What do Meghan Markle and Chicago woman who wrote ‘Passing’ have in common?

Posted in Articles, Biography, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2018-02-25 23:47Z by Steven

What do Meghan Markle and Chicago woman who wrote ‘Passing’ have in common?

The Chicago Tribune
2018-02-23

Christopher Borrelli


Nella Larsen, author of “Passing.” (Carl Van Vechten)

Nella Larsen was a mystery in life, and a mystery after her death in 1964. According to biographers, when she died her half sister inherited the $35,000 that remained in Larsen’s savings, then said she didn’t know she had a half sister.

Which wasn’t true.

Yet, in many ways, it’s the response you expect.

Nella Larsen was born Nellie Walker in 1891, in Chicago.

Or Nella Larsen was born Nella Larsen, 1892, in Chicago.

Or Nella Larsen was born Nellye Larson, 1893, in Chicago.

Biographers have run across a few possibilities, and the agreed-upon details are this: Nella Larsen was born in 1891, in Chicago, as Nellie Walker. Larsen fudged her vitals on occasion, depending on who was asking and what form she was completing. She lived her life at times with a sort of concentrated vagueness — “in the shadows,” wrote George Hutchinson, one of her biographers. Just as her career was taking off, she broke ties with her closest friends, and she spent her last three decades working as a nurse, living in a relative, self-imposed anonymity. Which sounds melodramatic, yet Larsen — who had been a major star of the Harlem Renaissance after leaving Chicago (but never quite cast aside the rejection that she felt here) — lived a life that could fuel melodramas.

As it happens, she left great ones, slim novels that amount to 250 pages, combined. Indeed, “Quicksand” (1928) and “Passing” (1929) constitute most of her published work. Yet both are portraits of Chicago women who, like Larsen, navigated the blurriest of racial lines in the early 20th century, having been born to one black parent and one white parent. Both novels are about women who “passed” — that is, they presented themselves, day to day, as white. Her biographers say it’s unlikely Larsen herself did this, yet her protagonists are haunted by identity, frozen out by the black bourgeois, not at ease in white society, torn by the task of self-identifying in a binary-minded country…

Read the entire article here.

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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…

Read the entire article here.

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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:…

Read the entire article here.

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‘Thomas Jefferson Dreams of Sally Hemings’ reimagines difficult history

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2016-07-24 00:23Z by Steven

‘Thomas Jefferson Dreams of Sally Hemings’ reimagines difficult history

The Chicago Tribune
2016-07-23

Meredith Maran

“Until the lions have their own historians,” says an African proverb, “the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” The proverb offers one answer to a question that has long plagued writers, activists and historians. Who gets to tell the stories of those who have been denied the right to tell their own?

Given that heterosexual white men still get the, um, lion’s share of book contracts, should straight people write books about the gay rights movement? Should men write about the struggle for women’s equality? And — as with Harriet Beecher Stowe’sUncle Tom’s Cabin,” Mark Twain’sAdventures of Huckleberry Finn,” William Styron’s Pulitzer-winning “Confessions of Nat Turner” and now Stephen O’Connor’s Thomas Jefferson Dreams of Sally Hemings” —should a white person write a book whose central dilemma is slavery?

“Anyone has the right to write about any subject available to be written about,” historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. has said. But the white person who writes a 624-page novel about the 37-year love affair between a white slave owner — who happens to be the third president of the United States and author of the phrase “All men are created equal” — and a mixed-race slave — whom he happens to own and who happens to give birth to six of his children — had better have the politics, the courage and, most importantly, the storytelling skills to get it right.

Fortunately, O’Connor manifests an abundance of these qualities in “Thomas Jefferson Dreams of Sally Hemings,” his debut novel. Ambitious doesn’t begin to describe the scope of the project O’Connor undertook. And successful doesn’t begin to describe the wildly imaginative techniques he used to realize his authorial goal, which is clearly to humanize — equalize, you might say — the two members of this passionate, conflicted couple: the lionized, hypocritical Jefferson, who railed against slavery while owning slaves, and the powerful yet complicit Hemings, who loved and loathed her owner…

Read the entire review here.

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Multiracial kids will soon have a more colorful toy set for pretend play

Posted in Articles, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, United States on 2015-09-23 18:31Z by Steven

Multiracial kids will soon have a more colorful toy set for pretend play

The Chicago Tribune
2015-09-23

Sadé Carpenter


The MyFamilyBuilders toy set includes 48 magnetic wooden pieces that snap together. (MyFamilyBuilders)

When Ez Karpf went shopping for a gift for his friends’ children, he thought it would be easy to find a toy set that represented their multiracial family. In the U.S. — Karpf is from Argentina — there are products for everyone, or so he thought.

He quickly realized the store aisles were not overflowing with the toys he hoped to buy. He noticed not only a lack of racial diversity, but also the absence of toys portraying same-sex parents and single-parent households.

“A lot of kids are not reflected in today’s toys; a lot of families are not reflected in today’s toys,” Karpf said. “It’s much easier to learn not to be biased about differences than to unlearn that.”…

…A product developer/designer, Karpf assembled a group that included an education specialist, child psychologist, illustrator and tech entrepreneur to address the lack of diversity in toys. Together, they created MyFamilyBuilders.

“When kids don’t see themselves reflected in toys they play with every day, basically this is like having no mirror of themselves,” Karpf said.

The MyFamilyBuilders toy set includes 48 magnetic wooden block pieces children 3 and up can use to customize their playtime experience. It also includes 25 cards for five different games for children 5 and up. The goal is for parents to join the playing process and create teachable moments for their kids…

Read the entire article here.

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Girl in need of bone marrow highlights shortage of mixed-race donors

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, United States on 2015-09-14 00:40Z by Steven

Girl in need of bone marrow highlights shortage of mixed-race donors

The Chicago Tribune
2015-09-13

Vikki Ortiz Healy

When doctors told Michelle Trujillo in July that her 6-year-old daughter would need a bone marrow transplant to save her life, the Crystal Lake mother didn’t want to wait another minute before getting her only child back to health.

But months later, Sophia — who has aplastic anemia, a rare disorder that impairs her immunity — is still waiting for a donor match. Meanwhile, Trujillo says she lies in bed at night making mental lists of places to try to find a donor with similar multiracial heritage to her daughter’s — a group with a strikingly low match rate.

“I don’t sleep at night. I think of, ‘What can I do now? Who can I contact now?’ ” said Trujillo, whose daughter is half Filipino, as well as Irish, Spanish and Italian. “One match is all we need, but it’s like a needle in a haystack.”

The Trujillos’ predicament highlights a nationwide paradox that has troubled medical experts and families awaiting transplants for years: despite the ever-growing diversity in the United States, there are not enough minority and multiracial donors registered and available for patients in need…

Read the entire article here.

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Suit filed over mix-up at Downers Grove sperm bank is dismissed

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2015-09-07 01:21Z by Steven

Suit filed over mix-up at Downers Grove sperm bank is dismissed

The Chicago Tribune
2015-09-03

Clifford Ward

A judge Thursday dismissed a lawsuit filed by an Ohio woman against a west suburban sperm bank whose clerical error resulted in the birth of her mixed-race daughter.

DuPage County Judge Ronald Sutter tossed the suit after lawyers for Midwest Sperm Bank argued that the woman’s claims lacked legal merit. But the judge said Jennifer Cramblett of Uniontown, Ohio, could refile her lawsuit under a negligence claim.

Cramblett, who did not attend Thursday’s hearing, filed suit last year against the Downers Grove-based sperm bank alleging wrongful birth and breach of warranty following the birth of her daughter, who is of African-American ancestry.

Cramblett and her same-sex partner purchased sperm with the understanding that it was from a Caucasian donor, but later discovered that the sperm bank had sent material from an African-American donor. The mistake was caused by a clerical error, and the bank later issued an apology and a partial refund…

Read the entire article here.

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Chicago’s Jazz Age still lives in Archibald Motley’s art

Posted in Articles, Arts, History, Media Archive, United States on 2015-03-21 23:43Z by Steven

Chicago’s Jazz Age still lives in Archibald Motley’s art

The Chicago Tribune
2015-03-20

Howard Reich

Where does Chicago’s Jazz Age still live? In the paintings of Archibald Motley, on view in a new exhibition

Trumpets blared, saxophones thundered, singers belted and dancers swayed from nighttime to past sunup.

Walk along “the Stroll” — a very hot stretch of State Street from 31st to 35th streets — and you could hear and feel the music without so much as stepping inside any of the clubs, saloons, cafes, cabarets, theaters and whatnot. Nearby boulevards shook with the music, as well, for no place on Earth swung harder than the South Side of Chicago during the Jazz Age.

Roughly speaking, the epoch when Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, Earl Hines, Joe “King” Oliver and other jazz immortals lit up Chicago began in 1910, when Morton arrived from New Orleans, and extended into the 1950s.

Few of us around today were there in the Roaring ’20s heyday, but we’re fortunate that Archibald John Motley Jr. walked “the Stroll,” heard the music, ogled the dancers, treasured the proceedings and captured the scene for all time — on canvas. That glorious fact radiates from every corner of a newly opened exhibition at the Chicago Cultural Center, “Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist” (curated by Richard J. Powell and running through Aug. 31)…

…And though the subject is music, the theme surely is the meaning of race.

“In all my paintings where you see a group of people you’ll notice that they’re all a little different color,” Motley once said in an oral history interview. “They’re not all the same color, they’re not all black, they’re not as they used to say years ago, high yellow, they’re not all brown. I try to give each of them character as individuals.”

That respect for humanity issues from all of Motley’s jazz paintings and, of course, from the music itself. Like the range of complexions in Motley’s work, jazz emerged at the turn of the previous century as a heady mix of African-American and Creole cultures in New Orleans, these societies rubbing up against one another in church, in street parades and in the city’s Storyville vice district. The shuttering of that collection of brothels and other nightspots in 1917 drove Crescent City musicians north to Chicago, where Motley — who similarly was born in New Orleans and came to Chicago in his youth — was ready to see and hear them…

Read the entire article here.

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Jewish tent widens as diversity grows

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Judaism, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2014-12-17 19:58Z by Steven

Jewish tent widens as diversity grows

The Chicago Tribune
2014-12-16

Bonnie Miller Rubin, Reporter


Ellen Zemel (left) lends a hand for a symbolic lighting of a menorah for Hanukkah during a party for parents and children of Project Esther: The Chicago Jewish Adoption Network of the Jewish Child & Family Services, at the Elain Kersten Children’s Center in Northbrook. (Michael Tercha, Chicago Tribune)

‘The tribe’ expands to include children of many ethnicities

Meira and Tyler Burnett look forward to their family’s annual Hanukkah party, when they will light the menorah and enjoy traditional potato pancakes, called latkes.

The siblings, ages 11 and 14, respectively, also will sing in the children’s choir at B’nai Yehuda Beth Shalom, where four of the eight participants are African-American — just like them.

“When I tell friends at school that I’m Jewish, they don’t believe me,” said Meira, at the Homewood synagogue. “But that’s what I am.”

The American Jewish population has always been overwhelmingly white, with Central or Eastern European roots — synonymous with matzo ball soup, bagels, Maxwell Street pushcarts and “Seinfeld” — and it’s common to hear Jewish people refer to themselves as members of “the tribe.”

But today, as Jews prepare to celebrate Hanukkah, the eight-day holiday that begins Tuesday, the tribe looks different, because of interracial marriages, adoptions and conversions. And while the white majority still holds true, experts say more racial and ethnic diversity can be found across the spectrum of Judaism.

“There’s more variety of narratives than ever before,” said Chava Shervington, president of The Jewish Multicultural Network. The Philadelphia-based organization started in 1997 with 20 families and has grown to more than 950 members and almost 3,000 Facebook followers, she said. Its tag line: “Because Jews come in all colors.”

The increase in diversity is difficult to quantify. The Chicago Jewish Population Study, conducted every decade by the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, first asked about race in 2010. It found that 4 percent (or 5,600 Jewish households) are multiracial, including black, Hispanic, Asian and biracial members…

Read the entire article here or here.

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Lawsuit: Wrong sperm delivered to lesbian couple

Posted in Articles, Gay & Lesbian, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Law, United States on 2014-10-01 16:44Z by Steven

Lawsuit: Wrong sperm delivered to lesbian couple

The Chicago Tribune
2014-10-01

Meredith Rodriguez, Tribune reporter

A white Ohio woman is suing a Downers Grove-based sperm bank, alleging that the company mistakenly gave her vials from an African-American donor, a fact that she said has made it difficult for her and her same-sex partner to raise their now 2-year-old daughter in an all-white community.

Jennifer Cramblett, of Uniontown, Ohio, alleges in the lawsuit filed Monday in Cook County Circuit Court that Midwest Sperm Bank sent her the vials of an African-American donor’s sperm in September 2011 instead of those of a white donor that she and her white partner had ordered.

After searching through pages of comprehensive histories for their top three donors, the lawsuit claims, Cramblett and her domestic partner, Amanda Zinkon, chose donor No. 380, who was also white. Their doctor in Ohio received vials from donor No. 330, who is African-American, the lawsuit said.

Cramblett, 36, learned of the mistake in April 2012, when she was pregnant and ordering more vials so that the couple could have another child with sperm from the same donor, according to the lawsuit. The sperm bank delivered vials from the correct donor in August 2011, but Cramblett later requested more vials, according to the suit…

…”On August 21, 2012, Jennifer gave birth to Payton, a beautiful, obviously mixed-race baby girl,” the lawsuit states. “Jennifer bonded with Payton easily and she and Amanda love her very much. Even so, Jennifer lives each day with fears, anxieties and uncertainty about her future and Payton’s future.”

Raising a mixed-race daughter has been stressful in Cramblett and Zinkon’s small, all-white community, according to the suit. Cramblett was raised around people with stereotypical attitudes about nonwhites, the lawsuit states, and did not know African-Americans until she attended college at the University of Akron…

Read the entire article here.

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