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Volunteer Slavery: My Authentic Negro Experience.

Jill Nelson's naked (in more ways than one) memoir, Volunteer Slavery: My Authentic Negro Experience, is a good read. It is partly a behind-the-computer-screens look st how one of the nation's most prestigious newspapers - The Washington Post - more often than not falls much below the needs and expectations of the capital's predominantly African-American citizens.

But this slim volume is more than Nelson's excoriation of the quirky, frequently racially ignorant and often paternalistic ways of the Posts senior staff. It is also a guided tour through the emotional, mental and sexual corridors of her mind.

In Stephen Carter's Reflections of An Affirmative Action Baby, the author argues that many African-Americans are plagued by doubts that the positions and titles they hold are perceived to have been - or might actually have been - achieved by dint of their color and not by their intelligence or hard work. By contrast, Nelson, who does not doubt her upper-middle-class family's achievements, agonized for years over whether such success was an "authentic Negro experience" or one comparable to the reality of life many African-Americans - particularly the poor - experience. Of course, this kind of self-absorbed thinking may not be terribly relevant to the general reader.

But few readers will be turned off by Nelson's introspection. She is a smooth writer with an eye for the odd detail. It is a shame that the Washington Post magazine, which originally hired her, overlooked her insights. Otherwise, it might have avoided such faux pas as placing a crude photo of a black criminal on the cover of its premier issue.

Finally, she doesn't spare herself. Nelson admits, confronts and comes to terms with her alcoholism, and the descent and rise of a drug-addicted brother. Ultimately, she realizes an authentic Negro experience is living the life of the skin she is in.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:McCoy, Frank
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Nov 1, 1993
Words:300
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