A Book Review Series In Honor of African-American History Month

By Jessica Williams

Most people know about Zora Neale Hurston’s “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” Toni Morrison’s “Song of Solomon,” Alice Walker’s “In Search of our Mother’s Gardens,” and Wallace Thurman’s, “The Blacker the Berry,” all of which I whole-heartedly recommend.

My husband was born of a black father and white mother. When I birthed our first daughter I was obsessed with reading about mixed race children. Here are a few reviews of some lesser known gems centered on being black and white.

Caucasia by Danzy Senna

This book is a page turner from jump. It is autobiographical fiction, about two sisters, Birdie and Cole, who are separated when their parents divorce. The black father takes Cole, who looks like him, along with his new black girlfriend, off to Brazil in search of racial equality illusive in the states. Birdie’s white mother takes Birdie, who “passes” for white, to a new life in New Hampshire, where no one knows of her father and sister, or of her racial identity. You feel every beat of Birdie’s heart in her attic in New Hampshire, navigating the new school, and the presence of her mom’s new white boyfriend. Eventually, Birdie leaves this second life behind in search of her sister Cole. This book explores the politics of the 1970s, race-relations both personally and politically, and most poignantly, a young woman’s emergence through adolescence and the forming of an authentic identity.


Black, White and Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self, by Rebecca Walker (daughter of Alice Walker)

This is a wonderful memoir, bringing the reader intimately into the experience of this young woman’s experience with her black mother and white-Jewish father; her experiences with her cousins on her mom’s side and her insights into her father’s political work.


The Color of Water, A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother, by James McBride

This is a memoir and tells the story of a young man’s emergence into his identity, and his evolving relationship with his white mother, who self-identifies as “light-skinned,” and then tells him, “You’re a human being!” instead of answering if he is black or white. Eventually, his mother tells him her story, and in turn, James comes to know his own story.


Beyond the Whiteness of Whiteness by Jane Lazaree

This is a white woman’s memoir about her experience raising two sons with her black husband and the recognition that “For most of their growing up, Douglas and I defined our family as “biracial.” But that is a term we now see as problematic– as if there were an indisputable entity called race; as if young men with brown skins can every be considered “part white” in America; as if Adam, now an actor, an audition for “white” parts in film, TV or most theater; as if Khary, a young black man walking on the streets late at night, can expect to be treated by the police like a young white man because his mother is white.” This book is intimate, intellectual, and written with great love.


The Color of Family by Patricia Jones

This is a novel that explores race and family. An aunt is determined to connect with her estranged nephew who was born of her black brother and a white woman; when the father dies, the son is raised as a white man. The slow dawning and unfolding of the truth is peeled away like petals from a rose. The aunt’s love for this boy who is the last link to her brother and the nephew’s peace when he finally learns the truth about himself, an answer that speaks to an unrest he had felt his whole life, is a story I’ll never forget.

Jessica Williams

About Jessica Williams

Jessica Williams created L.O.V.E. Parenting with a series of techniques for effective communication, deepened connection and more joy in parenting and life. Jessica is also the creator of www.UltimateParentingCourse.com with the best of today’s progressive parenting experts together in one program. Jessica is a featured expert internationally on both Mothering.com’s Ask An Expert and the upcoming www.KidsInTheHouse.com. Jessica is a regular contributor to Mothering Magazine’s All Things Mothering, LA Parent Magazine, LA Mom Magazine & DailyBuzzMoms. She has been interviewed on television and radio and taught workshops at family wellness centers, schools and doctor’s offices. Her BirthKit has helped women have a transformational & empowering birth. Jessica maintains a private coaching practice in her native Los Angeles where she lives with her husband and their three children. “Truly amazing woman. I love her advice.”—Carrie-Anne Moss. “All you have shared has helped tremendously.”—Lisa Bonet. “I am experiencing nothing short of a miracle thanks to your laser beam approach.” –Andrea Bendewald.

One thought on “A Book Review Series In Honor of African-American History Month”

  1. Another great book about mixed race is “Any Known Blood” by Lawrence Hill. He also has an non-fiction book on the subject called “Black Berry, Sweet Juice: On Being Black and White in Canada”.

    This is the same author who wrote “The Book of Negroes” (called “Someone Knows My Name” in the US)


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