This book is a collection of personal narratives, memoirs, tales about growing up, about initiation, and the lessons and insights I have learned along the way, both as the person who has experienced them, and a writer about them. By writing these stories, I have explored the interrelationship of race, class, and gender, not as abstract issues but as actual encounters and episodes, providing me with a "voice." Varied as the narratives may be, they are told by the same voice--that of a wounded but surviving writer and academic. So perhaps the story that all the narratives tell is one of self-preservation. Memoirs, after all, become the literary representations of memory.