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One Drop of Blood: The American Misadventure of Race Hardcover – January, 2000

ISBN-13: 978-0756763428 ISBN-10: 0756763428 Edition: 0th
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In this exhaustive, introspective study of America's obsession with color, nobody escapes author Scott L. Malcomson's probing. The obvious white supremacists share scrutiny with the Indians, Hispanics, and African Americans who have turned inward in their reaction to racism and called for their own noninclusive territory. The book's imposing size and scope--it roves from early assimilation attempts by Indians to the Harlem Renaissance to white flight through the ages--may put off some who mistake it for a stale textbook. That would be a shame. Malcomson writes with a lyrical, storytelling quality. He mixes solid reporting with his own thoughtful speculation in tracing the histories of Indians, whites, and blacks in this country. Woven through this vivid narrative are the author's conversations with descendants of his own ancestors, who commingled in marriage and love with Cherokees and former slaves. Raised by a seemingly colorblind Baptist preacher father, Malcomson writes of his dismay as a boy as he and his friends began to "think with our skins" and separate by race as they grew older. "These were roles prepared by the American generations that had gone before; the past was forming us, and so we would carry that past into the future. I have never ceased regretting that process, because it diminished each of us." It's clear how Malcomson feels about what he calls America's "tragic drama," but he avoids preaching and gains credibility in doing so. His account is worthy reading for anybody who believes the drama's ending has yet to be written. --Jodi Mailander Farrell --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In a breathtaking and unusual treatment of the artifice and hypocrisy that has surrounded racial differences in America from its earliest settlement to the present, this massive work offers stunning insights with a subtle hand. The first three parts of the book deal with "indianness," "blackness" and "whiteness" respectively, followed by a fourth, which aims to reconcile the previous sections. The opening exploration of the opportunistic ways that philosophers, politicians and white society have defined Indian identity and land rights is haunting and powerfulDas is the chapter on "the Indian as slaveholder," which reveals the life of black slaves on a Cherokee reservation and their march on the Trail of Tears beside their "masters." But the rest of the book does not deliver upon the promise of the first 100 pages. Although the focuses on America, Malcomson journeys back into the medieval and the ancient world to find the defining moment when skin color was associated with good, evil and slavery. At times, this wide-ranging approach yields surprising insights (for example, Malcomson offers a thoughtful discussion of Shakespeare's outlook on blackness). However, he also includes long-winded digressions that are not securely anchored in his larger argument. Malcomson (Empire's Edge: Travels in South-Eastern Europe, Turkey and Central Asia) reveals the creation of "race" as a tool to obtain power, suppress the newly created powerless and justify immoral claims to land and property. Although not fully realized, his ambitious study of race and American identity is to be commended for dragging our racial conundrums further into the light of day. (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 584 pages
  • Publisher: Diane Pub Co (January 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0756763428
  • ISBN-13: 978-0756763428
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,554,588 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

A former senior advisor at the United Nations and the U.S. State Department, and formerly foreign editor (2004-11) at the New York Times Magazine, Scott Malcomson is a political-risk and communications consultant.

Born in 1961 in California, Malcomson grew up in Oakland and graduated from UC Berkeley, where he first learned journalism while writing and editing for The Daily Californian. Malcomson moved east in 1984 and began writing for the mainstream and alternative press in New York City, particularly The Village Voice. Among the many publications he has written for are The New Yorker, The London Review of Books, The New York Times, The New Republic, Transition, Lettre Internationale, Film Quarterly, Daily Beast, ArtForum, Huffington Post, Colors and The Nation. He has also published several articles in scholarly journals and collections and lectured at universities in the US, Europe and China. He was director of communications for International Crisis Group 2013-15 and The Berggruen Institute 2012-13. He was editorial advisor to Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen for their book The New Digital Age (2014) and has designed and taught courses on journalism and entrepreneurism at New York University.

Malcomson's writing has tended to focus on foreign affairs, literature, and American history (particularly race). He has worked in Africa and Latin America, the Pacific Islands, China, Turkey and Central Asia, and throughout Europe and North America. He is a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a longtime member of PEN.

Malcomson has published four books, all available from Amazon: Tuturani: A Political Journey in the Pacific Islands; Empire's Edge: Travels in Southeastern Europe, Turkey and Central Asia (also available in Turkish); One Drop of Blood; The American Misadventure of Race; and Generation's End: A Personal Memoir of American Power after 9/11 (also available in Chinese).

Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Charlie Riley on January 4, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This book is in deep, deep need of a ruthless editor. There's no doubt that Malcomson's prose is well crafted, no doubt that he makes good, often innovative, insights into the issues of race and racial identity in America. Yet I found myself saying "Oh, get ON with it" several times in each section. Malcolmson covers big areas of race chronologically, each area separately, so that this reads like three or four separate books; some of the areas overlap so much that I wondered if there were massive printing errors and I was reading the same section in two places. In terms of pacing and placement, I think the last section in the book should have been the first. Malcolmson's account of his own upbringing and experience of race would have made a better setup than conclusion.
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23 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Frank on October 17, 2001
Format: Paperback
Malcomson emphasizes the idea that the new USA needed a racial identity - "to the extent that Americans wanted a national identity as a people, rather than human beings that happened to be in America, that identity almost had to be racial.... `American' identity would be a white identity."
While this is true in large part, it largely ignores the huge impact of the colonies' religious identity (which had driven the founding of several colonies) by curtly stating the unattributed fact that "in 1790 only about one in ten white American was a member of a formal church." Whatever relationship actual membership in a "formal church" may have to do with American's personal beliefs, there is ample evidence that a common core of publicly-expressed religious beliefs formed the basis of the "American" character in 1790.
Malcomson likewise downplays the cohesive unity brought about by the struggle against Britain, joint membership in a new country, and the adherence to the ideals of the Declaration. This emphasis on the preeminent racial nature of "American" identity is somewhat at odds with his other theme that "being white meant, above all, not being black."
While the book is subtitled "The American Misadventures of Race," the book could benefit from some discussion about the role of race in other civilizations and countries. What, in other countries, is similar to, or different from, the US experience?
While Malcomson does a good job in analyzing popular culture's take on race in many cases, this could improve.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Shirley A. Blair Keller on April 16, 2006
Format: Paperback
I have had a hard time getting into this book. Malcomson wades into detail, droning on and on. My own lack of discipline confronted me, but interest in the subject kept me turning the pages and I am very glad I did. As other reviewers point out, this isn't a perfect book, but for my money he took on a subject that we sorely need in this country if we are ever to move forward to see ourselves as one entity, human beings. I thank him for that. I think this would be a great book, along with Takaki from UCB's book "A Different Mirror," to be on the shelves of history classes through out our country, even in its imperfections. Racism is an artificial classification. Skin is decided in the gens, like eye color, etc. To base anything on it is ridiculous. But man's inhumanity to man is a reality, using whatever means necessary to carry out power. Just look around the world and watch it carried out today in every continent. This book is a step in enlightening a part of American history that was left out of my history books as a kid. I hope others will tackle this subject so that we can accept that we have always been multicultural, multireligious, and various colored peoples from the beginning. We haven't always told the truth of our inheritance as a nation. I applaud anyone who tackles this subject and highly recommend reading this book. I might also add that with DNA testing available now, we might find we are more connected than we have all dared to admit in the past.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Few books on race can match this one, for it takes the "sting" out of a problematic national obsession. The author simply tells the truth as he sees it and as history has recorded it: nothing more nothing less. And boy does he do it with a poetic flair.

His writing reflects a rare sensitivity to the soul of America not often seen in print. Only a true lover of America could weave a complex, disturbingly provocative tale about this nation in the way this author has done and not injure any particular group's feelings. He makes you want to forgive us of all our national sins. And as the book elaborates, there are enough sins to go around -- most of them centered upon the multi-generational white fetish with race. That is not to suggest that the book is primarily a psychological book, for it is not. Yet, most of the tension is felt in the subtext, in the things he unconsciously touches on but leaves out of the foreground of the text. He seems reluctant to get at what is really troubling the American subconscious mind?

One such example, of particular interest to me and my writing interests, is the connection between the American taboo of interracial sex, violence and racial identity. From the title of the book one would assume that he would jump immediately into those topics, but not so here. Each topic was acknowledged in its own right but the connection between them went unacknowledged except as themes running along in the subtext of the book. I was disappointed that since he came so close to exposing these as meta-themes about race he did not make their hidden connections explicit.
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