UNAFRAID OF THE DARK by Rosemary L. Bray


A Memoir
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 An African-American woman, a child of the '60s, recalls growing up poor on Chicago's South Side, attending Yale as an affirmative-action beneficiary, and taking her knocks en route to an understanding of the world and her role in it. Critical of recent changes in welfare that would prohibit the kind of good fortune she received, Bray, whose father spent more time gambling and fighting with his wife than he did working, and whose proud mother took welfare to make ends meet, says she has written this book to show the good that could happen under the welfare system of the '60s. She describes the frustrations of being poor--an early reader who later, with her mother's assistance, took titles home from the library, she would also become a petty thief, pilfering bills from carelessly left wallets at school, until she was caught. At Yale, her personal style of ``unadorned feminism'' was ``anathema.'' Work as a reporter at a Connecticut daily led soon enough to a New York publishing career and conflicts with egotistical male editors. She found herself living in Harlem in the go-go '80s, working for several publications before landing a dream job at the New York Times Book Review. In the closing section Bray speaks out against the demonization of welfare recipients inherent in the dialogue surrounding the 1996 welfare bill. Writes Bray, ``I was not a wolf, or an alligator, or a mistake, or an affront.'' The bill, she says, substitutes social Darwinism for democratic and religious values like compassion and protection of the vulnerable. Bray is an eloquent and perhaps surprising voice for the generation of welfare recipients that has come of age since the '60s. As her affecting story reflects, her accomplishment is an achievement not so much of material progress but of the intellect-- a contribution to cultural understanding. (Author tour)

Pub Date: March 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-679-42555-1
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1997