From Publishers Weekly
In 1940, Romano notes in her prologue, interracial marriages were illegal in 31 of the 48 states. In the six decades that followed, they have been described as everything from "deviant acts of social and economic radicals," to "the true fulfillment of a quest for racial brotherhood," "the ultimate solution to the race problem," and as "a betrayal of one's race and one's community." In this "political, cultural, and social history," Wesleyan University historian Romano tracks popular representations of black-white marriage in everything from children's books (The Rabbit's Wedding) to Billie Holliday's "Strange Fruit," the Hepburn-Tracey vehicle Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and a variety of magazines (Ebony and Jet do yeoman service for the black perspective). The Hettie Cohen-Leroi Jones (now Amiri Baraka) marriage looms larger than that of Richard and Mildred Loving, who were the history-making test case. Romano reminds us that, although the 51,000 black-white couples in 1960 had become 363,000 by 2000, such marriages constitute a mere fraction of U.S. marriages today and occur at a rate that "lags behind that of other types of interracial marriage." Still, war brides, custody battles, mental health diagnoses ("being involved interracially became de facto evidence of mental illness"), beatnik acceptance, black nationalist hostility and "the erosion of the taboo against black-white marriage" as rendered in this heavily anecdotal account make fascinating and provocative reading. Taking in representations of socializing, dating and having a relationship, as well as marriage, this book makes a good companion to Randall Kennedy's recent Interracial Intimacies: Sex, Marriage, Identity, and Adoption, which focuses more on legislative history.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Romano, a white professor of African American studies who is married to a black man, examines the deeply embedded taboo of interracial marriage in the U.S. Citing studies, surveys, court accounts, media coverage, and interviews with interracial couples, Romano explores how attitudes have evolved, eventually eroding that taboo, within the last 60 years. She notes that the nation's long-held policy of "prohibiting interracial marriages while condoning interracial sex between white men and black women reinforced gender and racial hierarchies." Romano outlines the forces that eventually led to the breakdown of the taboo, from the integration of armed services during World War II to the migration of southern blacks to the North for war-related jobs, exploring the political, cultural, and social history of black-white marriages since the 1940s. The interviews are particularly powerful in conveying the challenges of interracial marriages and the changes in social attitudes since the 1940s. But Romano cautions that the increase in black-white marriages does not signify the end of structural racial inequalities in American society. Vanessa Bush
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