MEMBER OF THE CLUB by Lawrence Otis Graham


Reflections on Life in a Racially Polarized World
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 A collection of essays that examines the complexities of being a black achiever in a society that often fails to look beyond skin color. Graham, a corporate lawyer and journalist, is a scion of the black elite. Raised in the white, upper-middle-class environs of Westchester County in New York, he is a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School. Yet despite his privileged upbringing and stellar educational record, he has not managed to escape the stigma of being black in America. His experiences with racism, both subtle and overt, are recorded in 12 essays that range in tone from humorous to heartbreaking. Probably the most famous of these, originally published in New York magazine, relates his week spent as a busboy at an all-white country club and the casual prejudice to which he was subjected. Other essays deal with his life as an undercover homeboy on Harlem's wild side and his culinary experiences in New York's ten most prestigious restaurants (which are rated according to how Graham was treated). Perhaps most affecting is his memoir of life at Princeton, where he found himself hamstrung between militant blacks and bigoted or oblivious whites. Princeton serves as a metaphor for the real world in which Graham now lives and struggles, a place where caution, preparation, and self-knowledge are the only feasible defensive tactics. Yet Graham's encounters with racism generally leave him feeling more bemused than bitter, which probably accounts for the rhetoric-free quality of his prose. He emerges as a level-headed race man, wary of interracial romances and keenly interested in the problems of the black community. His thoughts on alternatives to affirmative action--he proposes a system of ``bias-neutralizing''--seem particularly timely. It may not solve the country's race problems, but this clear- eyed account should be required reading for all Americans. ($75,000 ad/promo; author tour)

Pub Date: May 24th, 1995
ISBN: 0-06-018351-9
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1995


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