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

Posted in Articles, Arts, 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 tête-à-têtes — 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)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…

Read the entire review here.

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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 œuvre 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…

Read or purchase the review here.

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In This Ingenious Satire, a Father Goes to Extremes to Protect His Son From Racism

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2019-02-15 21:03Z by Steven

In This Ingenious Satire, a Father Goes to Extremes to Protect His Son From Racism

Book Review
The New York Times
2019-02-13

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah


Maurice Carlos Ruffin Clare Welsh

Maurice Carlos Ruffin, We Cast a Shadow, A Novel (New York: One World, 2019)

Good questions breathe life into the world. “We Cast a Shadow,” Maurice Carlos Ruffin’s debut novel, asks some of the most important questions fiction can ask, and it does so with energetic and acrobatic prose, hilarious wordplay and great heart.

“We Cast a Shadow” is the story of a black lawyer in a version of the American South. We are dropped into a future where the country is even more willing than now to follow its worst, most racist inclinations. The unnamed narrator describes how, in the next state over, black people must wear tracking devices.

The novel draws its power from this unnamed man’s love for his family, particularly for his biracial son, Nigel. The narrator loves his son so much it seems he can’t even see him. What he does see is the boy’s figure outlined and defined by all the lurking dangers to his person and his potential. Our narrator is especially worried because of the metastasizing birthmarks that cover his son’s body: differently sized tokens of color that remind the world that Nigel is black, a fate as unfortunate as any in the mind of his father…

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The Blue Stain: A Novel of a Racial Outcast by Hugo Bettauer (review)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Europe, Media Archive, Passing on 2019-01-28 19:31Z by Steven

The Blue Stain: A Novel of a Racial Outcast by Hugo Bettauer (review)

Journal of Austrian Studies
Volume 51, Number 2, Summer 2018
pages 99-101
DOI: 10.1353/oas.2018.0027

Adam J. Toth, Lecturer of German
University of North Carolina, Wilmington

Hugo Bettauer, The Blue Stain: A Novel of a Racial Outcast. Edited by Peter Höyng. Translated by Peter Höyng and Chauncey J. Mellor. Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2017. 144 pp.

Hugo Bettauer, an author virtually unknown to the U.S., will see new appreciation with the recent translation of his novel The Blue Stain: A Novel of a Racial Outcast. Originally titled Das blaue Mal: Der Roman eines Ausgestoßenen and published in 1922, Peter Höyng and Chauncey J. Mellor’s new and first translation of this book will make it more accessible to audiences in the English speaking-world. The translation of this novel arrives at a critical and relevant time particularly in the U.S., as the novel tells the story a half-white/half-black protagonist of Austrian and African-American descent and his life in various parts of the United States and Vienna. The novel offers crisp perspective during the U.S.’s ever-present crisis of racism and social injustice. Rather than nitpicking and fussing over the details of the translation, however, I will focus on the translators’ note, the introduction, and the afterword, as these matter a great deal to those gaining access to Austrian literature without the benefit of the German language under their belt and therefore weigh heavily on the work’s overall success.

Höyng and Mellor’s notes on the translation process accurately explain how they rendered the novel into English but offer limited perspective behind some of their decisions. When explaining how to translate the interjection “Wehe,” Höyng and Mellor assert that “possible dictionary translations for ‘Wehe’ were ‘alack‘ and ‘woe is me,’ both of which sounded hopelessly stilted and obsolete, reminiscent of shallow melodrama, and out of character for Zeller. ‘Good grief‘ was also rejected, because it evokes Charlie Brown’s use of this stock phrase in Peanuts and the bemusement it conjures up. ‘Good Gracious‘ showed up, but seemed a bit too pretentious, British, and possibly effeminate” (Höyng and Mellor, ix). For whom “Good Gracious” may seem pretentious, how the expression may seem too British, and why it would sound too effeminate (or effeminate at all) remain unanswered. While I can appreciate any amount of constraints the translators may have had in writing their notes, their target audience seems to only be one that speaks English but not German. Dwelling on such Kleinigkeiten in their introduction diverts the reader’s attention away from the text as a whole and down a rabbit hole on semantics and approximation. That said, the careful attention Höyng and Mellor gave to the work’s title and the translation of pejorative language against African-Americans in the original and in the translation express the importance of the novel itself and could itself hardly be considered trivial.

Höyng’s introduction gives the most thorough contextualization of the novel possible, guiding its readers through Bettauer’s known biography and the historical milieus of the book and its author. Höyng notes that “The Blue Stain represents the first novel in German to address racism in the United States in the twentieth century” (xv), stressing an important part of the novel’s position within the Austrian literary canon. He also emphasizes the important parallels made between Austria and the U.S. regarding race that converge in the novel, namely the “1867 law emancipating the Jews,” when Jews “had been granted their civil rights” (xix, xiv). By stressing this historical event, Höyng draws attention to the parallels between institutional anti-Semitism in the Habsburg Empire and institutional racism against African-Americans in the U.S. While I think the historical similarities are a good place to start bringing these historical events into dialogue with one another, additional contextualization of de jure and de facto anti-Semitism in the Habsburg Empire before and after emancipation in 1867 would help the readers see the historical differences between the experiences of Jews in the Habsburg Empire and African-Americans in the U.S.

The more critical points made about Bettauer’s…

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The passing of David Matthews

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2019-01-23 22:39Z by Steven

The passing of David Matthews

Savannah Now (Savannah Morning News)
Savannah, Georgia
2007-01-13

John Stoehr


David Matthews

In Harlem Renaissance author Claude McKay’s 1931 short story “Near-White,” Angelina Dove, a pale African American hoping to move up in the world, asks her mother “if some people are light enough to live like whites, why should there be such a fuss? Why should they live colored when they can be happier living white?”

Apparently many did. According to “The White African American Body,” by Charles D. Martin, a professor of literature at Florida State University, Ebony magazine published an article in 1948 titled “5 million U.S. white Negroes.”

The story, Martin wrote, proudly reported an upsurge in the number of African Americans who crossed the color line undetected by Jim Crow America. The article’s centerpiece was a series of photographs. The reader was invited to guess which person was black and which was white. Of the 14 portraits, three were white.

One of these “millions” of “white Negroes” was Anatole Broyard, the New York Times literary critic who, for decades, protected the Ivory Tower of European high culture from the unwashed proletariat while also “passing” for white, to the extent that even his wife and children didn’t know of his African ancestry until after his death in 1990.

Broyard’s hidden identity was revealed by Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. in a piece titled “The Passing of Anatole Broyard” for the New Yorker in 1996. The practice of racial passing, and the serious questions the social phenomena raises about the metaphysics of race and the paradox of racial identity, received wider attention four years later thanks to Philip Roth’s novel “The Human Stain” and its eventual movie adaptation.

In the decades since Martin Luther King Jr.’sI Have a Dream” speech, which have witnessed the rise of black nationalism, hip-hop, political correctness and influential black figures like Tiger Woods and Barack Obama, one might think passing for another race an archaic endeavor – discouraged by proud enfranchised blacks, dismissed by guilt-ridden whites.

As David Matthews demonstrates in his new memoir, “Ace of Spades,” however, passing continues. Like Angelina Dove, Matthews passed for white for the first 20 years of his life – throughout the 1970s, ’80s and into the ’90s – as a means of living more happily in an America still in thrall to the oppressive requirement of identification according to race…

Read the entire review here.

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