In your memoir, Black, White and Jewish(reviewed on p. TK),
you write of your life as the daughter of a noted black
woman writer and a Jewish civil rights lawyer in these terms:
"They did not buffer, protect, watch out for, or look
after me. I was watered, fed, admired, stroked, and expected
to grow. I was mostly left alone to discover the world and
my place in it." Can you elaborate on this?
My mother [Alice Walker], who created beautiful spaces
for me to live in, always trusted that I could navigate
this world. She'd say, "You can do this." While
my parents' nurturing was very important and kept me from
splintering, neither of them actively addressed the issue
of my experience as a mixed person. It was difficult and
painful for them to even imagine that this life was not
okay for me. They would have had to face the limitations
of the movement that brought them together, the limitations
of the culture that denounced their love and, finally, the
limitations of themselves.
No doubt, as you go out on your book tour, you'll face many
questions about your relationship with your mother. In the
book, we feel her presence, her spirit, but she is also
an elusive figure. Was this portrayal deliberate?
It was very important that this book be my story. Any
time someone has a famous parent, it's crucial that person
reclaim their own space, their own life. In fact, both of
my parents are written very shadowy, but as I experienced
them. My parents were not super-involved in my daily activities.
My mother was often off traveling, lecturing or writing.
I was left to confront life on my terms. I understood that
it didn't mean that either of them loved me any less. I
felt their love intensely.
One of the book's accomplishments is your demolishing of
the "tragic mulatta" myth. Why was this so important
As a reader, it was important to write the book I needed
to read. I've read all of the classic texts in this area,
from Nella Larsen to the current books, and they leave you
feeling like you want to slice your wrists. The tragic mulatta
could never find her place. I understand that myth, and
tried to honor it because its literature provided an ongoing
explanation of its different dynamics and manifestations
throughout time. Ultimately, I choose what of the myth I
would value and what I would not.
You are also very explicit about your sexual awakening.
What led to your decision to reveal those experiences?
The more I talked to mixed people, the more I discovered
that the world of sexual encounters was a place to explore
for them, a place to feel safe, to find intimacy. If someone
is grooving on you sexually, the issues of race and culture
become secondary. You feel that you are seen and recognized
and honored in a total way. The encounters, as they are
written, capture the longing to be loved, the longing to
be accepted. I know I drew a lot of strength from those
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