Mary Bishop’s big party for the launch of “Don’t You Ever,” her magnificent memoir, looked more like a reunion of The Roanoke Times’ Best Years last night. It was appropriately held at the Vinton War Memorial, a few blocks from where her brother, Ronnie, a central character in the book, worked for some years.
It was mentioned more than once last night that there was sufficient journalistic talent in the room to put together a newspaper overnight that would blow the current iteration of a once-good newspaper off the boards. But that’s another story. Mary’s story–her book–is more interesting and is not a case of playful imagination.
“Don’t You Ever” is the story of a time and place that many Americans, following false prophets, would love to return to, a place of improperly placed moral rectitude, of injustice, of overt discrimination and of pain visited upon those too poor to fight it. I grew up in that morass of our worst instincts and fully understood what Mary–who, like me, is in her early 70s–was talking about on nearly every page (though she often does it with a gentle humor, befitting one who emerged victorious).
For many years, I thought Frank McCourt (“Angela’s Ashes”) was maybe the only person I’d ever read who understood real poverty; that it isn’t about not having, it is about how we are treated, how we are viewed, how we are misunderstood. Mary, a Pulitzer Prize winner, understands that.
She has a couple more signings remaining in the Roanoke Valley in the near future and you can pick up your signed copy at one of them. Those signings are at Book No Further bookshop at 16 West on Church Avenue, 6:30, Tuesday, July 17, and at St. John’s Episcopal Church, 6:30, Thursday, July 19.