Long Live the Tribe of Father­less Girls [Review]

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United States on 2019-07-10 17:17Z by Steven

Long Live the Tribe of Father­less Girls [Review]

Jewish Book Council
2019-07-04

Jessie Sza­lay

T Kira Madden, Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls, A Memoir (New York: Bloomsbury, 2019)

This stun­ning, com­pul­sive­ly read­able debut mem­oir tells the sto­ry of T Kira Madden’s com­ing-of-age in the swampy, sur­re­al world of wealthy Boca Raton, Flori­da. Despite her priv­i­lege wrought from her father’s shady deal­ings in gam­bling and stocks, young Mad­den faced crip­pling lone­li­ness and inse­cu­ri­ty. Her drug-addled par­ents were fre­quent­ly neglect­ful, strung out to what Mad­den calls ​“the oth­er place.” Though wealthy enough to attend prepara­to­ry school and own four hors­es, Mad­den fed her­self lit­tle but canned soup as a child. Her father rarely spoke to her and called her ​“son.” It’s no won­der that despite his phys­i­cal pres­ence for sub­stan­tial por­tions of her child­hood, Mad­den felt father­less. As a teenag­er, she fell into code­pen­dent friend­ships with oth­er ​“losers” who lacked sol­id parental sup­port. They found a sense of con­trol in drugs, eat­ing dis­or­ders, and sex, both enabling each oth­er in tox­ic behav­ior and being a lov­ing family.

It sounds like an aver­age ​“poor lit­tle rich girl” sto­ry. But Long Live the Tribe of Father­less Girls is much more than that, tak­ing tropes and ren­der­ing them with an undy­ing sense of com­pas­sion. The details of Madden’s ear­ly mem­o­ries are star­tling­ly vivid in a way that sug­gests she was in a per­sis­tent state of high alert, every pain etched in her brain for­ev­er. But for every men­tion of a ter­ri­fy­ing drug over­dose or her father leav­ing her at a base­ball game, there are sto­ries of her mother’s del­i­cate removal of lice from her daughter’s hair or her father’s ear­ly teach­ing of mag­ic tricks. Mad­den loves her fam­i­ly fierce­ly and in spite of it all, we nev­er doubt their deep-down love for her…

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Novels That Reach for the Stars : DECORATIONS IN A RUINED CEMETERY, By John Gregory Brown (Houghton Mifflin: $19.95; 244 pp.)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Louisiana, Media Archive, United States on 2019-05-29 00:09Z by Steven

Novels That Reach for the Stars : DECORATIONS IN A RUINED CEMETERY, By John Gregory Brown (Houghton Mifflin: $19.95; 244 pp.)

The Los Angeles Times
1994-01-23

Margaret Langstaff

I wish more people today would attempt books like this one, novels that take on the big questions, the eternal verities, and, without pretense and a whole lot of claptrap, address the difficulty of finding meaning and significance in life. For this is the stuff of which classics are made and what literature, certainly, is all about. That John Gregory Brown had the nerve to square off before such issues in his first novel is by itself laudable. The fact that he wrote a fine story with believable, memorable characters in the process is reason for applause.

Brown, not yet 40, writes out of the Southern tradition in fiction, and is midway, in terms of depth and accessibility, between Faulkner and Walker Percy, (sort of a Lite-Faulkner or a Percy au jus.) Race, family, heritage, faith, good and evil are the obsessions in question, and the plot turns on critical choices having to do with one’s understanding of the difference between virtuous behavior and cowardice, and one’s courage to do the right thing. More readable than Faulkner, less comedic than Percy, Brown is nonetheless in their direct line of descent, their natural heir, without any obvious imitation.

Decorations in a Ruined Cemetery” concerns the Eagen family of New Orleans and its immediate vicinity, Irish Catholics whose lineage is made more colorful, if not more difficult, by containing within it a black matriarch who mysteriously, in midlife, disappears, leaving her husband and small son to continue their lives without her. The legacy of this racial intermarriage and the mystery of Molly Moore Eagen’s disappearance–unsolved until the book’s final pages–haunt and twist the lives of three generations of Eagens…

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Reviewed Work: Passing Interest: Racial Passing in US Novels, Memoirs, Television, and Film, 1990–2010 by Nerad, Julie Cary

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2019-05-27 22:02Z by Steven

Reviewed Work: Passing Interest: Racial Passing in US Novels, Memoirs, Television, and Film, 1990–2010 by Nerad, Julie Cary

CLA Journal
Volume 61, Number 3 (March 2018)
pages 250-253
DOI: 10.34042/claj.61.3.0250

Sharon L. Jones, Professor of English
Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio

Nerad, Julie Cary. Passing Interest: Racial Passing in Novels, Memoirs, Television, and Film, 1990-2010. Albany: SUNY Press, 2014. 360pp. ISBN: 9781438452272. $95.00. Hardcover.

Passing Interest. Racial Passing in US Novels, Memoirs, Television, and Film, 1990-2010 provides relevant, meaningful information because of its scope and range. Julie Cary Nerad, the editor and the other contributors, should be praised for the book, which features innovative contributions offering new and useful analysis of literature and film from varying critical perspectives. Overall, it serves an important purpose in advancing knowledge, discussion, and debates about different genres and centuries. Ultimately, Passing Interest: Racial Passing in US Novels, Memoirs, Television, and Film, 1990-2010 promotes a reconsideration of how numerous factors influence literature and popular culture.

In “Preface: The ‘Posts’ of Passing,” Gayle Wald assesses the book in an enlightening and thoughtful manner by drawing upon personal and academic contexts (vii-x). Wald states, “In particular, this book expands upon a rich body of scholarship on passing by exploring recent literary and visual texts produced in an era often referred to as ‘post-racial,’ and by bringing a host of new voices to the scholarly con-versation” (vii). Wald astutely acknowledges the scholarly writings of other authors, and some examples include the following: Barbara Christian, Houston Baker, Valerie Smith, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., as well as Werner Sollors (viii). Wald also stresses, “In some ways, the essays in Passing Interest are about the conditions of the possibility of post-ness itself “ (ix). Wald’s approach demonstrates the book’s relevant position in helping potential readers to better understand contemporary and earlier times.

As both editor and contributor, Julie Cary Nerad highlights her careful and meticulous approach to analyzing the book’s topic. In “Introduction: the (Not So) New Face of America,’’ (chapter one) Nerad argues that “ln the United States, race does still matter. Indeed, the concept of race continues to be a fundamental element of identity in America” (5). Nerad identifies several books that are noteworthy including Crossing the Line: Racial Passing in Twentieth-Century U.S. Literature and Culture, Passing and the Fictions of Identity, Passing: Identity and Interpretation in Sexuality, Race, and Religion, as well as acknowledging additional scholarship (12). Nerad contends “These works generally read passing texts from early American literature up to the Civil Rights Era” (12). Nerad’s introductory essay then lays a foundation for the idea that Passing Interest: Racial Passing in US Novels, Memoirs, Television, and Film, 1990-2010 proves distinct from many other books because of its emphasis on analyzing more recent publications (12).

The subsequent chapters offer useful insight or perspectives. For example, the second and third chapters concentrate on nonfiction and present illuminating commentary. In “On the Margins of a Movement: Passing in Three Contemporary…

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Carina E. Ray, Crossing the Color Line: race, sex, and the contested politics of colonialism in Ghana [Aderinto Review]

Posted in Africa, Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2019-05-03 19:18Z by Steven

Carina E. Ray, Crossing the Color Line: race, sex, and the contested politics of colonialism in Ghana [Aderinto Review]

Africa
Volume 88, Issue 1 (February 2018)
pages 193-194
DOI: 10.1017/S0001972017000821

Saheed Aderinto, Associate Professor of History
Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, North Carolina

Carina E. Ray, Crossing the Color Line: race, sex, and the contested politics of colonialism in Ghana. Athens OH: Ohio University Press (hb US$80 – 978 0 8214 2179 6; pb US$32.95 – 978 0 8214 2180 2). 2015, 333 pp.

In this creatively and brilliantly conceived book, Carina Ray uses the story of interracial sexual relationships between European men and African women in the Gold Coast and African men and European women in Britain as an entry point into a much broader history of racial and gender relations. Throughout, one learns about the interconnectedness of sexual and racial politics to the big question of colonial ‘civilization’. The author’s carefully sourced and previously untapped primary sources from both Ghana and Britain, combined with her ingenuity, give beauty to historical writing. Her detailed archival materials and oral interviews allow her to move from specific colonial trials of interracial affairs to big narratives on the transatlantic movement of ideas, practices and families, and anti-colonial struggles within the British Empire. The photographs of multiracial families strategically placed throughout further put a human face on her narratives, and bring readers another step closer to the lived experience of historical agents and the societies that produced them. The eight closely connected chapters introduce change and continuity in the politics of race and sex in both the Gold Coast and Britain, the factors responsible for change, and how social and political transformation of colonial legitimacy reshaped perceptions of interracial relationships across race, class, gender and location.

Any Africanist familiar with trends in the scholarship on race, gender, sexuality and empire would not contest the significant contributions of Ray’s Crossing the Color Line to African studies. For one thing, this book is another successful attempt at putting sexuality in its rightful place in the general history of the colonial encounter in Africa. Instead of following the established discourse of ‘sex peril’ or anxiety over the alleged rape of European women by African men in settler colonies of East and Southern Africa, Ray’s book presents convincing arguments and narratives that humanize socio-sexual relations and removes them from the margins of criminality and violence…

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A Graphic Novel That Answers a Child’s Question About Being Biracial

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Book/Video Reviews, Family/Parenting, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United States on 2019-05-03 15:16Z by Steven

A Graphic Novel That Answers a Child’s Question About Being Biracial

Book Review
The New York Times
2019-05-02

Ed Park


Mira Jacob

For a person of color in America, the term person of color can be both useful and divisive, at once a form of solidarity and a badge of alienation. There’s a flattening effect, too: A multitude of ethnicities and cultures, with their own color-coded nuances, get crammed into the initials P.O.C.

Among its many virtues, Mira Jacob’s graphic memoir, Good Talk (One World, $30), helps us think through this term with grace and disarming wit. The book lives up to its title, and reading these searching, often hilarious tĂȘte-Ă -tĂȘtes — with her parents and brother, confidantes and strangers, employers and exes — is as effortless as eavesdropping on a crosstown bus.

Mira lives in New York with her husband, Jed, who is white and Jewish, and their young son, Z., who is dark-skinned like his mother — a poster for racial harmony that can, in the current climate, feel like a target. Born in New Mexico to parents who immigrated from India in 1968, Mira is simply “brown,” if ethnically obscure, while growing up (“You’re Indian like feathers or Indian like dots?” a boy asks her). Ironically, she first feels the stigma of skin color on trips to her parents’ native country, thanks to not being as “fair” as the rest of her family. As a girl, Mira envisions the “lighter, happier, prettier me.”…

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Don’t Touch My Hair by Emma Dabiri review – a voyage to empowerment

Posted in Africa, Anthropology, Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2019-05-03 13:35Z by Steven

Don’t Touch My Hair by Emma Dabiri review – a voyage to empowerment

The Guardian
2019-05-02

Colin Grant


Emma Dabiri records the external and internal pathologising of black hair as a chronic condition. Photograph: Silvana Trevale/The Guardian

Combs, braids and Bob Marley’s bad-hair days are explored in this richly researched cultural history

When Rita Anderson’s teenage boyfriend Bob was growing up in Jamaica’s Trenchtown ghetto, the fair-skinned future Rasta reggae star was so concerned to demonstrate his black heredity that he would get Rita to rub black shoe polish into his hair – so that, she says, it appeared “blacker, coarser and more African”. But after reading Emma Dabiri’s richly researched book, you wonder which model of African hair Bob Marley had in mind. For Dabiri shows that Africans have always paid close attention to the grooming and careful styling of hair, and in Yoruba the phrase for “dreadlocks” is irun were, which translates as “insane person’s hair-do”.

Like Marley, Dabiri also has black and white parents, and has wrestled with her identity. As a child in Ireland, people volunteered opinions about her hair that made her feel ashamed and “like an abomination”. But her personal story merely serves in the book as a jumping off point for an exploration of many subjects, among them colourism and self-worth.

Dabiri, who is a teaching fellow at SOAS, argues that the “desire to conform” to a European “aesthetic which values light skin and straight hair is the result of a propaganda campaign that has lasted more than 500 years”. European powers saw African culture as an impediment to productivity. “Idle husbands”, fumed one colonial administrator, wasted hours setting their wives the task of “braiding and fettishing out their woolly hair”…

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A Queer, Biracial Coming-of-Age Memoir Is Equal Parts Pain and Pleasure

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United States on 2019-04-20 01:57Z by Steven

A Queer, Biracial Coming-of-Age Memoir Is Equal Parts Pain and Pleasure

The New York Times
2019-04-19

Tessa Fontaine


Janice Chang

T Kira Madden, Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls, A Memoir (New York: Bloomsbury, 2019)

The tribe of fatherless girls that make up T Kira Madden’s titular chapter are three high school friends bonded by loss, lust, recklessness and love. But the tribe extends much further, shape-shifting throughout the memoir from youthful friendships to romantic partners, from a nuclear family to a revision of that family history. Though the tribe expands, Madden’s devoted, imperfect relationships with girls and women form the centrifugal force around which her story spins. This is a fearless debut that carries as much tenderness as pain. The author never shrinks from putting herself back into the world after every hurt, and we are lucky for it.

The memoir is told in fragmented chapters, many of which read like self-contained essays. They are arranged into three mostly chronological sections that follow Madden’s life from early memories to the death of her father when she is 27. Madden renders her mourning viscerally: “My hands — they are never not shaking,” and yet still, when she falls asleep, “it’s the women who come first.”…

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Liana by Martha Gellhorn (1944)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Women on 2019-04-18 19:30Z by Steven

Liana by Martha Gellhorn (1944)

Literary Ladies Guide: Inspiration for Readers and Writers from Classic Women Authors
2018-11-25

Taylor Jasmine

Liana by Martha Gellhorn

Martha Gellhorn was married to Ernest Hemingway when Liana, her fifth novel, was published in 1944. She had already made quite a name for herself as a war correspondent by that point and it rankled her to be described as “Mrs. Ernest Hemingway” in reviews of her books.

Though her fiction varied in its quality and critical acclaim, her book of linked stories titled The Trouble I’ve Seen (1936), based on her actual observations as a journalist during the Depression, earned her a great deal of respect.

Her brief marriage to Hemingway was already in jeopardy the year that Liana appeared. In her capacity as a war correspondent, Gellhorn wanted to cover the action, wherever it happened to be…

…The story centers on Liana, who is described as a mulatto, or what we now call mixed-race. She marries Marc Royer, a wealthy white man on a fictional French Caribbean island called Saint Boniface.

For his part, he marries her mainly to spite another woman, and so, Liana is marked by a kind of tragedy in this sense, becoming a prisoner in his home, and a partner to a man who doesn’t fully love her…

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Black for a Day: White Fantasies of Race and Empathy [Kuryla Review]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2019-03-29 01:39Z by Steven

Black for a Day: White Fantasies of Race and Empathy [Kuryla Review]

Journal of American History
Volume 105, Issue 4, March 2019
pages 1073–1074
DOI: 10.1093/jahist/jaz127

Peter Kuryla, Associate Professor of History
Belmont University, Nashville, Tennessee

Black for a Day: White Fantasies of Race and Empathy. By Alisha Gaines. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2017. xvi, 213 pp. Cloth, $80.00. Paper, $27.95.)

In Black for a Day Alisha Gaines shows the limitations of a specific kind of white liberal empathy. If liberalism requires that political space include others that are imagined as reasonable and therefore capable of persuasion, then empathy seems central to the project. How should people imagine these others? How should they enact their understanding of the others around them, and how does empathy work amid the tangled, complex history of race and racism in the United States? What happened when white liberals took too literally one of Gunnar Myrdal’s central conclusions in An American Dilemma (1944)—that racism was a white problem? Gaines…

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New Perspectives on James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man ed. by Noelle Morrissette (review)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2019-02-26 02:18Z by Steven

New Perspectives on James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man ed. by Noelle Morrissette (review)

African American Review
Volume 51, Number 4, Winter 2018
pages 344-346
DOI: 10.1353/afa.2018.0049

Masami Sugimori, Associate Professor of American Literature
Florida Gulf Coast University, Fort Myers, Florida

Ed. Noelle Morrissette. New Perspectives on James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man. Athens: U of Georgia P, 2017. 272 pp. $59.95.

More than a century after its initial publication in 1912, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man by James Weldon Johnson continues to generate commentary. The narrator’s racial passing, along with the novel’s twist of genre through “passing” for an autobiography, has led much scholarship to address the issues of race and narrative. At the same time, with the advent and development of new critical and theoretical approaches, more and more topics (pertaining to the literary climate around Johnson’s composition, the novel’s intertextuality with other works both within and outside of the era, and the sociocultural contexts of the early twentieth-century U. S., to name just a few) have arisen and enriched our inquiry. Meanwhile, the novel itself has gone through numerous editions—including, but not limited to, those published by Alfred A. Knopf (1927), New American Library (1948), Vintage (1989), Penguin Books (1990), Library of America (2004), and recently, by W. W. Norton as a Critical Edition (2015)—which attest to its increasingly canonical status in American literature. New Perspectives on James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man—the first critical anthology devoted entirely to the novel—is a timely addition to this evolution of Johnson scholarship and readership, featuring both established and innovative strategies for analysis and interpretation.

Editor Noelle Morrissette’s Introduction defines New Perspectives as a product of the ongoing critical history of The Autobiography, on the one hand, and as an embodiment of the “futurity” that explicitly or implicitly informs the novel, on the other. While offering “new perspectives” in their respective ways, the essays in this collection attend productively to the accumulated scholarship that Morrissette surveys in terms of topical trends: Johnson’s authorial achievements and the novel’s documentary values (1960s and ’70s); its intertextuality with African American narratives (late 1970s and early ’80s); modernity, modernism, and racial identity (1990s); and transnationalism, performativity, music, and sound (since 2000). These essays also share an emphasis on the visions of the future Johnson embedded in the novel—not only as an extension of his careful assessment of the contemporary U. S., but also in his resistance to the nation’s racial regime, which denied blacks a legitimate history or a sense of teleological progression in time. Thus, Morrissette designs her anthology to conduct “a reassessment of the author’s writing and legacy and the racial futurity he called for, to which we continue to respond” (15).

These guiding principles also account for the section organization of New Perspectives, with its ten chapters and an Afterword assigned to four parts according to topical focuses. The three essays in part one, “Cultures of Reading, Cultures of Writing: Canons and Authenticity,” examine Johnson’s complex relationship with “cultural” parameters surrounding his composition: white mentor Brander Matthews’s theory of modern American fiction (Lawrence J. Oliver); the early twentieth-century African American literary scene (Michael Nowlin); and the novel’s “reliably unreliable” white readers (Jeff Karem 67). Each of these relationships consists of transactional negotiation rather than one-way influence. Through careful analysis of Johnson’s Ɠuvre and correspondence, for example, Nowlin reveals that the author’s acute sense of African American literary destitution underlies the way he framed The Autobiography—both in its anonymous publication in 1912 and in the 1927 republication marketed as “a classic in Negro literature” (49)—which went in tandem with his strenuous promotion of other black writers to establish a legitimate and well-recognized African American literary tradition.

Part two, “Relational Tropes: Transnationalism, Futurity, and the Ex-Colored Man,” features three essays on the transnational and transhistorical potential of, and exploration in, The Autobiography. Diana Paulin compares the novel with Pauline Hopkins’s Of One Blood, and Daphne Lamothe does so with Teju Cole’s Open City, to reveal the “futurity” that Johnson’s work posits in the form, respectively, of…

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