In Earline’s Pink Party Elizabeth Findley Shores sifts through her family’s scattered artifacts to understand her grandmother’s life in relation to the troubled racial history of Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
A compelling, genre-bending page-turner, Earline’s Pink Party: The Social Rituals and Domestic Relics of a Southern Woman analyzes the life of a small-city matron in the Deep South. A combination of biography, material culture analysis, social history, and memoir, this volume offers a new way of thinking about white racism through Shores’s conclusion that Earline’s earliest childhood experiences determined her worldview.
Set against a fully drawn background of geography and culture and studded with detailed investigations of social rituals (such as women’s parties) and objects (such as books, handwritten recipes, and fabric scraps), Earline’s Pink Party tells the story of an ordinary woman, the grandmother Shores never knew. Looking for more than the details and drama of bourgeois Southern life, however, the author digs into generations of family history to understand how Earline viewed the racial terror that surrounded her during the Jim Crow years in this fairly typical southern town.
Shores seeks to narrow a gap in the scholarship of the American South, which has tended to marginalize and stereotype well-to-do white women who lived after Emancipation. Exploring her grandmother’s home and its contents within the context of Tuscaloosa society and historical events, Shores evaluates the belief that women like Earline consciously engaged in performative rituals in order to sustain the “fantastical” view of the white nobility and the contented black underclass. With its engaging narrative, illustrations, and structure, this fascinating book should interest scholars of memory, class identity, and regional history, as well as sophisticated lay readers who enjoy Southern history, foodways, genealogy, and material culture.