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Incognito: An American Odyssey of Race and Self-Discovery Paperback – February 15, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Incognito, Inc. (February 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 061541396X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0615413969
  • ASIN: B004D5909U
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,424,795 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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4 star
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See all 11 customer reviews
Mr. Fosberg's story ought to resonate with many people.
H. F. Corbin
While my primary reason for reading this book was to read Michael's story, I found that I was also wondering about broader issues of identity.
Jennifer Cameron-Smith
I will recommend this book as a read in my book club that will hopefully stimulate furthered discussion.
Stone

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 40 people found the following review helpful By H. F. Corbin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 4, 2011
It is altogether fitting that Michael Sidney Fosberg calls his memoir INCOGNITO: AN AMERICAN ODYSSEY OF RACE AND SELF-DISCOVERY since his story is as old as that of Telemachus who, as I recall, in Homer's ODYSSEY searches for his father. Once again we are reminded that art mirrors life. Mr. Fosberg's story--and what a story it is--is about, in his 30's, finding his father. Raised in Waukegan, Illinois by his Caucasian mother and stepfather who adopted him, Fosberg grew up in a comfortable home with two siblings several years younger than he. (His artist sister Lora provides beautiful illustrations to this book.) He always felt that something was just not quite right as he was growing up, but he was unable to pin the problem down. When he learns that his parents are getting divorced, he asks his mother for the name and possible city where he might find his birth father. He basically knows nothing about his father except that he and his mother got a divorce many years ago. Armed with 7 names from the Detroit telephone directory, he calls the first name on the list, and in a beautiful twist of fate, the man turns out to be his dad: "I have always loved you and thought of you a lot," his father tells him and also that he is African American. What follows is a roller-coaster ride of discovery as Mr. Fosberg finds and meets his relatives from his father's side of the family.

Mr. Fosberg's odyssey is not without pain. His task is to somehow navigate the often difficult waters between his mother, his brother and sister, his adopted father of Swedish heritage, his mother's family--his maternal grandfather was an Armenian who had been a slave to the Turks before fleeing to France and then coming to the U. S.--and his newly discovered African American relatives.
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Things were never quite the same when Michael got his new "Waukegan father." Of course Mikey never knew his "real" one, but this man, try as he might, never was able to interest him in anything. John Fosberg tried his best to bond with his new son by taking him fishing or teaching him the ins and outs of woodworking, but to no avail. The five-year-old boy didn't want the misery of being woken at 5 a.m., trussed up in an oversized lifejacket, and thrown in a boat to catch fish. Buying them would have been easier. Did the man ever hear about things like basketball? It was a standoffish relationship at best, but later Mikey would admit that "The very things I found so irritating about him, I realized much later, were the greatest gifts he gave me: work hard, have integrity, be honest, save money." (p. 40)

Mikey always felt like an outsider, but his brother and sister, Christopher and Lora, who were almost a decade younger, seemed to understand him as did Papa Charlie. Papa Charlie, otherwise known as Garabed Pilibosian, was an Armenian immigrant, a survivor of "the first modern genocide" in Armenia. He seemed uncertain about his mother, Papa's daughter, as his place in the family made him feel like that of an outsider looking in. Why? He was a shy, timid young man, but strangely enough, acting became his refuge, his forte. "I was bitten by the stage bug, and once I got my first taste, I plunged forward, foot firmly on the accelerator." (p. 33) It was, of course, one of those things his father, John, looked askance at.

And then there was his relationship with drugs which later spiraled out of control by the time he was attending the University of Minnesota.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By drlarryross on July 25, 2011
Take One, Please... An Abridged Anthropological Review of Incognito: An American Odyssey of Race and Self-Discovery, Authored by Michael Sidney Fosberg

Michael Fosberg's Incognito is an outstanding personal ethnographic narrative; it is written with great humility, and it thoroughly elucidates America's identity struggles of the last two centuries. Every human is born into a culture that is already going on, when you get there, so others actually decide your identity. This well-documented account, of both sides of his family's successful escape from enslavement in the Old World (Armenia) and the New World (America) simultaneously, is indeed groundbreaking, by any measure: it presents a form of sociocultural dualism that has never been exposed.

As Fosberg explains, he was socialized as one of the "Starving Armenians," those who survived the Turkish genocide during World War I, migrated to America, and made good against all odds. Fosberg's Armenian maternal grandfather, Garabed Pilibosian, was probably the most influential male role model (in his conscious) of his early learning experience (originally Garabed Misakian, when he was enslaved by a Turkish family in Armenia as a child, before he escaped to Aleppo, Syria where there was an orphanage for Armenian children; then Garabed fled to Paris, France before making his way to America. Pilibosian became Garabed's `made-up' surname, of unknown origin, in America. The affable Garabed established a very successful cleaners in the Karcher Hotel, along with his Armenian wife Rachel, in Waukegan, IL, thereby averting his family's starvation).
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