Longtime Oakland public librarian and historian Dorothy Lazard explores her childhood, her intellectual journey, and her relationship with her chaotic, loving family in her impressive memoir, What You Don't Know Will Make a Whole New World. The title comes from something Lazard's grandmother, Mam'Ella, told her after Lazard, her mother, and her brother Albert moved from St. Louis to San Francisco to be near their extended family. Rather than being discouraged, Lazard took the statement as a challenge: through the public library, newspapers, and conversations with her elders, she became determined to learn everything she possibly could.
Lazard is unstinting in her portrayal of challenges and joys: the glory of being young and Black just as the Black Power movement and Black artists were at the forefront of culture, and the constant racism she faced at school and elsewhere. She details her mother's struggles with epilepsy and her brother's troubled teenage years, as well as the places where she found refuge: the local newsstand, the library, and eventually the apartment she and her sister, Sarah, called home. Lazard also captures a particular moment in the evolution of cities like Oakland: gentrification, and new corporate buildings replacing older, smaller businesses. Longing to become a writer, she became a keen noticer and note taker--skills that serve her well as a librarian and an author.
Written in a clear, matter-of-fact voice, Lazard's memoir is a vivid slice of American life and an account of one young Black woman's journey of becoming. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams