One Drop: A Daughter's Story of Race and Family Secrets

One Drop: A Daughter's Story of Race and Family Secrets

Bliss Broyard

Language: English

Pages: 350

ISBN: 2:00180205

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Two months before he died of cancer, renowned literary critic Anatole Broyard called his grown son and daughter to his side, intending to reveal a secret he had kept all their lives and most of his own: he was black. But even as he lay dying, the truth was too difficult for him to share, and it was his wife who told Bliss that her WASPy, privileged Connecticut childhood had come at a price. Ever since his own parents, New Orleans Creoles, had moved to Brooklyn and began to "pass" in order to get work, Anatole had learned to conceal his racial identity. As he grew older and entered the ranks of the New York literary elite, he maintained the façade. Now his daughter Bliss tries to make sense of his choices and the impact of this revelation on her own life. She searches out the family she never knew in New York and New Orleans, and considers the profound consequences of racial identity. With unsparing candor and nuanced insight, Broyard chronicles her evolution from sheltered WASP to a woman of mixed race ancestry.

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verisimilitude and focusing on the action of making the painting itself. French existentialism, by way of translations of Sartre and Camus in the Partisan Review, landed on the Village’s newsstands. Understood originally as more an emotional response to the war in Europe than a formal philosophy, existentialism’s emphasis on individual freedom and absurdity appealed to the prevailing zeitgeist. As Irving Howe, a contributor to the Partisan Review in the early cold war years, observed, “Ideology

in Greenwich Village. Sitting on the floor of the living room, I sort the letters into piles: the ones from his mother and Lorraine; the ones from his first wife, Aida, and their daughter; the letters from friends—Ernest, Milton Klonsky, Michael Vincent Miller, Vincent Livelli, and a junkie named Stanley Gould who writes from prison to thank my father for sending him some cash and a change of clothes for his release. There are notes from fans about stories and essays he’d written, professional

not exactly. My mother returned to the table and sat down. I was quiet while we paid the bill. We accompanied Shirley to her corner on the way back to the car. Just before we parted, she clasped her hands to her chest and said: “I can’t wait to call Frank and tell him we have the ashes back!” I’ve continued to visit Shirley or talk to her on the phone a couple of times a year. Her warmth toward me always takes me slightly by surprise. When I tell her that my boyfriend and I are thinking about

her stilted effort to get us talking, and, most of all, at the foreignness of this shiny fragile limb, my father’s foot, in my lap. I mumbled that I was afraid of the pain. “There are things they can do for the physical pain, but there’s psychological pain too, and that’s harder to deal with.” My mother talked about a family therapist my parents began seeing when my father refused to go along with the vitamin cure. She mentioned the need for a dialogue and getting things out into the open. My

new star. I wondered about my ancestral city, New Orleans, and how one place and one family could give rise to three such different approaches to being black—or not—in the world. And I knew that before I could understand what my father’s blackness meant to him, and means to me, I would have to go back to the place where his secret history began. II. Infinity of Traces -10- In Washington, DC, across Louisiana, and especially in New Orleans, I searched for the story of my father’s

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