Do Not Pass

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-12-03 02:50Z by Steven

Do Not Pass

Sunday Book Review
The New York Times
2010-02-16

Touré

This may come as a shock to you, especially if you look at whiteness as a boon and blackness as a burden, but I have never once wished to be white. If a fairy godfather came to me and said I could switch races, I’d open the window and make him use it. I think 99 percent of black people would do the same. That’s not a knock on whiteness — it seems to be working out well for many people — it’s that I love blackness, even if passing would allow me to unhook myself from the heavy anchor called racism. It’s cool: I’ve learned how to be as quick as a Br’er Rabbit, even with the anchor attached. Still, you might argue, wouldn’t switching from a disadvantaged race to the dominant one be as liberating as a winning lottery ticket? Well, for those who’ve been able to complete the sociopolitical fantasy trip and become racial transvestites, it usually ends badly.

The character who jumps the color line is a fascinating American rogue, a self-­constructed person, a trickster who’s discovered that race is not an unscalable wall but a chain-link fence with holes big enough for some people to slip through. But once they cross the line, they’re fugitives hiding in plain sight, on the lam from themselves and their histories, cut off from their families, unchained from racism but chained to a secret whose revelation would bring an end to a life built on lies and a stolen place in the dominant culture. All that makes racial shape-shifters a fantastic opportunity for a writer: they’ve got Huck Finn’s independence, an identity in turmoil, a secret that could destroy their world, a refusal to be defined by others and a vantage on race that very few ever get to have. And in the story of a racial fugitive, there’s always a ticking bomb. It’s a corollary of the literary law that if you put a loaded rifle onstage, it has to go off: if a character shifts races, eventually he’ll be unmasked, and usually it’s painful physically or psychically or both…

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What We Lose: A Striking Novel About Filial Grief

Posted in Africa, Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, South Africa, United States on 2017-11-27 02:58Z by Steven

What We Lose: A Striking Novel About Filial Grief

The Atlantic
2017-08-01

Amy Weiss-Meyer, Associate Editor


Zinzi Clemmons (Nina Subin)

Zinzi Clemmons’s debut tangles with familiar questions, using a propulsive experimentalism in lieu of linear narrative.

When Zinzi Clemmons was a graduate student at Columbia, at work on her MFA, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Clemmons had been writing a novel with a more or less linear narrative structure. She moved back home to Philadelphia and kept writing, but differently now, taking notes and collecting fragments of text as she cared for her mother. “The only time and energy I could muster resulted in that very short form,” she said recently. “I just ended up keeping those pieces and stitching them together, and a fictional narrative arose.” The novel she had been working on no longer felt worth her while; she’d been trying to use it, she said, to “avoid what was going on with my mom.”

The new novel that emerged, What We Lose, is a startling, poignant debut, released to no shortage of fanfare (Vogue called it “the debut novel of the year”). It tells a story based loosely on the author’s own. The protagonist is Thandi, who, like Clemmons herself, is the daughter of a “coloured” South African mother and an African American father. Thandi, like Clemmons, was raised in a wealthy, mostly white suburb of Philadelphia. Thandi’s self-proclaimed status as a “strange in-betweener”—she has “light skin and foreign roots,” and feels neither fully black American nor fully African—is a defining preoccupation of her young adulthood. Her relationship with her mother is loving but difficult. And in the wake of her death, as Thandi unexpectedly confronts the possibility of becoming a parent herself, she struggles to come to terms with what her mother’s life was, and what hers should be…

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Lucy Parsons bio reveals new facts about the birth, ethnicity of the ‘Goddess of Anarchy’

Posted in Articles, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Social Justice, United States, Women on 2017-11-20 01:58Z by Steven

Lucy Parsons bio reveals new facts about the birth, ethnicity of the ‘Goddess of Anarchy’

The Chicago Tribune
2017-11-15

Mark Jacob, Metro Editor


A new biography of Lucy Parsons reveals new facts about her life. Photo courtesy of the Lucy Parsons Project/Justice Design (/ LUCY PARSONS PROJECT)

Lucy Parsons, an anarchist firebrand who was one of the most enigmatic Chicagoans ever, might fit in better today than she did during her own time a century ago.

She was a black woman married to a white man. Scandalous then, no big thing now…

She favored an eight-hour workday and a social safety net, positions that made her a radical in the late 1800s but would qualify her for Congress today.

And Parsons had another trait of today’s politicians: She was a merchant of misinformation.

Goddess of Anarchy: The Life and Times of Lucy Parsons, American Radical” is an important new biography by University of Texas historian Jacqueline Jones that fact-checks Parsons’ made-up details about her own background, correcting errors existing in virtually every biographical sketch ever written about this amazing woman…

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‘I tried to be what white people valued’ — a searing memoir of growing up biracial

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United States on 2017-11-20 01:30Z by Steven

‘I tried to be what white people valued’ — a searing memoir of growing up biracial

The Chicago Tribune
2017-11-10

Heidi Stevens, Contact Reporter


Julie Lythcott-Haims’Real American: A Memoir” tells her story of growing up with an African-American father and a white British mother in the 1970s and early ’80s in New York, Wisconsin and Virginia. (Julie Lythcott-Haims photo by Kristina Vetter)

Julie Lythcott-Haims has written a deeply affecting memoir about growing up biracial.

It’s poetic and candid, and it dives into discussions we really ought to be having about race in America — past, present and future.

Real American: A Memoir” (Henry Holt) tells Lythcott-Haims’ story of growing up with an African-American father and a white British mother in the 1970s and early ’80s in New York, Wisconsin and Virginia. It’s a series of essays that read like individual poems — some brief, some ballads — that work together to narrate her life.

One goes like this:…

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Review: Identity in Passing: RACE-ING and E-RACE-ING in American and African American History

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, Europe, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-11-18 01:19Z by Steven

Review: Identity in Passing: RACE-ING and E-RACE-ING in American and African American History

The Journal of African American History
Volume 101, No. 3, Summer 2016
pages 344-355
DOI: 10.5323/jafriamerhist.101.3.0344

Thomas J. Davis, Professor of History
Arizona State University, Tempe

Passing is a long-standing theme in American and African American history.1 Indeed, because identity has been an ever-present element in history, passing has been an ever-present element in history generally. Distinguishing between and among groups and categorizing individual members has again and again prompted questions about who is who, about what exactly distinguishes one from another, and about who belongs where. But passing is about more than contested and oft-disputed categories. When it reaches to lived-experience, passing is about self and society, about individual image and imagining, about self-image and self-imagining, about social image and social change. Passing is about the scope, source, substance, and control of individual identity.

Despite its centrality, identity appears in historical narratives typically as a given, or at least as taken for granted. Except for persons cast as “others,” group labels conveniently cover flawed lines of distinction. Our focus concentrates on identity only when it becomes contested, when uncertainty or ambiguity raise doubts; when identity becomes an issue of power, when such questions as “who…

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Beige Bubble Bodies: New People by Danzy Senna

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Latino Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2017-11-12 04:12Z by Steven

Beige Bubble Bodies: New People by Danzy Senna

The Miami Rail
2017-10-31

Claudia Milian, Associate Professor of Spanish & Latin American Studies
Duke University

New People by Danzy Senna, Riverhead Books, 240 pp.

Danzy Senna’s New People unfolds the creases of Maria and her fiancé, Khalil’s flat lives––exposing sharp, furrowed, details of their beige being in a pre-tech gentrifying Brooklyn bubble. Their barely colored bodies, their contrasts between white and brownish, are a prototype, a palette that is substituted, again and again, by the mélange of nationalities and shades that fill in the indistinct Northeastern landscape.

The neutrally named and orphan Maria, a border girl, as it were, whose nebulousness crosses, re-crosses, and double-crosses racial and cultural spectrums and expectations, steers toward the excessive closeness, to an infinite jest, of mixed race America and its vague embodiments. Senna is, on the face of it, in exclusive conversation with black-and-white America. But the novel’s other deviations of grayness and brownness provoke, drift, and pump up the volume on Maria’s out of body experiences as she walks in and out of Latina states…

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Racism Comes Full Circle: America as the Harbinger of the Nazis’ Race Laws

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Europe, History, Law, Media Archive, Social Justice, United States, Virginia on 2017-08-15 19:00Z by Steven

Racism Comes Full Circle: America as the Harbinger of the Nazis’ Race Laws

Haaretz
2017-08-15

Oded Heilbronner, Lecturer in Cultural and Historical Studies
Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Shenkar College of Engineering and Design


Demonstrators carry confederate and Nazi flags during the Unite the Right free speech rally at Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Virginia, USA on August 12, 2017. Emily Molli / NurPhoto

James Q. Whitman, Hitler’s American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2017)

Nazi sentiment was very much influenced by the American experience including the Jim Crow legislation in the South, Yale’s James Q. Whitman says in new book

A recent study has joined the constant flow of research on the Third Reich, an original work that sheds more light on a subject we thought we knew everything about: Nazi racism. It’s a subject all the more current after the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend.

Countless books have been written on the sources of Nazi racism. Some reconstruct 500 years of German history, since the days of Martin Luther, and find the source of the Nazis’ murderous worldview. Others see Nazi ideology as a historical accident whose roots are to be found only in the few years before the rise of the Third Reich.

Others invoke European contexts: the Eastern European or French anti-Semitism on the eve of the 20th century, and the Communist revolution, whose shock waves included murderous anti-Semitism in Europe. We also must not ignore the biographical-psychological studies that focus on the pathological anti-Semitism developed by the Nazis, with Hitler at their head.

The unique work of Prof. James Q. Whitman of Yale Law School, whose previous book explored the growing divide between criminal law and punishment in America compared to Europe, belongs to a long series of research noting the global contexts in which decisions are made and events occurred both regionally and domestically…

…Based on a long series of modern studies, Whitman says the Nuremberg Laws were crafted so as to create citizenship laws based on racial categories. The main motive for the legislation was to prevent mixed marriages, which would lead to the birth of mixed-race children and “racial pollution.” At the center of the debate that preceded the Nuremberg Laws was the aspiration to construct a legal code that would prevent such situations. American precedents, which were meant to make African-Americans, Chinese and Filipinos second-class citizens, provided inspiration for the Nazis…

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Race and sovereignty, a story of the body

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Religion, Social Justice on 2017-08-10 01:05Z by Steven

Race and sovereignty, a story of the body

National Catholic Reporter
2017-05-03

La Reine-Marie Mosely, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies
Notre Dame of Maryland University, Baltimore, Maryland


Brian Bantum (Jessica Wood)

THE DEATH OF RACE: BUILDING A NEW CHRISTIANITY IN A RACIAL WORLD
By Brian Bantum
Published by Fortress Press, 182 pages, $16.99

In The Death of Race: Building a New Christianity in a Racial World, Brian Bantum explores the practical consequences of race in our world: Those who have inherited sovereignty have long organized the world according to the belief that whiteness is the paragon of existence, while black and brown bodies are deficient and suspect. It is this misconstrued and dangerous understanding of race that Bantum believes must die if followers of Jesus Christ want to live a meaningful embodied life in the spirit of their Savior.

Bantum is a biracial person who married a Korean-American woman. His life story is woven throughout the book as he explains the manner in which he came to racial consciousness.

It began with a choice. When the author was 6 years old, his mother was filling out a government document. Under the category of race, she asked her son to select the race that best captured his identity: white or black. Bantum selected “white” because of his love of his mother and the physical characteristics he shared with her. His brother, on the other hand, chose black because of the physical characteristics he shared with his father. Early in his life, Bantum began to realize the complexity of race in the U.S...

Read the entire review here.

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Danzy Senna’s New People Explores Race, Love, and Gentrification

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-08-10 00:47Z by Steven

Danzy Senna’s New People Explores Race, Love, and Gentrification

Elle
2017-08-03

Lisa Shea

The Caucasia author returns to her home ground: the personal and political dynamics of race.

In her latest novel, New People (Riverhead), Danzy Senna bores into the dynamics of race, identity, heritage, poverty, and privilege in contemporary America, exposing the pride and promises of change therein, as well as the pitfalls and pathologies. Agile and ambitious, the novel is also a wild-hearted romance about secrets and obsessions, a dramedy of manners about the educated black middle-class—the “talented tenth”—that is Senna’s authorial home ground. One critic, in reviewing Senna’s 2009 memoir, Where Did You Sleep Last Night?, about her writer parents’ marriage and divorce, and her father’s disappearance from her life, called her trenchant observations on America’s fixation with race “nod-inducingly brilliant.”

The female protagonist of New People, Maria, shares some of Senna’s biographical outlines: Maria refers to herself as a “quadroon” adopted and raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts, by a single mom, Gloria, who struggled for years but never was able to complete her dissertation at Harvard. Maria meets Khalil—who “grew up in a liberal, humanist, multiracial family, oblivious to his own blackness,” when they are students at Stanford—after he’d broken up with his white girlfriend. “Maria liked to joke that she was his transitional object,” Senna writes. “He was morphing into a race man before her very eyes.”

Now it is 1996, and they’re engaged and living together in a gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood. “Interspersed among the old guard—the Jamaican ladies with their folding chairs, the churchy men in their brown polyester suits—are the ones who have just arrived. It is subtle, this shift, almost imperceptible. When Maria blurs her eyes right it doesn’t appear to be happening. They dance together at house parties in the dark. If I ruled the world they sing, their voices rising as one, Imagine that. I’d free all my sons.“…

Read the entire review here.

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Danzy Senna’s New Black Woman

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-08-09 14:41Z by Steven

Danzy Senna’s New Black Woman

The New Yorker
2017-08-07

Doreen St. Félix


In Danzy Senna’s latest novel, “New People,” the ugliness of segregation has given way to a class of upwardly mobile light-skinned black people.
Agence Opale / Alamy Stock Photo

In an essay published in 2006, the novelist Paul Beatty recalled the first book he’d ever read by a black author. When the Los Angeles Unified School Board—“out of the graciousness of its repressive little heart”—sent him a copy of Maya Angelou’sI Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” he made it through a few “maudlin” pages before he grew suspicious, he wrote. “I knew why they put a mirror in the parakeet’s cage: so he could wallow in his own misery.” Observing that the “defining characteristic of the African-American writer is sobriety,” Beatty described his own path toward a black literary insobriety, one that would lead to the satirical style of his novels “White Boy Shuffle” and “The Sellout.” Along the way, he discovered a select canon of literary black satire, including Zora Neale Hurston’s freewheeling story “The Book of Harlem” and Cecil Brown’sThe Life and Loves of Mr. Jiveass Nigger.”

Danzy Senna, Beatty’s friend and fellow novelist, makes an appearance in that essay, smiling “wistfully” as she shows him “the cover of Fran Ross’s hilarious 1974 novel, ‘Oreo.’” As Senna later wrote in the foreword to the novel’s reissue, “Oreo,” about a biracial girl searching for her itinerant white father, manages to probe “the idea of falling from racial grace” while avoiding “mulatto sentimentalism.” Since her 1998 début novel, “Caucasia,” a stark story about two biracial sisters, Senna, like Ross before her, has developed her own kind of insobriety, one focussed on comically eviscerating the archetype of the “tragic mulatto”—that nineteenth-century invention who experiences an emotional anguish rooted in her warring, mixed bloods. Both beautiful and wretched, the mulatto was intended to arouse sympathy in white readers, who had magnificent difficulty relating to black people in literature (to say nothing of life). Senna, the daughter of the white Boston poet Fanny Howe and the black editor Carl Senna, grew up a member of the nineties Fort Greene “dreadlocked élite”; her light-skinned black characters, who dodge the constraints of post-segregation America, provide an excuse for incisive social satire. Thrillingly, blackness is not hallowed in Senna’s work, nor is it impervious to pathologies of ego. Senna particularly enjoys lampooning the search for racial authenticity. Her characters, and the clannish worlds they are often trying to escape, teeter on the brink of ruin and absurdity.

Senna’s latest novel, the slick and highly enjoyable “New People,” makes keen, icy farce of the affectations of the Brooklyn black faux-bohemia in which Maria, a distracted graduate student, lives with her fiancé among the new “Niggerati.” Maria and Khalil Mirsky—the latter’s name a droll amalgamation of his black and white Jewish parentage—are the “same shade of beige.”…

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