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E185.98.N35 A3 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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How does a Jewish boy who spent the bulk of his childhood on the basketball courts of Brooklyn wind up teaching in one of the city's pioneering black studies departments? Naison's odyssey begins as Brooklyn public schools respond to a new wave of Black migrants and Caribbean immigrants, and established residents flee to virtually all-white parts of the city or suburbs. Already alienated by his parents' stance on race issues and their ambitions for him, he has started on a separate ideological path by the time he enters Columbia College. Once he embarks on a long-term interracial relationship, becomes a member of SDS, focuses his historical work on black activists, and organizes community groups in the Bronx, his immersion in the radical politics of the 1960s has emerged as the center of his life. Determined to keep his ties to the Black community, even when the New Left splits along racial lines, Naison joined the fledgling African American studies program at Fordham, remarkable then as now for its commitment to interracial education.This memoir offers more than a participant's account of the New Left's racial dynamics; it eloquently speaks to the ways in which political commitments emerge from and are infused with the personal choices we all make.

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Publisher's Weekly Review

For our generation, writes Fordham University African-American studies professor Naison, part of becoming American was becoming culturally black.' In this forthright and thoughtful memoir, Naison (Communists in Harlem During the Depression), who became, in the early 1970s, one of the first professors (and the only white man) at Fordham's new Institute of Afro-American Studies, recalls a lifetime of fascination with black history and culture and of antidiscrimination activism. Growing up in then mostly Jewish and Italian Crown Heights, Brooklyn, in the 1950s and '60s, Naison saw white flight transform his neighborhood and make his previously liberal Jewish parents openly racist. Naison grew up worshiping black athletes and musicians; as neighborhood tensions grew, he became increasingly estranged from his parents and found himself caught up in civil rights and antiwar activism. He recalls his days in Students for a Democratic Society and the Weathermen; his political organizing efforts in the Bronx; and his decision to turn from revolutionary activism to academia as radical movements fell apart or became increasingly fractious and militant in the '70s. At the height of his activism, Naison was also romantically involved with a black woman, and he reflects on the challenges of an interracial relationship at the time (he felt hostility from black men in the community; she was pressured by other black activists to leave him), and its effects on the heightened tension with his parents. An adroit writer with a winning voice, Naison avoids romanticizing his activist days; he is at times also critical of New Left tactics (particularly those that reinforced racial polarization among activists), and he interrogates his own interest in and identification with black culture. (May 1) Forecast: This book got some play in a February New York Times puff of Naison that solicited his views on college basketball. With the recent defections of K. Anthony Appiah and Cornel West from Harvard to Princeton, black studies departments are in the news, but pitching the book that way would be a stretch; baby boomer activists and whiteness studies academics are the more likely audience. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved