|Anthropology, Articles, Biography, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2014-01-13 10:48Z by Steven|
The New York Times
NEW ORLEANS, Nov. 6 — In a white-box living room in an apartment on lower St. Charles Avenue here, the dining table was set for a family party: plastic bowls of chips, dip and salsa; a plastic bag of sepia-toned family photographs waiting to be opened; and a copy of Bliss Broyard’s new book, “One Drop: My Father’s Hidden Life — A Story of Race and Family Secrets.”
In town late last month for a publicity tour, Ms. Broyard, 41, grabbed and greeted cousins one after another as they came through the door. The gathering was at the temporary apartment of one cousin, Sheila Marie Prevost, 43, who lost her Upper Ninth Ward house and most of her possessions in Hurricane Katrina. Swing-era jazz filled the room. Ms. Broyard was guest of honor and auxiliary hostess.
In one animated moment she stood in a doorway tossing her dark curls, waving a chicken leg in one hand and a bowl of red beans and rice in the other.
“Thank you for letting us invade your house — it’s Creole domination!” she called out to Ms. Prevost’s companion.
It has been a decade since Ms. Broyard discovered her New Orleans kin. Despite skin tones ranging from alabaster to brown, most of them regard themselves as black. Ms. Broyard believed herself to be completely white until 17 years ago. She grew up in an idyllic enclave in Southport, Conn., and spent weekends at an all-white yacht club there. She attended prep school and summered on Martha’s Vineyard.
It was only on Mr. Broyard’s deathbed in 1990 that his daughter, then 24, learned the family secret: “Your father is part black,” her mother, Alexandra, blurted out to Ms. Broyard and her brother, Todd, when their father couldn’t muster the words…
…When Ms. Broyard first showed up in New Orleans in 1993 to research her book, released last month, she couldn’t help noticing several Broyards in the phone book. On a later trip she worked up the courage to call some.
“I was worried they wouldn’t want to know me or they’d be angry,” she said.
In fact, many cousins who convened at the family get-together last month had known about Ms. Broyard and her father long before she contacted them. Even though they kept his secret, they talked about him among themselves. Anatole Broyard had been their high-achieving superstar. Occasionally, a Broyard aunt would clip one of his reviews and pass it around town…
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