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One Drop: My Father's Hidden Life -- A Story of Race and Family Secrets

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One Drop: My Father's Hidden Life -- A Story of Race and Family Secrets Cover

ISBN13: 9780316163507
ISBN10: 0316163503
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Two months before he died of cancer, renowned literary critic Anatole Broyard called his grown son and daughter to his side, intending to reveal a secret he'd kept all their lives and most of his own: he was black. Born in the French Quarter in 1920, Anatole began to conceal his racial identity after the family moved from New Orleans to the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn and his parents resorted to "passing" in order to get work. From his bohemian days in the cafés of Greenwich Village in the 1940s to his ascension in the ranks of the literary elite, he continued to maintain the façade.

Serving as a daily book critic for the New York Times for more than a decade, and as a columnist and editor at the New York Times Book Review for several years after that, Anatole was an influential voice in American culture. To his children he was a charming and attentive father who had strived to raise his family in the lush enclaves of Connecticut and Martha's Vineyard, providing an upbringing far removed from his own childhood. But even as he lay dying, the truth was too difficult for him to admit, and it was finally their mother who told Bliss and Todd that their sheltered New England childhood had come at a price.

In her remarkable memoir, Bliss Broyard examines her father's choices and the impact of this revelation on her own life. Seeking out unknown relatives in New York, Los Angeles, and New Orleans, she uncovers the 250-year history of her family in America, and chronicles her own evolution from privileged Wasp to a woman of mixed-race ancestry. The result is a beautifully crafted and touching portrait of her father, and a provocative examination of the profound consequences of racial identity.

Review:

"For Broyard, who was 'raised as white in Connecticut,' the discovery that her father, the writer and critic Anatole Broyard, 'wasn't exactly white' raised the question of 'how black I was' — a question that set her in search of the history of 'the most well-known defector from the black race in the latter half of the twentieth century.' In the first section, Broyard weaves her privileged childhood together with later travels to New Orleans (her father's birthplace) and Los Angeles (where there is a determinedly white set of Broyards as well as a determinedly black set). Part two extends from the first Broyard, a Frenchman arriving in mid-18th century Louisiana territory, to six-year-old Anatole's 1927 arrival in Brooklyn. The last section is devoted to Anatole's life. Broyard's 'identity quest' takes her on an odyssey through social, military, legal, Louisiana and general American history, as well as U.S. race relations and her family DNA, introducing innumerable relatives, classmates, friends and employers, and making for a rather overstuffed account. Fortunately, she's got an ear for dialogue, an eye for place and a storyteller's pacing. But the most compelling element is her ambivalent tenor: 'Was my father's choice rooted in self-preservation or in self-hatred?... Was he a hero or a cad?' Part eulogy, part apologia, the answer is indirect: 'But he was my dad and we loved each other.' (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"For most of the 1970s and "80s, Anatole Broyard was a staff book critic for the New York Times, writing two or three reviews a week for its daily pages, as opposed to its Sunday book section. My own career in that same line of work was just getting under way, and I paid close attention to what he was doing. He obviously was intelligent and erudite, but I sometimes felt that he was more interested... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)

Review:

"The expansive narrative is in need of pruning. Still, this uniquely American story of race and ambition is of surpassing importance." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"This is not, thankfully, a book about a privileged white girl trying to decide if she should call herself black....Most poignant are her stories of the fallout her father's choice had on the black family he left behind." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Review:

"[A] fascinating, insightful book." Janet Maslin, New York Times

Review:

"Unlike a large social history, Bliss Broyard's story of cousins and friends and generations and migrations, from South to North, from black to white and back again, plays out at a level of personal detail that defies stereotype in illuminating ways, and is occasionally wrenching." Chicago Tribune

Synopsis:

A father's stunning secret sparks a life-transforming journey, in this story of race, identity, and the American dream. Broyard tries to make sense of her father's choices and the impact of his revelation on her own life. 50 b&w photos.

Synopsis:

Ever since renowned literary critic Anatole Broyard's own parents, New Orleans Creoles, had moved to Brooklyn and began to "pass" in order to get work, he had learned to conceal his racial identity. As he grew older and entered the ranks of the New York literary elite, he maintained the façade. Now his daughter Bliss tries to make sense of his choices and the impact of this revelation on her own life. She searches out the family she never knew in New York and New Orleans, and considers the profound consequences of racial identity. With unsparing candor and nuanced insight, Broyard chronicles her evolution from sheltered WASP to a woman of mixed race ancestry.

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About the Author

Bliss Broyard is the author of the collection of stories My Father, Dancing, which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Her fiction and essays have been anthologized in Best American Short Stories, The Pushcart Prize Anthology, and The Art of the Essay, and have appeared in Grand Street, Ploughshares, the New York Times, Elle, and elsewhere. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and daughter.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

padpowell, October 25, 2007 (view all comments by padpowell)
Bliss Broyard's personal observations do not match her research. It should be clear to her that Creoles are not "African Americans" but an ethnic group whose members range from "white" to "black" in phenotype, with most of them in between. They are similar to Hispanics in this way, though a Latino of caucasian phenotype is almost never accused of "passing for white" or publicly denounced as unworthy to call himself "white," as Anatole Broyard was. This is because Hispanics are excluded (due to political power and social solidarity) from the "one drop" myth of hypodescent. It is not surprising that Bliss, who whines about being denied her "family" of distant Broyard cousins because of her father's "passing," shows no interest in being reunited with her older half sister (from her father's marriage to a Puerto Rican). The half-sister was reared in Texas as "white" (Hispanic), and you can be sure that SHE doesn't identify as "black."

The best part of the book is the history of the Creoles and the Broyard family, though Bliss doesn't recognize attempted cultural/documentary genocide when she sees it. It's amazing to me how "liberal" people who weep over the government's deliberate attempts to destroy American Indian identity and culture seem to think that there is something noble about using government power to destroy Creole culture and force them to call themselves "African American" (formerly "Negroes"). Bliss seems to see nothing wrong with it. A better, unbiased history of the Creoles is "White by Definition" by Virginia Dominguez. "Legal History of the Color Line" by Frank W. Sweet shows how anti-miscegenation, anti-"passing" laws constantly contradicted themselves and presents many case histories. However, the saddest thing about the book is a daughter's refusal to defend her father's good name. Bliss mostly embraces the opinions of her father's enemies.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780316163507
Subtitle:
My Father's Hidden Life--A Story of Race and Family Secrets
Author:
Broyard, Bliss
Publisher:
Back Bay Books
Subject:
Authors, American
Subject:
20th century
Subject:
Women
Subject:
Personal Memoirs
Subject:
Family
Subject:
Authors, American -- 20th century.
Subject:
Passing (Identity)
Subject:
General Biography
Copyright:
Publication Date:
20080909
Binding:
Hardcover
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
544
Dimensions:
9.32x6.53x1.60 in. 1.79 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Biography » General
Biography » Women
History and Social Science » Literary History » United States » 20th Century
History and Social Science » Literary History » United States » General
Humanities » Literary Criticism » General

One Drop: My Father's Hidden Life -- A Story of Race and Family Secrets Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$6.95 In Stock
Product details 544 pages Little Brown and Company - English 9780316163507 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "For Broyard, who was 'raised as white in Connecticut,' the discovery that her father, the writer and critic Anatole Broyard, 'wasn't exactly white' raised the question of 'how black I was' — a question that set her in search of the history of 'the most well-known defector from the black race in the latter half of the twentieth century.' In the first section, Broyard weaves her privileged childhood together with later travels to New Orleans (her father's birthplace) and Los Angeles (where there is a determinedly white set of Broyards as well as a determinedly black set). Part two extends from the first Broyard, a Frenchman arriving in mid-18th century Louisiana territory, to six-year-old Anatole's 1927 arrival in Brooklyn. The last section is devoted to Anatole's life. Broyard's 'identity quest' takes her on an odyssey through social, military, legal, Louisiana and general American history, as well as U.S. race relations and her family DNA, introducing innumerable relatives, classmates, friends and employers, and making for a rather overstuffed account. Fortunately, she's got an ear for dialogue, an eye for place and a storyteller's pacing. But the most compelling element is her ambivalent tenor: 'Was my father's choice rooted in self-preservation or in self-hatred?... Was he a hero or a cad?' Part eulogy, part apologia, the answer is indirect: 'But he was my dad and we loved each other.' (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "The expansive narrative is in need of pruning. Still, this uniquely American story of race and ambition is of surpassing importance."
"Review" by , "This is not, thankfully, a book about a privileged white girl trying to decide if she should call herself black....Most poignant are her stories of the fallout her father's choice had on the black family he left behind."
"Review" by , "[A] fascinating, insightful book."
"Review" by , "Unlike a large social history, Bliss Broyard's story of cousins and friends and generations and migrations, from South to North, from black to white and back again, plays out at a level of personal detail that defies stereotype in illuminating ways, and is occasionally wrenching."
"Synopsis" by , A father's stunning secret sparks a life-transforming journey, in this story of race, identity, and the American dream. Broyard tries to make sense of her father's choices and the impact of his revelation on her own life. 50 b&w photos.
"Synopsis" by , Ever since renowned literary critic Anatole Broyard's own parents, New Orleans Creoles, had moved to Brooklyn and began to "pass" in order to get work, he had learned to conceal his racial identity. As he grew older and entered the ranks of the New York literary elite, he maintained the façade. Now his daughter Bliss tries to make sense of his choices and the impact of this revelation on her own life. She searches out the family she never knew in New York and New Orleans, and considers the profound consequences of racial identity. With unsparing candor and nuanced insight, Broyard chronicles her evolution from sheltered WASP to a woman of mixed race ancestry.
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