From Publishers Weekly
Does a biracial child from Louisiana belong with the black family who wants to adopt her or in the indifferent foster care system that has classified her as white? Kennedy, who created a media storm with Nigger, begins his third book about race with an obscure 1952 legal case that addresses this question, then traces the customs, laws and myths surrounding interracial relationships that came before and after it. As in Nigger, Kennedy's controversial examination of the taboo word, much of this book centers on legal actions and court rulings. It is laced with enough anecdotes and pop culture references, however, to make it an accessible, compelling read for anyone. The Harvard law professor even wrote to people who placed what he calls "racially discriminatory" personal ads (SWM seeks SWF, for example), asking them to explain themselves (few did). For the most part, the book stays focused on black and white relationships, and Kennedy dutifully but unremarkably covers well-known examples such as the slavery era's Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings and the 20th century's O.J. Simpson and Nicole Brown Simpson. He is at his best and most instructive tackling issues like racial passing (he devotes an entire chapter to a mid-20th-century interracial couple and their daughter's Imitation of Life-like attempts to pass for white) and interracial adoption (he deplores race matching as "a destructive practice in all its various guises"). While Kennedy points out that race relations have made huge strides since the 1952 Louisiana adoption case, he also openly conveys his disappointment at how America remains "a pigmentocracy" influenced by white supremacist notions. The book provides plenty of examples to back up this assertion, but stops short of offering tangible solutions.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
*Starred Review* A Harvard law professor and the author of, most recently, Nigger [BKL F 15 02], Kennedy offers a brilliant analysis of one the most controversial areas of American race relations--interracial sex. Kennedy weaves together history, law, literature, politics, and social policy in a searing examination of how blacks and whites have intermixed since Africans were brought to the U.S. as slaves. Beginning with the rape and sexual exploitation of black women by white men, Kennedy examines the underlying myths and stereotypes that have shaped social policy on marriage, identity, and adoption and given rise to the convoluted legal and social structure meant to maintain the racial hierarchy. He explores the social context of famous black-white relationships, from Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, through boxing champion Jack Johnson's marriages to white women, to the Loving v. Virginia U.S. Supreme Court case that outlawed bans on interracial marriage. In addition, Kennedy examines the image of black men as sexual predators bent on raping white women, a charge used to incite lynching. Kennedy also details the nation's shameful history of racial classification and the phenomenon of racial passing as portrayed in movies and literature and as practiced in real life. A comprehensive, well-researched look at the intersection of race and sex in the U.S. Vanessa Bush
See all Editorial Reviews
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved