'Two months before he died, the renowned literary critic Anatole Broyard called his grown children to his side to impart a secret he'd kept all their lives: he was black. ... Anatole had begun to conceal his racial identity after his family moved to Brooklyn and his parents resorted to "passing" in order to get work. ... Bliss Broyard examines her father's choices and the impact of this revelation on her own life. Seeking out unknown relatives in New York, Los Angeles, and New Orleans, she uncovers the 250-year history of her family in America and chronicles her own evolution from privileged Wasp to a woman of mixed-race ancestry.'--Back cover.
Bliss spent many years researching her family history, seeking out relatives near and distant, and in the process learning a lot about black, and specifically Creole, history, and about the history of "passing" in America.
[book: One Drop] was fascinating, if a bit overlong, especially in the middle of the book, where I learned rather more about Reconstruction in Louisiana than I needed to understand the family's story. I can certainly sympathize with the author, being a genealogist and family historian myself; it's sometimes hard to draw the line between the historical background the reader needs in order to put the ancestors' stories into context, and an exhaustive treatment that would be better saved for an actual history text.
Anatole Broyard was a complex person to begin with, and his experience of "passing" probably increased that complexity. Although he obviously loved his children very much, his all but repudiation of his birth family affected them negatively. One of the saddest parts of the book was Bliss's feeling, mentioned more than once, that to her father, friends once chosen were to be loved unconditionally; but family members had to earn, and keep on earning, his love.
I understand that the point of her father's passing as white was to be able to spoil her & give her the sheltered life she lived. But this book is far more useful for discussion topics than as an actual memoir.