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Incognito: An American Odyssey of Race and Self-Discovery Paperback – January 1, 2011


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Paperback, January 1, 2011
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 317 pages
  • Publisher: Incognito, Inc.; First Edition edition (2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 061541396X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0615413969
  • ASIN: B004D5909U
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,197,707 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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A wonderful story and analysis of who we are and what really matters.
sabrina
If you want to take a journey through the American experience, white and black, this is one book that will take you on a ride you won't forget!
D. Fowler
He always felt that something was just not quite right as he was growing up, but he was unable to pin the problem down.
H. F. Corbin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 39 people found the following review helpful By H. F. Corbin TOP 500 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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Tasha Rhodes on March 11, 2011
Michael Fosberg is an outstanding actor who found his heritage and embraces it! What a wonderful and articulate story he writes of finding his real father! Both the play and book are awesome of his journey to find his roots!

Congratulations are in order of his works!!! I do want to see his play live though, even here in Nebraska!!

Teresa Richie
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Cameron-Smith TOP 1000 REVIEWER on February 1, 2011
Michael Fosberg was raised by his biological mother and his adoptive father. When his mother and stepfather divorced, Michael was aged in his thirties, and decided to search for his biological father. When he located his father, he found an entirely new family, rich in its own heritage and history. These additional family links led him to explore not only who his family is but what `family' actually means.

Michael discovered that his biological father was African-American. His mother had never told him, and his stepfather didn't know either. Michael's journey to discover who his father is also required him to understand why his mother, a second generation Armenian, had withheld this information from both him and his stepfather.

`I slide between worlds, between cultures, experiencing everything from both sides. I live in between. I walk both sides.'

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. Certainly, issues of race and colour are part of how we define ourselves and how we are viewed by others. But they are only part of the equation: we each have a genetic and a social history and many of us choose to identify more with one aspect of our heritage. I guess that the key word is choice.

`Incognito is defined in the dictionary as an adverb meaning `with the real identity concealed ... with one's identity hidden or unknown'.'

I wonder what `real identity' is. Are we defined by our relationship to others? By our membership of particular ethnic, religious or racial groups? Can we redefine ourselves: do we have a single identity, or multiple identities?
Michael Fosberg's very personal story raises a number of issues for each of us to consider.

Note: I was offered, and accepted, a copy of this book for review purposes.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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