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One Drop: My Father's Hidden Life--A Story of Race and Family Secrets Hardcover – September 27, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

For Broyard, who was raised as white in Connecticut, the discovery that her father, the writer and critic Anatole Broyard, wasn't exactly white raised the question of how black I was—a question that set her in search of the history of the most well-known defector from the black race in the latter half of the twentieth century. In the first section, Broyard weaves her privileged childhood together with later travels to New Orleans (her father's birthplace) and Los Angeles (where there is a determinedly white set of Broyards as well as a determinedly black set). Part two extends from the first Broyard, a Frenchman arriving in mid-18th century Louisiana territory, to six-year-old Anatole's 1927 arrival in Brooklyn. The last section is devoted to Anatole's life. Broyard's identity quest takes her on an odyssey through social, military, legal, Louisiana and general American history, as well as U.S. race relations and her family DNA, introducing innumerable relatives, classmates, friends and employers, and making for a rather overstuffed account. Fortunately, she's got an ear for dialogue, an eye for place and a storyteller's pacing. But the most compelling element is her ambivalent tenor: Was my father's choice rooted in self-preservation or in self-hatred?... Was he a hero or a cad? Part eulogy, part apologia, the answer is indirect: But he was my dad and we loved each other. (Sept.)
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From Bookmarks Magazine

A decade ago in Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Man, noted black scholar Henry Louis Gates wrote an unflattering portrait of Anatole Broyard and his "passing." Critic Art Winslow suggests that Bliss Broyard’s memoir may be "intended as a rejoinder to Gates." Author of the short story collection My Father, Dancing (2000; New York Times Notable Book), Broyard offers a passionate, lively narrative packed with hundreds of interviews with family members (both black and white), friends, lovers, and others who knew her father well. The result is not always seamless; the book’s intent is not always clear; and Jonathan Yardley finds Broyard’s "fretting about her racial identity" bothersome. Still, the author generally succeeds in offering an ambitious and personal perspective on issues relevant to her own family and anyone interested in race relations in America.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (September 27, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316163503
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316163507
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.5 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #625,253 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

88 of 95 people found the following review helpful By Dera R Williams VINE VOICE on November 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
When her mother exposed her father's secret while he was dying in 1990, Bliss Broyard accepted it but was not ready to deal with the complexities of learning her father was of Black heritage. She was not ready when an essay, "The Passing of Anatole Broyard", appeared in Henry Louis Gates' collection, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Man in 1997. When she was finally ready, Broyard wrote a wonderful tribute that is a memoir, a family history, a discourse on race, culture, and identity that is worthy of being a classic.

What does a twenty four-year old woman, born and raised in Connecticut with all the trappings of an upper-class WASP environment do when she finds out she is an impostor of sorts? That she is not White...well not according to the one-drop rule that this country imposes. That her father kept a part of him from her, thereby withholding a part of her history? Bliss' reaction and that of her older brother, Todd, was why all the secrecy? Why was it kept from us?

Unfortunately, Bliss did not get the answers from her father, Anatole Broyard, the New York Times critic and writer. Thus, she began the journey that would lead her to the truth. That journey took her to meet relatives in New Orleans, Los Angeles and Brooklyn, where she met her aunt Shirley, the sister her father had avoided for most of his adult life. With the help of her newfound family, Bliss began to trace the Broyard family history. But it was the emotional and mental journey about race and identity that would prove to be the most complex.

It began with Etienne Broyard of France, Bliss' great-great-great grandfather who came to New Orleans from France in the 1700s.
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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Margaret Smith on June 21, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Bliss Broyard is amazing, and I am so glad that she wrote this book. I discovered her existence seeing an excerpt from African American Lives and became curious about her journey. I had just had my own DNA testing done to confirm or dispel a family story about us being American Indian and Scottish, instead of Irish as we'd been told. When my results came in, showing a strong subsaharan African and Egyptian Berber influence (in addition to the Scottish and American Indian parts) I was startled and surprised. I didn't know what to make of it, or how to incorporate this new knowledge into my self-identity. So, reading Ms. Broyard's book was amazing for me, because I'd gone through many of the challenges she spoke of. I was somewhat jealous of her ability to connect to relatives and gain so much genealogy information, as I've been doing these searches for 10 years and not gotten so much. Her book is a testament to rethinking the memory of her father and making meaning for herself. Her writing is exceptional, and she's honest, sincere. I wish there were more authors (or people in general!) like Ms. Broyard. Good for her for publishing this! I've passed on my copy to other friends who struggle with their multiple cultures and identities, and gifted a copy to a friend who's interested in his own genealogy. Go Ms. Broyard, and bless you for the courage it took to write this book!
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Gabrielle Mcclarty-roberts on June 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Bliss' voyage was very special to me. I felt her pain and confusion and unfortunately could relate too closely to her tale. Her account is so honest and self-reflective that it was embarassing at times to be privvy to her thoughts. As a mother,I wanted to hug her and explain to her all the racial garbage that American society dumps on us. As a Creole of Color whose mother, grandmother and God knows how many other relatives passed while I couldn't, I can relate to her family stories and pain. Yet, this young lady taught me so much with her amazing historical research. If I ever drag myself back to Louisiana to my maternal home, I will have lots of tips to learn more about my family. For example, who is my Italian grandfather and does a great grandfather's portrait as a judge still hang in a county courthouse? I'd love to have her help me retrace my roots. I am amused at her stories of people discovering their black ancestry and I laugh at the thought that if people in the 30s only knew that my red-headed grandmother, a magazine cover girl, was actually black/Negroe/Colored/Creole or that my mom, the lady in the 60s Wonder Bread commercial, wasn't white. But the scars still remain with all of us. The lies, the denial of self still haunt the family. I am sending this book to my mom who prbably to this day experiences some guilt about not raising her eldest daughter because she couldn't pass in her white expatriate world.
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35 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on September 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I read this book in three sittings -- plus two middle of the
night wakings up where I read for hours more.

Not only is it wonderfully written, but Bliss Broyard is willing to turn
over all the stones and gems she finds, and look directly at what she sees. Like A.M. Homes, and Tobias Wolff, Broyard has a clear-eyed
willingness to review the past and to experience new things while still remaining a thinking, sensitive person. She doesn't compromise or lose herself despite the demands of others. Instead she grows and lets us grow along with her.

The creole experience in New Orleans is unique in American race relations. It takes time and an open mind and heart to explore the world of the free people of color in the French colonies. Much of this history doesn't overlap with the experiences of others from the African diaspora. We learn about the horrors of the Middle Passage slave trade in school and through film, but a first introduction to the creole world, especially after learning it is your own ancestral world, can be astonishing. This book is not only a personal journey, but a wonderful introduction to the rich and ongoing history of creoles in the United States.

I cannot recommend One Drop more highly.
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