“I was born in 1944, the second of four daughters. Our father was a Methodist preacher and our mother was a preacher’s daughter. My three sisters were each the epitome of what a preacher’s daughter ought to be: modest, caring, chaste, full of good deeds, discerning, and cautious. It fell to me to uphold the popular image of a daughter of the parsonage: wild, willful, religiously disrespectful, incautious, and a trampler of tradition. And oh, I fell to this role with relish and abandon.”
Born the daughter of a preacher but afforded none of the grace or modesty, Ellen Nichols recounts her memories of growing up in the Deep South with relentless honesty and biting wit. Moving around Alabama from parsonage to parsonage, her family and the church are the two things that remain constant through her life. Her father was never the average image of a southern Methodist preacher either, often preaching the importance of equal rights alongside gospel.
With every move, Ellen tells the stories of her new hometown and the people she meets there, from her childhood playmates to family friends to the many beaus (of varying quality) that she dated through high school. While the picture Ellen paints of the South during the fifties and sixties is transportive, it is not always idyllic. The narrative of the Civil Rights movement is woven intrinsically throughout the chapters of the book, with racial tensions always looming in the background. Whether it is the local Dairy Queen where Ellen would order her food from the “Blacks only” window or the protest she attended against her college’s rules, her account allows for a look into a past that isn’t always acknowledged in today’s world. There is a sometimes-jarring shock between Ellen’s humorous takes on the environment she grew up in and the grave seriousness of our nation’s sordid history. At times, Ellen’s memoir comes off as more of a tell-all, with her unabashed detailing of her life in the Deep South- both on a personal and broader level.
“That would have been my first conscious awareness of my dad’s civil rights leanings, although I probably didn’t understand it at the time… In the distance was a contingent of men in white robes and pointy hats. A flag with a cross on it was stuck on a pole beside them. They were stopping cars and handing out pamphlets. We slowed as if to take the handout, but just as we got right beside them, my dad leaned out the window and yelled, ‘You ought to be flying Hitler’s flag’ and rode off.”
Ellen Nichols’ memoir, Remember Whose Little Girl You Are (Köehlerbooks, June 1st, ISBN: 9781646635146, Trade Paperback) is an insightful, humorous adventure through the eyes of a “child of the parsonage”. With an open hand, she invites you to come along as she chronicles an important, pivotal time in America’s history with an extremely personal take. Hilarious, shocking, and at times heart-wrenching, it is a journey that readers will find both enlightening and enjoyable.
Remember Whose Little Girl You Are
By Ellen Nichols
Publication Date: June 1st, 2022
Original Trade Paperback