We're thrilled that Kira Salak's Four Corners is the first Travel Book Club selection by Go Girl Travel, an international network of thousands of women travelers in more than 100 countries. If you like our blog series on intrepid women travelers, we think you'll love #GoGirlReads! Read the book and join the discussion on Twitter or at your local meetup group.
This week in our series on women travel writers, we feature Juanita Harrison’s My Great, Wide, Beautiful World.
Without a doubt, Juanita Harrison stands out from the upper-class white women of her day, who were most often the ones who could afford traveling for pleasure. Not much is known about Harrison's life outside of this book. She was an African American woman born in Mississippi in 1890 and presumably grew up very poor. Still, equipped with an insatiable curiosity for other cultures and languages, she managed to fund and realize a nearly decade-long journey around the world, from America to Europe to Asia, and find employment and independence at every stop along the way. My Great, Wide, Beautiful World concludes with Harrison living in a small grass hut in Waikiki, and we have no way of knowing what happened to her after that. No visual record of her life exists.
A self-taught woman, Harrison's book is written in idiosyncratic prose riddled with misuses of grammar and spelling. Yet her passion for writing and sharing her experiences—from the food she eats to the people she encounters—as she makes her way across more than 20 countries, radiates through the book. Juanita Harrison earned the respect of most everyone she met on her journey, and she unquestionably earns our respect as readers. Here is an excerpt from this truly unique autobiography:
I had a thrilling day at Monte Carlo. The Laws are different from Nice. In Nice I went several times to play a few Franc in the Casino and on the Ball room floor Dark colord girls in their evening cloths dancing in the Arms of Hansom White Frenchmen. The French are great Love makers being man proof I get a big kick out of them. I even sneeked into the gaming room without paying the entrance fee. But at Monte-C. I found it harder. I had on a little French cap and they thought I had slipped away from the family to gamble. Also you must prove you have money. I couldnt prove that, they said they would let me go in just once to stay only one hour. I ask what if I stay longer he said he may put me in jail. I told him I heard it was a nice jail and I would be glad to see it. Then I laied them all out and they gave me a ticket to quick. I knew I would get in. I just wanted to Know what they would say. I wanted to try the table where they played with the II cards. One of the Guards tryed to tell me. But he looked so big and hansom I didnt remember a word he said. So I lost 20 franc. It was worth it.
In our Restless Women Travelers series, we will celebrate and (re)introduce you to some of the most important travelogues written by women, from Frances Trollope’s colonial voyage to the contemporary jungle treks of Kira Salak. Make sure to look through ourlist of upcoming titles to find the travel tale that will inspire you to be restless this summer!
Launch event at Edith Wharton's The Mount:
On Sunday, June 22, we'll be hosting a very special book launch for the first title in our series, Edith Wharton's A Motor-Flight Through France. The event will take place at The Mount—Edith Wharton's gorgeous home in the Berkshires. Beginning at 5:30, we'll have a short reading, conversation, and cocktails on the patio overlooking Wharton's gardens, with fellow readers, writers, and travelers. We hope to see you there!
For New York City travelers: Restless is partnering with Lit Crawl NYC to provide round-trip shuttle service to the mount. Click the button below for more info.