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Black & White

3.59  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,028 Ratings  ·  180 Reviews
Clara Brodeur has spent her entire adult life pulling herself away from her famous mother, the renowned and controversial photographer Ruth Dunne, whose towering reputation rests on the unsettling nude portraits she took of her young daughter.

At age eighteen, sick of her notoriety as “the girl in the pictures,” Clara fled New York City, settling and making her own family
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published April 3rd 2007 by Knopf (first published 2007)
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Apr 06, 2010 M rated it it was ok
I'm so mad at this book. Shapiro spins a fantastic premise - a woman who grew up having her mother obsessively take borderline porno pictures of her as a child to satisfy her artistic cravings as well as the fame this found her, and how this ruined their relationship - and then fails miserably at the execution.
The idea of a mother putting her art first as well as the question of exploitation is interesting, along with the question of privacy - who has the rights to these pictures, really? But al
Sep 30, 2007 Alison rated it it was ok
This reminded me of a Jodi Picoult novel--a little more subtle, thank goodness, but still an Issue-Driven novel. The main character, Clara, has a problem from her past: in this case, her mother became a famous photographer based on nude photos of the daughter that could be construed as abuse rather than art. Mother and daughter are estranged, then when the mother is terminally ill, Clara visits her. It's not really enough for a whole novel; it would have been a good long story, but there's not e ...more
Amy Obenhaus
Feb 04, 2009 Amy Obenhaus rated it really liked it
Depictions of child nudity or children with nude adults appear in works of art in various cultures and historical periods. These attitudes have changed over time and have become increasingly frowned upon particularly in recent years, and especially in the case of photography. In recent years there have been a few incidents in which snapshots taken by parents of their infant or toddler children bathing or otherwise naked were challenged as child pornography. In May 2008, police in Sydney, Austral ...more
Dec 18, 2007 Lauren rated it liked it
When I first heard about this book, all I could think was, "Uh, Sally Mann?" It seemed ridiculous. But I still wanted to read it.

And it was the equivalent of staying in bed and watching a bad part-Lifetime original movie, part bad indie film. I mean, the bitchy, size two, angry sister and the sister who was the subject of so many provocative photos, taken by her mother. Her mother who is now dying of cancer. Don't they all?

Ruth Dunne. And no one in the book thought to connect her to Joan Didion
Chris Witkowski
Sep 20, 2015 Chris Witkowski rated it liked it
When Clara Brodeur was four years old, her mother became famous for taking and publishing nude, extremely revealing photos of her. This continued until Clara was 14, with the last published shots of her showing her decidedly developing body. At the age of 18 Clara leaves home, with no forwarding address given. It is now 14 years later, she is the mother of a 9 year old girl, and Clara's sister summons her home to attend to their dying mother.

To say that Clara is conflicted is an understatement.
Jan 09, 2016 Tracie rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
Ugh. I'm not sure why I read so much of this book (about two-thirds) when it was clear after about ten minutes that I couldn't stand the writing style or the main character. I don't doubt that having been the subject of nude photos that made one's photographer mother famous while much of the world tittered about whether the photos were pornographic would leave a person deeply traumatized and likely to want to leave that part of her life in the past. What I don't buy is what a fragile, pathetic m ...more
J.A. Carter-Winward
Nov 06, 2014 J.A. Carter-Winward rated it liked it
I fluctuated between 3 and 4 stars, but settled on 3. Dani Shapiro's novel Black and White has aspects that are definitely 4-star. The very premise itself is high-concept and extremely tangled, and left me with an unsettled relationship with the main character and her mother. But the unsettled relationship is also what led me to 3 stars.

Part of the book I wanted to shake Clara and say "Get over it!" Other parts of the book, I wanted to shake her mother and say "What were you thinking?!" There is
Feb 10, 2011 Sarah rated it it was amazing
Dani Shapiro is one of my new favorite authors of all-time! Her writing is intimate and candid, though dark and real. Sadly, Black and White is her latest novel and already going on four years old! However, Shapiro has recently released a memoir called Devotion.

Black and White is about Clara, a woman intent on protecting her young daughter Sam from learning the truth about her grandmother Ruth, a famous artist who used Clara by exploiting her naked body as art in the form of photography. When Ru
Frieda Vizel
Jun 02, 2013 Frieda Vizel rated it liked it
The short of it: this book had the feel of a date night movie. Predictable and with a feel good story arc and lots of fancy props. The verdict; I expect more from a book than I do from a date night movie.

What was wrong with this book was that... there wasn't anything wrong with this book. The book just wasn't... much of anything. It lacked the humor and complexity to engage, the originality and creativity to surprise. It was good in every way an average person looks good: you're not drawn in and
Patricia L.
Jun 20, 2015 Patricia L. rated it really liked it
[TITLE] by [AUTHOR] is __________

(choose one)

an emotional tour-de-force
a pure laugh riot
a chilling vision of things to come
a rollicking adventure
a non-stop rollercoaster ride (the loop-de-loop kind, even; don’t get me wrong, though, wooden coasters are cool, too)
more suspenseful than when your in-laws’ car won’t start just as they’re about to head home
a cry for help
sturdily bound, printed in an inoffensive typeface
that will leave you __________

on the edge of your seat!
behind at the scene of the
May 16, 2008 Ellenjsmellen rated it really liked it
Shelves: family-drama
My mom suggested this one. It's about Clara, 32 year old woman who left home at 18 and never returned. Her mother who is a famous photographer is gravely ill with lung cancer and Clara returns home. I would've given this 5 stars, but there was something about the way that the story was revealed that kind of made it a little slower paced. The dialog had a lot of unfinished sentences because of the fragile topic and I just didn't like that. Kind of took to long to pry the story out.
Apr 09, 2015 Carol rated it it was amazing
A story of a (1) famous artist, Ruth Dunne, a renowned, controversial photographer. It was Ruth's way of expressing her art by (2) photographing unsettling, nude portraits using her young daughter, Clara, as the major subject in her artwork. As a young girl, Clara left home (NYC), and luckily married a loving, supportive, devoted husband in Maine. Later in life, Ruth asked for Clara and her older sister, Robin, to come see her on her deathbed. The ending is about how Clara and Robin can get alon ...more
Brandy Spielman
Feb 15, 2016 Brandy Spielman rated it really liked it
The title for this book was perfect. Shapiro has a way of manipulating the reader's emotions so that at times they see the novel's central conflict one way, at other times another, and finally by the end, in the shades of gray she intended. The book is told from the perspective of Clara who was made famous as a child by the series of nude photos her artist mother took of her. She spent her life hating her mom until she is forced to confront the woman when she finds out her mother is dying of can ...more
May 01, 2016 Evi rated it liked it
I read the book in Greek with the title "The girl with the lizzard". I bought this book because of the title )in greek) which reminded me of two people bearing the bookcrossing screennames "the Girl" and "the lizzard'.

I was not planning actually to read the book but when I decided to do so, it proved to be a well-written novel about loss, abandonement, and New York through the eyes of a child of a famnous person, through the eyes of the same person when she grew up and through her daughter's. Th
Jun 18, 2012 Ali rated it it was amazing
I found this book in a used book store. The Winter Park Used book store to be exact. First of all I would like to say that this book store is amazing. I got this book for a dollar and It was easily a fourteen dollar book. I loved this book. It had a a very "jodi Picoult" feel to it.

The story starts with Clara a women who has established herself within the routine of a normal life. She has a loving husband, and a beautiful nine year old daughter. She resides in a sleepy town, safe away from civi
Shonna Froebel
Nov 19, 2012 Shonna Froebel rated it liked it
Clara hasn't seen her mother in fourteen years when she left home at eighteen. Her mother Ruth is a famous photographer, most famous for a series she did of Clara. The series covered Clara from the age of 3 to 14, all of them naked. Clara has stayed in touch with her older sister Robin, who lives in New York City with her husband and three children and who has become a lawyer like their father. When Robin calls Clara to tell her Ruth is ill and Robin can't cope, Clara goes to New York and visits ...more
Caroline Anna Bock
Jun 19, 2013 Caroline Anna Bock rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Readers with difficult artistic moms
Recommended to Caroline by: Book club read
I read Dani Shapiro's Black & White with my book club. This is a good book club read. Clara, a thirty-something mom, returns to her childhood home, an upper West Side apartment, and confronts her mother, a famous photographer, and her past -- as her mother lays dying. Okay, great set up with lots of juicy book club plot points to discuss.

But the ending a little too neat and tidy for me, and one other thing, minor but you know when something just bugs you. I didn't like the title of this boo
Apr 16, 2011 David rated it really liked it
Emotions Run High in this Family Drama

I thought the book "Black & White" was a very excellent book. The characters were well developed and Shapiro's descriptions of the various scenes, especially the photo shoots, were exceptional. I could easily imagine the characters and the scenes in my mind. There are many reviews on this book so I won't clutter up the page with more detail except to reveal that the story focuses on the relationship between the mother, Ruth Dunne, a noted photographer a
Sep 28, 2013 Ptreick rated it liked it
Shelves: audio-reads
This book was 3.5 stars for me.

I found the entire idea of the book (of a mother who takes provocative photos of her daughter/muse) to be intriguing and disturbing, but some of the things I wanted from this book as the story unfolded never came to fruition.

The story's of Clara's past - the memories of particular photographs/photo shoots with her mother - were compelling and vivid, and each time the story returned to the past I was, once again, hooked. But those moments came after long scenes in t
Jun 27, 2007 Michele rated it it was amazing
Emotional and Riveting

Black and White is the first of Dani Shapiro's novels I've read, and I found it riveting. The excellent writing is very descriptive, which allowed my mind to be fully transported to the two main settings, an L.L. Bean version of a Maine island in winter and the black-clad gallery world of Manhattan. The rich texture of Shapiro's writing shines through with minute detail. She creates nearly every scene with a 360-degree view. This quality added to my ability to imagine the e
This is a book that I had to read for an upcoming book discussion. What I love about my discussion group is that it "forces" me to read books that I wouldn't normally pick-up and I would not have touched this with a 10-foot pole!

Having said this, I'm glad that I read it. It takes me out of my comfort zone and if nothing else, it is a very discussable book.

It all begins when Clara receives a phone call in the middle of the night. Her mother is sick & dying and Clara's sister, Robin, is callin
Aug 19, 2008 Mary rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Interesting plot line about a woman who was the nude child subject of her famous mother's artwork. She runs away from home at 18 but goes back at 32 when her mother is dying of cancer. Very realistic and vivid plot line of this character driven novel.

Dani Shapiro is one of my favorite authors. She writes very vividly. I always enjoy reading her books.

I definitely couldn't put this book down at times. At the same time, the subject matter was a difficult one to read. But that's more a matter of a
Mar 24, 2015 Judyarzt rated it it was amazing
I read this book in nearly one sitting. It's a memoir of several characters intertwining lives, and Shapiro keeps you engaged in each character, wondering how all the loose pieces will tie together. Also, recommend this book for photography buffs and those interested in the art scene and galleries. The book speaks to how an artist can be manipulative to gain fame, but is also a heartwrenching story of failed families and conciliation.
This is a powerful and engaging book exploring the most powerful relationship of all--that between a mother and child--to be more specific--the relationship between a mother and a daughter. In this book, the daughter is the unwilling muse and model for her mother's photography. When her mother achieves great success, both are locked in a battle for control while the father and older sister look on. It was fascinating to "watch" the family and their interaction. I wondered throughout the book why ...more
Janet Lynch
Aug 07, 2014 Janet Lynch rated it liked it
The book started off slowly but picked up in the middle. By the end it was hard to put down. An interesting story about Clara who has estranged herself from her famous photographer mother Ruth. Ruth gained her fame through a series of photographs of Clara, taken between the ages of three and fourteen. All of the pictures were nude photographs. Artistic or pornography? Now Ruth is dying and Clara returns home.
Dawn Michelle
Jun 22, 2010 Dawn Michelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Dawn Michelle by: A lovely old lady in Indigo

Read~June 21,2010
4 Stars

This was an interesting book. I really enjoyed reading this, even as my emotions were on a churning roller-coaster ride.

The main question here is...what constitutes "Art" and what constitutes child abuse?

Clara has been away from NYC, her mother and all the life she has known (but not the memories and the pain the continually cause) for over 15 years when she gets a desperate call from her sister begging her for her help with their mother who is dying.
And so begins a j
Bookmarks Magazine

Dani Shapiro "has developed a specialty in writing about difficult mother-daughter bonds" (San Francisco Chronicle). Yet while critics agreed that the relationship between Clara and her mother Ruth (who is loosely based on the photographer Sally Mann) presents a rich opportunity, they disagreed over Shapiro's execution. Those praising the novel found the characters well drawn, but others thought the novel uneven, with a compelling storyline weighed down by the predictability of Clara's emotional

Jun 01, 2015 Betsy rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 18, 2011 Heather rated it really liked it
An intriguing story about a girl who becomes the primary subject of her nother's controversial and best-selling photography in NYC in the 70's and 80's. The book alternates between the modern day story of Clara as an adult with a daughter of her own, (goiing back to NY when her mother is dying of cancer); and the little girl who hated being her mother's model. The author does a great job portraying the dynamic between Clara and her sister, Robin, who is now a successful lawyer in NY and resented ...more
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Group Discussion 1 13 Jun 19, 2008 06:11PM  
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  • Visual Shock: A History of Art Controversies in American Culture
  • Madame de Treymes and Three Novellas
  • Sister Safety Pin
  • Shlepping the Exile
  • Holy Skirts: A Novel of a Flamboyant Woman Who Risked All for Art
  • Windward Heights
  • Ordinary Love and Good Will: Two Novellas
  • Her First American
  • The Men's Club
  • Around the Next Corner
  • Lithium for Medea
  • Perfidia
  • Palladian
  • State of Grace
  • The Color of Night
Dani Shapiro is the author of five novels and the best-selling memoir Slow Motion. She has also written for magazines such as The New Yorker and Elle.

She lives with her husband and young son in Litchfield County, Connecticut.
More about Dani Shapiro...

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