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Black White And Jewish [Hardcover]

Rebecca Walker
2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jan. 14 2002
When Mel Leventhal married Alice Walker during the civil rights movement in the late 1960s, his mother declared him dead and did not reconcile until after the birth of her first grandchild. After Mel and Alice divorced, their daughter, Rebecca, alternated homes every two years, spending time in Mississippi, Brooklyn, San Francisco's Haight Ashbury, Washington, D.C., the Bronx, and suburban Westchester. With each new place came a new identity and desperate attempts to fit in: as white or black, as Puerto Rican or Jewish, as a party girl, a fighter, or a lover. Confused, and mostly alone, she turned to sex, drugs, books, and a cast of dangerous and thrilling characters.

Black, White, and Jewish is the story of a child's unique struggle for identity and home when nothing in her world told her who she was or where she belonged. Poetic reflections on memory, time, and identity punctuate this gritty exploration of race and sexuality. Rebecca Walker has taken up the lineage of her mother, Alice, whose last name she chose to carry, and has written a lucid and inventive memoir that marks the launch of a major new literary talent.

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From Publishers Weekly

The daughter of famed African American writer Alice Walker and liberal Jewish lawyer Mel Leventhal brings a frank, spare style and detail-rich memories the this compelling contribution to the growing subgenre of memoirs by biracial authors about life in a race-obsessed society. Walker examines her early years in Mississippi as the loved, pampered child of parents active in the Civil Rights movement in the bloody heart of the segregated South. Torn apart by the demands of their separate careers, her parents' union eventually lost steam and failed, leaving Walker to shuttle back and forth across country to spend time with them both. Deeply analytical and reflective, she assumes the resonant voices of an inquisitive child, a highly sensitive teen and finally a young woman who is confronted with the harsh color prejudices of her friends, teachers and families-both black and Jewish-and who tires desperately to make sense of rigid cultural boundaries for which she was never fully prepared by her parents. Whether she's commenting on a white ballet teacher who doubts she'll ever be good because her black butt's too big, Jewish relatives who treat her like an alien, or a boyfriend who feels she's not black enough, Walker uses the same elegant, discreet candor she brings to her discussion of her mother and the development of her free-spirited sexuality. Her artfulness in baring her psyche, spirit and sexuality will attract a wealth of deserved praise. (Jan. 2) Forecast: Coming the heels of her mother's story collection, The Way Forward Is with a Broken Heart (which offers a fictional treatment of Alice Walker's marriage to Leventhal), this literary debut by the younger Walker, who has been recognized by Time as one of her generation's leaders, is destined to generate excitement. Although Walker is likely to be compared to Lisa Jones (the daughter of Amiri Baraka and Jewish writer Hetty Jones), who tackled the myth of tragic mulatto in Bullet Proof Diva (1995), a collection of columns from the Village Voice, Walker's higher profile and narrative treatment of these themes will draw a wider audience who no doubt will greet her warmly on her 10-city tour.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Walker, the daughter of Alice Walker and attorney Mel Leventhal, shuttled among Mississippi, San Francisco, the Bronx, and Washington, DC, after her parents divorced. Here is her story of the need to redefine herself in each new setting.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Delighted and Disappointed... June 10 2004
Format:Hardcover
While I was moved almost to the point of tears on several occasions upon reading Walker's novel, I was disappointed with the end. It seems Rebecca has yet to come to terms with her "Shifting self". Walker writes about how she was able to weave in and out of two radically different worlds (the world of her black mother and free-living San Francisco culture, to the world of the white upper middle class New York suburb Jewish culture). She explores the way in which she adapted almost completely to one or the other culture whenever it was needed or expected. However, rather than coming to terms with her rich bi-racial and colorful cultural background and integrating both of these into forming her own unique identity, in my opinion Rebecca chose one identity over the other. Legally changing her name and thus further suppressing her identity from any resemblance of her Jewish and white background deeply saddened me. Although difficult, there are ways of incorporating aspects of both identities into one self - despite the state of racial animosity we live under in this country, both her parents were clearly able to do so. It is clear that Rebecca felt a distinct resentment toward her father and the eventual life he chose to lead; however, as a Jewish American I could not help but feel disappointed that Rebecca chose to identify with one side of her oppressed bi-racial identity over the other. She describes the life of her father, stepmother, half siblings and the culture of Larchmont, NY as privileged, wealthy, racist and generally homogeneous. While all of this may very well be close to the truth, what about being Jewish? Read more ›
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2.0 out of 5 stars Self-Indulgent Drivel May 26 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
If someone were considering making it illegal to write a memoir before the age of, say, 60, Rebecca Walker's book, Black, White and Jewish, would be held up as a prime example. In this book, Walker recounts her childhood and teenage years as a daughter of a black mother, and white and Jewish father, and describes her struggle to find a sense of identity in a world that insisted that her cultural combination was a virtual impossibility.
It is a compelling premise, but you'll be sorely disappointed if you're expecting an insightful reflection upon Walker's experiences growing up as a biracial Jewish child from the perspective of her adult self. The book is more of an adolescent diatribe about every sad, frustrating and/or confusing thing that happened to her before she graduated from high school. Yes, there was lots of confusing stuff. Her parents (divorced, estranged, and wildly inattentive to young Walker) made the unfathomable decision to have her alternate living between the two of them every two years, even though they lived on opposite sides of the country. So, just as Walker was settling into her identity with her black mother, or white Jewish father, she was whisked away to the opposite coast with a totally different peer group to start again. While one might have some stirrings of sympathy for her plight, the book's twin tones of self-pity and self-congratulation gets mighty tiresome. Fast. One gets the impression that by merely by surviving a complicated childhood, Walker thinks she performed some kind of feat that had no one else has done before. Moreover, most of the feelings of isolation and confusion she seems to embrace as uniquely hers will be recognized as entirely common to most American teenagers, whether biracial or not.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Rich teenagers are the angriest May 24 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I picked up this book thinking it would be about being Black, White and Jewish, and found, instead, that it is about being Rebecca Walker, the privileged yet neglected child of divorced bi-costal parents. It is amazing that someone from two highly educated and idealistic parents, with her own incredible education, would have so little introspection into the parts of her identity that she claims to celebrate.
Like many materially privileged yet emotionally neglected adolescents, Rebecca Walker is angry about all the wrong things. She has written a book that is really about being the daughter of an incredibly self-involved woman, and the dangers that self-involved parenting presents to young people. She has also written about the incredible financial and class advantages that she has been offered. However, she resents her privileges and celebrates her mother's neglect. She does not even seem to be able to understand her privilege, and comes off as little more than a spoiled and angry teenager, lashing out at her father and stepmother, who provided the most caring homelife she knew. At the writing of this book, Rebecca Walker was in her early thirties, and shows that, emotionally, she has progressed little towards being an adult. This is not a result of being Black, White and Jewish so much as it is a result of money and trips around the world replacing parental nurturing.
The author's sole sense of white, Jewish identity seems to be based in being a member of the suburban upper-middle class. The title of her book seems to imply that this is what it means to be a White person or a Jewish person. Likewise, she seems to suggest that being a Black person is based on having big hips and "ghetto" attitude.
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Most recent customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Leave the writing to her mother
Blah blah blah! Sorry, but I was expecting so much more. Maybe I went into this book with a larger expectation for Rebecca, but this is anything but an inspiring story but more of... Read more
Published on July 9 2004 by Joleen
1.0 out of 5 stars Only Good for the Dish on Alice!
Like many others have said below, boring, shallow, and only published because she is the daughter of the famous writer Alice Walker. Read more
Published on June 1 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars A Journey Within
In her powerful, poetic debut, Rebecca Walker speaks from her very soul about trying to find a sense of self in her ever-changing world. Read more
Published on March 14 2004 by The RAWSISTAZ Reviewers
4.0 out of 5 stars I just don't know
I don't know how I feel about this book though I did read it and enjoyed parts of it. Walker's life is very interesting, she had a hard life yes, but I think that she at times... Read more
Published on Feb. 13 2004
3.0 out of 5 stars Can't read Alice Walker any more
The thing that has stayed with me most after reading this book was what a poor mother Alice Walker was. Read more
Published on Dec 14 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars Growing up Alone
Black, White and Jewish is the story of a young girl blossoming into a woman almost entirely alone. Fortunately for Rebeeca Walker, she had strong intelligence and determination... Read more
Published on Oct. 25 2003 by "nmkid"
3.0 out of 5 stars Mostly an autobiograph from adolescense to high school
10/04/03 Rebecca Leventhal Walker(formerly Rebecca Grant Leventhal)'s book reflects the tragedy of children raising themselves... Read more
Published on Oct. 4 2003
1.0 out of 5 stars Certainly not what I expected
As the mother of two bi-racial children, I bought the book to understand what it was like to be "Black, White and Jewish". Read more
Published on July 16 2003 by Adoptive Mom
2.0 out of 5 stars Black, White, Jewish, and Privileged
Like many of the other reviewers, I had high hopes for this book. However, I must agree, Ms. Walker does not realize how privileged she is in recounting her life, nor does she... Read more
Published on April 30 2003 by Sarah L. Goralewski
3.0 out of 5 stars Scratching the surface
I'm not sure how old Rebecca Walker is now but I think she's relatively young to have written a memoir. Read more
Published on March 19 2003 by Ledazan
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