Praise for These Walls Between Us
"I spent a lovely afternoon today reading a fabulous book, “These Walls Between Us,” by Wendy Sanford, a founding member of Our Bodies Ourselves, the pivotal 1970s book that launched the women’s health care movement. In “These Walls,” Sanford tells the story, in elegant prose, of her near-lifelong friendship with Mary Norman, the Black woman she first knew when Mary came to be a domestic worker in Sanford’s [wealthy parents’] aristocratic [summer rental] on Nantucket. With unflinching honesty and compassionate curiosity into her own unconscious racism and classism, Sanford details the moving story of the two women’s growing love and friendship. Along the way, she describes the many assumptions of superiority that are oh-so-carefully taught to white children. I can’t recommend this book highly enough."
—Judy Foreman, long-time health columnist for the Boston Globe, author of “CRISPR’d,” Skyhorse, 2022; “Exercise is Medicine,” OUP, 2020; and “A Nation in Pain,” OUP, 2014.
"One of my best reads of 2021: These Walls Between Us, A Memoir of Friendship Across Race and Class. Wendy Sanford provides deep reflections & insights. She is honest without beating herself up or patting herself on the back. Her personal story kept me glued to the page! And it got me thinking about myself as a white person in ways that opened doors of understanding and gave me a clear example of how to keep learning and seeing what is often hidden from my eyes. Highly recommended!"
—Peterson Toscano, https://petersontoscano.com/, April 5, 2022
“In this beautifully written, bravely honest exploration of her relationship with Mary Norman (her family's long-time domestic worker), Wendy Sanford insightfully explores the class, racial and - to a lesser degree - gender dynamics that emanate from and reinforce inequalities in the U.S. In doing so, Sanford contributes significantly to our understanding of how those hierarchies are maintained.“
—Judith Rollins, Professor Emerita, Wellesley College author of Between Women: Domestics and Their Employers
“Finally, a story from a white woman raised with “help” who interrogates the relationship’s complexities. As Wendy looks inwards to examine her socialization into a racial hierarchy, and strives to break from her inherited role in order to step differently into a potential friendship with Mary, I found myself gripped by the overwhelming forces working against their friendship. Their mutual love and courage to choose differently again and again renders a tender, honest, cringeworthy, and powerful read.”
—Debby Irving, Author of Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race
“Better interracial understanding is possible if white people learn how to be appropriately white without shame, guilt, or fragility. A repurposed white identity that separates itself from internalized white supremacist ideology brings joy and satisfaction to human rights work by embracing the power of hope and transformation. These Walls Between Us models such reclamation for everyone.”
Loretta J. Ross, Dred Feminist, Activist, MacArthur Genius Grant 2022, Visiting Associate Professor at Smith College, author of Reproductive Justice, Volume 1
“This is a powerful book with an important lesson that we all must learn in trying to understand others – a book that both blacks and whites should read so that we can enter into a productive dialogue with each other.”
—Reverend John Reynolds, author of The Fight for Freedom: A Memoir of My Years in the Civil Rights Movement
“I found These Walls Between Us very informative, especially the way the author deconstructs the subtle and overt ways that white privilege influences the lives of so many. White privilege is like an invisible thread that maintains the status quo. Thank goodness Wendy Sanford is doing the work that only she can do!”
—Byllye Avery, Founder, Black Women's Health Imperative
"A Black woman and a White woman forge a friendship against the odds. Unique, fascinating, and complex, Wendy Sanford’s wonderful memoir is so rare and engaging that I read the book continuously over twelve hours without wanting to stop."
—Peggy McIntosh, Senior Research Scientist and former Associate Director of the Wellesley Centers for Women, author of White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack (1989) and On Privilege, Fraudulence, and Teaching As Learning: Selected Essays 1981-2019
“Wendy learns that she cannot simply affectionately call Mary, "one of the family," without acknowledging the interpersonal, historical and structural power dynamics that have stolen opportunity, power, and freedom from Mary and other domestic workers like her. Wendy's story demands just recognition of domestic workers, Black women, and women of color for the essential, yet invisible, role they play in caring for so many families, without the respect and dignity these women deserve. Wendy's story calls on white people to dismantle the walls that have kept us from recognizing and actively combatting white supremacist culture that shows up in our own homes.”
—Stacy Kono, Executive Director, Hand in Hand, the domestic employers network
“The politics are crystal clear at all levels, the characters are fascinating and it’s a superb read! Sanford presents the humanity of the characters, in all their contradictoriness, while remaining unrelenting in her condemnation of systemic racial and class violence. White people are all complicit in racism, and all responsible for taking it down, relationship by relationship. This memoir shows how tortuous and slippery that is... and yet, between humans who will recognize one another as such, always possible.”
—James Seale-Collazo, Faculty, Escuela Secondaria, University of Puerto Rico
“A compelling take on how our personal experiences of racism arise from the history and structures of white supremacy, and an emotional glimpse into a lifetime anti-racism journey. Non-profit board members, government leaders and executives from all sectors will be transformed by Wendy’s journey and her painfully earned pearls of wisdom on the effort to become an anti-racist white person.”
—Sue Gallagher, Chief Innovation Officer Children’s Services Council of Broward County, FL
"This tender and evocative story about friendship across racial and class lines is an important guide for living into this time of racial reckoning. Sanford’s unflinching honesty, insight and wisdom had me saying, out loud, again and again, "Wow, that is so true!"
—Catherine Whitmire, Author of Practicing Peace: A Devotional Walk through the Quaker Tradition and Plain Living: A Quaker Path to Simplicity
"With courage and grace, Wendy Sanford renders a clear-eyed portrait of her growing awareness of the harm white supremacy can wreak on an earnest attempt at cross-racial friendship. Ms. Sanford does not excuse but is willing to come to terms with the privileges gained from an unexamined Whiteness and a pernicious power differential. An important lesson in transcending the racial and class barrier between herself and her Black friend, Ms. Sanford’s story is a necessary read for today’s young white people, especially college students interested in Africana Studies, Gender and Women's Studies, and Sociology courses. Above all, this remarkable book is a moving testimony for all who believe in fairness and racial healing."
—Pam Brooks, Associate Professor, Africana Studies Department, Oberlin College, author of Boycotts, Buses and Passes: Black Women's Resistance in the U.S. South and South Africa
"These Walls Between Us is a deeply researched and unflinchingly thoughtful account of the author’s investigation into the institutional racism that brought Mary Norman into her life and troubled their life-long friendship. I find Sanford’s work uplifting in its openness. She seeks to educate, not castigate, and the narrative force of her story is compelling in its own right. This book is a clear-eyed and riveting gift to those of us who would rather try to repair than ignore this country’s tattered history of exploitation. In less accomplished hands, this might be an exercise in hand-wringing and self-doubt, but Wendy Sanford is a confident and authoritative narrator who makes this timely book at once accessible, gripping and instructive."
—Robin Hemley, Author of Borderline Citizen: Dispatches from The Outskirts of Nationhood
Recent Reader Comments
Esther Sokolov Fine Amazon 5 Stars
I have read and re-read this masterpiece memoir. Wendy Sanford and Mary Norman offer readers their beautiful and complex personal story(ies). The exquisite writing is infused with deeply important questions as they explore their life-long relationship through lenses of race, class and gender. This book will continue to affect the way I think and what I read til the end of my days. I love the way the narrative and the questions it raises become intertwined with historical and literary discussion that includes a rich selection of "restorative" reading suggestions. Thank you Mary. Thank you Wendy.
Cyrus Webb Amazon top 500 Reviewer 5 Star Review
What Wendy Sanford has delivered in THESE WALLS BETWEEN US is nothing short of powerful. I love that by reading the book we are taken back into a time that unfortunately is not too different from our own today, but it gives us hope that regardless of how some base their love and feelings on race and class that we can choose to do better. Honest in its look at herself and the world she grew up in yet hopeful of who we can be, Wendy Sanford's THESE WALLS BETEEEN US is a read we can all appreciate.
George Lakey, author of HOW WE WIN: A Guide to Nonviolent Direct Action Campaigning
These Walls Between Us is fascinating, gripping, a real page-turner. These Walls deepened my own awareness of how internalized racism still results in blunders and missed opportunities, after all this time, despite being the only white person in my household and in a white minority in my family. I appreciate Wendy’s practice of intersectionality, bringing in the wealth dimension so forthrightly. I've never read a memoir that is so consistently courageous.
I heard about Wendy's book, purchased it, purchased a dozen additional copies, and have been mailing them to all my friends who identify as white. Many, many thanks for this exceptional book.
Christopher Germer Amazon 5 stars
There is so much to say about this beautiful book. Although the action is quite subtle—the tender unfolding of a friendship between two women—it is a page-turner. Written with radical integrity and grace, this book shows me, a white-identified person, what a life committed to anti-racism looks like at a granular level. The author occupies a humble and self-compassionate space where inevitable missteps become an opportunity to learn and grow.
From “Glow” Amazon 5 stars Draws you in and doesn’t let you go
I really enjoyed this book! Very well written. Would HIGHLY recommend. Makes for a great gift too if you know of anyone that enjoys a GREAT READ!!!! I LOVED IT
Sara Steven Amazon 5 stars An eye-opening experience
I truly feel that my “narrow, white” viewpoint has been opened up due to reading the stories highlighted in These Walls Between Us, a much-needed, five-star read.
CityReader Amazon 5 stars Smart, moving and well-written
This is an incredibly well-written, moving story full of wisdom and (uncomfortable) truths. Highly recommended!!
Nancy Black Amazon 5 stars An extraordinary book for our time
I found this book profoundly moving, beautifully written, and wholly engrossing. READ IT.
Ben Benjamin Amazon 5 stars An emotionally riveting book
I was deeply affected when I read These Walls Between Us. The naked honesty in the writing was moving to the core. Every white person should read this book about how to overcome the deeply embedded racism that is in all of us who are white. This engaging book asks us to be as reflective, truthful, and authentic as Wendy Sanford is. Her book helps us move toward a better world.