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NPR’s Michelle Norris to discuss memoir in Potsdam

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POTSDAM — National Public Radio host Michele Norris, one of the most respected voices in American journalism, will visit SUNY Potsdam for a public discussion at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Helen M. Hosmer Concert Hall at the college’s Crane School of Music.

Ms. Norris, the author of “The Grace of Silence: A Family Memoir,” will speak to more than 600 freshmen who read her book as part of SUNY Potsdam’s nationally recognized First-Year Success Seminars.

“The Grace of Silence” is a memoir by the co-host of National Public Radio’s“All Things Considered.” While exploring the hidden conversation on race unfolding throughout America in the wake of President Obama’s election, Ms. Norris discovered that there were painful secrets within her own family that had been willfully withheld.

These revelations — from her father’s shooting by a Birmingham police officer to her maternal grandmother’s job as an itinerant Aunt Jemima in the Midwest — inspired a bracing journey into her family’s past, from her childhood home in Minneapolis to her ancestral roots in the Deep South.

Toni Morrison called Norris’s book “an insightful, elegant rendering of how the history of an American family illuminates the history of our country.”

The discussion is free, and the public is invited to attend. Following the presentation, there will be a book signing in the Hosmer Hall lobby. Ms. Norris’s book is available for sale at the College Bookstore, located in the Barrington Student Union, as well as at other local booksellers.

Before joining NPR in 2002, Ms. Norris spent almost 10 years as a reporter for ABC News in the Washington bureau. She has also worked as a staff writer for the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times.

She has received numerous awards for her work. In 2009, she was named Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists. The NABJ recognized Ms. Norris for her body of work, in addition to her coverage of the 2008 presidential campaign — when she co-hosted NPR’s Democratic presidential candidates debate, covered both conventions, anchored multi-hour election and inauguration live broadcasts and moderated a series of candid conversations with voters on the intersection of race and politics. That series earned her and her co-host, Steve Inskeep, an Alfred I. DuPont Columbia University Award for excellence in broadcasting.

A four-time Pulitzer Prize entrant, Ms. Norris was honored with NABJ’s 2006 Salute to Excellence Award for her coverage of Hurricane Katrina; the University of Minnesota’s Outstanding Achievement Award and the 1990 Livingston Award for a series about a 6-year-old who lived in a crack house. That series was reprinted in the book, “Ourselves Among Others.”

In 2009, Ms. Norris was named one of Essence magazine’s 25 Most Influential Black Americans and elected to Ebony magazine’s Power 150 List. She was honored with Ebony’s Outstanding Women in Marketing & Communications Award in 2007.

She earned both an Emmy Award and Peabody Award for her contribution to ABC News’ coverage of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. She is on the judging committee for both the John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism and the Livingston Awards and is a frequent guest on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and MSNBC’s “The Chris Matthews Show.”

For the year leading up to the 2012 presidential election, Ms. Norris has recused herself from hosting duties while her husband takes a position as a senior adviser on the Obama campaign. During this time she is focusing on producing signature segments and features including the ATC series, the Back Seat Book Club and working on new reporting projects including the Race Card project.

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