Puget Sound English Department

June 26, 2009

Black or White?*

Filed under: Activities off Campus,Uncategorized — ATH @ 11:36 pm

With all due respect to the King of Pop for the title above, a new entry into the rich subgenre of racial-identity memoir: Mishna Wolff has written about her unique childhood growing up White in one of Seattle’s largely African American neighborhoods with a father who chose to identify–without apparent genealogical evidence–as Black. A model, comedienne, and writer, as well as erstwhile Northwesterner, Wolff reads from I’m Down tomorrow, Saturday, June 27, at 4:30 at Elliott Bay Books in Seattle.

The appeal of memoirs that attempt to tease out the complex threads of race, culture, biography, and identity seems unabated in what many hope could be a post-racial America. The category includes entries from luminaries like Henry Louis Gates, Danzy Senna, and Barack Obama, but our culture’s continuing fascination with “what people are” is perhaps most notoriously attested to by white author Margaret Seltzer’s attempt to “pass” as a half-White, half-Native American former gang member and survivor of South Central LA in Truth or Consequences. The unanswerable questions behind this genre have to do with how we become who we are, and whether the identification of race with culture (and class) in American life is a tool for understanding, or perpetuation, of difference.

*Note: While the topic of Wolff’s book, like this post, deals primarily with issues of black/white identity, your humble blogger by no means intends to reduce the complexity of the spectrum of racial identifications, ethnic affiliations, or generic nuances along the fiction/autobiography axis.

1 Comment »

  1. Thanks for this one!

    Comment by O. — June 27, 2009 @ 4:23 pm

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