VOLUNTEER SLAVERY by Jill Nelson

VOLUNTEER SLAVERY

My Authentic Negro Experience
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Black journalist Nelson's no-holds-barred memoir is as outspoken about her four turbulent years at The Washington Post as it is about her troubled personal life. When, in 1986, Post editor Ben Bradlee offered Nelson a job on the new Sunday magazine his paper was launching, she asked for a few days to think it over because she had a feeling of ``foreboding.'' But as the single mother of a teenage daughter, she was aware that college tuition loomed ahead--a problem even though she made a good living as a freelance writer for publications like The Village Voice, Ms., and Essence. The Post job also offered a normal life for her daughter, who, ``tired of eccentric clothes, artists, vegetarian diets, deep in her little African-American heart yearned to be Vanessa Huxtable.'' So Nelson--a self-described radical and searcher after the authentic African-American experience--accepted the offer. But though she was a member of the black bourgeoisie who'd gone to prep school and summered on Martha's Vineyard, the author proved ill-suited to a paper shaped by Bradlee's ``creative tension'' and dominated by white males. Soon regarded as an angry black woman and troublemaker, Nelson walked a thin line between ``Uncle Tomming and Mau-Mauing'' and found herself in a gilded ghetto where the pay was good but her stories went nowhere. The first edition of the magazine was a racial fiasco, she says, and a transfer to the Metro section proved even more frustrating. Moreover, her social life was nonexistent. Taking to drink, Nelson had a nervous breakdown and finally quit her job, telling the managing editor that she was ``more like the average African-American on the street than most people in the newsroom.'' Told with passion and honesty: a story as much about the African-American experience as about the corporate conformity of most big-city papers. (First serial rights to Essence)

Pub Date: June 1st, 1993
ISBN: 1-879360-24-1
Page count: 256pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1993




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