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Beyond The Whiteness of Whiteness: Memoir of a White Mother of Black Sons Paperback – August 13, 1997

4.2 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"I think of the Black bodies which are the closest bodies to me in the world, and then... I imagine black bodies made to seem mysterious, threatening, holders of nightmares," says Lazarre in this unorthodox book that combines her experiences and observations as a white wife and mother in a black family living in a white world. If this sounds complicated, that's because it is. Lazarre (The Mother Knot) is acutely aware of her skin color and it is her heightened awareness that allows her to perceive black racism in this country so clearly, and more acutely than most whites. But as her sons gently inform her, she can never really know what it's like to be black, and so she doesn't try: instead, she gives her white, Jewish, woman's perspective on the racism she has noted in society, and also within herself. The result is a compassionate, compelling outpouring of anecdotal family stories and confessionals?and a brief but fascinating analysis of O.J. Simpson?that fine-tune the reader's awareness to racism in everyday life. Lazarre's voice is artful and measured, like a friend's, and her prose is thick with images one might expect from the director of the New School's writing program. Though a mere 138 pages, Beyond the Whiteness of Whiteness provides substantial food for thought for both white and black perspectives on the murky issue of race in America.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

A heartfelt exploration of ethnicity and its implications in America. Novelist Lazarre (Worlds Beyond My Control, 1991, etc.) turns to autobiography in this account of interracial marriage and motherhood. ``I have spent most of my adult life,'' she writes, ``living in a Black family, raising Black sons, forming my most intimate relationships with African Americans, learning their culture,'' and yet, as her sons have grown to adulthood, she finds herself feeling always the outsider, however well accepted. Drawing on her studies of African-American history and on her experiences as a professor, she turns her book into an experiment in understanding, inspired by the Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe's call for a literary form that is equal parts ``self-discovery and humane conscience.'' In this she succeeds admirably, and any reader concerned at all with African-American issues will find much of interest in her narrative. The knowledge drawn from bridging the nation's separate cultures comes at an emotional cost: ``Most of the time, there are two different worlds, and I see it, feel it, am no longer privileged to be blind to it, as most white people are.'' Yet she avoids easy posturing, and she writes with probing honesty of the sometimes conflicted feelings that arise as her children are called ``nigger'' for the first time, are accused of being ``aggressive'' when they ask pointed questions of their teachers, face the daily injuries that come from being black in America, and grow into an understanding of who they are as people: African and Jewish ethnically, culturally the products of the dozens of societies that have contributed to the American identity. One son is now an actor, another a budding scholar, and Lazarre takes pride in their achievements; as she writes, ``in my life and in my dreams they remain sources of cherished and immutable attachment, influencing me as I influence them.'' A beautifully written, deeply thoughtful journey into the worlds of self and other. -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books; Reprint edition (August 13, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822320444
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822320449
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 5.9 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,063,728 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I picked up Beyond the Whiteness of Whiteness because I was curious. I couldn't put it down because I was overwhelmed. As an Italian-American, I have spent a great deal of time considering the construction of whiteness and its effect on ethnicity, culture and race. Many of the pieces I read on whiteness are written with the intent to complicate an ethnicity, to make it more than "just white". There has not been enough conversation on the complexities of whiteness and white privilege. Jane Lazarre does what most of the other books haven't done: writes about whiteness after developing an intimate relationship with Blackness. This puts her in a very different position than someone, like me, whose whiteness is often understood only in relation to other white people. I read this book and found myself trembling. Race is a subject that I spend a lot of time thinking about, writing about, and wondering about. What this book managed to do was get me past what I think I know and pull me into another place entirely. A bone body place. This book needs to be read by those whites who say that racism has melted away in the U.S. and by those whites who think they have read and understood as much as they need to. This book will change you.
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By A Customer on October 2, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Jane Lazarre echoes my own thoughts and feelings when she writes of the "invisibility of whiteness". I too am a white woman married to a black man. I will never feel the firsthand racism that my husband or our children will feel. Like the author, I can slip away from racism at any time, alone on the street, I am simply a white woman, with my family I become an oddity, something for strangers to stare at. By myself, my whiteness makes me invisible. Jane Lazarre explains this in a compelling, moving manner. This book will definatly open the eyes of many a reader.
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Format: Paperback
As the mother of a biracial child, I was able to relate to Jane Lazarre-White's experiences. Much of her writing struck me with great familiarity. One thing that she repeatedly addressed was the shame she felt due to the privilege her "whiteness" afforded her. This I could not relate to or understand. As a white female, I am never ashamed of who I was brought into this world to be. I think, instead, that we should be ashamed that the same privilege is not afforded to all. The inequities between racial and social classes is so incredibly divisive; however, we need to ensure that ALL PEOPLE are afforded equalilty and fairness as opposed to stripping it from those who already receive it. Jane Lazarre-White is obviously a well-educated woman...just goes to show us that although we can feed our minds with boundless history on other cultures, we cannot escape our own identity. I hope that Jane Lazarre-White can accept her own identity while embracing the culture of her husband and sons...as we will all leave this world the same "color" in which we entered it!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book succeeds on two levels at the same time. Jane Lazarre has written a beautiful memoir of her life as a white woman who first marries a black man and then becomes the mother of black sons. She has reflected on her experience, and given it deep meaning, which she shares in this book, as well.
This is an incredibly powerful book, which goes right to the heart of what it means to be white in America. Lazarre's experiences are her own, but the lessons she draws from her life are important lessons for all of us, especially those of us who are white. I recommend this book without reservation to anyone who wants to think again about race, ethnicity, and integrity.
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Format: Hardcover
I love this book and this woman because of the honesty. My father is white, my mother is black. Let me tell you, when one of your parents are black-you are black. Jane tells you this in so many words. This whole biracial thing is a lie because American blacks are a multiracial and biracial people because our blood has been mixed since we were brought from Africa. I love the fact that Jane is honest with herself and understands that her sons are black and they must be taught the pride in that. She is absolutely correct to ingratiate herself in to black culture because that is the society her kids will forever live in and she must understand and be a part of that-after all, she is their mother. Most people won't be able to wrap their minds around many of Jane's ideas, but they should definately try. Life changing book, if you haven't read it. Be honest and be real.
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Format: Paperback
I discovered Beyond the Whiteness of Whiteness as an assignment for a discussion group. This is what I like about discussion groups, they introduce you to books you were unaware of and might not otherwise have read. This book is an absolute gem. I am a Jewish mother of a bi-racial though not African-American son and an immigrant myself. This book opened my eyes to issues of race and complexities of living as a Black person in America that I had not previously considered. It introduced me to bits of history I had not known and I believe that has nothing to do with my not having been educated in this country. Jane Lazarre reveals history that is not generally taught.

This is a book every American, especially every "white" American ought to read. The author introduces us to everyday realities of Black males that we could imagine if only we stopped long enough to empathize and reach the conclusions. The description of her son's recovery from knee surgery reminded me of instructions given to nurses in a Toronto facility for Holocaust survivors: be aware of associations certain patients have to certain caregivers!

We absolutely need a Museum that tells the History of African Americans, of slavery and displacement. Before we as a country can heal, we need to mourn and before we can mourn we need to understand all of the losses of the past. This country would not be what it is without slave labor.

The author also emphasizes the importance of writing memoirs. It is a way to preserve history.
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