Her Own Place Essay - Critical Essays

Dori Sanders

Her Own Place

In HER OWN PLACE, Dori Sanders tells the compelling story of a determined and resourceful young black woman who rises out of appalling poverty by means of indomitable inner strength, a sense of humor, a loyal family, and close friends. Mae Lee Barnes’s struggles and triumphs are set by Sanders against the larger historical background of the often painfully slow changes in rural South Carolina which occurred after World War II.

Mae Lee’s own life quickly turns tumultuous when she is still a teenager. Married to Jeff Barnes the day before his departure to an army camp, she saves enough money working at a munitions plant to buy her own land at the end of the war, thus beginning to escape economic dependency. For his part, after siring five children, Jeff drops out of sight forever. Holding on to her farm and putting all of her children through school, Mae Lee experiences an end to official segregation but has her only son Taylor wounded in action in Vietnam.

Mae Lee’s spirited persistence bears rich fruit as her children become successful young adults and she can retire from working her farm. As the first black volunteer at the town’s hospital, Mae Lee becomes her author’s crucible as Sanders examines changing race relations in the South among people of good will.

Born and raised in North Carolina, Dori Sanders writes with a strong sense of authenticity, and her characters and locales breathe a convincing realism. Like Mae Lee’s family quilt, HER OWN PLACE is woven out of tales of pain suffered, hardships overcome, and joy well earned.

Sources for Further Study

American Visions. VIII, April, 1993, p.30.

Booklist. LXXXIX, February 15, 1993, p.1013.

The Christian Science Monitor. June 24, 1993, p.14.

Essence. XXIV, August, 1993, p.52.

Kirkus Reviews. LXI, March 1, 1993, p.255

Library Journal. CXVIII, March 15, 1993, p.108.

Los Angeles Times Book Review. June 6, 1993, p.6.

The New York Times. May 3, 1993, p. Cl 1.

Publishers Weekly. CCXL, March 8, 1993, p.66.

The Washington Post Book World. XXIII, May 9, 1993, p.12.