A while back on a trek to the book store I noticed the book Pig Candy: Taking My Father South, Taking My Father Home: A Memoir (Free Press, 2009) by Lise Funderburg. I found myself compelled to read it after perusing the book’s covers. Lise Funderburg is a freelance journalist and the acclaimed author of Black, White, Other: Biracial Americans Talk About Race and Identity (Quill, 1995) and The Color Purple: A Memory Book (Carroll & Graf, 2006). I recalled Oprah, the book maven herself, giving the thumbs up to Black, White, Other and read Funderburg’s insightful contributions to Oprah’s O Magazine. Why was I so draw to reading this memoir? Lise Funderburg is the mixed- race daughter to a black father and a white mother. Funderburg’s novel Black, White, Other is a collection of forty-six stories told by adults from black- white unions. Like these individuals and the author, I share this similarity. My father is from West Indian descent and my mother’s heritage is French Canadian. I can relate to being in the ‘Other’ category.
In Pig Candy Lise pays tribute to her terminally ill, stroke-impaired father, recalling their annual trips from his retirement community in Pennsylvania to his summer farm house in Georgia. George Newton Funderburg was a complex man with a colorful background and a thorny past. His life experiences are marked by times of segregated schools, ‘White’s Only’ signs and KKK threats. Lise wondered why she and her two sisters had such restricted childhoods but more than that she wanted desperately to get to know her father after years of disconnect. As an aside here, I can relate to the strict upbringing, but now that I’m a parent myself I can look back on it as a form of protection.
Lise reflects on her father’s skewed psyche,
Lise puts on a brave face and deals with her father’s cancer and cantankerous manner, all the while trying to gain some much needed closure to their strained relationship.
Subject: Eddie Frank’s Ungracious Behavior.
dear Jackie and Eddie,
it is distressing to have to write this e-mail about eddie’s confrontational, ungracious behavior toward one of my guest invited to fish on our lake.
it may be that we can straighten this outwhen i return in about two weeks, I hope so, how ever to emphaxize my position, let me suggest that eddie not, fish on our pond until we do straighten this out. also, it might be a good idea for eddie not to take any of my liquor, vodka or wine,until that time I am not an Indian giver and realize that there may be some wine I had given Jackie that she should feel free to take home if she likes.
by copy of this writing to francees smith [Dorothy’s sister] i am requesting she pass it along to troy eugene johnson so that he may reassure his nephew that my permission for him to fish on our lak is still in tact and he is welcome to come back.the nephew should know that his grandmother was most gracious to me over sixty years ago when i spent a weekend at their house in the Glades.
Keep well, continue your good work and enjoy life.love
Don’t get me wrong, George isn’t all bad; he has a likeable quirkiness about him. He likes the challenge of inventions and helpful gadgets. The special order pig box is right up his alley! Lise, family and friends, help him in his mission to make pig candy; a slow cooked barbecue pork delicacy. George is a collector of hobbies. He’s a master of dabbler, if you will. He dives into a new endeavor and inevitably loses his enthusiasm when a new interest comes along. I can relate to this habit myself with a studio full of half completed projects. Don’t get me started!
Endearing and amusing, Pig Candy is a book to be slowly savored, like the succulent, slow barbecued pork. Just like southern hospitality and home cooked flavor, Pig Candy leaves you feeling warm and wanting more. The themes of mortality and race are treated with dignity and grace. Lisa’s recounting of the Funderburg’s layered family history will leave a legacy for generations to come. In Lise’s search for her own racial identity she discovers a blurring of the lines between race and family. Growing up in a family with assorted colors the one message I can send is that love has no color. I can imagine that Lise Funderburg would agree with me wholeheartedly.