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Black, White & Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self.

Black, White & Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self by Rebecca Walker Riverhead, January 2001, $23.95, ISBN 1-573-22169-4

"With the rise of Black Power, my parents' interracial defiance, so in tune with the radicalism of Dr. King and civil rights, is suddenly suspect. Black-on-black love is the new recipe for revolution, mulatto half-breeds are tainted with the blood of the oppressor, and being down means proving how black you are, how willing to fight, how easily you can turn your back on those who have kept black folks enslaved for so long. My father, once an ally, is, overnight, recast as an interloper. My mother, having once found refuge in a love that is unfashionable, may no longer have been willing to make the sacrifice....

The problem, of course, is me. My little copper-colored body that held so much promise and broke so many rules. I no longer make sense. I am a remnant, a throw-away, a painful reminder of a happier and more optimistic but ultimately unsustainable time.

Who am I if not a movement child?"

(excerpt from Black, White & Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self, by Rebecca Walker)

I have to admit that when I first eyed the title of Walker's memoir a measurable amount of suspicion lurked in my heart. I worried that upon reading it, I would find myself entangled in a wishy-washy, whiny diatribe that avoided a meaningful political or social center. So many books, films and other forms of media that purport to add something urgent to the discussion on race in America, woefully fall short or just plain fail. This book is not one of them.

Walker has written, in blunt, stunning and intelligent language, a vital story about what it meant to come of age in two worlds that existed, largely, in diametric opposition. Here, she makes it clear that she is an author with her own necessary and brilliant voice. Early on she writes, "I am not a bastard, the product of rape, the child of some white devil. I am a Movement Child. My parents tell me I can do anything I put my mind to, that I can be anything I want ... I am not tragic."

Throughout the book, the honesty with which Walker confronts her confusion, her loves, her desires, her sexuality and her anger, makes the reader want to turn away; lest she be accused of spying, or worse, uncover pieces of her own self. That's what happened to me. Reading this book, I was forced to recall my own childhood in which a white world was imposed on me vis-a-vis private schools, summer camps and dance classes.

Black, White & Jewish is a virtual road map--a guide through the complexities of race and childhood. This is a book ready-made for the great canon of women's literature that rejects silence and surface analyses and tells the truth, whether or not we want to hear it.

asha bandele is the author of The Prisoner's Wife.
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Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Review
Author:bandele, asha
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 2001
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