The Ineradicable Color-Line: Danzy Senna’s “New People”

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-08-05 21:41Z by Steven

The Ineradicable Color-Line: Danzy Senna’s “New People”

Los Angeles Review of Books
2017-08-01

Gabrielle Bellot

Danzy Senna, New People, A Novel (New York: Riverhead, 2017)

IN LONDON IN JULY, at the dawn of a new century, W. E. B. Du Bois spoke in front the Pan-African Conference about the challenges of the era to come. “[T]he problem of the Twentieth Century,” he said, in a statement that would later appear in and come to define his epochal collection of essays, The Souls of Black Folk, “is the problem of the color-line.” The idea of describing American antiblack racial segregation by the simple, if not even deceptively charming, term color-line, had appeared two decades earlier in the title of Frederick Douglass’s 1881 essay, “The Color Line,” but it would come to be associated particularly with The Souls of Black Folk. So seductive was the phrase for Du Bois that he used it two more times to bookend an essay in the book, “Of the Dawn of Freedom,” but it was, of course, more than a memorable line. The color-line was as explicit as it was psychic, delineated in signs, denials, and public executions as much as it was in one’s choice of path, one’s footfalls, one’s bones and dreams. Racism is merely obvious when it becomes visible; its potential existence follows us, invisibly and phantasmally, when we’ve come to expect it…

New People is a paean to the psychosocial complexities of being racially mixed, and, as a result, color-lines, passing, and double-consciousness are everywhere. The book follows Maria, who is on the cusp of marriage to her college love, Khalil. Obsessive and unreliable herself, she is doing her dissertation on Jonestown, a notorious historical example of fanaticism and deception. It is 1996 in Brooklyn, though much of it still feels atmospherically like 2017, only without social media. In her past, “Maria could honestly say she hated white people”; her mother, Gloria, astutely notes that Maria possesses “that particular rage of the light-skinned individual.” Khalil is Jewish and black with light skin; the first time Maria sees him, he looks “both entirely black and entirely white.” Like Maria, but with less self-torment, Khalil learns to embrace his mixed-race status shortly after beginning to date Maria. However, Maria does not feel any fire in her when she is with Khalil. (So cold is their romantic relationship, at least to her, that she wonders as she kisses him if she is really more attracted to women than Khalil.) The one who bewitches her is the black man who opens the book: an unnamed poet whose show she and Khalil have gone to see…

Read the entire review here.

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Soma Text: Living, Writing, and Staging Racial Hybridity

Posted in Books, Canada, Forthcoming Media, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Monographs on 2017-08-05 21:31Z by Steven

Soma Text: Living, Writing, and Staging Racial Hybridity

Wilfrid Laurier University Press
June 2018
295 pages
ISBN13: 978-1-77112-240-5

Michelle La Flamme, Professor of English
University of the Fraser Valley, Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada

Canada’s history is bicultural, Indigenous, and multilingual, and these characteristics have given risen to a number of strategies used by our writers to code racially mixed characters. This book examines contemporary Canadian literature and drama in order to tease out some of those strategies and the social and cultural factors that inform them.

Racially hybrid characters in literature have served a matrix of needs. They are used as shorthand for interracial desire, signifiers of taboo love, images of impurity, symbols of degeneration, and examples of beauty and genetic perfection. Their fates have been used to suggest the futility of marrying across racial lines, or the revelation of their “one drop” signals a climactic downfall. Other narratives suggest mixed-race bodies are foundational to colonization and signify contact between colonial and Indigenous bodies.

Author Michelle LaFlamme approaches racial hybridity with a cross-generic and cross-racial approach, unusual in the field of hybridity studies, by analyzing characters with different racial mixes in autobiographies, fiction, and drama. Her analysis privileges literary texts and the voices of artists rather than sociological explanations of the mixed-race experience. The book suggests that the hyper-visualization of mixed-race bodies in mono-racial contexts creates a scopophilic interest in how those bodies look and perform race.

La Flamme’s term “soma text” draws attention to the constructed, performative aspects of this form of embodiment. The writers she examines witness that living in a racially hybrid and ambiguous body is a complex engagement that involves reading and decoding the body in sophisticated ways, involving both the multiracial body and the racialized gaze of the onlooker.

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Hawaiian by Birth: Missionary Children, Bicultural Identity, and U.S. Colonialism in the Pacific

Posted in Books, Forthcoming Media, History, Monographs, Oceania, Religion, United States on 2017-08-05 21:30Z by Steven

Hawaiian by Birth: Missionary Children, Bicultural Identity, and U.S. Colonialism in the Pacific

University of Nebraska Press
September 2017
240 pages
21 photographs, 7 illustrations, 1 map, index
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-8032-8589-7

Joy Schulz, Instructor of History
Metropolitan Community College, Omaha, Nebraska

Twelve companies of American missionaries were sent to the Hawaiian Islands between 1819 and 1848 with the goal of spreading American Christianity and New England values. By the 1850s American missionary families in the islands had birthed more than 250 white children, considered Hawaiian subjects by the indigenous monarchy and U.S. citizens by missionary parents. In Hawaiian by Birth Joy Schulz explores the tensions among the competing parental, cultural, and educational interests affecting these children and, in turn, the impact the children had on nineteenth-century U.S. foreign policy.

These children of white missionaries would eventually alienate themselves from the Hawaiian monarchy and indigenous population by securing disproportionate economic and political power. Their childhoods—complicated by both Hawaiian and American influences—led to significant political and international ramifications once the children reached adulthood. Almost none chose to follow their parents into the missionary profession, and many rejected the Christian faith. Almost all supported the annexation of Hawai‘i despite their parents’ hope that the islands would remain independent.

Whether the missionary children moved to the U.S. mainland, stayed in the islands, or traveled the world, they took with them a sense of racial privilege and cultural superiority. Schulz adds children’s voices to the historical record with this first comprehensive study of the white children born in the Hawaiian Islands between 1820 and 1850 and their path toward political revolution.

Table of Contents

  • List of Illustrations
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: Imperial Children and Empire Formation in the Nineteenth Century
  • 1. Birthing Empire: Economies of Childrearing and the Establishment of American Colonialism in Hawai‘i
  • 2. Playing with Fire: White Childhood and Environmental Legacies in Nineteenth-Century Hawai‘i
  • 3. Schooling Power: Teaching Anglo–Civic Duty in the Hawaiian Islands, 1841–53
  • 4. Cannibals in America: U.S. Acculturation and the Construction of National Identity in Nineteenth-Century White Immigrants from the Hawaiian Islands
  • 5. Crossing the Pali: White Missionary Children, Bicultural Identity, and the Racial Divide in Hawai‘i, 1820–98
  • Conclusion: White Hawaiians before the World
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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Children of Uncertain Fortune: Mixed-Race Jamaicans in Britain and the Atlantic Family, 1733-1833

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Forthcoming Media, History, Law, Monographs, United Kingdom on 2017-08-05 21:30Z by Steven

Children of Uncertain Fortune: Mixed-Race Jamaicans in Britain and the Atlantic Family, 1733-1833

University of North Carolina Press
January 2018
Approx. 448 pages
24 halftones, notes, index
6.125 x 9.25
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-3443-2

Daniel Livesay, Assistant Professor of History
Claremont McKenna College, Claremont, California

Published for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg, Virginia

By tracing the largely forgotten eighteenth-century migration of elite mixed-race individuals from Jamaica to Great Britain, Children of Uncertain Fortune reinterprets the evolution of British racial ideologies as a matter of negotiating family membership. Using wills, legal petitions, family correspondences, and inheritance lawsuits, Daniel Livesay is the first scholar to follow the hundreds of children born to white planters and Caribbean women of color who crossed the ocean for educational opportunities, professional apprenticeships, marriage prospects, or refuge from colonial prejudices.

The presence of these elite children of color in Britain pushed popular opinion in the British Atlantic world toward narrower conceptions of race and kinship. Members of Parliament, colonial assemblymen, merchant kings, and cultural arbiters–the very people who decided Britain’s colonial policies, debated abolition, passed marital laws, and arbitrated inheritance disputes–rubbed shoulders with these mixed-race Caribbean migrants in parlors and sitting rooms. Upper-class Britons also resented colonial transplants and coveted their inheritances; family intimacy gave way to racial exclusion. By the early nineteenth century, relatives had become strangers.

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Margo Jefferson with Jackie Kay

Posted in Forthcoming Media, Interviews, Literary/Artistic Criticism, United Kingdom, United States, Women on 2017-08-05 21:29Z by Steven

Margo Jefferson with Jackie Kay

Edinburgh International Book Festival
Studio Theatre
13-29 Nicolson St
Edinburgh EH8 9FT, United Kingdom
Sunday, 2017-08-20, 20:45-21:45 BST (Local Time)


Feminism and Civil Rights

Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning cultural critic Margo Jefferson is the author of a bold, defiant and astonishingly accomplished memoir, Negroland. Powerfully demonstrating that a ‘post-racial’ America is far from being a reality, Jefferson explores the challenge of reconciling feminism (often regarded as a white woman’s terrain) with black power (sometimes seen as a black male issue). Jefferson discusses her compelling life story with Scotland’s Makar, the poet and novelist Jackie Kay.

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Uncompromising Activist: Richard Greener, First Black Graduate of Harvard College

Posted in Biography, Books, Forthcoming Media, Monographs, Passing, United States on 2017-08-05 21:29Z by Steven

Uncompromising Activist: Richard Greener, First Black Graduate of Harvard College

Johns Hopkins University Press
September 2017
216 pages
7 b&w photos
Hardback ISBN: 9781421423296
E-book ISBN: 9781421423302

Katherine Reynolds Chaddock, Distinguished Professor Emerita of Education
University of South Carolina

Richard Theodore Greener (1844–1922) was a renowned black activist and scholar. In 1870, he was the first black graduate of Harvard College. During Reconstruction, he was the first black faculty member at a southern white college, the University of South Carolina. He was even the first black US diplomat to a white country, serving in Vladivostok, Russia. A notable speaker and writer for racial equality, he also served as a dean of the Howard University School of Law and as the administrative head of the Ulysses S. Grant Monument Association. Yet he died in obscurity, his name barely remembered.

His black friends and colleagues often looked askance at the light-skinned Greener’s ease among whites and sometimes wrongfully accused him of trying to “pass.” While he was overseas on a diplomatic mission, Greener’s wife and five children stayed in New York City, changed their names, and vanished into white society. Greener never saw them again. At a time when Americans viewed themselves simply as either white or not, Greener lost not only his family but also his sense of clarity about race.

Richard Greener’s story demonstrates the human realities of racial politics throughout the fight for abolition, the struggle for equal rights, and the backslide into legal segregation. Katherine Reynolds Chaddock has written a long overdue narrative biography about a man, fascinating in his own right, who also exemplified America’s discomfiting perspectives on race and skin color. Uncompromising Activist is a lively tale that will interest anyone curious about the human elements of the equal rights struggle.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction: A Search for Identity
  • 1. Boyhood Interrupted
  • 2. Being Prepared
  • 3. Experiment at Harvard
  • 4. An Accidental Academic
  • 5. Professing in a Small and Angry Place
  • 6. The Brutal Retreat
  • 7. Unsettled Advocate
  • 8. A Violent Attack and Hopeless Case
  • 9. Monumental Plans
  • 10. Off White
  • 11. Our Man in Vladivostok
  • 12. Closure in Black and White
  • Epilogue: The Passing of Richard Greener
  • Acknowledgments
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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An Octoroon

Posted in Arts, Live Events, Media Archive, Passing, Slavery, United States on 2017-08-05 21:28Z by Steven

An Octoroon

Woolly Mammoth Theater
641 D Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20004
Telephone: 202-393-3939

2017-07-17 through 2017-08-06

By Branden Jacobs-Jenkins
Directed by Nataki Garrett

Last year’s most talked-about, most unforgettable production is returning to Woolly for a limited three-week run: An Octoroon by new MacArthur “Genius Grant”-winner Branden Jacobs-Jenkins!

A plantation on the brink of foreclosure. A young gentleman falling for the part-black daughter of the estate’s owner. An evil swindler plotting to buy her for himself. Meanwhile, the slaves are trying to keep things drama-free, because everybody else is acting crazy.

An Octoroon, Jacobs-Jenkins’ Obie-winning riff on a 19th century melodrama that helped shape the debate around the abolition of slavery, is an incendiary adaptation. Part period satire, part meta-theatrical middle finger, it’s a provocative challenge to the racial pigeonholing of 1859—and of today.

Featuring company members Shannon Dorsey, Jon Hudson Odom, and Erika Rose

Two and a half hours, with one intermission

For more information, click here.

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Author Danzy Senna on Finding Inspiration After Leaving Brooklyn

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Media Archive, United States on 2017-08-05 21:19Z by Steven

Author Danzy Senna on Finding Inspiration After Leaving Brooklyn

Vulture
2017-07-27

Joy Press


Photo: Lauren Tamaki

“When you are writing a novel, you are always trying to submerge yourself in a dream state, and New York was constantly waking me up from that state,” says Danzy Senna. She’s sitting outdoors at a shady café in South Pasadena, California, roughly 2,400 miles from Brooklyn, where she once lived and from which she drew inspiration for her propulsive new novel, New People.

South Pasadena, the sweet and sleepy town where we both currently reside, is not Brooklyn — it’s more like a Southern California hallucination of Mayberry. Its leafy streets and Craftsman houses regularly stand in for a middle-American idyll in movies, TV shows, and commercials. (The swaying palm trees reliably get cropped out of the frame.) Suburban L.A.’s low-stimulus environment has proved far more conducive to Senna’s writing than the boho hyperactivity of New York. Senna is the 46-year-old author of five books, including her celebrated 1998 debut novel, Caucasia, and all of her work explores the nuances of being mixed race in America with stinging humor and acuity. But, in some ways, “the central identity conflict in my life has been New York versus L.A.,” she says. “I became an author in New York, but it was like a book party that never ended. I became someone who had written something once. In Brooklyn, I’d walk out my door and bump into someone at seven in the morning at the dog park who would tell me about their six-figure book advance.” Los Angeles, by comparison, she jokes, is “so boring that your imagination becomes your life.”…

Read the entire article here.

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