How one woman discovered her true cultural heritage

Posted in Biography, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Videos, Women on 2021-04-08 02:16Z by Steven

How one woman discovered her true cultural heritage

BBC News
2021-04-06

What would you do if you discovered one of your parents wasn’t who they said they were?

That’s what happened to Gail Lukasik who found out her mother had ‘passed’ as white to escape racial segregation in the US, in the early 20th Century.

She was, in fact, mixed race but had kept it secret all her life and made Gail promise to keep the secret until after she died.

Gail has turned her story into a book called White Like Her.

Video produced by Trystan Young.

Watch the video here.

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Genealogy & Racial Passing; Author Mary Doria Russell

Posted in Audio, Biography, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2019-11-12 20:47Z by Steven

Genealogy & Racial Passing; Author Mary Doria Russell

The Sound of Ideas
ideastream
Cleveland, Ohio
2019-11-11

Rachel Rood, Producer


Credit: MeganBrady/shutterstock

Parma native and award winning author, Gail Lukasik discovered in 1995 that her mother had kept a deep family secret from her. Her mother was half-black, but was passing as a white woman, and begged Gail not to reveal her true identity. Lukasik will be speaking about her family’s story, which she turned into a book in 2017, this week in Lakewood, and we’ll discuss the complicated waters of genealogy and race, on The Sound of Ideas. Later, Lyndhurst author, Mary Doria Russell, talks about her new historical novel: The Women of the Copper Country.

Listen to the episode (00:49:56) here.

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BOOK REVIEW: “White Like Her” by Gail Lukasik, Reviewed By C. Ellen Connally

Posted in Articles, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2019-08-03 02:22Z by Steven

BOOK REVIEW: “White Like Her” by Gail Lukasik, Reviewed By C. Ellen Connally

Cool Cleveland
2019-07-16

Former Clevelander and author Gail Lukasik named her recently published memoir White Like Her. Subtitled My Family’s Story of Race and Racial Passing, Lukasik tells the story of her mother, Alvera Frederic Kalina, who changed her racial identity from black to white when she married in 1944 and moved to Cleveland. With that move, she abandoned her black family and racial heritage and in her mind, became white like the man she married.

Alvera hid her secret from the world until her daughter made the discovery when she was tracing her family tree. Her mother’s birth certificate and that of her grandfather and other relatives ,along with census records, showed that her mother and other relatives were black. When confronted with such concrete evidence, Alvera refused to admit her mixed-race heritage. In her mind, her life as a black person was over when she married and left New Orleans, the city of her birth. She begged her daughter not to reveal her secret. For 17 years, until her mother’s death, Lukasik continued her research but did not reveal her findings outside her immediate family.

Stories of passing — a term used to define the process of abandoning one’s cultural identity and adopting another — are traditionally associated with a light-skinned black person who assumes a white identity. People of color living as white have been the theme for many literary works in the late 19th and 20th century. Clevelander Charles W. Chesnutt, a black man who could have easily passed for white, wrote a significant number of stories about black people passing for white around the turn of the 20th century. Many of the stories take place in Cleveland which he fictionalized to be Groveland, Ohio…

Read the entire review here.

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The Secret Album reveals how a powerful truth changed a family forever

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Videos on 2019-05-22 21:03Z by Steven

The Secret Album reveals how a powerful truth changed a family forever

The Garage
HP (Hewlett-Packard)
2019-05-02

Patrick Rodgers

A novelist learns about her mother’s long-held secret by search for what’s missing from her family photo albums.

The Secret Album is part of HP’s original documentary project, History of Memory, which celebrates the power of printed photos.

We treasure family photos not only because they illuminate the past, but also because they can offer up an alternative narrative to the stories we tell — and retell — about our identities.

This is true for author Gail Lukasik, who was just as captivated by what was left out of her parents’ snapshots as by the faces and stories they portrayed. Growing up in suburban Ohio, Lukasik puzzled over why there were so few pictures of her mother’s side of the family. In the stack of family photo albums, there were only a handful of black-and-white prints of relatives from New Orleans, where her mother, Alvera (Frederic) Kalina, had lived in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. “I felt very close to my mother, but she had a certain mystery,” she says. “When I used to ask her about that she’d say, ‘Oh I just don’t have any,’ which I thought was strange.” Her mother’s guardedness about her own family’s origins were yet another layer to their already complex relationship…

…It took Lukasik two years to confront her mother, and the encounter didn’t go well. “I had never seen her so afraid,” says Lukasik, who tells the story in her memoir, White Like Her: My Family’s Story of Race and Racial Passing. “She said, ‘Promise me you won’t tell anyone until after I die.’”…

Read the entire article and watch the video here.

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MAMP Podcast Ep #4: Revisiting the One-Drop Rule

Posted in Audio, Biography, Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2019-01-25 15:42Z by Steven

MAMP Podcast Ep #4: Revisiting the One-Drop Rule

My American Melting Pot
2019-01-04

Lori L. Tharps, Host, Head Chef and Chief Content Creator; Associate Professor of journalism
Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

On episode #4 of the MAMP podcast, we’re revisiting the one-drop rule with two women who both believed they were white, until they discovered by accident, that they weren’t.

My guests are Gail Lukasik and Shannon Wink. Gail is the author of the new book, White Like Her: My Family’s Story of Race and Racial Passing and Shannon is a Philadelphia-based journalist and writer. In her late 40s, Gail discovered that her mother had been passing as white for her entire adult life. Shannon learned her maternal grandfather wasn’t Native American as he’d claimed, he was actually Black.

In this riveting discussion, we hear about Gail and Shannon’s “family secrets,” but spend the majority of the time speaking about what it means to be Black or white. We revisit this flawed concept of the one-drop rule that stipulates a person is Black if they have just one drop of Black blood in them. If that were truly the case, then both Gail and Shannon would be certifiably Black. But they’re not.

What does it mean to be white or Black in this country? How does knowing you have Black ancestry change one’s sense of racial identity? What role do culture and community play in one’s identity formation? Listen in on the conversation to hear how we answer these questions and more.

“I’ve often wondered why more colored girls … never ‘passed’ over. It’s such a frightfully easy thing to do. If one’s the type, all that’s needed is a little nerve.”Nella Larsen, from the novel Passing

Listen to the episode (00:47:24) here download the episode here.

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‘White Like Her’ Optioned For TV Series By FGW Productions

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2019-01-22 21:00Z by Steven

‘White Like Her’ Optioned For TV Series By FGW Productions

Deadline Hollywood
2019-01-15

Anita Busch, Film Editor


Skyhorse Publishing/Jerome Lukasik

EXCLUSIVE: The bestselling book White Like Her, author Gail Lukasik’s personal exploration about her mother’s decision to hide her African American heritage and pass for white, has been optioned by FGW Productions (Who Killed Tupac?). White Like Her will be adapted as a dramatic TV series.

The book, published last year by Skyhorse Publishing, was inspired by Lukasik’s appearance on PBS’ Genealogy Roadshow. Vowed to secrecy until her mother’s death, Lukasik revealed on national television to 1.5 million people that her mother passed for white. Within 24 hours of her appearance, the family she never knew she had, found her.

Set against the historical backdrop of the Jim Crow South, the book chronicles Lukasik’s journey to uncover the truth of her mother’s racial heritage and to understand her mother’s decision to pass for white. The project will be produced by Stephanie Frederic and Susan Banks in association with Tricia Woodgett of TigerEye Films and Datari Turner of Datari Turner Productions…

Read the entire article here.

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In visit to Kenyon, author illuminates history of racial passing in America

Posted in Biography, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2018-11-13 04:28Z by Steven

In visit to Kenyon, author illuminates history of racial passing in America

Kenyon College
Gambier, Ohio
2018-11-09

Mary Keister, Director of News Media Relations
Telephone: 740-427-5592

GAMBIER, Ohio — Award-winning author Gail Lukasik will speak about her book “White Like Her: My Family’s Story of Race and Racial Passing” at Kenyon College on Wednesday, Nov. 14, at 7 p.m. The event, free and open to the public, will be held in the Gund Gallery’s Community Foundation Theater, 101 ½ College Drive.

Lukasik’s memoir chronicles her journey to uncover her mother’s racial lineage and traces her family back to 18th-century colonial Louisiana. Her mother was born into a black family in New Orleans and eventually left the Jim Crow South, moving north and marrying a white man. She passed as white for the rest of her life.

In 1995, as Lukasik, who identifies as white, was exploring Louisiana census records, she learned that her mother’s father and his entire family were designated black. The shocking discovery changed her sense and understanding of white identity.

When Lukasik tried to ask her mother questions about her family’s black heritage, her mother refused to speak about the matter and told her daughter to not share the secret. In the 17 years Lukasik kept her mother’s secret, the author of mystery novels started to retrace her memories in order to better understand her mother, sorting out fiction from truth to solve her own real-life mystery. Was this why, growing up, Lukasik never really visited her mother’s side of the family or saw pictures of her grandfather?…

Read the entire press release here.

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My mother spent her life passing as white. Discovering her secret changed my view of race — and myself.

Posted in Articles, Biography, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-11-21 03:34Z by Steven

My mother spent her life passing as white. Discovering her secret changed my view of race — and myself.

The Washington Post
2017-11-20

Gail Lukasik


The author’s mother, Alvera Fredric, was born into a black family in New Orleans but spent her life passing as white. (Family photo)

I’d never seen my mother so afraid.

“Promise me,” she pleaded, “you won’t tell anyone until after I die. How will I hold my head up with my friends?”

For two years, I’d waited for the right moment to confront my mother with the shocking discovery I made in 1995 while scrolling through the 1900 Louisiana census records. In the records, my mother’s father, Azemar Frederic of New Orleans, and his entire family were designated black.

The discovery had left me reeling, confused and in need of answers. My sense of white identity had been shattered.

My mother’s visit to my home in Illinois seemed like the right moment. This was not a conversation I wanted to have on the phone.

But my mother’s fearful plea for secrecy only added to my confusion about my racial identity. As did her birth certificate that I obtained from the state of Louisiana, which listed her race as “col” (colored), and a 1940 Louisiana census record, which listed my mother, Alvera Frederic, as Neg/Negro, working in a tea shop in New Orleans. Four years later, she moved north and married my white father…

Read the entire article here.

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I have to tell you, if I hadn’t found that 1900 census record and appeared on Genealogy Roadshow, I would’ve lived my life blissfully ignorant of my black heritage and the family my mother left behind in New Orleans. To me, that would have been a tragic loss.”

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2017-11-12 04:41Z by Steven

“I would like to believe that “passing” is an archaic notion,” she [Gail Lukasik] said. “I really would like to believe that, because we no longer have laws like the one drop rule. But I suspect that in America’s racist culture, mixed race people who can pass for white must still wrestle with that choice. I have to tell you, if I hadn’t found that 1900 census record and appeared on Genealogy Roadshow, I would’ve lived my life blissfully ignorant of my black heritage and the family my mother left behind in New Orleans. To me, that would have been a tragic loss.”

Matt Christy, “Secret heritage,” The Herald-Argus, October 26, 2017. http://www.heraldargus.com/news/secret-heritage/article_09c33d4a-b024-5a13-96cf-07394e1200d2.html.

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Secret heritage

Posted in Articles, Biography, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-11-12 04:32Z by Steven

Secret heritage

The Herald-Argus
La Porte, Indiana
2017-10-26

Matt Christy, Staff Writer
Telephone: (219) 326-3870


Secret heritage
White Like Her: My Family’s Story of Race and Racial Passing” is on book shelves now and available for check-out at the La Porte County Public Library.

Author tells story behind new book

Looks can be deceiving.

To look at a photograph of Alvera Frederic Kalina, you wouldn’t know the secret she was hiding. Hiding from her husband, hiding from her children, hiding from everyone but those she cut all ties to when she left her New Orleans roots far, far behind.

Alvera avoided the sun. She had no photos of her family. She was obsessed with makeup, even wearing it when she slept.

“I can’t even imagine the fear she lived with, which I later understood was why she did (those mysterious things),” said Alvera’s daughter, author Gail Lukasik.

Lukasik is a mystery writer, but her newest book “White Like Her” is a mystery of another sort. Unlike the female driven detective novels Lukasik is known to pen, “White Like Her” tells the story of a true mystery, one Lukasik — not one of her fictional protagonists — unraveled. It was the mystery her mother made her swear to carry to her grave.

It began with Lukasik wanting to know more about her mother’s father, Azemar Frederic. She knew nothing of her grandfather and when asked, her mother would only say her parents divorced when she was young and her father didn’t raise her.

“The one time I asked her if we could visit New Orleans, where she grew up, she said it would depress her to go home, so I let it go. But in the back of my mind I always wondered about Azemar Frederic. What did he look like? What did he do for a living? What kind of man was my grandfather?” she said.

The answers would shock her and would change everything she thought she knew…

Read the entire article here.

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