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Sweeter the Juice: A Family Memoir in Black and White

3.94  ·  Rating Details  ·  592 Ratings  ·  37 Reviews
The Sweeter the Juice is a provocative memoir that goes to the heart of our American identity. Shirlee Taylor Haizlip, in an effort to reconcile the dissonance between her black persona and her undeniably multiracial heritage, started on a journey of discovery that took her over thousands of miles and hundreds of years. While searching for her mother's family, Haizlip conf ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published January 27th 1995 by Free Press (first published January 24th 1994)
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Readers who liked The Color of Water, Slaves in the Family, and One Drop will probably be equally fascinated by The Sweeter the Juice. It, like the others mentioned, is a family history of a mixed-race family in America.

Shirlee Taylor was born in 1937 into the black bourgeoisie. Her father was a Baptist minister and the son of a prominent pastor in Washington, D.C. In the included photographs and by his daughter's description, he is light-skinned but obviously a Negro (the preferred term in his
Carol Baldwin
Jan 20, 2013 Carol Baldwin rated it it was amazing
As my loyal blog readers know, I am researching and writing my first young adult novel, Half-Truths. Since the story involves a light-skinned African American girl, I have read several multi-racial books. I recently completed The Sweeter the Juice: A Family Memoir in Black and White (Simon and Schuster, 1995), by Shirlee Taylor Haizlip, a contemporary author who reflects on the effects of her mother's light skin on herself, her family of origin, as well as on Ms. Haizlip's own upbringing.

The bo
Amber Williams
Apr 21, 2014 Amber Williams rated it it was ok
There are aspects of this memoir that I enjoyed and I love the idea of it. Unfortunately, I feel that the book falls short. I think my main issue is with the voice of the novel (which I am aware can come off as somewhat offensive given that this is a memoir). The language/syntax throws me off. There were quite a few moments where I had to re-read what I had just gone over. Not due to any complexity in ideas but simply because of how something was written. There are also a few moments where Haizl ...more
May 06, 2010 Keisha rated it really liked it
The Sweeter the Juice is one of those books that should be read by a wide spectrum of Americans, but that I fear won't be read by enough. Haizlip's book is a beautifully told memoir demonstrating the historic familial, social and economic interconnectedness of blacks, whites and Native Americans in the US. Her journey was prompted by a strong desire to understand why some of her “white-looking” relatives made the tough decision to live as white Americans and discard their racially muddled pasts ...more
Interesting from both an historical perspective and a personal perspective. Shirlee Taylor Haizlip tells the story of her own mixed race family, and some of the history of race in America. I do dislike the labels. Think of how long people have been living on this earth. Everyone is mixed blood. Does it matter? Identity is questionable for many of us. As an adopted child I felt many of the same things that her mother did; abandonment, wondering what was wrong with me or with the family that I was ...more
Donna Welch
Apr 02, 2008 Donna Welch rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who wants to better understand racial dynamics in a family
Recommended to Donna by: Co-worker
Shirlee Haizslip has traced her family back to colonial times and shares both history and personal accounts. She shares both the pain and the joys of being in a racially mixed family, where some left the fold to "pass". All in all, a quick and excellent read, particularly during this time when we finally see an African-American running for president.
I've re-read this book several times. The author does an excellent job of weaving her family's history with the nation's.
Gail Richmond
Mar 19, 2016 Gail Richmond rated it really liked it
Shirlee Taylor Haizlip's tale is primarily family history but partly memoir as she explores serious questions that revolve around her understanding of her family: What is race in a country where a person of mixed race can pass as white or live as black? What forces drive a family to abandon a child of their own, in Haizlip's case, her mother, and how do relatives live with their choice? And, for the discerning reader, is living the "white" life so much easier than living the richer, warmer "blac ...more
Apr 07, 2013 itpdx rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Haizlip tells the story of her family--her life, what she can find out about her ancestors and her living family. There is a lot to think about here. Some of her mother's family have cut themselves off from their family and become white. Her mother is also light skinned but chooses to marry a darker man and remain in the black community. Haizlip graduated from high school in 1954, so we see the Civil Rights movement through her eyes.

She explores some of the "internal" racism within the black co
I tried to finish this book, but it was just so badly organized that I couldn't muddle through. At times it is an interesting account of America's obsession with race, as Haizlip's relatives divide over the slightest differences in skin tone. Mostly, however, it is a compilation of the author's research in geneaology, and reading about dozens of distant relatives' census records is just not interesting. I also noticed several mistakes just in the first part of the book, for instance, that "most" ...more
May 07, 2016 Jennifer rated it really liked it
Excellent read about race and prejudice and how one family searched their roots. It reads like a
cross between history and thriller. An amazing family, interesting and moving with roots that go back to Thomas Jefferson.
Feb 28, 2008 Mindy rated it it was amazing
This book came to my attention on Oprah, when the author described how her grandmother, who had been living "black" had met her sister (or cousin?), who had been living "white" at a bus stop, for the first time, as elderly ladies. (Forgive me if I have the details wrong--it's been a while since I read it.) It's about how some light-skinned African-Americans crossed over to the "other side", abandoning all ties to family in order to gain other benefits. The author points out that black and white ...more
Jul 24, 2015 Wilma rated it really liked it
Memoir of Shirlee Taylor Hairlip's family. Interested in how race and shade of color impacted family relations, and black in general. Sometimes seemed a bit overly genealogical, but very interesting.
May 31, 2014 Pam rated it liked it
Shelves: history, bios-memoirs
This book has a great story, but it was in need of some serious editing. Shirlee Taylor Haizlip traces her family history and explains how skin color impacted their lives and choices. The story is very insightful explaining how there is some black, white, red, and even maybe some yellow in all of us, and asking the inevitable question than why can't we all accept one another. The beginning of the book bogs down with too many names for the reader to keep track of despite the family tree provided. ...more
Karen Kenney
Feb 11, 2015 Karen Kenney rated it really liked it
Very interesting perspective of family history and being multi-racial in America. Well written.
Nancy Werking Poling
Oct 03, 2013 Nancy Werking Poling rated it really liked it
In preparation for a presentation I'll be making on BEFORE IT WAS LEGAL: A BLACK WHTE MARRIAGE (1945-1987) I've been reading memoirs by biracial offspring. Haizlip's is one of the most readable. She tells of how part of her mother's family has identified as white, another part as black. It's a moving story too of her mother's alienation from her siblings and reconnection.
Jul 11, 2008 Kanani rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kanani by: SooJean
Shelves: race
Fascinating story about a woman who was abandoned by her family when they started to "pass" because she was too dark. This was both interesting and upsetting to read.

This excellent story would have been much better with the help of a good editor, as it was too dense with details and didn't flow very well.
Lori White
Oct 23, 2007 Lori White rated it it was amazing
Here's one of those books I read a few years ago but continue to recommend to others. It's a great story, a family story and in a lot of ways a story that documents our times.

Basically it's a story of racism and what it means to be family. Compelling and thought-provoking.
Fabulous story, heartbreaking at times, but what a great reunion story. Sweeter the Juice A Family Memoir in Black and White by Shirlee Taylor Haizlip
Jul 09, 2011 Amanda rated it liked it
Shelves: memoirs
This was a good story, but I would have liked to read more of the author's emotions and reflections and a little less family history. The many names and dates distracted from the story. There was so much room for making meaning but overall the book felt flat to me.
May 03, 2008 Alice rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Really 3 and a half stars. My mother graduated from high school withthe author of this book, so the parts about her growing up years were particularly interesting to me. I also liked hearing about my mother's hometown and area through the eyes of a black woman.
Renee Yancy
Jul 18, 2012 Renee Yancy rated it it was amazing
A thought-provoking read. I still think about this book, even though I read it back in the mid-90's. An account of the author's search for members of her multi-racial family, it will make you think about your own roots and what might be in your own family tree.
Dec 24, 2008 Stacy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have been looking forward to purchasing and reading this book and was not disappointed. Shirlee Haizlip tells the story of her multiracial family's struggle in America, and her quest to connect with her mother's siblings who "passed" into the white world.
Lenette Graham
This book combines two of my favorite elements: history and race. Love it! I don't want to get into my background every time I review a book that's about mixed ancestry, but I can totally relate. I'll leave it at that.
Dec 28, 2010 Ellen rated it it was amazing
I used to collect book reviews like people collect recipes, which would sometimes then lead to other books on a subject. This was one of those books. This was a book about "passing". Which then led to other books.
Kerry Kenney
Jul 08, 2008 Kerry Kenney rated it really liked it
I read several books about African American history and family history. This was one of the fastest reads and it stayed with me. Recommend, it is a well done book. The Color of Water was also very good.
Lynette Hart
Mar 29, 2008 Lynette Hart rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite books. An autobiography of a black woman and her family and how they have learned from each other. I learned a lot about race and interacial families.
Feb 19, 2012 Jan rated it liked it
Who is black and who is white? The question isn’t so easy to answer after reading Shirlee Taylor Haizlip’s “The Sweeter the Juice.”
Jan 19, 2012 Sunny rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, favorites
Wonderful biography. Life changer category. Made me question our notions of race - how random it is and how it is socially constructed.
Dean Brodhag
Jul 04, 2013 Dean Brodhag rated it it was ok
Shelves: american-history
Good autobiography about growing up mixed race in US. I left book as it's not a topic that interests me now. Perhaps later.
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“But Little Grandmother did not keep in touch with her namesake, my mother, Margaret Morris. News about Will Morris's younger daughter reached the "white" side through Mamie. They knew where she was, what she was doing, and who she was doing it with. Most important, they knew she had chosen to stay negro.

It is still a matter of speculation as to why my mother's father or one of her much older brothers or her sister did not keep in touch with her and her younger brother. Over the years, Aunt Mamie and my mother's various guardians supplied different explanations. The times were hard. They were bad for mulattoes and worse for "real" Negroes. There was little money around. Her father drank, drifted and could not keep jobs. Her teenage siblings could barely keep jobs ...... She was too dark, revealing both the Negro and swarthy Italian strains of her ancestry. Her color would give them away in their new white settings.

All of these reasons were plausible. None of them sufficed. None could take away the pain, the anger, the isolation, the questions.”
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