Synopses & Reviews
andlt;iandgt;The Sweeter the Juiceandlt;/iandgt; is a provocative memoir that goes to the heart of our American identity. Shirlee Taylor Haizlip, in an effort to reconcile the dissonance between her black persona and her undeniably multiracial heritage, started on a journey of discovery that took her over thousands of miles and hundreds of years. While searching for her mother's family, Haizlip confronted the deeply intertwined but often suppressed tensions between race and skin color. andlt;BRandgt; We are drawn in by the story of an African-American family. Some members chose to "cross over" and "pass" for white while others enjoyed a successful black life. Their stories weave a tale of tangled ancestry, mixed blood, and identity issues from the 17th century to the present. andlt;iandgt;The Sweeter the Juiceandlt;/iandgt; is a memoir, a social history, a biography, and an autobiography. Haizlip gives to us the quintessential American story, unveiling truths about race, about our society, and about the ways in which we all perceive and judge one another.
Veronica Chambers andlt;BRandgt; Los Angeles Times Book Review andlt;BRandgt; "May this stirring American voice tell us many more stories."
Tracing six generations of one family, both those who lived as blacks and those who assimililated into white society, Haizlip's chronicle mirrors the emotional, social, and racial journeys made by countless American families. "A riveting and fascinating account of the limits and limitedness of race".--Audrey Edwards, Essence. Photos.
About the Author
Shirlee Taylor Haizlip:andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt; andlt;iandgt;A Note to Her Readers;andlt;/iandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt; "This book started out as a gift in the form of a personal memoir for andlt;BRandgt; my mother's eightieth birthday. Once engaged in the research to helpandlt;BRandgt; reclaim her missing family, there was so much drama, I knew I had a andlt;BRandgt; book. Finding my mother's family with scant clues after seventy-six andlt;BRandgt; years was a major triumph. I have changed my mind about the meaning andlt;BRandgt; of race since completing this book. The concept of race is no longer andlt;BRandgt; a viable entity for me; in fact, I believe the word is both political andlt;BRandgt; and anachronistic.andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt; "My family has grown by leaps and bounds all over theandlt;BRandgt; country. Folks who call themselves white and those who callandlt;BRandgt; themselves black claim to be related to me. I welcome them all.andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt; "My mother, Margaret Morris Taylor, has been transformed byandlt;BRandgt; the events in the book. She and her sister have developed aandlt;BRandgt; sweet relationship. She has nieces and nephews who are thrilledandlt;BRandgt; to have a new matriarch on their family tree; but moreandlt;BRandgt; importantly, she can now place herself among its manyandlt;BRandgt; branches."andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;br clear=allandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;bandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;a href="http://www.simonsays.com/titles/0671899333/RG_0671899333.html"andgt;Reading Group Discussion Pointsandlt;/aandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;a href="http://www.simonsays.com/reading/guides"andgt;Other Books With Reading Group Guidesandlt;/aandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;/bandgt;
Reading Group Guide
Reading Group Discussion Points
- The issue of race and color is continually discussed and debated in America by the media, in the courtroom, in the classroom, and around the dinner table. Is race a big issue to you personally? Is white, black, or any color part of how you define yourself?
- What issues does The Sweeter the Juice raise for you on the topic of nature vs. nurture? Is race genetic, bred by socialization, or where your allegiance lies? What happened to the Morris family calls into question the concept of color as a means of self-definition. Is color as simple as how you label yourself? What does color mean if you can choose your race?
- "They had left the city and the race," writes Haizlip about her great-uncle Edward Morris and his wife, Minette Williams. What did you think about the extended Morris clan who turned their back on their own heritage and siblings in search of a better life? If you believed that "crossing over" would afford your family a better life, would you make the same choice?
- Families left the black community trusting that passing for white would bring them a better, easier life. Yet in the end, we see the black author riding in a limousine to visit her "white" aunt who lives in a trailer park. Can you attribute this to the fact that the family who lived as white was divisive while the black side of the family stayed together? What does this say about the power of a cohesive family, whatever their skin color?
- Reading The Sweeter the Juice, what surprised you the most?
- The author relates a story of her husband meeting another Dr. Haizlip on an airplane -- a distant, white relative previously unknown to him. This story is far from a singular one. Many people have a mixed heritage that even they may not be aware of. In your view, is it important to make connections to all of your heritage? To your relatives? Why?
- Forty-five percent of those surveyed in the 1990 Census checked the box regarding race marked "other," clearly indicating that traditional labels no longer apply. What is gained by distinguishing ourselves with labels? What if, instead of African-American, German-American, or Italian-American, all members of this society simply referred to themselves as American? Would that help to validate the universal connection of humanity in this country? What might we lose?
- The author, in a sense, "outed" members of her family who had previously believed themselves to be white. How did you feel about this?
- What, in your opinion, was the author's final word on race and color?
- How important is familial and racial history in your own life? Is it relevant to you today? Have you ever traced your roots? Having read The Sweeter the Juice, have you thought about your own ancestry in a different light?
- Did this book change the way you think about race? About our culture and history? About America? What message does The Sweeter the Juice leave with you? How has the book changed you, if at all?
The Price of the Ticket: Collected Non-fiction, James Baldwin
St. Martin's Press, 1985
The Promise of the New South, Edward L. Ayers
Oxford University Press, 1992
Parting the Waters, Taylor Branch
Race Matters, Cornel West
The Serpent's Gift, Helen Elaine Lee
Children of Color, Jewelle Taylor Gibbs
Mixed Blood: Intermarriage and Ethnic Identity, Paul Spickard
University of Wisconsin Press, 1989
Elbow Room, James Alan McPherson
W.E.B. Du Bois: A Reader, edited by Andrew G. Paschal
Middle Passage, Charles Johnson
Climbing Jacob's Ladder: The Enduring Legacy of African-American Families, Andrew Billingsley