Biographies and autobiographies are one of my favorite genres. I love reading books about people. Entrepreneurs or regular people that have done amazing things or have led interesting lives. I especially like these books because they can offer very personal and human perspectives on history. Especially when the subject has seen or played a part in historic events.
I’d seen Ghosts of Mississippi before reading Watch Me Fly. So I knew a little bit about Medgar Evers but not much about his life before his assassination. I knew a bit about Coretta Scott King and Betty Shabazz and had read about some of the other civil rights leaders. But, I didn’t know much about Myrlie Evers-Williams.
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The book shows a different perspective on the Civil Right Movement by focusing on the experiences of the wife of a civil rights leader. Her having waited on many nights for her husband to come home and not being certain that he would return given the climate of the times. Watching her children crawl on the floor in practice drills in the unfortunate event of some act of violence. And rebuilding her life after an assassin’s bullet ripped through her loved one, taking him from the family.
Watch Me Fly is more than the story of the widow of a civil rights hero. It’s also the story of a rather sheltered woman who struggles to find herself in her thirties after her world is ripped apart.
Myrlie Evers Williams had a rather sheltered upbringing as a result of growing up with her grandmother and aunt. They kept a very firm hold on Myrlie during her childhood and young adult years. Keeping her very close meant that she didn’t have space or freedom to experiment. So by the time she went off to college she hadn’t had the sorts of experiences that other teens might have had.
She met Medgar Evers early in her college life; got engaged, married, and had children within a few years. Myrlie was a housewife by her late teens and a mother by her early twenties.
The murder of Medgar Evers threw Myrlie into the position of having to establish an identity for herself. She had three children to take care of while crafting a new life for herself that wasn’t defined by someone else’s life journey.
The details of Myrlie’s life were beyond what the average person would experience. But, her life after Medgar Evers is a journey that a lot of people can relate to and would be able to take something away from. Watch Me Fly is a very personable book with an approachable writing style. It feels like a conversation with a cool older aunt that you can talk to about anything.
Throughout the book, Myrlie shares life advice from things that she’d learned from her experiences through the years. Most of the advice that she offered was quite good. And the writing style made the disagreeable parts palatable.
Her quest to find herself and establish her own identity was inspiring and would be motivating for most people. Having gone from the strict confines of her grandmother’s house to her husband’s house. And dealing with the discrimination of the time along with the stereotypes and limitations placed on Black people.
Watch Me Fly also touched on several topics that many people of Myrlie’s generation would have most likely shied away from. Myrlie discusses her family’s dysfunction. This includes her mother being a teen mom and her father being an undependable parent.
In the early part of the book, Myrlie discusses her courtship and marriage with Medgar Evers. It’s not a full biography of Evers but offers insight into his personality, backstory and some moments from his life during their time together. Evers was a brave activist and pro-Black before the term existed. But, on the flipside, he was quite traditional and sexist with regards to gender roles.
Myrlie’s second husband, Walter Williams, was less accomplished but a good man in his own right. He came into Myrlie’s life after she’d gone through her personal transformation and had a greater sense of herself. Yet, Myrlie was apprehensive about opening herself up to a new love and relationship. There was also a fear of losing her independence.
Watch Me Fly covers Myrlie’s experiences navigating the world of politics during her runs for office. She had to deal with sexism at a time when people in society were uncomfortable with a young Black woman running for office. Some felt she would be taking away a position that could have otherwise gone to a Black man. There was an idea that she was hurting the Black cause by attempting to step into roles that held by White men that Black men were now trying to occupy.
I found Myrlie very likable but disagreed with some of her views. For example, married couples working out their problems between themselves is good advice. But, I draw the line at the point where things become physical.
That level of dysfunction shouldn’t remain quiet. It’s too far gone and is no longer personal business. There is never any reason for a man or woman to threaten or resort to violence because they’re upset or not getting their way. The only option should be to speak and work things out through verbal communication. To be clear, Myrlie didn’t advocate for domestic violence but I felt it wasn’t on par with a couple working out a simple disagreement between themselves.
Watch Me Fly was a very quick read that I finished in about a week. Myrlie Evers-Williams’ story was very inspirational. It was one of those books that I read through once and then found myself going back to re-read specific parts.
I’d recommend Watch Me Fly if you’re interested in the Civil Rights Movement or the Black experience. But, the book also delves into Myrlie’s personal journey and her quest to improve herself. Watch Me Fly could also be very appealing if you’re into self-help books or are looking for motivation to become better versions of themselves.
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