Black White and Jewish
Autobiography of a Shifting Self
Praise for Black White and Jewish:
Walker skillfully depicts her tangled upbringing, full of disappointment and privilege." -Time
"Walker masterfully illuminates differences between black and white America... A heartbreaking tale of self-creation." -People
"A cautionary tale about the power of race in shaping identity... A highly readable debut." -Entertainment Weekly
"A well-written refusal to ignore old wounds."-The Boston Globe
"Her outsider status equips her with a sharp eye for analysis and narrative detail. And her restrained prose is refreshing in this age of gushing confession."
-The Washington Post Book World
"Her book is an attempt to not only come to grips with her own identity, but to expose the pain and turmoil that come with shifting back and forth...It is stunningly honnest account, almost painfully self-revelatory." -San Francisco Chronicle
"Black White and Jewish is Rebecca Walker's anthem of independence, the compelling diary of a 'Movement Baby' who combats her own racial insecurities." -The Dallas Morning News
"Moving between those two worlds - and the biases each held against the other - left Rebecca fighting to sort out her identity, which she does so eloquently in her new memoir, Black White and Jewish." -USA Weekend Magazine
"Black White and Jewish is Walker's personal account of that real world - a place that nourishes anger and cynicism - and her eventual discovery that the only real world is the one we create."-Seattle Weekly
"Rarely does a writer convey the angst of a young biracial woman's search for self-identity in a society hell-bent on defining her as she reduces readers with her sharp insights and beguiling prose... Walker pulls it off in this chronicle of her life." -Savoy
"A streetwise, candid look at the difficulties of being biracial... If her book is any indication, building bridges between different worlds is one of her gifts - a matter of survival while she was growing up, but now a choice." -Time Out New York
Publishers Weekly Review:
The daughter of famed African American writer Alice Walker and liberal Jewish lawyer Mel Leventhal brings a frank, spare style and detail-rich memories to this compelling contribution to the growing subgenre of memoirs by biracial authors about life in a race-obsessed society. Walker examines her early years in Mississippi as the loved, pampered child of parents active in the Civil Rights movement in the bloody heart of the segregated South. Torn apart by the demands of their separate careers, her parents' union eventually lost steam and failed, leaving Walker to shuttle back and forth across country to spend time with them both. Deeply analytical and reflective, she assumes the resonant voices of an inquisitive child, a highly sensitive teen and finally a young woman who is confronted with the harsh color prejudices of her friends, teachers and families-both black and Jewish-and who tires desperately to make sense of rigid cultural boundaries for which she was never fully prepared by her parents. Whether she's commenting on a white ballet teacher who doubts she'll ever be good because her black butt's too big, Jewish relatives who treat her like an alien, or a boyfriend who feels she's not black enough, Walker uses the same elegant, discreet candor she brings to her discussion of her mother and the development of her free-spirited sexuality. Her artfulness in baring her psyche, spirit and sexuality will attract a wealth of deserved praise. (Jan. 2) Forecast: Coming the heels of her mother's story collection, The Way Forward Is with a Broken Heart (which offers a fictional treatment of Alice Walker's marriage to Leventhal), this literary debut by the younger Walker, who has been recognized by Time as one of her generation's leaders, is destined to generate excitement. Although Walker is likely to be compared to Lisa Jones (the daughter of Amiri Baraka and Jewish writer Hetty Jones), who tackled the myth of tragic mulatto in Bullet Proof Diva (1995), a collection of columns from the Village Voice, Walker's higher profile and narrative treatment of these themes will draw a wider audience who no doubt will greet her warmly on her 10-city tour.
When Alice Walker and Mel Leventhal married, their love was an illegal but idealistic leap of faith. But "Black Power" replaced "Integration" as the civil rights movement's slogan; a few years later, Walker and Leventhal divorced. Their daughter, Rebecca, shuttled back and forth, spending two years with her writer mom on the West Coast, then two in the East with her civil rights lawyer dad and his new family, then back again. Identity is an issue for every kid, but for Rebecca, it was especially challenging; she was too black for one East Coast boyfriend, not black enough for the tough girls in her San Francisco school. (In New York, at one point, she hung with Puerto Rican kids, because they seemed more welcoming than either blacks or whites.) Both families gave Rebecca a good deal of freedom early--too much, some readers will no doubt feel. Happily, the author ultimately found teachers who encouraged her to build her identity around her capacities rather than her bloodlines, and her capacities are reflected in this involving, honest, poignant memoir.