J.P. Morgan’s librarian hid her race. A novel imagines the toll on her.

Posted in Articles, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2021-07-17 00:53Z by Steven

J.P. Morgan’s librarian hid her race. A novel imagines the toll on her.

The Christian Science Monitor
2021-06-29

Heller McAlpin, Correspondent


Library of Congress
Belle da Costa Greene, shown in 1929, curated rare books for mogul J.P. Morgan. She was the first director of the Morgan Library.

Some books leave you wondering why the author has chosen to tell this particular story, and why now. This is emphatically not the case with “The Personal Librarian,” a novel about the woman who helped shape the Morgan Library’s spectacular collection of rare books and art more than a century ago. It quickly becomes clear why two popular authors, Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray, have teamed up to tell this important, inspirational story.

Belle da Costa Greene’s success in the almost exclusively male world of art and rare book dealers was an unusual feat for a woman in the early 20th century. But what makes it even more extraordinary – and such rich material for historical fiction – is the secret she harbored throughout her long career: She hailed from a prominent, light-skinned Black family, many of whose members had chosen to pass as white.

“The Personal Librarian” reminds readers that this decision was not made lightly. After the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Civil Rights Act in 1883 – a ruling that ushered in Jim Crow segregation and gave white supremacy and racial discrimination legal cover, the ramifications of which are felt to this day – few opportunities were open to anyone classified as nonwhite…

Read the entire book review here.

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Book Review: A Cosmologist Throws Light on a Universe of Bias

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive on 2021-06-03 19:02Z by Steven

Book Review: A Cosmologist Throws Light on a Universe of Bias

Undark
2021-04-16

Joshua Roebke


Top: Chanda Prescod-Weinstein is an award-winning physicist,⁠ feminist, activist, and the first Black woman to earn a Ph.D. in the field of theoretical cosmology. Visual: Courtesy Chanda Prescod-Weinstein

In “The Disordered Cosmos,” Chanda Prescod-Weinstein contemplates the exclusionary culture of physics.

EVERY COMMUNITY GUARDS a creation story, a theory of cosmic origins. In much of sub-Saharan West Africa, for the past few thousand years, itinerant storytellers known as griots have communicated these and other tales through song. Cosmologists also intone a theory of cosmic origins, known as the Big Bang, albeit through journal articles and math.

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein is a cosmologist who is adept with both equations and “the keeper of a deeply human impulse” to understand our universe. In her first book, “The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, & Dreams Deferred⁠,” Prescod-Weinstein also admits she is a griot, one who knows the music of the cosmos but sings of earthbound concerns. She is an award-winning physicist,⁠ feminist, and activist who is not only, as she says, the first Jewish “queer agender Black woman⁠” to become a theoretical cosmologist, she is the first Black woman ever to earn a Ph.D. in the subject.

Prescod-Weinstein is an assistant professor of physics and astronomy, and a core faculty member in the department of women’s and gender studies at the University of New Hampshire. She thus enjoys a unique frame of reference from which to appraise science and her fellow scientists. She is an insider whom others nonetheless cast as an outsider, because of her identity, orientation, and the tint of her skin. From the outside, however, she admits a fuller view of her field. She perceives the “structures that were invisible to people,”⁠ and reveals them…

Read the entire review here.

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Why You Should Read “Swirl Girl, The Coming Of Race In The USA”, By TaRessa Stovall

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United States on 2021-05-25 01:31Z by Steven

Why You Should Read “Swirl Girl, The Coming Of Race In The USA”, By TaRessa Stovall

Girl Talk HQ: The Global Headquarters of Female Empowerment Stories & Voices
2020-06-16

Nancy Burke

Swirl Girl, the Coming of Race in the USA” by TaRessa Stovall is your first step in learning what it is like to walk through the world as a child, teen and woman whose ethnic identity is not immediately discernible; to live with the relentless scrutiny of your skin, hair and features by just about anyone you meet; and to be continuously subjected to the question, What are you?

Stovall’s father was a Black man. Her mother, a Jewish woman. In Stovall’s memoir, “Swirl Girl,” she describes the different perspectives each of her parents had regarding how their mixed-race children should navigate the wider world. Stovall and her brother internalize the two views they learned from their parents, and as life goes on, each embraces what works for them and sheds those attitudes that do not serve. Stovall’s loving but conflicted response to each parent’s belief about who she should be and which sides of herself she should put front and center are beautifully rendered with the inherent complexity involved in her coming of age…

Read the entire book review here.

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Majority-Minority Myths

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2021-05-15 23:01Z by Steven

Majority-Minority Myths

Dissent
Spring 2021

Jake Rosenfeld, Professor of Sociology
Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri


Outside a Latinos for Trump campaign rally in Orlando, Florida, in October 2020 (Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

It’s time to let go of the belief that changing demographics will bring about a progressive America.

The Great Demographic Illusion: Majority, Minority, and the Expanding American Mainstream
by Richard Alba
Princeton University Press, 2020, 336 pp.

Dangerously Divided: How Race and Class Shape Winning and Losing in American Politics
by Zoltan L. Hajnal
Cambridge University Press, 2020, 362 pp.

The Case for Identity Politics: Polarization, Demographic Change, and Racial Appeals
by Christopher T. Stout
University of Virginia Press, 2020, 268 pp.

In a commencement address at the University of California, San Diego in 1997, President Bill Clinton spoke of a time when white people would no longer constitute a majority in the United States. In the decades since, the idea that growing diversity will bring about a “majority-minority” America in the near future has become a widespread belief across the ideological spectrum, propelled by periodic Census updates, like a report that 2013 marked the first year that more nonwhite babies had been born in the United States than white ones.

There are three major problems with this now-clichéd belief. First, it scares many white people, pushing their political stances toward the right. Numerous studies confirm that merely mentioning the demographic shift is enough to change their political views. As Ezra Klein has written, “The simplest way to activate someone’s identity is to threaten it.” Many white people interpret stories about the imminent reordering of the country’s racial and ethnic hierarchy as a threat.

Second, it leads Democrats astray. Divvying up the nation between whites and nonwhites implies a neat, fixed, and immutable ordering of a complex set of shifting racial and ethnic identities. The corollary—that a shared political identity should bind minorities to a leftist, emancipatory project against white oppression—induces complacency in Democratic Party organizing and policymaking realms, and ignores the varied ethnic and class backgrounds of those who comprise this broad, diverse population.

The 2020 election shook the premise that nonwhite voters shared a liberal political identity, with growing evidence of an across-the-board shift toward the GOP among Latinos and, to a smaller degree, African Americans. But evidence that the “browning of America” may not lead to progressive nirvana predated the election. Bush’s 2004 re-election bid was buoyed by his record performance among Latinos. Since then, between a quarter and a third of Latinos have voted for Republican presidential candidates despite the restrictionist turn in the party’s immigration policies.

Which brings us to the third problem with the majority-minority claim: it’s empirically wrong…

Read the entire article here.

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They Were Black. Their Parents Were White. Growing Up Was Complicated.

Posted in Arts, Autobiography, Book/Video Reviews, United Kingdom, United States, Women on 2021-03-06 22:48Z by Steven

They Were Black. Their Parents Were White. Growing Up Was Complicated.

The New York Times
Book Reviews
2021-02-23

Bliss Broyard


Georgina Lawton (Left), Rebecca Carroll (Right) Jamie Simonds/Loftus Media, Laura Fuchs

Georgina Lawton, Raceless: In Search of Family, Identity, and the Truth About Where I Belong (New York: Harper Perennial, 2021)

Rebecca Carroll, Surviving the White Gaze, A Memoir (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2021)

For most of us, racial identity is a combination of inheritance (you are what your parents are) and influence (you’re a product of where and how you were raised). But what if you are raised by people who didn’t look like you, in communities where you were the only one, steeped in a culture whose power was amassed through your oppression?

In a pair of new memoirs — “Surviving the White Gaze,” by the American cultural critic Rebecca Carroll, and “Raceless: In Search of Family, Identity, and the Truth About Where I Belong,” by the British journalist Georgina Lawton — two women recount growing up as Black girls with white parents who loved them deeply but failed them miserably by not seeing and celebrating them for who they were…

Read the review of both books here.

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A Family History of British Empire

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2021-02-10 01:42Z by Steven

A Family History of British Empire

Black Perspectives
2021-02-05

Mary Hicks, Assistant Professor of Black Studies and History
Amherst College, Amherst, Massachusetts

“Where are you from?”—The deceptively simple question looms over the sprawling narrative of Imperial Intimacies: A Tale of Two Islands, the newest work by Black feminist theorist, literary critic, and historian Hazel Carby. This historical and existential query frames Carby’s gripping exploration of her ambivalent relationship to idealized “Britishness” as the child of a white, working-class Welsh mother and a Black, Jamaican father born in 1940s London. The omnipresent demand by strangers that she produce a satisfying account of her origins exemplifies her experiences as an unlocatable and thus unimaginable subject (98). Her own emotionally charged childhood memories ground Carby’s evocative examination of the intertwined nature of intimacy, race, and labor in the British Empire, stretching from the period following World War II back to the revolutionary wars of the late eighteenth century.

Imperial Intimacies begins with the Gramscian imperative to reconstruct, and at times invent, one’s personal genealogy, not only in fact but in feeling…

Read the entire review here.

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‘Passing’ Stars Talk Rebecca Hall’s Directorial Debut and the Complexity of Racial identity

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2021-02-02 04:05Z by Steven

‘Passing’ Stars Talk Rebecca Hall’s Directorial Debut and the Complexity of Racial identity

Variety
2021-02-01

Angelique Jackson

Rebecca Hall’s feature directorial debut “Passing” dives into the nuance of racial identity and the complex realities of racial passing, with Variety’s Sundance review touting Hall’s work: “This radically intimate exploration of the desperately fraught concept of ‘passing’ — being Black but pretending to be white — ought to be too ambitious for a first-time filmmaker, but Hall’s touch is unerring, deceptively delicate, quiet and immaculate.”

Intimate is a particularly choice word to describe the project, as the film’s story holds personal significance for all its cast — including stars Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga, both of whom are mixed race — but the project is particularly connected to Hall’s personal story. Hall is the daughter of famed theater director Peter Hall and legendary opera singer Maria Ewing. And though the British actor presents as white, Hall in fact comes from a mixed-race background, with a generational history of passing on her maternal grandfather’s side.

“I don’t think that I really had language for passing. It was such a difficult area of conversation in my family,” Hall recalls, explaining her personal connection to the material in conversation at the Variety Sundance Studio presented by AT&T TV, just hours ahead of the film’s Sundance premiere…

Read the article and watch the video here.

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‘Passing’ Review: Rebecca Hall’s Subtle, Provocative Directorial Debut

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2021-02-02 03:38Z by Steven

‘Passing’ Review: Rebecca Hall’s Subtle, Provocative Directorial Debut

Variety
2021-01-31

Jessica Kiang


Eduard Grau

A superbly performed study of racialized longing and feminine dissatisfaction in 1920s New York, lit by searing intelligence and compassion.

t starts in sweltering heat; it ends in freezing weather. And in between, as the temperature gradually drops, Rebecca Hall’sPassing,” based on Nella Larsen’s 1929 novel, calmly brings the diffuse racial landscape of prohibition-era New York City into crystalline, gorgeously shot focus. This radically intimate exploration of the desperately fraught concept of “passing” — being Black but pretending to be white — ought to be too ambitious for a first-time filmmaker, but Hall’s touch is unerring, deceptively delicate, quiet and immaculate, like that final fall of snow.

On a hot summer day, Irene (Tessa Thompson) is downtown on an errand. Her visible discomfort, the way she tries to retract into herself, to hide behind the gauzy brim of a hat that cuts her eyeline in two, is a silent evocation of how uncomfortable she is under the gazes of the white people around her. This time, anyway, she is mostly projecting: No one takes much notice, nothing too alarming happens. But then suddenly, stepping into the full beam of all that projection and sometimes catching the light, there’s Clare (Ruth Negga), a childhood friend visiting from Chicago, now unrecognizably glamorous, with a perfect swoop of blonde hair and arched, lightened brows framing silent-movie-It-Girl eyes…

Read the entire review here.

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Finding oneself in ‘Surviving the White Gaze’

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United States on 2021-01-30 22:57Z by Steven

Finding oneself in ‘Surviving the White Gaze’

The Boston Globe
2021-01-28

Blaise Allysen Kearsley, Globe Correspondent


Judith Rudd for The Boston Globe

Surviving The White Gaze: A Memoir
By Rebecca Carroll
Simon & Schuster, 320 pp., $26

The core function of tween- and teen-hood is the lofty job of figuring out who we are, as if puberty isn’t harrowing enough. Human nature forces us to make sense of our childhood experiences, how we feel about the way others perceive us, and to chart the topography of our own voice.

But for Black and brown kids, there’s the added hurdle of the white gaze. Foundational to the centering and elevation of whiteness in America, the white gaze sees Blackness only within the context of comparison and alterity. It’s the shallow lens of privilege, ingrained bias, and misrepresentation that creates both violent acts and micro-aggressive behaviors. It’s the white police officer brutalizing Black citizens without cause or provocation, the white educator who instinctively adjusts their expectations for a Black student, and in Rebecca Carroll’s unflinching memoir “Surviving the White Gaze,” it’s the fifth grade teacher who tells her she’s “pretty for a Black girl,” and the heritage her family never talks about…

Read the entire review here.

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Aftershocks: Dispatches from the Frontlines of Identity

Posted in Africa, Autobiography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United States on 2021-01-30 21:25Z by Steven

Aftershocks: Dispatches from the Frontlines of Identity

Sceptre (an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton)
2021-02-04
320 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 9781529342864
eBook ISBN: 9781529342888

Nadia Owusu

I have lived in disaster and disaster has lived in me. Our shared languages are thunder and reverberation.

When Nadia Owusu was two years old her mother abandoned her and her baby sister and fled from Tanzania back to the US. When she was thirteen her beloved Ghanaian father died of cancer. She and her sister were left alone, with a stepmother they didn’t like, adrift.

Nadia Owusu is a woman of many languages, homelands and identities. She grew up in Rome, Dar-es-Salaam, Addis Ababa, Kumasi, Kampala and London. And for every new place there was a new language, a new identity and a new home. At times she has felt stateless, motherless and identity-less. At others, she has had multiple identities at war within her. It’s no wonder she started to feel fault lines in her sense of self. It’s no wonder that those fault lines eventually ruptured.

Aftershocks is the account of how she hauled herself out of the wreckage. It is the intimate story behind the news of immigration and division dominating contemporary politics. Nadia Owusu’s astonishingly moving and incredibly timely memoir is a nuanced portrait of globalisation from the inside in a fractured world in crisis.

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