One Drop: My Father's Hidden Life--A Story of Race and Family Secrets

by Bliss Broyard

Hardcover, 2007

Status

Available

Publication

Little, Brown and Company (2007), 528 pages

Description

'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.

User reviews

LibraryThing member SeerGenius
Can we say WEIRD? A different parts of this book I was kinda embarrassed for the author -- in a sorta don't embarrass yourself way. Typically I love memoirs and participating in the author's perspective of his/her life, but for all the hoopla that this book caused, I was definitely NOT impressed. Don't waste your money and buy this, if you have to read -- get it from the library. I borrowed it from someone who paid the 35 dollars -- it's like buying a lipstick in enhanced lighting but not a good color.… (more)
LibraryThing member Suzieqkc
Bliss Broyard, daughter of New York Times literary critic Anatole Broyard, discovered as an adult that her father passed as white during his adult life. But why did he keep his race a secret even into the 1990s when surely it didn't matter anymore? Why did he keep his young adult children away from their black extended family after it didn't matter anymore? The answer may be that his black family was resentful of his 'passing' as white and ignoring them for so many years.… (more)
LibraryThing member turtlesleap
Anatole Broyard spent most of his life equivocating about his ethnicity. His children were not aware of their father's ethnic heritage until the end of his life. In this memoir, Bliss Broyard attempts to explore what might have driven her father to conceal, or at least obscure, the fact that his forebears were black, and what might have driven him to estrange himself from his family. The book is at its best when Broyard is exploring a blend of history and genealogy in efforts to better understand the forces that might have influenced her father's decision. When she explores her own emotional reactions, or speculates about her father's motives, the book loses power. Her relentless mining of her own emotional reactions seems tedious and often trivial. I would recommend this book only to those who are familiar with Broyard's work and life, and only then with reservations.… (more)
LibraryThing member auntieknickers
Anatole Broyard was the New York Times' daily book reviewer for quite a few years. He lived an upper middle class (though usually overextended) life, raising his and his wife's two children in Southport, Connecticut. Shortly before his death, his wife insisted that he tell their children his secret. They learned that his family background was not solely French, but Creole and of mixed race. By the "one drop" rule that had applied in some Southern states, he was black, and had been "passing for white" since his high school graduation. For Broyard's daughter, Bliss, this revelation explained a great deal about her father and his family, but raised many more questions. This book is her attempt to answer them.

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.
… (more)
LibraryThing member cat-ballou
I had to grit my teeth to get through this one because of the way Bliss Broyard presented herself: shallow, spoiled, and sheltered.

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.… (more)

Language

Original language

English
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