Child: A Memoir

In 1944, Mattie Culp left her own child behind to work for – and live with — the Kurtz family in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Mattie was twenty-six; Judy was three. In the beginning, Judy and Mattie not only shared a room; they shared a double bed, which, to Judy, “felt as wide as the world.” Child is a book of small moments, both heart-warming and heartbreaking, a life shared by a Black maid and the white child she takes care of. The small moments form a love story, as the caretaker becomes the cared-for, as Judy fulfills her childhood promise: “When you get old, Mattie, I’ll take care of you.”

Now eighty, Judy cross-examines what it was to be a white child in the Jim Crow South: “My privileged childhood, the world I counted on and cherished – so dependent on Mattie … ” It’s the story she always wanted to tell, but didn’t think she had the right to tell. Now that she sees time running out, her lifelong yearning is taking on more urgency, and she finally gives voice to the story of a key relationship in her life — in all of its complexity, coziness, contradiction, and context.

Read an Excerpt from Child

 

Judy Goldman - CHILD
Judy Goldman - CHILD

What They’re Saying About Child

This moving memoir of a Black woman’s importance in a white family reminds me that behind, under, and above the racial divide in the South, there ran strong currents of abiding love and mutual protection. These currents Judy Goldman excels at exploring without illusion and with full humanity. What a brave and timely book.

— Frances Mayes, New York Times bestselling author of Under the Tuscan Sun and Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir


Steeped in vivid, evocative memories of her southern childhood, Goldman’s moving memoir strives to “re-inhabit” and “interpret” the past: a white child of privilege growing up in a Black woman’s care. It is a brave undertaking to explore the complexities of that time and place, but Goldman’s honesty and her wise, clear-eyed recognition of truth moves the memories into a new place.

— Jill McCorkle, New York Times bestselling author of Hieroglyphics


Child is as profound a memoir as I’ve ever read. In one gorgeously rendered scene after another, Goldman illuminates the paradoxes of a loving childhood built on “unconscionable scaffolding.” To read this riveting book is to learn how to hold the finest detail up to the light, how to examine all memory.

— Abigail DeWitt, author of News of Our Loved Ones


Judy Goldman cuts through the mist of memory to find a deeper truth in her relationship with her family’s longtime housekeeper, Mattie. It’s a story about love, family, privilege and prejudice, seen through the eyes of innocence and the eyes of experience. What a stunning feat.

— Tommy Tomlinson, author of The Elephant in the Room


With mesmerizing detail and remarkable acuity, with a storyteller’s ear and a poet’s precision, Judy Goldman conveys, in Child, the profound goodness that shaped her, the antinomies that haunt her, and the mysteries that exert themselves even within the gilded frame of love.

— Beth Kephart, National Book Award finalist and author of Wife | Daughter | Self: A Memoir in Essays and We Are the Words: The Master Memoir Class