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A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life Hardcover – October 13, 2014
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In narrating the lives of Americans at the border of whiteness, Hobbs illuminates our understanding of our country’s tortured race history and of the injustices that drove people to make the ultimate migration―out of the tyranny of enslavement and the terrors of Jim Crow to the costly privilege of the larger white world. Their anguish, alienation, and constant fear of discovery are brilliantly and painfully rendered in this important book, and, through them, we see the arbitrariness of race and the origins of racial divisions that we live with to this day. (Isabel Wilkerson, author of The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration)
With remarkable research and deep feeling for her subjects, Hobbs uncovers the stories of countless Americans of African descent who severed their family ties to pass into a world where they would be accorded the privileges of whites. At turns sad, inspiring, and provocative, the book raises important questions about the enduring power of race in American life. (Martha A. Sandweiss, author of Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line)
Hobbs provides fresh analysis of an oft-ignored phenomenon, and the result is as fascinating as it is innovative. She foregrounds the sense of loss that passing inflicted, and argues that many of those who were left behind were just as wounded and traumatized as those who departed. Those who passed may have had much to gain, but what were the hidden costs, the invisible scars of enforced patterns of subversion and suppression? She suggests that the core issue of passing is not what an individual becomes, but rather ‘losing what you pass away from.’ By turning safe assumptions inside out, Hobbs questions some of the longest-held ideas about racial identification within American society. (Catherine Clinton Times Higher Education 2014-10-30)
Passing, as Allyson Hobbs describes in this brilliant, fascinating new study, is itself as fluid, complex, and contradictory as our ideas of race. (Kate Tuttle Boston Globe 2014-11-02)
A book that is at once literary, cultural, archival and social, crossing the borders of various approaches to the study of history in order to create a collage of a fascinating yet elusive phenomenon. Intrigued by the story of a distant relative who crosses the color line, Hobbs has followed this interest to explore the practice of passing with detail and rigor. Her writing is elegant, bubbling with curiosity even as it is authoritative and revelatory. (Imani Perry San Francisco Chronicle 2014-11-06)
The book is an admirable effort to catalogue the myriad classifications of race in America, to develop a taxonomy of biases that endure even as the country’s complexion changes. (Joshua Cohen Harper’s 2014-12-01)
[An] incisive cultural history…[Hobbs] takes nothing at face value--least of all the idea that the person who is passing is actually and truly of one race or the other…[A] critically vigilant work. (Danzy Senna New York Times Book Review 2014-11-23)
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Top Customer Reviews
Hobbs does a wonderful job at presenting the impact of passing on the individual who passes and their family. For instance, many times, when a member of a Black family chooses to pass, often that person just disappears from their family - can't risk being found out as non-white...the lengths people go to in order to survive in a racist, bigoted society...shameful time in American history.
I also learned about facets of passing that never occurred to me. For instance, indentured servants (many who were White) whose passage to America was paid by an employer in exchange for years of work as a laborer. When these people were able to develop the diction, social graces, etc., they were able to pass as free, thus escaping the rule of their employer.
As much as I'm enjoying the stories, I'd like to see them told in a more concise manner; they are very wordy. I've read 60% of the book and plan to finish. If the stories weren't so interesting, I would have baled on this book a long time ago.
This book does not discriminate but educates.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A provocative book about different experiences of racial ambiguity. How often do we see someone and wonder about their heritage? Read morePublished 2 days ago by Peacemaker 12
This book solidifies events that were only glossed over by older Black relatives back in the day. Since none of these issues and events were ever covered in school to this extent... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Ruth E. Williams
I was very excited to read this book because I'm fascinated with the idea of passing historically, psychologically, and culturally. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
Hobbs' "research" is basically a rehash of anti-passing propaganda novels and folklore. Even the alleged cousin she claims inspired her "research" is apparently... Read morePublished 7 months ago by Amazon Customer
Very interesting, full of little know facts, held my attention and I really enjoyed it.Published 9 months ago by Arguster Davis
This book is very different from what I thought it would be, but it is very insightful.Published 10 months ago by DragonLo