Alice Walker’s Terrible Anti-Semitic Poem Felt Personal — to Her and to Me

Posted in Articles, Judaism, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2018-12-31 01:42Z by Steven

Alice Walker’s Terrible Anti-Semitic Poem Felt Personal — to Her and to Me

New York Magazine

Nylah Burton

Photo: Peter Earl McCollough/The New York Times/Redux

When I first read Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, I leaned into every word, inhaling Celie’s tragic and triumphant story. In Celie, I felt the presence and pain of my female family members brought up in rural Alabama. In Walker’s unflinching descriptions of misogyny, domestic violence, homophobia, and incest, I saw an open accounting of issues buried deep within the larger southern black community — and within my own family.

Above all, I was drawn into The Color Purple because it was haunted by ghosts — the ghosts of Alice Walker’s past. Eloquently and bravely, she was able to confront generational trauma by telling a universal tale that still felt faithful to her own story. And it was Walker’s ability to throw open the shutters and allow her ghosts — our ghosts — into her writing that made it so revelatory. It cemented her standing as an acclaimed novelist, a civil-rights icon, and a formidable thought leader in the field of black feminism.

That changed abruptly two weeks ago, after the New York Times invited Walker to list her favorite books in its weekly “By the Book” column. She took the opportunity to promote David Icke’s And the Truth Shall Set You Free, which contains some of the most hateful anti-Semitic lies ever to be printed between covers. As excerpted in the Washington Post, Icke’s book alleged that a “small Jewish clique” had created the Russian Revolution and both World Wars, and “coldly calculated” the Holocaust to boot. Icke has also accused Jews (among others) of being alien lizard people. After a week of criticism, Walker doubled down in her assessment of Icke’s indefensible work, calling him “brave” and dismissing charges of anti-Semitism as an attack on the pro-Palestinian cause…

From left: Mel Leventhal, Rebecca Walker, and Alice Walker, 1970. Photo: CSU Archives/Everett Collection

…In 1967, Alice Walker married a young Jewish civil-rights lawyer named Mel Leventhal. Their interracial marriage — the first such legal union in the state of Mississippi — was still illegal in Walker’s home state of Georgia at the time. Leventhal’s mother was also deeply opposed to the union, and his other family members didn’t allow Alice to attend family events. “Leaving no question about how she felt about her son’s marriage to a shvartse (a pejorative Yiddish term for a black person), Miriam Leventhal sat shiva for her son, mourning him as dead,” Evelyn White writes in Alice Walker: A Life. A source who knows the family told me that Mel preferred to ignore rather than confront his family’s bigotry. This caused Walker to feel increasingly isolated and resentful. The marriage ended in 1976, after the pair had one daughter together, named Rebecca

Read the entire article here.

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Shades of Gray: Writing the New American Multiracialism

Posted in Books, Identity Development/Psychology, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2018-12-26 19:54Z by Steven

Shades of Gray: Writing the New American Multiracialism

University of Nebraska Press
December 2018
348 pages, index
Hardcover: 978-0-8032-9681-7

Molly Littlewood McKibbin, Assistant Professor of Instruction
English and Creative Writing Department
Columbia College Chicago

Shades of Gray

In Shades of Gray Molly Littlewood McKibbin offers a social and literary history of multiracialism in the twentieth-century United States. She examines the African American and white racial binary in contemporary multiracial literature to reveal the tensions and struggles of multiracialism in American life through individual consciousness, social perceptions, societal expectations, and subjective struggles with multiracial identity.

McKibbin weaves a rich sociohistorical tapestry around the critically acclaimed works of Danzy Senna, Caucasia (1998); Rebecca Walker, Black White and Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self (2001); Emily Raboteau, The Professor’s Daughter (2005); Rachel M. Harper, Brass Ankle Blues (2006); and Heidi Durrow, The Girl Who Fell from the Sky (2010). Taking into account the social history of racial classification and the literary history of depicting mixed race, she argues that these writers are producing new representations of multiracial identity.

Shades of Gray examines the current opportunity to define racial identity after the civil rights, black power, and multiracial movements of the late twentieth century changed the sociopolitical climate of the United States and helped revolutionize the racial consciousness of the nation. McKibbin makes the case that twenty-first-century literature is able to represent multiracial identities for the first time in ways that do not adhere to the dichotomous conceptions of race that have, until now, determined how racial identities could be expressed in the United States.

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How my mother’s fanatical views tore us apart

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2017-11-28 04:41Z by Steven

How my mother’s fanatical views tore us apart

The Daily Mail

Rebecca Walker

Maternal rift: Rebecca Walker, whose mother was the feminist author of The Color Purple – who thought motherhood a form of servitude, is now proud to be a mother herself

She’s revered as a trail-blazing feminist and author Alice Walker touched the lives of a generation of women. A champion of women’s rights, she has always argued that motherhood is a form of servitude. But one woman didn’t buy in to Alice’s beliefs – her daughter, Rebecca, 38.

Here the writer describes what it was like to grow up as the daughter of a cultural icon, and why she feels so blessed to be the sort of woman 64-year-old Alice despises – a mother.

Read the entire article here.

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Is There an Identity Beyond Race? Four Case Studies

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Book/Video Reviews, Judaism, Law, Media Archive, Religion on 2015-10-30 00:47Z by Steven

Is There an Identity Beyond Race? Four Case Studies

Michigan Quarterly Review
Volume XLI, Issue 3, Summer 2002

Paula Marantz Cohen, Distinguished Professor of English
Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Love on Trial: An American Scandal in Black and White. By Earl Lewis and Heidi Ardizzone. New York: W.W. Norton, 2001. Pp. 301. $26.95.

Black, White and Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self. By Rebecca Walker. New York: Riverhead Books, 2001. Pp. 336. $14.

Pearl’s Secret: A Black Man’s Search for his White Family. By Neil Henry. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001. Pp. 321. $24.95.

The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother. By James McBride. New York: Riverhead Books, 1996. Pp. 228. $23.95 (hb), $14 (pb).

All four books under review here are concerned with telling dramatic tales about singular, real lives. But they are also books about race. They are driven by the larger goal of making the individual story stand for more than itself.

To write something that is true to the distinctiveness of human experience while also being socially and politically illuminating is hard to achieve. Earl Lewis and Heidi Ardizzone’s Love on Trial: An American Scandal in Black and White seems the most successful, perhaps because it is the only book in the group that is not a memoir. Lewis explains in an Afterword that he first stumbled on the subject while working on his dissertation seventeen years earlier, then returned to it when, as a professor at the University of Michigan, he began directing Ardizzone’s doctoral research on interracial identity in the first half of the twentieth century. They eventually decided to collaborate. The long period of gestation as well as the collaborative approach help to account for the book’s judicious tone in telling a story at once private and public, full of subjective elements yet illuminating of its social moment.

Love on Trial takes as its point of departure a sensational news story from the 1920s. Pursuing the story through careful research into court transcripts and newspaper archives, the authors piece together a fascinating narrative in which the personal intersects the social with tragic consequences.

The story centers on the marriage of Alice Jones, a nanny from Westchester, to Leonard “Kip” Rhinelander, a young scion of one of New York’s oldest and richest society families. It seems that the couple met, courted, and married without apparent difficulty until their relationship became publicized by the New York press, probably through the instigation of Leonard’s disapproving father. A scandal erupted when it was alleged that Alice Jones was black—a fact that Leonard subsequently claimed he did not know and which he made the basis for an annulment suit against his wife…

Read the reviews here.

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Passing Interest: Racial Passing in US Novels, Memoirs, Television, and Film, 1990–2010

Posted in Anthologies, Books, Communications/Media Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing on 2014-08-18 02:28Z by Steven

Passing Interest: Racial Passing in US Novels, Memoirs, Television, and Film, 1990–2010

State University of New York Press
July 2014
352 pages
Hardcover ISBN13: 978-1-4384-5227-2
Electronic ISBN13: 978-1-4384-5229-6

Edited by:

Julie Cary Nerad, Associate Professor of American Literature
Morgan State University, Baltimore, Maryland

Explores how the trope of racial passing continues to serve as a touchstone for gauging public beliefs and anxieties about race in this multiracial era.

The first volume to focus on the trope of racial passing in novels, memoirs, television, and films published or produced between 1990 and 2010, Passing Interest takes the scholarly conversation on passing into the twenty-first century. With contributors working in the fields of African American studies, American studies, cultural studies, film studies, literature, and media studies, this book offers a rich, interdisciplinary survey of critical approaches to a broad range of contemporary passing texts. Contributors frame recent passing texts with a wide array of cultural discourses, including immigration law, the Post-Soul Aesthetic, contemporary political satire, affirmative action, the paradoxes of “colorblindness,” and the rhetoric of “post-racialism.” Many explore whether “one drop” of blood still governs our sense of racial identity, or to what extent contemporary American culture allows for the racially indeterminate individual. Some essays open the scholarly conversation to focus on “ethnic” passers—individuals who complicate the traditional black-white binary—while others explore the slippage between traditional racial passing and related forms of racial performance, including blackface minstrelsy and racial masquerade.

Table of Contents

  • Preface: The “Posts” of Passing / Gayle Wald
  • Acknowledgments
  • 1. Introduction: The (Not So) New Face of America / Julie Cary Nerad
  • 2. On the Margins of Movement: Passing in Three Contemporary Memoirs / Irina Negrea
  • 3. “A Cousin to Blackness”: Race and Identity in Bliss Broyard’s One Drop: My Father’s Hidden Life / Lynn Washington and Julie Cary Nerad
  • 4. Can One Really Choose? Passing and Self-Identification at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century / Jené Schoenfeld
  • 5. Passing in Blackface: The Intimate Drama of Post-Racialism on Black. White / Eden Osucha
  • 6. Broke Right in Half: Passing of/in Alice Randall’s The Wind Done Gone / Julie Cary Nerad
  • 7. Passing for Chicano, Passing for White: Negotiating Filipino American Identity in Brian Ascalon Roley’s American Son / Amanda Page
  • 8. Race in the Marketplace: Postmodern Passing and Ali G / Ana Cristina Mendes
  • 9. Passing for Black, White, and Jewish: Mixed-Race Identity in Rebecca Walker and Danzy Senna / Lori Harrison-Kahan
  • 10. Smiling Faces: Chameleon Street, Racial Passing/Performativity, and Film Blackness / Michael B. Gillespie
  • 11. Consuming Performances: Race, Media, and the Failure of the Cultural Mulatto in Bamboozled and Erasure / Meredith McCarroll
  • Bibliography
  • Contributor Biographies
  • Index
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Passing for White, Passing for Jewish: Mixed Race Identity in Danzy Senna and Rebecca Walker

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Passing, Religion, United States on 2014-05-23 17:15Z by Steven

Passing for White, Passing for Jewish: Mixed Race Identity in Danzy Senna and Rebecca Walker

Volume 30, Number 1, Indeterminate Identities (Spring, 2005)
pages 19-48
DOI: 10.1093/melus/30.1.19

Lori Harrison-Kahan, Associate Professor of the Practice of English
Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts

Imitation of Life, one of the classic narratives of racial passing, originated as a 1933 novel by Jewish writer Fannie Hurst, but it is perhaps best known as the 1959 melodrama directed by Douglas Sirk inducing finale of the Sirk film, the prodigal black daughter, who has crossed the color line and passed for white, returns home for her mother’s funeral, collapsing in tears on the coffin as she blames herself for her mother’s death. Despite the progress of racial politics between the publication of Hurst’s novel and the release of Sirk’s film, whiteness continues to be positioned as the privileged identity, a positioning that the 1959 adaptation successfully critiques. In the film, the light-skinned daughter, Sarah Jane Johnson, reviles her blackness as an object of self-hatred from a young age. Given a black doll by her white playmate, Susie, Sarah Jane throws the gift to the floor, crying, “I don’t want the black one.” The camera seizes upon the image of the rejected doll, foreshadowing the inevitable events to come: Sarah Jane’s forsaking of her dark-skinned mother in order to reinvent herself as a white woman. With her story’s heartbreaking ending, Sarah Jane becomes yet another tragic mulatta, joining the ranks of mixed race women in American literature and culture who typically meet bitter fates for their transgressions of the color line.

Almost forty years later, however, the narrative of passing does, finally, experience a significant shift. In contrast to most literary and cultural representations of passing, Danzy Senna’s 1998 novel,…

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Creating Multiracial Identities in the Work of Rebecca Walker and Kip Fulbeck: A Collective Critique of American Liberal Multiculturalism

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2013-12-18 14:20Z by Steven

Creating Multiracial Identities in the Work of Rebecca Walker and Kip Fulbeck: A Collective Critique of American Liberal Multiculturalism

MELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States
Volume 38, Issue 4 (December 2013)
pages 171-190
DOI: 10.1093/melus/mlt053

Gino Michael Pellegrini, Adjunct Assistant Professor of English
Pierce College, Woodland Hills, California

Americans of multiracial descent recently have become noticeable, respectable, marketable, and, in the case of Barack Obama, presidential. In the last two decades, a growing body of creative and critical work about multiracial lives and issues has materialized. This social and historical development has become an ideological battleground for advocates, politicians, scholars, journalists, and marketers who have appropriated and interpreted its products and personalities in relation to their own beliefs, objectives, and commitments. According to many popular and political accounts, the growing number of interracial marriages and self-identified multiracials indicates that American society quickly is becoming post-racial. Scholars of this development, however, have been mostly skeptical of accounts that claim or assume that race-mixing leads to post-racial societies. Among scholars, there is ongoing debate over the precise impact that the emergent self-identified multiracial population is having on race, racial hierarchy, and white supremacy. Many scholars agree with G. Reginald Daniel, who claims that self-identified multiracials challenge race and racial hierarchy. However, Rainier Spencer and others argue the opposite: self-identified multiracials maintain racial hierarchy and reproduce race insofar as they rely on established racial categories to articulate their experiences and identities. Hence, this debate is at an impasse.

One way to negotiate this impasse is to shift the focus of the debate from the impact that self-identified multiracials have had on race and racial hierarchy to the conditions that have made mixed-race individuals possible in ethno-racial combinations besides black and white. Of course, scholars who analyze this development through a black/white framework will likely object to this move on the grounds that all other ethno-racial categories must fall between black and white in the racial hierarchy, thus orienting multiracial identities, old and new, toward whiteness and away from blackness. Their objection, however, presumes stable racial categories, groups, and ways…

Read or purchase the article here.

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Crossing B(l)ack: Mixed-Race Identity in Modern American Fiction and Culture

Posted in Barack Obama, Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs on 2013-02-07 00:30Z by Steven

Crossing B(l)ack: Mixed-Race Identity in Modern American Fiction and Culture

University of Tennessee Press
150 pages
Cloth ISBN-10: 1572339322; ISBN-13: 978-1572339323

Sika A. Dagbovie-Mullins, Associate Professor of English
Florida Atlantic University

The past two decades have seen a growing influx of biracial discourse in fiction, memoir, and theory, and since the 2008 election of Barack Obama to the presidency, debates over whether America has entered a “post-racial” phase have set the media abuzz. In this penetrating and provocative study, Sika A. Dagbovie-Mullins adds a new dimension to this dialogue as she investigates the ways in which various mixed-race writers and public figures have redefined both “blackness” and “whiteness” by invoking multiple racial identities.

Focusing on several key novels—Nella Larsen’s Quicksand (1928), Lucinda Roy’s Lady Moses (1998), and Danzy Senna’s Caucasia (1998)—as well as memoirs by Obama, James McBride, and Rebecca Walker and the personae of singer Mariah Carey and actress Halle Berry, Dagbovie-Mullins challenges conventional claims about biracial identification with a concept she calls “black-sentient mixed-race identity.” Whereas some multiracial organizations can diminish blackness by, for example, championing the inclusion of multiple-race options on census forms and similar documents, a black-sentient consciousness stresses a perception rooted in blackness—“a connection to a black consciousness,” writes the author, “that does not overdetermine but still plays a large role in one’s racial identification.” By examining the nuances of this concept through close readings of fiction, memoir, and the public images of mixed-race celebrities, Dagbovie-Mullins demonstrates how a “black-sentient mixed-race identity reconciles the widening separation between black/white mixed race and blackness that has been encouraged by contemporary mixed-race politics and popular culture.”

A book that promises to spark new debate and thoughtful reconsiderations of an especially timely topic, Crossing B(l)ack recognizes and investigates assertions of a black-centered mixed-race identity that does not divorce a premodern racial identity from a postmodern racial fluidity.

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Is Being Biracial an Advantage for Obama?

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2012-08-04 02:33Z by Steven

Is Being Biracial an Advantage for Obama?

ABC News

Emily Friedman

The son of a black man and a white woman, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., says he’s seen and heard it all.
From his grandmother’s fear of black men on the street to his former pastor’s perceived anti-American rants, Obama said Tuesday that after a lifetime straddling the line between black and white he remains hopeful that a “more perfect union” is, in fact, possible.
Several biracial individuals with similar backgrounds agreed that living both sides of the racial experience may offer an unique perspective on bridging the racial divide.
“All of us who have those experiences are given the gift of a life lesson in bridging artificial divisions to arrive at common hopes and values,” said Lise Funderburg who is biracial and the author of “Black, White, Other: Biracial Americans Talk About Race and Identity.”
“All of us who have that background have the opportunity to make this positive thing out of it, and Obama has seized that opportunity,” Funderburg said.
But not everyone was certain Obama’s views and motives were were so clear cut. Biracial writer Shelby Steele told that he thinks Obama’s use of his background was “disingenuous.” He believes the ruminations about mixed heritage show Obama to be not an expert but rather a man confused about his racial identity.
“Obama is a black man with a white mother. Being biracial is an impossibility,” said Steele, who said that no matter what, when Obama walks down the street he is viewed as a black man. “How could you possibly live as both? If you didn’t know his mother was white, you’d say he’s black and you wouldn’t have a second thought.”
“He’s confused,” said Steele of Obama. “Are you really black or are you playing the biracial card?”
Henry Louis Gates Jr., professor and director of the WEB Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University, is considered one of the country’s leading black intellectuals and he believes politics was the major motivation at play in the Tuesday appeal…

…Being biracial, said Funderburg, allows a person insight into two very different worlds … a useful tool when trying to mediate issues between them…

Read the entire article here.

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Black White & Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self

Posted in Autobiography, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, Religion on 2012-05-27 22:06Z by Steven

Black White & Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self

Riverhead Press (an imprint of Penguin Press)
336 pages
5.23 x 8.03in
ISBN 9781573229074

Rebecca Walker

ALA Best Book for Young Adults

The Civil Rights movement brought author Alice Walker and lawyer Mel Leventhal together, and in 1969 their daughter, Rebecca, was born. Some saw this unusual copper-colored girl as an outrage or an oddity; others viewed her as a symbol of harmony, a triumph of love over hate. But after her parents divorced, leaving her a lonely only child ferrying between two worlds that only seemed to grow further apart, Rebecca was no longer sure what she represented. In this book, Rebecca Leventhal Walker attempts to define herself as a soul instead of a symbol—and offers a new look at the challenge of personal identity, in a story at once strikingly unique and truly universal.

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