Half and Half

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United States on 2016-11-19 21:44Z by Steven

Half and Half

Sunday Book Review
The New York Times
2007-02-11

Bliss Broyard

David Matthews, Ace of Spades, A Memoir (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2007).

Twenty minutes into David Matthews’s first day of fourth grade in a new school in a new city, his classmates surround him and demand to know what he is. When Matthews doesn’t answer, they trail him down the hallway — “as though I were a reprobate head of state ambushed by reporters outside a lurid hotel” — shouting out their guesses: “Black! White! You crazy?! He(’s) too light/dark to be black/white!” One jokester suggests he’s Chinese.

One possible response is that Matthews is mixed: his father is African-American, actually a “prominent black journalist” who counted Malcolm X and James Baldwin among his friends, and his mother is Jewish, although she disappeared to Israel shortly after Matthews was born. But this scene takes place in 1977 in a Baltimore public school that sits between a “Waspy enclave of tony brownstones” and a “world of housing projects, roaming street gangs and bleating squad cars,” and the difference between black and white seems too vast to allow for any unions — or their byproducts — across the conceptual divide. (Although we learn that Matthews needn’t look any further than his own life for exceptions: his best friend, his stepbrother and his half brother are also mixed, though none of them quite so indeterminately as he is.) In the lunchroom, Matthews heads to the table of students he resembles most — in skin color, yes, but also in character. The white kids, with their “nerdy diction” and “Starsky and Hutch” lunchboxes, are similarly introverted and unthreatening, while the black kids, playing the dozens and double Dutch on the playground, are “alive and cool,” and frightening. When a white boy assigned by the homeroom teacher to be Matthews’s buddy for the day makes room for him to sit down, this small, serendipitous gesture sets the dye of his racial identity for the next 20 or so years…

Read the entire review here.

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A Tale of Two Dinners

Posted in Articles, Audio, Biography, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2016-01-24 01:44Z by Steven

A Tale of Two Dinners

The Moth: True Stories Told Live
Added: 2015-05-12
Recorded: 1999-04-19

Bliss Broyard

A daughter discovers her father’s painstakingly kept secret.

Listen to the episode here.

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In other words, Creole can be either black or white, and not necessarily black and white.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2015-12-14 03:40Z by Steven

Broyard was, according to Henry Louis Gates’s 1996 New Yorker article “The Passing of Anatole Broyard,” some kind of a trickster. The word Creole requires rigorous semantic handling. Just as New Orleans became the home of French, Arcadian, and Haitian refugees, the very word Creole carries an underlying sense of evasion, a connotation of which Broyard clearly took advantage. Broyard’s Creole was an evasion in the same way that “he’d mostly evaded [my italics] the question, saying something vague about ‘island influences’” when Bliss’s mother had once asked her husband about his racial background. The word Creole could have indeed meant “mixed race” for a worldly person like Cheven, but the mixed-race connotation in Creole carries an added value: the mixing of races is not necessarily in a given person, but it can also occur in a given environment between blacks and whites living in the same space and sharing a common history and culture. In other words, Creole can be either black or white, and not necessarily black and white.

Bénédicte Boisseron, Creole Renegades: Rhetoric of Betrayal and Guilt in the Caribbean Diaspora, (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2014), 31.

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WorldLink: Racial identities and the politics of color

Posted in Audio, Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-09-01 01:45Z by Steven

WorldLink: Racial identities and the politics of color

Deutsche Welle (DW)
2015-06-19

Bliss Broyard responds to the recent controversy surrounding Rachel Dolezal’spassing” as black, and describes how racial identities have shaped her own life and career.

Download the interview (00:07:55) here.

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One woman’s quest to uncover her heritage

Posted in Articles, Biography, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Videos on 2015-08-29 02:23Z by Steven

One woman’s quest to uncover her heritage

The Today Show
2007-11-12

Bliss Broyard writes about her journey to discover her hidden black roots

Bliss Broyard grew up a “Wasp” in Connecticut with her mother, father and brother. For 23 years she was white, but it wasn’t until her father was on his deathbed that she found out he was “part-black.” After her father died, Broyard began a quest to learn more about her hidden heritage and adopt it in her life. She wrote about it in “One Drop: My Father’s Hidden Life.” Here’s an excerpt:..

Read the excerpt here.

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“These narratives of racial passing have risen from the dead”

Posted in Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-08-29 01:46Z by Steven

“These narratives of racial passing have risen from the dead”

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
May 2015
275 pages
DOI: 10.7282/T38G8NJG

Donavan L. Ramon

Ph.D. Dissertation

Instead of concurring with most critics that racial passing literature reached its apex during the Harlem Renaissance, this project highlights its persistence, as evidenced in the texts examined from 1900 to 2014. Using psychoanalysis, this dissertation recovers non-canonical and white-authored narratives that critics overlook, thus reconceptualizing the genre of passing literature to forge a new genealogy for this tradition. This new genealogy includes novels, life writings, and short stories. In arguing for the genre’s continued relevance and production, this project offers a rejoinder to critics who contend that racial passing literature is obsolete. Part one of this dissertation complicates the notion that characters pass only in response to witnessing a lynching or to improve their socioeconomic status, by asserting that racial passing begins in the classroom for male characters and at home for their female counterparts. It thus precedes the threat of violence or middle class aspirations. Whereas the first half of this project is preoccupied with the gendered beginnings of racial passing, the second half examines its effects, on both writing and death. This project explores racial passing in Charles Chesnutt’s The House Behind the Cedars (1900), James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912), Jessie Fauset’s Plum Bun (1929), Vera Caspary’s The White Girl (1929), Alice Dunbar-Nelson’s The Stones of the Village (1988), Danzy Senna’s Caucasia (1999), Philip Roth’s The Human Stain (2000), Bliss Broyard’s One Drop (2003) and Anita Reynolds’ American Cocktail (2014).

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Since the publication of my second book One Drop, I have heard from hundreds of people who similarly discovered later in life a previously unknown ancestry, some of whom have had their sense of themselves changed, seemingly overnight, as a result.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2015-06-16 20:36Z by Steven

Since the publication of my second book One Drop, I have heard from hundreds of people who similarly discovered later in life a previously unknown ancestry, some of whom have had their sense of themselves changed, seemingly overnight, as a result. Sometimes the revelation came as the result of a DNA test, which was then corroborated with some genealogical research. Other times, the discovery of a “MU” (Mulatto) or “B” (Black) on a grandparent’s or great grandparent’s census record had uncovered the truth. With cheaper genetic testing and more and more genealogical records easily searchable online, the number of people discovering they are not what they thought they were will only continue to increase.

Bliss Broyard, “Rachel Dolezal isn’t alone – my family history proves choosing a racial definition is hard,” The Guardian, June 15, 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/jun/15/bliss-broyard-father-black-roots-race-ethnicity-rachel-dolezal.

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Rachel Dolezal isn’t alone – my family history proves choosing a racial definition is hard

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Biography, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-06-16 19:45Z by Steven

Rachel Dolezal isn’t alone – my family history proves choosing a racial definition is hard

The Guardian
Monday, 2015-06-15

Bliss Broyard

Bliss Broyard’s father kept his black roots a secret his whole life. Her journey of self-discovery led her to the understanding that believing the results of a DNA cheek swab to be more meaningful than one’s experiences is a ridiculous notion

How do you determine who is black? Is it simply a matter of inheritance – you are what your parents are? Does having a black grandparent make a person black? Must she have been raised as black, in a black community? Is one black ancestor, one drop of blood, enough?

These were the kinds of questions asked during the legal trials undertaken in the late 19th and early 20th century throughout southern and midwestern US states, to determine a person’s “true” racial identity. Then, as now, ancestry trumped lived experience. In Ohio the courts ruled that having 50% black ancestry, a single black parent or two mixed parents, made a person black – and hence socially and politically inferior – while in Louisiana, the “one drop” rule prevailed, and any traceable amount of Negro ancestry denied one certain legal rights, including the right to vote and the right to marry a person of another race…

Read the entire article here.

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Daughter Discovers Father’s Black Lineage

Posted in Articles, Audio, Biography, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-03-16 01:39Z by Steven

Daughter Discovers Father’s Black Lineage

National Public Radio
2007-10-02

Farai Chideya, Host

Famed literary critic Anatole Broyard carried a big secret most of his life. He was a black man passing as white. His daughter, Bliss Broyard, writes about how she learned of her father’s hidden life and explored her black ancestry in the memoir One Drop.

Anatole Broyard was one of the most respected literary critics. The late editor and columnist for the New York Times book review provided a lavish life for his family in New England, but he carried a secret so deep that he couldn’t tell his own children.

Now, his daughter Bliss Broyard has written the memoir “One Drop” about his life and her search for her family.

Bliss, welcome to the show.

Ms. BLISS BROYARD (Daughter of Anatole Broyard; Author, “One Drop”): Thanks, Farai, for having me.

CHIDEYA: So when your father was dying, you find out the big family secret: That your father is part-black. Your brother says, that’s all? What was your reaction?

Ms. BROYARD: Pretty much along the same lines. The afternoon that we found out, we had just witnessed my father suffering terrible pain. He was in the last stages of prostate cancer. So my mom took it upon herself to tell us because it seemed clear that my father wasn’t going to live very much longer.

So it seems, frankly, like not a big deal. And we had known about a secret for a couple of months, and I imagined that it was, you know, my dad had witnessed some horrible crime or incest or something. So the fact that it was just that he was part-black and we didn’t even realize or understand exactly why had it been a secret at all…

Listen to the interview here. Read the transcript here. Download the interview here.

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Passing Interest: Racial Passing in US Novels, Memoirs, Television, and Film, 1990–2010

Posted in Anthologies, Books, Communications/Media Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing on 2014-08-18 02:28Z by Steven

Passing Interest: Racial Passing in US Novels, Memoirs, Television, and Film, 1990–2010

State University of New York Press
July 2014
352 pages
Hardcover ISBN13: 978-1-4384-5227-2
Electronic ISBN13: 978-1-4384-5229-6

Edited by:

Julie Cary Nerad, Associate Professor of American Literature
Morgan State University, Baltimore, Maryland

Explores how the trope of racial passing continues to serve as a touchstone for gauging public beliefs and anxieties about race in this multiracial era.

The first volume to focus on the trope of racial passing in novels, memoirs, television, and films published or produced between 1990 and 2010, Passing Interest takes the scholarly conversation on passing into the twenty-first century. With contributors working in the fields of African American studies, American studies, cultural studies, film studies, literature, and media studies, this book offers a rich, interdisciplinary survey of critical approaches to a broad range of contemporary passing texts. Contributors frame recent passing texts with a wide array of cultural discourses, including immigration law, the Post-Soul Aesthetic, contemporary political satire, affirmative action, the paradoxes of “colorblindness,” and the rhetoric of “post-racialism.” Many explore whether “one drop” of blood still governs our sense of racial identity, or to what extent contemporary American culture allows for the racially indeterminate individual. Some essays open the scholarly conversation to focus on “ethnic” passers—individuals who complicate the traditional black-white binary—while others explore the slippage between traditional racial passing and related forms of racial performance, including blackface minstrelsy and racial masquerade.

Table of Contents

  • Preface: The “Posts” of Passing / Gayle Wald
  • Acknowledgments
  • 1. Introduction: The (Not So) New Face of America / Julie Cary Nerad
  • 2. On the Margins of Movement: Passing in Three Contemporary Memoirs / Irina Negrea
  • 3. “A Cousin to Blackness”: Race and Identity in Bliss Broyard’s One Drop: My Father’s Hidden Life / Lynn Washington and Julie Cary Nerad
  • 4. Can One Really Choose? Passing and Self-Identification at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century / Jené Schoenfeld
  • 5. Passing in Blackface: The Intimate Drama of Post-Racialism on Black. White / Eden Osucha
  • 6. Broke Right in Half: Passing of/in Alice Randall’s The Wind Done Gone / Julie Cary Nerad
  • 7. Passing for Chicano, Passing for White: Negotiating Filipino American Identity in Brian Ascalon Roley’s American Son / Amanda Page
  • 8. Race in the Marketplace: Postmodern Passing and Ali G / Ana Cristina Mendes
  • 9. Passing for Black, White, and Jewish: Mixed-Race Identity in Rebecca Walker and Danzy Senna / Lori Harrison-Kahan
  • 10. Smiling Faces: Chameleon Street, Racial Passing/Performativity, and Film Blackness / Michael B. Gillespie
  • 11. Consuming Performances: Race, Media, and the Failure of the Cultural Mulatto in Bamboozled and Erasure / Meredith McCarroll
  • Bibliography
  • Contributor Biographies
  • Index
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