"SOUL TO SOUL: A Black Russian American Family, 1865-1992" by Yelena with Susan Jacoby Khanga

"SOUL TO SOUL: A Black Russian American Family, 1865-1992"

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The story of a black Russian's life in pre-glasnost Russia, and of her quest to discover and connect with her American and African roots. Khanga is the third generation of her family to live in Russia. Her African-American grandfather and Warsaw-born Jewish grandmother left the US in the 1930's to help build a new Soviet Union. After Khanga's mother--a biracial child--was born, they decided to remain in exile rather than raise the girl in what they saw as an intolerant America. Khanga's mother married an African (later to become the first vice-president of Zanzibar) but remained in the Soviet Union to raise the author. Here, Khanga's powerful voice explains the difficulty of developing a self-image in a country where the predominate images are of blue eyes and blond hair; where knowledge of her cultural heritage was sustained only through dialogue with her mother; and where the fact of her American and Jewish ancestry had to be suppressed in order to ensure the welfare of herself and her family. Chronicling three generations of racial and ethnic pride, Khanga turns a critical eye toward racism, feminism, Communism, and democracy, and examines these ideas and institutions as they relate to her experiences in the US and abroad. She speculates that being a member of an unthreatening minority in the Soviet Union is a quite different experience from being raised in the US, where sheer numbers alone would give one a different perspective--but in her view, neither Russia nor the US is a land of milk and honey. Winning a Rockefeller fellowship enabled Khanga to travel to America and Africa in search of her cultural roots. As a result, she learned family secrets, reconciled herself to her multicultural past, and began to develop a new racial consciousness. Insightful, poignant, and rife with honest revelations.

Pub Date: Oct. 26th, 1992
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Norton