TRESPASSING: My Sojourn in the Halls of Privilege by Gwendolyn M. Parker
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TRESPASSING: My Sojourn in the Halls of Privilege

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Parker candidly addresses issues of race, gender, and the true meaning of privilege for herself and for society at large. By objective accounts, Parker (These Same Long Bones, 1994) was a success. Educated at the preppie Kent School, followed by college at Radcliffe and law school at New York University, she was employed first by a prestigious New York law firm and later by American Express. Yet her professional life seemed empty, her goals questionable. The story sounds familiar, but Parker's has unusual elements: She is both female and black, and as she considers her experiences, these two factors clearly form the core of her outlook. In one of the most moving and painful lines of this extraordinary memoir, Parker bluntly assesses her situation at the old-boys' law firm: ""I carried the taint of the field and the bedroom."" Trespassing grips the reader immediately with an evocative chapter on Parker's upbringing in the thriving middle-class black community of Durham, NC. There Parker took life's lessons from her grandmothers. One taught her that ""money gives you freedom that not even white people can take away""; the other, that intelligence was a sharp, infinitely useful instrument, good for dealing with whites, who, as she put it, ""never expected colored people to have any brains."" For the next 25 years, these lessons form Parker's creed. Success, fueled by rage and resentment, comes readily, and it is not until her first ""failure"" that Parker steps back to question herself. While she understands the value of her achievement, rage alone, she recognizes, can't sustain her, and it exacts a deep personal and social price. Parker's questioning of success motivated solely by racial (or other collective) concerns constitutes Trespassing's most important contribution. (For another take on black women's rage, see Jill Nelson, Straight, No Chaser, p. 1194.) A striking memoir of a gifted black woman's lonely, difficult, and unsatisfying climb to the heights of American power and prestige.

Pub Date: Sept. 22nd, 1997
ISBN: 0547561687
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin