From Publishers Weekly
Baszile grew up in an affluent Southern California suburb (she was a first-grader in 1975), a postsegregation child in a not quite integrated world and "the only black girl in my class, my grade, and my school besides my sister." In this craftily structured memoir, Baszile carries the reader at a leisurely, but in no way slack, pace through her girlhood and adolescence, maintaining both her young vulnerability and her sophisticated adult perspective. In trips to her parents' childhood homes--big city Detroit for her mother, deep country Louisiana for her father--she sees their (and her own) African-American pasts. A cruise, on which her parents challenge the two girls "to introduce yourselves to every black kid on this boat" before dinner, offers fresh dimensions of her African-American present. Taken together, they contribute to the path that led her to Yale's history department (its first black female professor). In elegant prose, Baszile shares enlightening observations throughout: "Dad never complained about being a black man... but he couldn't disguise its particular perils." Proud and comfortable in her skin, as well as clearheaded about its hazards, Baszile has written a classic portrait of that girl next door. (Nov.)
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The Baszile family’s move to an exclusive white suburb in Palos Verde, California, was the culmination of the parents’ striving for a racially integrated, middle-class life. For their daughters, it meant isolation and coping with the occasional racial slurs that went along with the advantages of suburban life. Their parents veered between an aggressive integration strategy and an equally aggressive strategy to keep their daughters socially connected to other black teens. There would be no interracial dating, they declared. Visits to her father’s childhood home in rural Louisiana and her mother’s in Detroit showed the stark contrast between their parents’ upbringing and their own, the trade-off between financial comfort and racial isolation versus economic struggle and racial camaraderie. Through adolescence, Baszile strove to reconcile her job at Kentucky Fried Chicken and her coming out in the debutante ball, her family’s increasing estrangement as her father’s behavior became more erratic, and her own efforts to find an identity for herself. This is an absorbing look behind the facade of one black family’s striving for integration and the American dream. --Vanessa Bush
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