‘The Sympathizer,’ by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United States on 2016-11-03 01:33Z by Steven

‘The Sympathizer,’ by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Book Review
The New York Times
2015-04-02

Philip Caputo

The more powerful a country is, the more disposed its people will be to see it as the lead actor in the sometimes farcical, often tragic pageant of history. So it is that we, citizens of a superpower, have viewed the Vietnam War as a solely American drama in which the febrile land of tigers and elephants was mere backdrop and the Vietnamese mere extras.

That outlook is reflected in the literature — and Vietnam was a very literary war, producing an immense library of fiction and nonfiction. Among all those volumes, you’ll find only a handful (Robert Olen Butler’sA Good Scent From a Strange Mountain” comes to mind) with Vietnamese characters speaking in their own voices.

Hollywood has been still more Americentric. In films like “Apocalypse Now” and “Platoon,” the Vietnamese (often other Asians portraying Vietnamese) are never more than walk-ons whose principal roles seem to be to die or wail in the ashes of incinerated villages.

Which brings me to Viet Thanh Nguyen’s remarkable debut novel, “The Sympathizer.” ­Nguyen, born in Vietnam but raised in the United States, brings a distinct perspective to the war and its aftermath. His book fills a void in the literature, giving voice to the previously voiceless while it compels the rest of us to look at the events of 40 years ago in a new light…

…Duality is literally in the protagonist’s blood, for he is a half-caste, the illegitimate son of a teenage Vietnamese mother (whom he loves) and a French Catholic priest (whom he hates). Widening the split in his nature, he was educated in the United States, where he learned to speak English without an accent and developed another love-hate relationship, this one with the country that he feels has coined too many “super” terms (supermarkets, ­superhighways, the Super Bowl, and so on) “from the federal bank of its ­narcissism.”…

Read the entire review here.

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Review of Jonathan Kahn, Race in a Bottle: The Story of BiDil and Racialized Medicine in the Post-Genomic Age

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2016-10-28 19:21Z by Steven

Review of Jonathan Kahn, Race in a Bottle: The Story of BiDil and Racialized Medicine in the Post-Genomic Age

The American Journal of Bioethics
Volume 15, 2015 – Issue 10
pages W4-W5
DOI: 10.1080/15265161.2015.1067339

Nathan Nobis, Associate Professor of Philosophy
Morehouse College, Atlanta, Georgia

In 2005 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the drug BiDil, a combination of two generic vasodilators (hence bi-dil), with specific indication to treat heart failure in black patients. The drug was approved largely on the basis of results from a small clinical trial of only self-identified black patients.

Obviously, however, if a drug works with a particular population, that gives no indication that drug will work only with that population or have unique benefits solely for that population: The drug might work for anyone, of any population, and so works well for a subpopulation. So there is some mystery why BiDil was approved, with this specific indication, on this basis. In Race in a Bottle: The Story of BiDil and Racialized Medicine in the Post-Genomic Age, law professor and historian Jonathan Kahn investigates this mystery.

BiDil’s developers argued that there must be some latent genetic explanation for the drug’s success with black patients—this argument underlies their claim that BiDil uniquely benefits black people. They suggest that race serves as useful surrogate or proxy until further genetic information is revealed.

A major goal of the book is to rebut this explanation. Kahn argues that, according to the best science (and philosophical theorizing about the nature of races), there is no genetic basis for race: There are no unique genes that classify (those who many see as) white people as white and (those who many see as) black people as black, and so on. Race-specific efficacy in drugs is therefore unlikely and dubious, given the lack of race-specific biological mechanisms needed for these drugs to perform as promised.

What role should race play in medicine and public health, then? While Kahn provides positive proposals here, another of his major goals is to argue that race-specific drugs have the (typically unintended) negative consequence of undermining potentially effective projects to address racial health disparities. If we believe that health inequalities are, at root, an unfortunate consequence of genetics and biology—and not a consequence of unfair social, political, and educational opportunities, environmental quality, inequalities in health care access, racism in health care, and other social causes—then there is little reason to focus on these very challenging and demanding issues of justice and the distribution of health-related social, educational, and vocational goods: Just take a pill! But if the pills don’t work, and they lead us to ignore or downplay strategies that will work, then the drugs wrongfully distract—to the detriment of those the drugs were developed to benefit.

In what follows, I briefly summarize the book’s introduction, eight chapters, and very helpful “Conclusions and Recommendations,” and comment on some of the main issues of each chapter…

Read the entire review in HTML or PDF format.

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Behind the Scenes of Loving, the Most Beautiful Love Story Ever Told

Posted in Articles, Arts, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, United States, Virginia on 2016-10-19 14:05Z by Steven

Behind the Scenes of Loving, the Most Beautiful Love Story Ever Told

Vogue
2016-10-17 (November 2016)

Danzy Senna
photographed by Mario Testino


Photographed by Mario Testino, Vogue, November 2016

Meet Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton, the brilliant stars of Loving, Jeff Nichols’s sweeping portrait of an interracial couple fıghting for their right to marry in 1950s Vırginia.

We enter the story in 1958, in rural Virginia. A woman and a man stand in an open field of grass; she is telling him she is pregnant. There is a hint of worry in her luminous dark eyes, but the man assures her that they will get married and build a home together. The opening scene of Loving, Jeff Nichols’s quietly devastating new film, feels less like a beginning and more like a happily-ever-after ending. But because this is 1950s Virginia, and the woman is black and the man is white, the story does not unfold in the way of fairy tales. For Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving—a real-life couple played in the film by Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton—the seemingly straightforward act of getting married becomes a dangerous and transgressive act.

With its lush cinematography, Loving is a visual paean to the 1950s, but it is also a fierce interrogation of the hypocrisies of that era. It traces the arc of the Lovings’ struggle to live as husband and wife at a time not so long ago when it was illegal in sixteen states to marry someone of a different race. As the Lovings are forced to leave their tight-knit, working-class community and live in Washington, D.C., around them swirls language that evokes the present debate on gay marriage. “It’s God’s law,” the sheriff tells the couple after their harrowing middle-of-the-night arrest. “A robin’s a robin, a sparrow is a sparrow.” As Edgerton says, “That’s the double beauty of the film. It’s a racial period piece, but it also echoes very loudly today.”…

Read the entire review here.

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Real Native Genius: How an Ex-Slave and a White Mormon Became Famous Indians by Angela Pulley Hudson (review)

Posted in Articles, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Passing, Religion, United States on 2016-09-26 00:00Z by Steven

Real Native Genius: How an Ex-Slave and a White Mormon Became Famous Indians by Angela Pulley Hudson (review)

The Journal of the Civil War Era
Volume 6, Number 3, September 2016
pages 439-442
DOI: 10.1353/cwe.2016.0058

Adam Pratt, Assistant Professor of History
University of Scranton, Scranton, Pennsylvania

Real Native Genius: How an Ex-Slave and a White Mormon Became Famous Indians. By Angela Pulley Hudson. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015. Pp. 270. Paper $29.95.)

Angela Pulley Hudson’s Real Native Genius traces the lives of two individuals who, in the 1840s, convinced thousands of Americans that they were Native Americans. Calling themselves Okah Tubbee and Laah Ceil, the couple toured the Northeast as musicians who performed for large audiences and, later, offered medical cures. Hudson argues that audiences took the couple’s Indianness seriously and offers a host of cultural factors, such as the market revolution and religious revivalism, that explain their success. What she finds is that the Indian portrayals by Warner McCary, a mixed-race former slave from Mississippi, and Lucy Stanton, a Mormon from New York, tapped into Americans’ perceptions of Native people. Their performances lacked authenticity, but they were readily believable to an eastern, white audience that shared the same misconceptions about Native beliefs and practices. When evangelicals or early Mormons spoke in tongues, they were thought to be “talking Injun” (49); likewise, remedies hocked by charlatans were called “Indian cures” (124). These widely held ideas about a singular Native culture and identity, one that was widely constructed by white popular culture, allowed the couple to don identities believable enough to American audiences desperate for Native authenticity.

Born a slave in Natchez, Mississippi, around 1810, Warner McCary had a sad childhood. His purported mother, a slave, and her other children were manumitted, while he was not. McCary long disputed the idea that his owner was his father and instead claimed a Choctaw father. Although McCary lacked a sense of belonging from his family, he found respite in the fact that, starting at a young age, he could please people by playing them music. By 1839, he had run away to New Orleans, where he became something of a renowned musician and fashioned a new identity for himself as a performer. Urged to travel to widen his audience, in 1843 he met Lucy Stanton, a divorcée with three children, whose life had been spent with the nascent Mormon Church. Because Native Americans “were seen as an essential part of the faith’s millenarian promise,” they played a vital role in Mormon theology (45). Mormonism, according to Hudson, was instrumental when it came to the couple’s adoption and perpetuation of ideas about Indians.

In early 1846, the couple married and soon thereafter moved to Cincinnati, where they attempted to convert followers. McCary claimed to be both an Indian and a resurrected Christ, which caused several raised eyebrows. The local press portrayed McCary as “a unique sort of pied piper, leading followers to ruin and relieving them of their dollars” (72). This was the couple’s first foray into being “professional Indians,” an antebellum phenomenon that capitalized on “audiences’ desires for trivia on the vanishing race” (74–75). However, by early 1847 they had joined the Mormons at Winter Quarters, where they soon found themselves in trouble. It appeared that McCary had been seducing Mormon women with the help of his wife. McCary’s behavior, combined with lingering questions about his race, led to his being forced out of town by angry neighbors. By the fall of 1847, McCary and Stanton had traveled east and become professional Indians.

Unlike so many Americans who chased their fortunes in the west, Okah Tubbee and Laah Ceil understood that their brand could succeed only in the East. Impersonating Indians could work only where Indians no longer existed and where misconceptions were widespread. In the East, Tubbee demonstrated his “native genius” when he performed renditions of “La Marseillaise,” a way to show that he was untaught and that he possessed natural gifts because of his heritage. After several years of touring, Tubbee became embroiled in controversy when he married another woman who was unaware of the fact that he already had a wife. As public opinion turned against him, he vanished, lost to the historical record.

Laah Ceil made a name for herself in Buffalo, where she sold medicines until the 1860s. Her…

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The Ambiguous and the Mundane: Racial Performance and Asian Americans

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Asian Diaspora, Book/Video Reviews, Communications/Media Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2016-09-25 02:23Z by Steven

The Ambiguous and the Mundane: Racial Performance and Asian Americans

Contemporary Literature
Volume 57, Number 2, Summer 2016
pages 292-300

Josephine D. Lee, Professor of English and Asian American
University of Minnesota

Jennifer Ann Ho, Racial Ambiguity in Asian American Culture. New Brunswick, NJ, and London: Rutgers University Press, 2015. xi + 215 pp. $90.00 cloth; $31.95 paper.

Ju Yon Kim, The Racial Mundane: Asian American Performance and the Embodied Everyday. New York: New York University Press, 2015. x + 286 pp. $90.00 cloth; $28.00 paper.

Asian American studies scholars such as Karen Shimakawa (National Abjection: The Asian American Body Onstage), Leslie Bow (Betrayal and Other Acts of Subversion: Feminism, Sexual Politics, Asian American Women’s Literature), Tina Chen (Double Agency: Acts of Impersonation in Asian American Literature and Culture), Joshua Chambers-Letson (A Race So Different: Performance and Law in Asian America), and myself have drawn attention to the theatrical nature of Asian American racialization—the assumed incompatibility between Asian bodies and American loyalties that undergirds racial stereotypes such as the perpetual foreigner or the wartime enemy. The Asian American is imagined as a potential traitor or an economic threat whose essential nature is inherently at odds with American identity and whose apparently successful cultural assimilation is inherently untrustworthy. Throughout their long history, Asian Americans have been subject to the material and psychological consequences of this endgame, whether in the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans or in outlandish expectations for the “model minority.”

Two recent books—Ju Yon Kim’s The Racial Mundane: Asian American Performance and the Embodied Everyday and Jennifer Ann Ho’s Racial Ambiguity in Asian American Culture—also envision Asian American racialization as a shifting and dynamic social performance, unpacking what “Asian American” does, rather than just assuming what it is. Both directly challenge fixed notions of racial epistemology as well as provide insightful, original commentary on historical and contemporary Asian American literature and culture.

Grounded in the theories of theatrical phenomenology and Asian American studies, Kim’s Racial Mundane specifically looks at the juxtaposition of Asian American culture (especially Asian American theater) and “everyday” life. Theater is often considered the realm of imaginative pretense as contrasted with the authentic world offstage. But as Kim points out, both theater and life are mainly constituted by repetitive habits and behaviors that define self and action. What Kim calls “the mundane” is the “fusion of the corporeal and the quotidian,” or as she eloquently puts it, “the slice of the everyday carried—and carried out—by the body” (3). For Asian Americans, these ordinary bodily practices are charged with racial significance. Asian exclusion and marginalization was founded on the premise that Asian immigrants and their descendants would never fully assimilate. Kim takes up different instances of this perceived gap between Asian body and American behavior; for instance, she reads the myth of the “model minority” in Justin Lin’s 2002 film Better Luck Tomorrow and Lauren Yee’s biting 2014 satire Ching Chong Chinaman as demonstrative of this racial slippage, whereby Asian American achievement is interpreted both as proof of a successful transition into Americanness and as accentuating a racial difference that belies assimilation.

Though Kim’s examples are largely contemporary, she opens with an analysis of a play that premiered in 1912. Now mostly forgotten, Harry Benrimo and George C. Hazelton Jr.’s The Yellow Jacket was praised in touring productions as well as Broadway revivals, drawing attention for its novel adaptation of the stage devices of Chinese opera as well as Chinese settings and characters. Kim juxtaposes the success of this play’s version of Chineseness with the uncertainty and suspicion with which Chinese immigrants were treated. If the “heathen Chinee” (as Bret Harte called the Chinese immigrant in his popular 1870 poem) was so reviled in early twentieth-century America, how do we explain the popularity of the Chinese characters (played by white actors) in The Yellow Jacket? Key to this contradiction was Benrimo and Hazelton’s inclusion of a “Property Man,” a character who manages the stage set and props while doing ordinary things such as eating, smoking, and reading a newspaper. This novel stage device may well have influenced Thornton Wilder’s creation of the Stage Manager for his…

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Black as We Wanna Be

Posted in Articles, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, United States on 2016-09-18 17:45Z by Steven

Black as We Wanna Be

The Nation
2016-09-15

Matthew McKnight, Assistant Literary Editor


Frederick Douglass, February 21, 1895. (National Park Service, Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, Washington, DC)

Stauffer, John, Zoe Trodd, and Celeste-Marie Bernier, Picturing Frederick Douglass: An Illustrated Biography of the Nineteenth Century’s Most Photographed American (New York: Liveright, 2015)

Fields, Karen E., and Barbara J. Fields, Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life (Brooklyn: Verso, 2012)

Trying to remedy racism on its own intellectual terrain is like trying to extinguish a fire by striking another match. The fiction must be unbelieved, the fire stamped out.

In her 2003 book Regarding the Pain of Others, Susan Sontag explored some questions about the ever-evolving technology of photography and what it does to us, particularly when it’s used to capture moments that would normally make us avert our eyes. “Perhaps the only people with the right to look at images of suffering of this extreme order,” Sontag wrote, “are those who could do something to alleviate it—say, the surgeons at the military hospital where the photograph was taken—or those who could learn from it. The rest of us are voyeurs, whether or not we mean to be.” Sontag spends much of the book discussing war photography; scant pages mention images and cruelties closer to home.

In the modern American context, there remains perhaps no more insidious cruelty than the belief—constantly manipulated and reinforced—that race is a natural and constant thing, something that should have any bearing on how we choose to organize our society and our lives. And though the convergence of racism and the photographic impulse isn’t new, the recent pictures and videos of killings by police officers have given renewed life to the questions that Sontag explored—and those she didn’t. Indeed, these images raise fewer questions about the act of looking at them than about the ways in which we view ourselves.

To modern eyes, the photographic portraits of Frederick Douglass are not so remarkable. Douglass was almost always photographed seated, wearing a dark suit, alternately staring directly into the camera and looking off to one side. As he abided by the portrait conventions of the era, only his skin color would have made these portraits remarkable in Douglass’s own time. The real joy of Picturing Frederick Douglass (2015)—a collection of 60 portraits, taken between 1841 and 1895; his four speeches on his theory of photography; and a critical essay by Henry Louis Gates Jr.—is to study his constancy. The changes in Douglass’s facial expressions across all of the portraits are mostly imperceptible: He looks serious, defiant, and proud.

The final portrait of Douglass was taken on February 21, 1895. He’d died the day before. That image shows him lying on his bed in Washington, DC. It is mostly a spectral gray-white. His hair and beard, his clothes, the bed linens, and the wall in the background all appear to be about the same color. There’s a faint outline of his profile, and with his hands crossed over his abdomen, he looks as dignified as ever…

Read the entire article here.

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Mixed Blessings from a Cambridge Union

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2016-09-16 20:30Z by Steven

Mixed Blessings from a Cambridge Union

Camden Review
2016-09-15

Angela Cobbinah


Elizabeth Anionwu

THE early years of one’s life normally follow a predictable path with any unexpected twists and turns suitably documented for posterity.

But it was not until she was in her 60s that Elizabeth Anionwu, one of the country’s most senior nurses, was able to discover why she ended up spending the best part of her childhood in the care of Roman Catholic nuns.

The revelations came in the form of a thick blue dossier containing almost 60 documents handed over to her from a Catholic children’s home in Birmingham.

“It consisted mainly of letters dating back to my time in my mother’s womb to when I left care, and the words that jumped out of the pages took my breath away,” recalls Elizabeth. Up until then I had a few bits of oral history passed down, but literally only bits.”

Her mother, the darling daughter of devout Irish Catholics living in Liverpool, had fallen pregnant while studying classics at Newnham College, Cambridge. The frantic back and forth correspondence between the family and the reverend in charge centred on concealing the pregnancy and whether the baby should eventually be adopted.

“There was a great deal of stigma surrounding illegitimacy in those days but this was only the start of the drama – at this stage, my grandparents were unaware that my father was from Nigeria.”.

Despite their renewed shock, they supported her mother’s desire to keep the baby but insisted that Elizabeth be placed in a children’s home at the age of six months so she could resume her studies. But, as her mother reveals in further correspondence, she planned to marry her father, who was also studying at Cambridge, and bring her baby home again.

What happens next is told in Elizabeth’s forth­coming autobiography, Mixed Blessings from a Cambridge Union, how she did not get to live with her mother until she was nine, but then only briefly because of her step­father’s hostility, and only met her father at the age of 24…

Read the entire article here.

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Books in Brief: Nonfiction

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2016-09-13 20:22Z by Steven

Books in Brief: Nonfiction

The New York Times
1997-10-26

Douglas A. Sylva

The New Colored People: The Mixed-Race Movement in America.
By Jon Michael Spencer.
New York University, $24.95.

Many members of minority groups have long argued that society must recognize and accept an individual’s racial identity for that individual to enjoy feelings of self-esteem. Ironically, however, the very success of this message threatens the black community, since many people traditionally considered black now think of themselves as multiracial or of mixed race. Some even demand the right to define themselves this way on government documents. In ”The New Colored People,” Jon Michael Spencer takes on the difficult task of explaining, from a civil-rights perspective, why government should refuse to recognize such a category. Spencer, who teaches American studies and music at the University of Richmond, worries that new classifications will sap the black community of skill and vigor. He also fears that Federal relief funds for blacks will dwindle if their officially registered population declines. Whether or not he is correct, this type of argument entails a plea to put aside the desire for recognition and self-esteem for the greater good of the community…

Read the entire review here.

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Toronto Film Review: ‘Barry’

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United States on 2016-09-11 19:40Z by Steven

Toronto Film Review: ‘Barry’

Variety
2016-09-10

Owen Gleiberman, Chief Film Critic


Devon Terrell in Barry. Courtesy of TIFF

Set in 1981, a canny and absorbing drama paints a highly convincing portrait of Barack Obama when he was a 20-year-old college student in New York, still piecing together who he was.

In the movie world, there is often a fine line between coincidence and karma. It’s not really all that hard to fathom how two filmmakers, within a year of each other, could each come up with the notion of making a kind of snapshot biopic about the young Barack Obama. Yet the fact that both movies are emerging near the tail-end of the Obama presidency is surely no accident. The time has come to take stock, and Obama, at the twilight of his leadership, with eight years of policy and scrutiny, controversy and (yes) celebrity behind him, is ripe for the kind of mythological intimacy that the movies, perhaps uniquely, can provide.

Southside With You,” the Sundance hit that was released into theaters just two weeks ago, is a deft and observant talkathon that turns Barack and Michelle Obama’s first date into a touching political spin on “Before Sunrise.” The Barack of that movie, which is set on a single day in 1989, is still finding his way, but he’s already a precocious young version of the Obama we know: impeccable and confident, a fusion of insight and arrogance and clarity and empathy, speaking in those rolling information-age cadences.

The Barack Obama we meet in “Barry,” on the other hand (a movie set eight years earlier), is a very different sort of cat, a young man you feel you scarcely know at all, because he doesn’t totally know himself — which turns out to be the theme of the movie. As played by the canny Australian actor Devon Terrell, he’s not even Barack yet, he’s just Barry, rolling with the punches, a slightly gawky handsome angular dude with a fringe of Afro and a way of falling into pensive trances when he’s chain-smoking. Terrell nails the clipped vibe of awareness, and a youthful version of the stare, to an uncanny degree. His Barry is reasonably self-possessed, with a lot of ideas, but he doesn’t have a clue as to how they fit together. He’s not the talkative lawyer-professor we’re used to. He’s tentative, his brashness weighed down by hidden doubts…

Read the entire review here.

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Imperfect Unions: Staging Miscegenation in U.S. Drama and Fiction by Diana Rebekkah Paulin (review) [Ings]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2016-09-09 18:04Z by Steven

Imperfect Unions: Staging Miscegenation in U.S. Drama and Fiction by Diana Rebekkah Paulin (review) [Ings]

African American Review
Volume 47, Number 1, Spring 2014

Katharine Nicholson Ings, Associate Professor of English
Manchester College, North Manchester, Indiana

Diana Rebekkah Paulin. Imperfect Unions: Staging Miscegenation in U.S. Drama and Fiction. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2012. 315 pp. $75.00 cloth/ $25.00 paper.

In Diana Rebekkah Paulin’s Imperfect Unions: Staging Miscegenation in U.S. Drama and Fiction, the author explores how the theatrical and literary production of miscegenation from the mid-nineteenth through the early twentieth centuries both dismantled and reinforced the black-white binary that bolstered individual and national identity during Reconstruction and the subsequent period of nation-building. Paulin analyzes race from a performative perspective—an approach she establishes as unfamiliar to a nineteenth-century American—and so she mines her texts for the complex and what she calls the “often unseen processes” (xii) by which interracial relationships become spectacular, or staged. But she also frames her topic of interracial unions as a methodology of its own: if her sources’ processes are “unseen,” Paulin consciously employs “miscegenated reading practices” (xii) by engaging with diverse fields of study, including American studies and transhemispheric studies alongside theatre and performance studies, comparative race and ethnic literary studies, and literary history.

Part of this book’s appeal comes from how Paulin herself stages the narratives within. Selecting an eclectic variety of texts, Paulin organizes her chapters by pairing and comparing; she often juxtaposes a playwright with a novelist or short-story writer—Dion Boucicault with Louisa May Alcott, Bartley Campbell with William Dean Howells, Thomas Dixon with Charles Chesnutt, Pauline Hopkins with the trio Bob Cole, J. Rosamond Johnson, and James Weldon Johnson—to emphasize the intersecting performative aspects of their works. She introduces each chapter by situating the authors and texts within their respective biographical and cultural contexts, paying particular attention to the performance history and reception of each play. This strategy is particularly successful for chapter one, “Under the Covers of Forbidden Desire,” Paulin’s treatments of Dion Boucicault’s play The Octoroon (1859) and Louisa May Alcott’s stories “M. L.” and “My Contraband” (both 1863). She develops her analysis beyond a familiar argument of how black blood in each work functions as either a catalyst for “chaos” (14) or exotic “art” (36) to a consideration of same-sex miscegenation (including audience reception). In Boucicault, for instance, a quadroon slave and an Indian have a friendship that Paulin locates “somewhere on the spectrum between the homosocial and the homoerotic” (20); in Alcott, white women in an authoritative, read “masculine” role express their same-sex desire for former slaves via the men’s “feminized characterizations” (41)…

Read the entire review here.

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