5

    John

    Though I have little in common with the author (among other things, she is quite southern, and I'm so yankee I bleed maple sap), Johnson's book made for an interesting read. Recommended - although for a series of essays centered around a Christmas theme, I found A Little Fruitcake: A Boyhood in Holidays worked better. Though I have little in common with the author (among other things, she is quite southern, and I'm so yankee I bleed maple sap), Johnson's book made for an interesting read. Recommended - although for a series of essays centered around a Christmas theme, I found A Little Fruitcake: A Boyhood in Holidays worked better.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Talya Boerner

    Odds are good I’ll read anything with Barbie in the title. Odds increase further if Barbie is involved in a humorous southern memoir. This book checks both boxes, although Barbie doesn’t play a starring role, and sometimes humor is interwoven with sadness. Enchanted Evening Barbie is the story of long-time syndicated columnist, Rheta Grimsley Johnson’s, life as told in pithy essays. (At one time, she wrote for The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, so I’m sure we’re related.) The book spans childhood Odds are good I’ll read anything with Barbie in the title. Odds increase further if Barbie is involved in a humorous southern memoir. This book checks both boxes, although Barbie doesn’t play a starring role, and sometimes humor is interwoven with sadness. Enchanted Evening Barbie is the story of long-time syndicated columnist, Rheta Grimsley Johnson’s, life as told in pithy essays. (At one time, she wrote for The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, so I’m sure we’re related.) The book spans childhood angst, college and early journalist years, love and marriage, divorce and death. Each chapter stands alone, so enjoy bits as pieces at your leisure or gulp down the whole thing in one spring afternoon. This book made me: eager to read Poor Man’s Provence by the same author. Favorite Lines: Pain is personal. When you rap your thumb with a hammer, nobody feels it but you. Nobody else cusses or cries. Grief is the same. The hammer hasn’t hit anyone but you. People will bring you a cold rag to wrap your finger and say they are sorry you are hurting, but the endless throbbing doesn’t go away when the sympathetic visitors do. It lasts. And lasts.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lynn G. Towery

    Great book! This is a very good read. I highly encourage you to read the book - you’ll find every emotion, every type of event.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Andrea Jones

    March 23, 2010 Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming... by Rheta Grimsley Johnson published by NewSouth Books, Montgomery, Alabama review by Andrea Discovering the delightful and unique in the ordinary and mundane is one talent in which Rheta Grimsley Johnson excels. By her own admission she began writing a book about Christmas because those books sell. She wanted to include humor because that also sells. She accomplished far more than that however. When we read, we want to discover new wa March 23, 2010 Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming... by Rheta Grimsley Johnson published by NewSouth Books, Montgomery, Alabama review by Andrea Discovering the delightful and unique in the ordinary and mundane is one talent in which Rheta Grimsley Johnson excels. By her own admission she began writing a book about Christmas because those books sell. She wanted to include humor because that also sells. She accomplished far more than that however. When we read, we want to discover new ways to look at things and Johnson helps us do that. For example, Christmases serve as a “demarcation” (193). Who hasn’t felt torn at one time or another trying to divide his/her time evenly between two sides of the family? The title Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming stems from a Christmas when Barbie dolls came into popularity and a young girl’s associations of Christmas and religion. Children rationalize ideas and events in ways that seem perfectly logical to them but often surprise adults. Her conclusion about Christmas is one such example. The book is written in vignettes, an easy to read form that Johnson merges into one flowing account. A major theme that soon emerges is home. Halfway through the book, we have lived in an apartment on Ocean Avenue on St. Simon’s Island, the Hybart House in Monroeville, the Smurf House in Jackson and Fishtrap Hollow, the character of each described with delicious detail and painted with the emotions and events of that time in the author’s life. Her homes from childhood through marriage speak of adventure and youth, then security and comfort. The homes represent different stages in her life and the wisdom she gleaned from each. They are symbolic of the inner Johnson and universal in their representation of home to all of us. Johnson is famous for writing about ordinary people. She believes they deserve their place in the news as much as celebrities. Her talent for relating these real people and real events to us makes the reading entertaining and endearing. But writing often takes the writer deeper into this material we call life, and we find ourselves right there in the muck of life with her. Johnson deals with serious topics as divorce and death yet lightens the darkness of those pages with humor as well. In one chapter entitled “Refrigerator Babies” the childless Johnson writes about the photos she would receive of “babies in every stage of development, from freshly hatched fetuses to fat, ugly toddlers ... Months later I would have forgotten who the baby might be, except the next likely cute candidate to fall off the refrigerator door to live with the dust bunnies beneath it” (100). In another passage she describes spending the night at the home of her best friend as a teenager where they were allowed to stay up late and try on the glamorous mother’s high heels. Years later, “When Cora (the mother) died, hope of someday being a rare beauty died inside me... She saw beauty everywhere, and in everyone, through some generous spirit that she had that most of us don’t possess” (35). Her memoirs take us Southerners to many familiar places: the beaches of Georgia; the small town of Monroeville where Truman Capote and Harper Lee grew up; the Gulf Shores of Mississippi, the forested mountains of Tennessee and the swamps of Louisiana. Local readers may agree, “The colors of Panhandle Florida are like a kaleidoscope I’ve kept in a drawer all these years. I can mix them into different patterns whenever I hold the kaleidoscope to the light” (20). This book encompasses a broad spectrum of humanity. It will speak to the Southerner and to the writer. It will also speak to anyone who has felt pangs of disappointment at Christmas, listened to loved ones argue or felt excluded from a group where one wanted to be included. Events resonate with universal truth and Johnson has a passionate way of putting it out there plainly for all to see.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jsmith1000

    I used to work at The Commercial Appeal as a lowly intern wayyyy back in the day when I was in journalism school; Rheta Grimsley Johnson was the role model I aspired to at the time. My journalism professor at the time was Don Grierson (who would later become her husband) was lovingly memorialized in this book. I could definitely relate to constant panic and angst she felt as a writer under the pressures of deadlines and the desire to tell someone's story accurately. Many of the struggles she deta I used to work at The Commercial Appeal as a lowly intern wayyyy back in the day when I was in journalism school; Rheta Grimsley Johnson was the role model I aspired to at the time. My journalism professor at the time was Don Grierson (who would later become her husband) was lovingly memorialized in this book. I could definitely relate to constant panic and angst she felt as a writer under the pressures of deadlines and the desire to tell someone's story accurately. Many of the struggles she detailed in her career as a reporter floored me; just goes to show you that no one really knows what can go on underneath the smooth surface we like to portray to the outside world.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Betsy

    I really enjoyed this memoir. I can relate to many of her childhood memories even though I am a few years older than she. I especially enjoy her flowing narrative and her southern expressions. Perhaps the characteristic of her writing I admire most is her honesty. She does not hold back her emotions when describing her childhood disappointments and embarrassments, her passion for her work in the newspaper business, and most surprisingly, her relationships with the men in her life. Now, it's on t I really enjoyed this memoir. I can relate to many of her childhood memories even though I am a few years older than she. I especially enjoy her flowing narrative and her southern expressions. Perhaps the characteristic of her writing I admire most is her honesty. She does not hold back her emotions when describing her childhood disappointments and embarrassments, her passion for her work in the newspaper business, and most surprisingly, her relationships with the men in her life. Now, it's on to Poor Man's Provence...

  8. 4 out of 5

    Carla Jean

    Rheta Grimsley Johnson's previous book, Poor Man's Provence, captured my heart and made me want to vacation in Cajun Louisiana. She set the bar pretty high with that one, and truthfully, Enchanted Evening Barbie doesn't quite meet it. But as the book went on, I found myself more and more absorbed by her story. Throughout her life, Johnson's writing has been a way to learn, express herself and deal with emotions. So it has been for me. Rheta Grimsley Johnson's previous book, Poor Man's Provence, captured my heart and made me want to vacation in Cajun Louisiana. She set the bar pretty high with that one, and truthfully, Enchanted Evening Barbie doesn't quite meet it. But as the book went on, I found myself more and more absorbed by her story. Throughout her life, Johnson's writing has been a way to learn, express herself and deal with emotions. So it has been for me.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Debra

    Wonderful! I have always enjoyed her syndicated columns that appeared in the Montgomery Advertiser. I looked forward to them, cut them out, passed them on, and imagined I knew her. Of course, I was wrong on assuming her background. The book is very entertaing, open, and glorious in making some of the most trying times in her life as idyllic.

  10. 5 out of 5

    David Ward

    Enchanted Evening Barbie and the Second Coming: A Memoir by Rheta Grimsley Johnson (New South Books 2010) (Biography) is the latest by this great author. More thoroughly autobiographical than any of her other writings, this will serve to satisfy her fans until the next installment comes along. 6.5/10, finished 2/16/11.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Carlton Phelps

    A good collection of Ms Johnson's Christmas columns. A good collection of Ms Johnson's Christmas columns.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Memoir

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    First part of it was good. I so love her as a newspaper columnist. The middle and later parts of the book, not so enjoyable.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Neeka27

    I think the author believes that stories about writing a newspaper are more interesting than they really are. Boring!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ann Adams

    No doubt Johnson writes well and I appreciated all the references to Memphis and the Delta, as familiar places. However, the book saddened me as the emptiness in her spiritual life is so obvious.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Carol Eshaghy

    I loved this well written memoir by a southern journalist

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kim Toney

  18. 5 out of 5

    Anna Springer

  19. 4 out of 5

    Erin Campbell

  20. 4 out of 5

    Blair Smith

  21. 4 out of 5

    Debbie

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mariah

  23. 4 out of 5

    D'anna

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kay Sappington

  25. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Koch

  26. 5 out of 5

    Aaron

  27. 4 out of 5

    Beth

  28. 4 out of 5

    Randall

  29. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tbear62

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