Allyson Hobbs’ A Chosen Exile makes summer reading lists

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-07-17 00:15Z by Steven

Allyson Hobbs’ A Chosen Exile makes summer reading lists

Stanford News
Stanford University, Stanford, California
2017-07-14

Alex Shashkevich


Allyson Hobbs

A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life, written by historian ALLYSON HOBBS, made it to the 2017 summer reading lists of Harvard University Press and The Paris Review.

The 2014 book examines the phenomenon of racial passing, which is an intentional attempt by a person to assume a different racial identity, in the United States from the late 18th century to the present. Hobbs was inspired by a story her aunt told her about a distant cousin who passed as a white woman in the 1940s.

“Necessarily, Hobbs writes, passing involves erasure: gradations gone, subtleties of color and culture reduced to black and white,” wrote Julie Orringer in The Paris Review. “What’s lost in the process: families and friends, a sense of belonging. A Chosen Exile illuminates those losses with acuity, rigor and compassion.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Stanford graduate student finds patterns in stories about multiracialism

Posted in Articles, Campus Life, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2017-06-22 00:55Z by Steven

Stanford graduate student finds patterns in stories about multiracialism

Stanford News
Stanford University, Stanford, California
2017-06-21

Alex Shashkevich


Vanessa Seals (Image credit: Margaret Sena)

English doctoral student Vanessa Seals studies contemporary American novels and memoirs about multiracial people’s experiences to examine the role families play in their search for identity.

Who am I? It’s a question many of us ask at some point in our lives.

Vanessa Seals, a doctoral student in English, is exploring how people of mixed race tackle this question and form their racial identities.

Seals read and analyzed more than 50 contemporary American novels and memoirs, largely written in the past two decades, about the experiences of multiracial people as part of her dissertation research. She found that mixed-race individuals represented in the literature almost always look to their family and relatives when trying to figure out who they are…

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Storytelling matters to Stanford historian Allyson Hobbs

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2016-02-21 23:17Z by Steven

Storytelling matters to Stanford historian Allyson Hobbs

Stanford News
Stanford University, Stanford, California
2016-02-19

Kate Chesley, Associate Director of University Communications


Allyson Hobbs and her award-winning book, A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life

ALLYSON HOBBS, assistant professor of American history, finds much of the inspiration for her research in the stories of her own remarkable family. Telling those stories – and connecting them with larger themes in U.S. history – is one of the things that matters most to her.

Hobbs was the featured speaker recently at the popular “What Matters to Me and Why” noontime discussion series, sponsored by the Office for Religious Life. The series asks members of the Stanford community to reflect on matters of personal values and beliefs.

Hobbs is the author of A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life, published by Harvard University Press in 2014. The book, which won the 2015 Frederick Jackson Turner Prize for best first book in American history and the 2015 Lawrence Levine Prize for best book in American cultural history, was inspired by a story Hobbs’ beloved aunt told her about a distant cousin.

That cousin, Hobbs told the audience, was born on the South Side of Chicago in the 1920s. Light skinned, the cousin was forced by her mother to leave her home and pass for white in Los Angeles. Hobbs told the heartbreaking story of how the cousin, married to a white man and raising children who were unaware of their mother’s heritage, was unable to return to Chicago to see her dying father lest her secret be revealed…

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I want to show what was lost by walking away from a black racial identity.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2013-12-19 16:12Z by Steven

“I want to show that passing is a deeply individualistic practice, but it is also a fundamentally social act with enormous social consequences. I want to show what was lost by walking away from a black racial identity.” —Allyson Hobbs

Nate Sloan, “Stanford historian re-examines practice of racial ‘passing’,” Stanford News, (December 18, 2013). http://news.stanford.edu/news/2013/december/passing-as-white-121713.html

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Stanford historian re-examines practice of racial ‘passing’

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2013-12-19 09:36Z by Steven

Stanford historian re-examines practice of racial ‘passing’

Stanford News
The Humanities at Stanford
2013-12-18

Nate Sloan, Doctoral Candidate in Musicology
Stanford University

In the margins of historical accounts and the dusty corners of family archives, Stanford history Professor Allyson Hobbs uncovers stories long kept hidden: those of African Americans who passed as white, from the late 18th century to the present.

Dr. Albert Johnston grew up in Chicago, attended the University of Chicago Medical School in the 1920s, and went on to become a radiologist in a small town in New Hampshire. He and his wife were black – a fact they initially hid so that Johnston could secure an internship – and for 20 years, they kept this secret from their neighbors, and even their children.

After the United States entered World War II, Johnston effectively “outed” himself by applying for the Navy. He was rejected because of his racial background, and word of his mixed-race roots spread. What motivated Johnston to sacrifice his social status and job security? Was it wartime patriotism, or something else: a desire to have the truth out in the open?

Questions like these have motivated the latest research project of Stanford history Professor Allyson Hobbs. The Johnstons’ story is one of the many instances of racial “passing” – the practice in which light-skinned African Americans chose to present themselves as white – that Hobbs profiles in her upcoming book, A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing (Harvard University Press, 2014)…

Read the entire article here.

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