Cover image for Black, white and Jewish : autobiography of a shifting self
Black, white and Jewish : autobiography of a shifting self
Walker, Rebecca, 1969 November 17-
Publication Information:
New York : Riverhead Books, [2001]

Physical Description:
320 pages ; 22 cm
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 6.2 12.0 122405.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E184.A1 W214 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
E184.A1 W214 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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Alice Walker and Mel Leventhal, like many blacks from the South and whites from the North were brought together by the Civil Rights Movement. When they married, Mel's family turned its back on him and the first grandchild, Rebecca. After her parents divorced, Rebecca was bounced between white, Jewish, upper middle class suburbs, and her mother's "artisan" class lifestyle. Being black, white, and Jewish, but none of these things, Rebecca turned, chameleon-like, into whomever she needed to be, whether she was in Mississippi, Brooklyn, Washington, DC, the Haight, Westchester, the Bronx or Yale. Confused, and mostly alone, she turned to sex, drugs, books and a cast of characters who walked the edge. This is the story of a child's unique struggle for identity and home when nothing in her world showed her who she was. Poetic reflections on memory, time, and identity punctuate this gritty exploration of race and sexuality.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

When Alice Walker and Mel Leventhal married, their love was an illegal but idealistic leap of faith. But "Black Power" replaced "Integration" as the civil rights movement's slogan; a few years later, Walker and Leventhal divorced. Their daughter, Rebecca, shuttled back and forth, spending two years with her writer mom on the West Coast, then two in the East with her civil rights lawyer dad and his new family, then back again. Identity is an issue for every kid, but for Rebecca, it was especially challenging; she was too black for one East Coast boyfriend, not black enough for the tough girls in her San Francisco school. (In New York, at one point, she hung with Puerto Rican kids, because they seemed more welcoming than either blacks or whites.) Both families gave Rebecca a good deal of freedom early--too much, some readers will no doubt feel. Happily, the author ultimately found teachers who encouraged her to build her identity around her capacities rather than her bloodlines, and her capacities are reflected in this involving, honest, poignant memoir. --Mary Carroll

Publisher's Weekly Review

The daughter of famed African American writer Alice Walker and liberal Jewish lawyer Mel Leventhal brings a frank, spare style and detail-rich memories the this compelling contribution to the growing subgenre of memoirs by biracial authors about life in a race-obsessed society. Walker examines her early years in Mississippi as the loved, pampered child of parents active in the Civil Rights movement in the bloody heart of the segregated South. Torn apart by the demands of their separate careers, her parents' union eventually lost steam and failed, leaving Walker to shuttle back and forth across country to spend time with them both. Deeply analytical and reflective, she assumes the resonant voices of an inquisitive child, a highly sensitive teen and finally a young woman who is confronted with the harsh color prejudices of her friends, teachers and families-both black and Jewish-and who tires desperately to make sense of rigid cultural boundaries for which she was never fully prepared by her parents. Whether she's commenting on a white ballet teacher who doubts she'll ever be good because her black butt's too big, Jewish relatives who treat her like an alien, or a boyfriend who feels she's not black enough, Walker uses the same elegant, discreet candor she brings to her discussion of her mother and the development of her free-spirited sexuality. Her artfulness in baring her psyche, spirit and sexuality will attract a wealth of deserved praise. (Jan. 2) Forecast: Coming the heels of her mother's story collection, The Way Forward Is with a Broken Heart (which offers a fictional treatment of Alice Walker's marriage to Leventhal), this literary debut by the younger Walker, who has been recognized by Time as one of her generation's leaders, is destined to generate excitement. Although Walker is likely to be compared to Lisa Jones (the daughter of Amiri Baraka and Jewish writer Hetty Jones), who tackled the myth of tragic mulatto in Bullet Proof Diva (1995), a collection of columns from the Village Voice, Walker's higher profile and narrative treatment of these themes will draw a wider audience who no doubt will greet her warmly on her 10-city tour. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Walker, the daughter of Alice Walker and attorney Mel Leventhal, shuttled among Mississippi, San Francisco, the Bronx, and Washington, DC, after her parents divorced. Here is her story of the need to redefine herself in each new setting. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.