Suitcase Full of Dreams

Suitcase Full of Dreams is a memoir that illustrates what living in the segregated South was like for a young black child. In Suitcase Full of Dreams, author Hoy Kersh gives readers' access to the sorrows and joys of growing up in the dirt-road, Jim Crow South in the 1940s and early '50s, just prior to the Civil Rights Movement.

Throughout the book, Kersh shares her personal memories, including those of various historical figures who inspired her—Rosa Parks, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Jr.—all from a child's perspective. She spent most of her days fending off the Ku Klux Klan, questioning authority and avoiding her mother's heavy hand, but Kersh still managed to remain compassionate—and determined.

Born in Clarksdale, Mississippi, birthplace of the blues, Kersh's father was the son of a German sheriff who had a black mistress. The harsh reality of racism first hit her when her grandfather was murdered because of their relationship. The Klan drove Kersh's family out of town, forcing them into Mobile, Alabama, where she spent the duration of her childhood. Her writing captures the anguish of the time:

That night, while Grandpa's soul was leaving his body and his blood bathed the damp ground, the Klansmen came to our house. There must have been thirty or forty men dressed in white robes. They were a sinister crowd. With hoods over their faces, they carried torches and shotguns. Surrounding the house, one of them called Grandma out to the front porch and told her (to leave). The dark forces had their way and we were running for our lives. I was way too little to understand that night of terror, but the tale has been told so many times. I can see it, taste the fear, feel Grandma's heart beat way too fast, and see Mama's young woman face become old for the moment. —Excerpted from Suitcase Full of Dreams

Many years later, not wanting to remain "stuck in the quicksand of the South," Kersh left her family behind and moved to Chicago as a teenager. She is currently a songwriter, music performer and passionate peace activist. She has three grown children and resides in Northern California.