her new memoir, "Black, White and Jewish," author
Rebecca Walker shares her thoughts on mixed-bred identity
Jewsweek.com | Finding one's identity is the issue author
Rebecca Walker tackles in her memoir, "Black, White
and Jewish." Walker, daughter of black author Alice
Walker and white Jewish lawyer Mel Leventhal, clearly depicts
the struggles of growing up biracial in a racially divided
book is really a childhood memoir," Walker said
in a phone interview from her Berkley, Calif., home. "In
many ways, it is not only about race and divorce, it is
about adolescence. And so much of all our adolescence is
trying to find out who we are, where we belong and what
our group is."
memoir is a coming-of-age story about a girl whose parents
- one white and Jewish, one black and from the South - met
and married during the civil-rights movement and later divorced.
The book follows Walker as she struggles to find herself
in both the black and white worlds.
is criss-crossing the country promoting her new memoir.
In the book, Walker confronts the demons of her childhood,
including her experimentation with drugs, sex and her feelings
of loneliness. She describes her mother leaving her alone
at times and seldom seeing her father.
asked whether she felt alienated by her parents, Walker
I felt was lonely, a bit confused, and a bit sort of displaced.
But I always felt very strongly that my parents loved me,
even though my father was a workaholic and my mom was busy
doing what she was doing."
left largely alone while growing up, Walker turned to experimentation
with drugs and sex. She said that sex filled a lonely void
of not connecting in a black or white culture.
think that drugs were a big part of our culture at that
time," she said. "In a way, the sexual
became the place where we found acceptance and love. If
we couldn't get it from any community, we certainly got
it from our boyfriends and girlfriends. We certainly engaged
our sexuality in order to get some of that love that we
struggle to find her individuality is a continuing process
think it is a constant process," she said. "I
think by the end of the book, I am finding much more of
a community in school, a kind of intellectual community.
The life of the mind starts to be really the thing that
mitigates race, class, gender, sexuality, and I think that
was true for me in college."
in 1969 in Jackson, Miss., Walker grew up in San Francisco
and New York and graduated cum laude from Yale University
in 1992. In 1998, she co-founded Third Wave Foundation,
the only national, activist philanthropic organization for
young women between the ages of 15 and 30. She is currently
a writer and has been a contributing editor to Ms. magazine
Today, Walker said, she sees herself as many different things.
feel very much that I am very comfortable as a cultural
Jew. I also feel very much at home in the spiritual conditions
of the East, like Buddhism. I also feel very at home in
artists' communities. I am a mother, a partner, a traveler."
said she chose to write her memoir for several reasons.
"Writing the book, for me, was extremely healing
and therapeutic," she said. "I felt very
much like what I set out to do which was find a voice that
could connect the disparate parts of myself, the disparate
experiences. I also felt like I wanted more stories of what
it felt like to be mixed race, something that was complex
and that took me on a real journey. And when I did not find
that, I figured I had to write it."
theme Walker emphasizes in her book is the importance of
memory and how one can learn from it. "Memory only
serves us if we are able to let go," Walker said.
"You can't live your life as if every moment is
what happened in the past."
said she hopes readers will personally connect to her book.
hope people feel solace that we are connected,"
Walker said. "They are not alone in their feelings
of aloneness. When I was growing up and still today, books
are great friends to me. If my book can be a great friend
to people, I will feel very, very successful."
We certainly engaged our sexuality in order
to get some of that love that we were missing ...