Beyond The Whiteness of Whiteness by Jane Lazarre
Memoir of a White Mother of Black Sons

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Synopsis

“I am Black,” Jane Lazarre’s son tells her. “I have a Jewish mother, but I am not ‘biracial.’ That term is meaningless to me.” She understands, she says—but he tells her, gently, that he doesn’t think so, that she can’t understand this completely because she is white. Beyond the Whiteness of Whiteness is Jane Lazarre’s memoir of coming to terms with this painful truth, of learning to look into the nature of whiteness in a way that passionately informs the connections between herself and her family. A moving account of life in a biracial family, this book is a powerful meditation on motherhood and racism in America, the story of an education into the realities of African American culture.
Lazarre has spent over twenty-five years living in a Black American family, married to an African American man, birthing and raising two sons. A teacher of African American literature, she has been influenced by an autobiographical tradition that is characterized by a speaking out against racism and a grounding of that expression in one’s own experience—an overlapping of the stories of one’s own life and the world. Like the stories of that tradition, Lazarre’s is a recovery of memories that come together in this book with a new sense of meaning. From a crucial moment in which consciousness is transformed, to recalling and accepting the nature and realities of whiteness, each step describes an aspect of her internal and intellectual journey. Recalling events that opened her eyes to her sons’ and husband’s experience as Black Americans—an operation, turned into a horrific nightmare by a doctor’s unconscious racism or the jarring truths brought home by a visit to an exhibit on slavery at the Richmond Museum of the Confederacy—or her own revealing missteps, Lazarre describes a movement from silence to voice, to a commitment to action, and to an appreciation of the value of a fluid, even ambiguous, identity. It is a coming of age that permits a final retelling of family history and family reunion.
With her skill as a novelist and her experience as a teacher, Jane Lazarre has crafted a narrative as compelling as it is telling. It eloquently describes the author’s delight at being accepted into her husband’s family and attests to the power of motherhood. And as personal as this story is, it is a remarkably incisive account of how perceptions of racial difference lie at the heart of the history and culture of America.

 

About Jane Lazarre

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Jane Lazarre is on the Faculty of Eugene Lang College at the New School for Social Research. She is the author of numerous works of fiction and non-fiction, including The Mother Knot and The Mother Knot, both published by Duke University Press.
 
Published June 10, 1996 by Duke University Press Books. 168 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Political & Social Sciences, Parenting & Relationships. Non-fiction

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The knowledge drawn from bridging the nation's separate cultures comes at an emotional cost: ``Most of the time, there are two different worlds, and I see it, feel it, am no longer privileged to be blind to it, as most white people are.'' Yet she avoids easy posturing, and she writes with probing...

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Publishers Weekly

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I think of the Black bodies which are the closest bodies to me in the world, and then... I imagine black bodies made to seem mysterious, threatening, holders of nightmares, says Lazarre in this un

Jul 01 1996 | Read Full Review of Beyond The Whiteness of White...

Publishers Weekly

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I imagine black bodies made to seem mysterious, threatening, holders of nightmares,"" says Lazarre in this unorthodox book that combines her experiences and observations as a white wife and mother in a black family living in a white world.

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Los Angeles Times

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Julia lives in New York with her husband, Bruce, and their two sons, Daniel and Anthony.

Apr 29 1991 | Read Full Review of Beyond The Whiteness of White...

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