Finding Grace: Two Sisters and the Search for Meaning Beyond the Color Line

Posted in Biography, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Passing, United States on 2012-04-29 17:19Z by Steven

Finding Grace: Two Sisters and the Search for Meaning Beyond the Color Line

Simon & Schuster
July 2007
296 pages
Paperback ISBN-10: 0743200543; ISBN-13: 9780743200547

Shirlee Taylor Haizlip

In her widely acclaimed, bestselling memoir, The Sweeter the Juice, Shirlee Taylor Haizlip asked us to redefine our concepts of race and family by examining her biracial heritage—how different gradations of dark and light skin led to a split in her mother’s nuclear family, and how various relatives have been reunited many years later, some of them previously unaware of their layered racial makeup. In this eloquent, moving, and eagerly awaited continuation of her story, Haizlip pushes further into the fascinating terrain of family, race, and racial passing. Just over ten years ago, Haizlip’s African American mother was reunited with her sister, who had spent her whole life passing for white; both women were in their eighties and had not seen or heard anything about each other since early childhood. Now Haizlip answers the many questions that linger from the previous book: What happened between these long-separated sisters after their reunion? What did they learn about each other, and about themselves? Is it possible to heal the wounds caused by such a rift?

In rich, elegant prose, Haizlip contrasts her mother’s fulfilling adult life with her aunt’s solitary white existence. They lived on opposite sides of the race line, but both women, says Haizlip, were plagued by “America’s twin demons: a paranoia about purity and an anxiety about authenticity.” These women and other members of the author’s extended family come vividly, achingly to life in these pages, turning this astute cultural investigation into a poignant, delightful, and highly personal narrative. Haizlip deftly, fluidly conveys the complexities of this story—the sadness, comedy, danger, anger, confusion, shame, fear, longing, excitement, and joy of her family’s rupture and reunion. We learn how Haizlip’s mother’s abandonment by members of her immediate family affected her daily life; we learn about the lives of relatives who left her behind, and of the members of succeeding generations who knew of the rift, and of those who did not.

Haizlip’s readers, too, appear here—after The Sweeter the Juice, Haizlip was flooded by letters in which people shared similar family stories of bi-racial heritage, passing, and the eventual revelation of an extended racial makeup. She includes some of these letters here, affirming that her own seemingly unusual tale is actually a very familiar, very American story: of the tumultuous, complicated interactions between black and white communities and individuals—interactions marked by fear and distrust, but also by camaraderie, ardor, and love. In sharing her own and her readers’ stories, Haizlip forges a new picture of America’s hidden racial past and its multihued future. Passionate, indomitable, and always generous toward her subjects, Haizlip explores what happens when the race divide exists within one family, and the effect of secret racial histories and their revelation on individuals and America at large.


  • Part I When the Rainbow Is Not Enough
    • Prologue
    • 1. A Twice-Told Tale
    • 2. The Gift
    • 3. The Etiology of Passing
    • 4. Visible and Invisible
    • 5. Passport to Privilege
    • 6. A Place Beyond Loss
    • 7. Creating a New Vocabulary
    • 8. In the Best of Families
    • 9. A Whiter Shade of White
    • 10. The Indian Who Wasn’t
    • 11. Tracking Will
    • 12. Life Review
    • 13. Eyes Other than Our Own
    • 14. Unexpected Encounters of Kith and Kin
  • Part II Relativity
    • 15. In Their Own Voices
  • Part III The Color of Letters
    • 16. Open Hearts, Open Minds
    • 17. The Last Word
  • Epilogue
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Sweeter the Juice: A Family Memoir in Black and White

Posted in Autobiography, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, United States, Women on 2012-04-24 04:10Z by Steven

Sweeter the Juice: A Family Memoir in Black and White

Simon & Schuster
January 1995
272 pages
ISBN-10: 0671899333
ISBN-13: 9780671899332

Shirlee Haizlip

The Sweeter the Juice 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.

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. The Sweeter the Juice 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.

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