Black Is the Body: Stories from my Grandmother's Time, My Mother's Time, and Mine

Knopf. Feb. 2019. 240p. ISBN 9780451493026. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9780451493033. LIT/mEMOIR
OrangeReviewStar"Blackness is an art, not a science," writes Bernard (English, critical race & ethnic studies, Univ. of Vermont; editor, Remember Me to Harlem: The Letters of Langston Hughes and Carl Van Vechten). Blackness is a situation, a story, a condition full of contradictions, and the thread that runs through the essays in this collection. The author is interested in the border where blackness meets whiteness and the line between self and other. She writes of being stabbed in the stomach during grad school, her interracial marriage, going home to Mississippi, hair, white friends, adopting twin girls from Ethiopia, and what it's like to be black in one of the whitest states in the country. In the most powerful piece, "Teaching the N-Word," Bernard prods her African American studies class of all white students into a frank discussion. By telling these stories, she hopes to contribute to the conversation of race in America, a narrative that defies conventions and popular assumptions.
VERDICT Bernard's honesty and vulnerability reveal a strong voice with no sugarcoating, sharing her struggle, ambivalence, hopes, and fears as an individual within a web of relationships black and white. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 8/20/18.]

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