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American Thighs: The Sweet Potato Queens' Guide to Preserving Your Assets

Jill Connor Browne, the self-proclaimed Sweet Potato Queen, is fifty-five and lives in Jackson, Mississippi. Her newest book, American Thighs, is an amusing but lightweight look at aging from an older Southern woman's point of view. She can be quite funny—I love the phrase “our inexorable trudge into Geezerdom”—though the topics she covers tend towards the trite: how a new hairstyle won't help you get a new job or boyfriend, how silly it is for her daughter and her college classmates to dress up in fancy gowns for football games, and so on.

The book is a collection of anecdotes from Browne's life and those of friends, acquaintances, and readers, and with each chapter on a distinct subject, it lacks a unifying theme. In “No Matter What Skin You're In,” she relays several stories dealing with the importance of skin care and visiting your dermatologist. She notes that attitudes towards skin damage prevention have changed noticeably from when she was younger, when it was most people's goal to get a deep tan in the summer. “For many hapless White people, this was and is simply a physical impossibility—not that they allowed the absolute absence of melanin in their skin to serve as any kind of deterrent or discouragement.”

Using a semi-bawdy humor that is sprinkled throughout the book, Browne also tells an amusing story of a man who went to the dermatologist to have a mole near his genitals removed. The nurse administering his shot said, “Just a little prick.” Poor Jud could only respond, “That's just adding insult to injury.”

Another chapter, “Howdy, Sports Fans,” contains a story about Browne and two female friends catching a big fish on a lake, the football game rituals at her daughter's college (Ole Miss), and an inspirational story of a sixty-eight-year-old woman who became the gold medalist in the long jump in the Senior Olympics, although she had never been a fitness buff before. It's a good representation of the mixtures of smartass observations and incredible and inspiring stories in the book. Sprinkled throughout the text are Browne's “Asset Preserving Tips,” which include such epiphanies as “karma does not like smug,” and emphasizing the importance of exercise for both your body and mind.

I was put off by Browne's penchant for capital letters and colloquial phrases. Yes, you may say “prolly” instead of “probably” when speaking, but in a written text, please use the correct term. And while selective capitalization can effectively highlight big ideas, when used five times on a page it loses its punch.

Browne has a bit of the “folksy wisdom” some find endearing in Sarah Palin, but Browne is a lot smarter and isn't afraid to swear when the occasion calls for it, which makes for a rather refreshing antidote to the Southern belle persona. Like many “advice” books that are really anecdote collections, American Thighs does not offer anything revolutionary. It contains stories that are by turns cute, amusing, and inspirational, and reading it will certainly add some lightheartedness to your day.

Written by: Karen Duda, March 17th 2010

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