J.P. Morgan’s personal librarian had two identities. It took two authors to tell her story.

Posted in Articles, Biography, Interviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2021-07-20 02:20Z by Steven

J.P. Morgan’s personal librarian had two identities. It took two authors to tell her story.

The Washington Post
2021-06-28

Natachi Onwuamaegbu


“The Personal Librarian” co-authors Heather Terrell, writing as Marie Benedict, and Victoria Christopher Murray. (Phil Atkins)

Historical fiction writer Heather Terrell (who also writes under the name Marie Benedict) was introduced to Belle da Costa Greene between bookshelves at New York’s Morgan Library over 20 years ago. The docent — whom she has tried to find since — told her about a Black woman who passed as White and worked as J.P. Morgan’s personal librarian in the early 1900s. Terrell wasn’t yet writing historical fiction about women — she was a lawyer — but the story lingered in the back of her head.

Once she read Black author Victoria Christopher Murray’s work two years ago, she knew she found the partner she was waiting for to tackle da Costa Greene’s story. To write about a Black woman who passed as non-Black with an author she had never met was a process, especially when the editing coincided with the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer and a pandemic.

The Washington Post talked to Terrell and Murray about what it was like to work on “The Personal Librarian” when so much of the world was falling apart…

Read the entire interview here.

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The Personal Librarian, A Novel

Posted in Biography, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Passing, United States, Women on 2021-07-17 00:36Z by Steven

The Personal Librarian, A Novel

Berkley (an imprint of Penguin Randomhouse)
2021-06-29
Hardcover ISBN: 9780593101537
Paperback ISBN: 9780593414248
Eboock ISBN: 9780593101551

Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray

A remarkable novel about J. P. Morgan’s personal librarian, Belle da Costa Greene, the Black American woman who was forced to hide her true identity and pass as white in order to leave a lasting legacy that enriched our nation, from New York Times bestselling author Marie Benedict, and acclaimed author Victoria Christopher Murray.

In her twenties, Belle da Costa Greene is hired by J. P. Morgan to curate a collection of rare manuscripts, books, and artwork for his newly built Pierpont Morgan Library. Belle becomes a fixture in New York City society and one of the most powerful people in the art and book world, known for her impeccable taste and shrewd negotiating for critical works as she helps create a world-class collection.

But Belle has a secret, one she must protect at all costs. She was born not Belle da Costa Greene but Belle Marion Greener. She is the daughter of Richard Greener, the first Black graduate of Harvard and a well-known advocate for equality. Belle’s complexion isn’t dark because of her alleged Portuguese heritage that lets her pass as white—her complexion is dark because she is African American.

The Personal Librarian tells the story of an extraordinary woman, famous for her intellect, style, and wit, and shares the lengths she must go to—for the protection of her family and her legacy—to preserve her carefully crafted white identity in the racist world in which she lives.

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‘In the Heights’ and Colorism: What Is Lost When Afro-Latinos Are Erased

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Latino Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2021-06-22 20:36Z by Steven

‘In the Heights’ and Colorism: What Is Lost When Afro-Latinos Are Erased

The New York Times
2021-06-21

By Maira Garcia, Sandra E. Garcia, Isabelia Herrera, Concepción de León, Maya Phillips and A.O. Scott


The “In the Heights” cast includes Daphne Rubin-Vega, left, Stephanie Beatriz, Melissa Barrera (rear), Olga Merediz, Gregory Diaz IV, Dascha Polanco and Jimmy Smits. Warner Bros.

The film, set in a New York neighborhood known as the Little Dominican Republic, didn’t cast dark-skinned Latinos in lead roles. Our writers discuss how that absence reverberates.

In the Heights,” the long-delayed Hollywood adaptation of the Broadway musical, has been heralded as a step for more Latino representation in Hollywood, but a conversation has emerged about colorism and the casting of the film.

The New York neighborhood at the center of the story, Washington Heights, is predominantly Afro-Dominican. In an interview, Felice León, a video producer for The Root, asked Jon M. Chu, the director, and some of the stars about the lack of dark-skinned leads in the film: “As a Black woman of Cuban descent specifically from New York City,” she told him, “it would be remiss of me to not acknowledge the fact that most of your principal actors were light-skinned or white-passing Latinx people.” Chu said it was a conversation and something he needed to be educated about. In the end, he said, they “tried to get the people who were best for those roles.”

Lin-Manuel Miranda, who is a part of the film’s creative team, which includes the writer Quiara Alegría Hudes, addressed the criticism last week in a statement on Twitter. He apologized for falling short in “trying to paint a mosaic of this community.” Several prominent Latinos came to Miranda’s defense, including the pioneering Latina actress Rita Moreno, who later backtracked her comments. It’s not the first time Chu has had to contend with questions of identity. His box office hit “Crazy Rich Asians” also had to address similar issues when it came to the casting of Asians and Asian-Americans in the film. (The lead actor in that film, Henry Golding, is biracial.)

I asked five critics and reporters at The Times to weigh in on the criticism and what it means for representation in the arts. These are edited excerpts from the conversation. MAIRA GARCIA

Read the entire article here.

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White Like Me

Posted in Articles, Biography, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2021-06-22 13:39Z by Steven

White Like Me

The New Yorker
1996-06-10

Henry Louis Gates, Jr.


Anatole Broyard, date unknown. Photograph courtesy The New School Archives and Special Collections / The New School

Anatole Broyard wanted to be a writer, not a black writer. So he chose to live a lie rather than be trapped by the truth.

In 1982, an investment banker named Richard Grand-Jean took a summer’s lease on an eighteenth-century farmhouse in Fairfield, Connecticut; its owner, Anatole Broyard, spent his summers in Martha’s Vineyard. The house was handsomely furnished with period antiques, and the surrounding acreage included a swimming pool and a pond. But the property had another attraction, too. Grand-Jean, a managing director of Salomon Brothers, was an avid reader, and he took satisfaction in renting from so illustrious a figure. Anatole Broyard had by then been a daily book reviewer for the Times for more than a decade, and that meant that he was one of literary America’s foremost gatekeepers. Grand-Jean might turn to the business pages of the Times first, out of professional obligation, but he turned to the book page next, out of a sense of self. In his Walter Mittyish moments, he sometimes imagined what it might be like to be someone who read and wrote about books for a living—someone to whom millions of readers looked for guidance.

Broyard’s columns were suffused with both worldliness and high culture. Wry, mandarin, even self-amused at times, he wrote like a man about town, but one who just happened to have all of Western literature at his fingertips. Always, he radiated an air of soigné self-confidence: he could be amiable in his opinions or waspish, but he never betrayed a flicker of doubt about what he thought. This was a man who knew that his judgment would never falter and his sentences never fail him.

Grand-Jean knew little about Broyard’s earlier career, but as he rummaged through Broyard’s bookshelves he came across old copies of intellectual journals like Partisan Review and Commentary, to which Broyard had contributed a few pieces in the late forties and early fifties. One day, Grand-Jean found himself leafing through a magazine that contained an early article by Broyard. What caught his eye, though, was the contributor’s note for the article—or, rather, its absence. It had been neatly cut out, as if with a razor…

Read the entire article here.

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This Artist Got His Start as an I.C.U. Nurse

Posted in Articles, Arts, Media Archive, United States on 2020-03-22 01:35Z by Steven

This Artist Got His Start as an I.C.U. Nurse

The New York Times
2020-03-19

Siddhartha Mitter


Nate Lewis at his studio in the Bronx. Ike Edeani for The New York Times

Nate Lewis developed a visual language in the rhythms of EKGs. Now, his intricate works on paper take the scalpel to society.

The artist Nate Lewis left his job as a nurse three years ago, but life on the neurocritical intensive care unit produces memories that don’t readily fade.

The patients battling strokes, seizures, and head injuries. The specialists debating treatment based on test numbers and images. The anxious families keeping watch, looking to the nurse for explanation and reassurance.

“I would show up and these families are giving me everything, telling me their life stories,” Mr. Lewis, 34, recalled of his years at a hospital near Washington, D.C. “I realized what an honor it was to take care of them at this time in their lives.”

One high-stakes drill became familiar: When a patient’s brain, heart or lung functions exceeded the safe range, an alarm would sound, and the monitor would start printing out the relevant graph until the situation was addressed…

…A self-described jock, Mr. Lewis grew up obsessed with basketball, boxed a little and practices capoeira. He implicates his own body in his work, making self-portraits by the same method as portraits of his friends.

They are black, as is he — he grew up in Pennsylvania, the son of a mixed-race couple — and he fielded some criticism at first, he said, for seeming to mutilate black bodies. The accusations of “trauma porn” took him aback. “At that time, I was still thinking in the hospital sense,” he said…

Read the entire article here.

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A Death in Harlem, A Novel

Posted in Books, Media Archive, Novels, Passing, United States on 2019-10-07 00:44Z by Steven

A Death in Harlem, A Novel

TriQuarterly Books (an imprint of Northwestern University Press)
2019-09-15
248 pages
Trim size 6 x 9
Trade Paper ISBN: 978-0-8101-4081-3
E-Book ISBN: 978-0-8101-4082-0

Karla FC Holloway, James. B. Duke Professor Emerita of English and Law
Duke University, Durham, North Carolina

In A Death in Harlem, famed scholar Karla FC Holloway weaves a mystery in the bon vivant world of the Harlem Renaissance. Taking as her point of departure the tantalizingly ambiguous “death by misadventure” at the climax of Nella Larsen’s Passing, Holloway accompanies readers to the sunlit boulevards and shaded sidestreets of Jazz Age New York. A murder there will test the mettle, resourcefulness, and intuition of Harlem’s first “colored” policeman, Weldon Haynie Thomas.

Clear glass towers rising in Manhattan belie a city where people are often not what they seem. For some here, identity is a performance of passing—passing for another race, for another class, for someone safe to trust. Thomas’s investigation illuminates the societies and secret societies, the intricate code of manners, the world of letters, and the broad social currents of 1920s Harlem.

A Death in Harlem is an exquisitely crafted, briskly paced, and impeccably stylish journey back to a time still remembered as a peak of American glamour. It introduces Holloway as a fresh voice in storytelling, and Weldon Haynie Thomas as an endearing and unforgettable detective.

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Shadow Child, A Novel

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Books, Media Archive, Novels, United States on 2019-09-10 23:51Z by Steven

Shadow Child, A Novel

Grand Central Publishing (an imprint of Hachette Book Group)
2018-05-08
352 pages
6.4 x 1.2 x 9.4 inches
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1538711453

Rahna Reiko Rizzuto

Shadow Child

For fans of Tayari Jones and Ruth Ozeki, from National Book Critics Circle Award finalist Rizzuto comes a haunting and suspenseful literary tale set in 1970s New York City and World War II-era Japan, about three strong women, the dangerous ties of family and identity, and the long shadow our histories can cast.

Twin sisters Hana and Kei grew up in a tiny Hawaiian town in the 1950s and 1960s, so close they shared the same nickname. Raised in dreamlike isolation by their loving but unstable mother, they were fatherless, mixed-race, and utterly inseparable, devoted to one another. But when their cherished threesome with Mama is broken, and then further shattered by a violent, nearly fatal betrayal that neither young woman can forgive, it seems their bond may be severed forever–until, six years later, Kei arrives on Hana’s lonely Manhattan doorstep with a secret that will change everything.

Told in interwoven narratives that glide seamlessly between the gritty streets of New York, the lush and dangerous landscape of Hawaii, and the horrors of the Japanese internment camps and the bombing of Hiroshima, Shadow Child is set against an epic sweep of history. Volcanos, tsunamis, abandonment, racism, and war form the urgent, unforgettable backdrop of this intimate, evocative, and deeply moving story of motherhood, sisterhood, and second chances.

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When W. E. B. Du Bois Made a Laughingstock of a White Supremacist

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2019-09-02 19:58Z by Steven

When W. E. B. Du Bois Made a Laughingstock of a White Supremacist

The New Yorker
2019-08-19

Ian Frazier, Staff Writer


In the Du Bois-Stoddard debate, one man was practically laughed off the stage.
Illustration by Christian Northeast

Why the Jim Crow-era debate between the African-American leader and a ridiculous, Nazi-loving racist isn’t as famous as Lincoln-Douglas.

W. E. B. Du Bois, the twentieth century’s leading black intellectual, once lived at 3059 Villa Avenue, in the Bronx. He moved to a small rented house there with his wife, Nina Gomer Du Bois, and their daughter, Yolande, in about 1912. When I’m walking in that borough I sometimes stop by the site. It’s just off Jerome Avenue, not far from the Bedford Park subway station. The anchor business at that intersection seems to be the Osvaldo #5 Barber Shop, which flies pennants advertising services for sending money to Africa and to Bangladesh. All kinds of people pass by. You hear Spanish and Chinese and maybe Hausa spoken on the street. The first time I went to Du Bois’s old address, I wondered if I might find a plaque, but the house is gone, and 3059 Villa is now part of a fenced-in parking lot. Maple and locust trees shade the front stoops, and residents wait at eight-twenty on Tuesday mornings to move their cars for the street-sweeping truck. A fire hydrant drips, slowly enlarging a hole in the sidewalk. Even unmemorialized, 3059 Villa is a not-unpleasant spot from which to contemplate the great man’s life.

About a forty-minute walk away is the Bronx Zoo. In 1912, it was called the New York Zoological Park, and it was run by a patrician named Madison Grant from an old New York family. Though he and Du Bois lived and worked within a few miles of each other for decades, I don’t know if the two ever met. As much as anyone on the planet, Grant was Du Bois’s natural enemy. Grant favored a certain type of white man over all other kinds of humans, on a graded scale of disapproval, and he reserved his vilest ill wishes and contempt for blacks.

As Du Bois would have remembered, in 1906 the zoo put an African man named Ota Benga on display in the primate cages. Ota Benga belonged to a tribe of Pygmies whom the Belgians had slaughtered in the Congo. A traveller had brought him to New York and to the zoo, where huge crowds came to stare and jeer. A group of black Baptist ministers went to the mayor and demanded that the travesty be stopped. The mayor’s office referred them to Grant, who put them off. He later said that it was important for the zoo not to give even the appearance of having yielded to the ministers’ demand. Eventually, Ota Benga was moved to the Howard Colored Orphan Asylum, in Brooklyn, and he ended up in Virginia, where he shot himself…

…In March, 1929, the Chicago Forum Council, a cultural organization that included white and black members, announced the presentation of “One of the Greatest Debates Ever Held.” According to the Forum’s advertisement, the debate was to take place on Sunday, March 17th, at 3 p.m., in a large hall on South Wabash Avenue. The topic was “Shall the Negro Be Encouraged to Seek Cultural Equality?”

In smaller letters, the ad asked, “Has the Negro the Same Intellectual Possibilities As Other Races?” and below that the answer “Yes!” appeared with a photograph of Du Bois, who would be arguing the affirmative. Alongside the answer “No!” was a photograph of Lothrop Stoddard, a writer, who would argue the negative. In the picture, Stoddard projects a roguish, matinée-idol aura, with slicked-down hair and a black mustache. The ad identified him as a “versatile popularizer of certain theories on race problems” who had been “spreading alarm among white Nordics.”

The Forum Council did not oversell its claim. The Du Bois-Stoddard debate turned out to be a singular event, as important in its way as Lincoln-Douglas or Kennedy-Nixon. The reason more people don’t know about it may be its asymmetry. The other historic matchups featured rivals who disagreed politically but wouldn’t have disputed their opponent’s right to exist. Stoddard had written that “mulattoes” like Du Bois, who could not accept their inferior status, were the chief cause of racial unrest in the United States, and he looked forward to their dying out…

Read the entire article here.

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They Call Me “Negro”

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2019-08-20 17:35Z by Steven

They Call Me “Negro”

Embrace Race: Raising A Brave Generation
2019-08-18

Dr. Ruth L. Baskerville

Picture
Early family photo in 1951. The author is on the bottom right.

In 1943 in Manhattan, NY, a 46-year old African- and Native-American man who was a renowned band director and jazz composer marries a 19-year old naive European-American woman of Jewish Ukrainian descent, who wants to sing professionally. I’m the second of five children.

At age four, I overhear Mommy telling her Mom she won’t leave Daddy and me in order to come back home with my whiter looking brother. Every year of our growing up, Mommy takes the whitest looking child to find new housing, and our unwanted family moves in the middle of the night. We’re in new schools, too.

There are no “Mulattos” in our neighborhoods, and I’m constantly asked, “Where are you from? I mean, what are you?” The questioners have distorted faces, uncomfortable with their ambivalence about my ethnicity. Even today, they need to fit me into a race category before they can utter their next sentence! “You’re Saudi – Moroccan – Indian – Spanish – Italian – definitely foreign!” I’m from New York!…

Read the entire article here.

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Color Me In, A Novel

Posted in Books, Judaism, Media Archive, Novels, Passing, Religion, United States on 2019-08-20 13:28Z by Steven

Color Me In, A Novel

Delacorte Press (an imprint of Penguin Random House)
2019-08-20
384 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 9780525578239
eBook ISBN: 9780525578246
Audiobook ISBN: 9781984889140

Natasha Díaz

Color Me In

Debut YA author Natasha Díaz pulls from her personal experience to inform this powerful coming-of-age novel about the meaning of friendship, the joyful beginnings of romance, and the racism and religious intolerance that can both strain a family to the breaking point and strengthen its bonds.

Who is Nevaeh Levitz?

Growing up in an affluent suburb of New York City, sixteen-year-old Nevaeh Levitz never thought much about her biracial roots. When her Black mom and Jewish dad split up, she relocates to her mom’s family home in Harlem and is forced to confront her identity for the first time.

Nevaeh wants to get to know her extended family, but one of her cousins can’t stand that Nevaeh, who inadvertently passes as white, is too privileged, pampered, and selfish to relate to the injustices they face on a daily basis as African Americans. In the midst of attempting to blend their families, Nevaeh’s dad decides that she should have a belated bat mitzvah instead of a sweet sixteen, which guarantees social humiliation at her posh private school. Even with the push and pull of her two cultures, Nevaeh does what she’s always done when life gets complicated: she stays silent.

It’s only when Nevaeh stumbles upon a secret from her mom’s past, finds herself falling in love, and sees firsthand the prejudice her family faces that she begins to realize she has a voice. And she has choices. Will she continue to let circumstances dictate her path? Or will she find power in herself and decide once and for all who and where she is meant to be?

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