A heartfelt exploration of ethnicity and its implications in America. Novelist Lazarre (Worlds Beyond My Control, 1991,...


BEYOND THE WHITENESS OF WHITENESS: Memoir of a White Mother of Black Sons

A heartfelt exploration of ethnicity and its implications in America. Novelist Lazarre (Worlds Beyond My Control, 1991, etc.) turns to autobiography in this account of interracial marriage and motherhood. ""I have spent most of my adult life,"" she writes, ""living in a Black family, raising Black sons, forming my most intimate relationships with African Americans, learning their culture,"" and yet, as her sons have grown to adulthood, she finds herself feeling always the outsider, however well accepted. Drawing on her studies of African-American history and on her experiences as a professor, she turns her book into an experiment in understanding, inspired by the Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe's call for a literary form that is equal parts ""self-discovery and humane conscience."" In this she succeeds admirably, and any reader concerned at all with African-American issues will find much of interest in her narrative. The knowledge drawn from bridging the nation's separate cultures comes at an emotional cost: ""Most of the time, there are two different worlds, and I see it, feel it, am no longer privileged to be blind to it, as most white people are."" Yet she avoids easy posturing, and she writes with probing honesty of the sometimes conflicted feelings that arise as her children are called ""nigger"" for the first time, are accused of being ""aggressive"" when they ask pointed questions of their teachers, face the daily injuries that come from being black in America, and grow into an understanding of who they are as people: African and Jewish ethnically, culturally the products of the dozens of societies that have contributed to the American identity. One son is now an actor, another a budding scholar, and Lazarre takes pride in their achievements; as she writes, ""in my life and in my dreams they remain sources of cherished and immutable attachment, influencing me as I influence them."" A beautifully written, deeply thoughtful journey into the worlds of self and other.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996


Page Count: 144

Publisher: Duke Univ.

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996