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Secret Daughter: A Mixed-Race Daughter and the Mother Who Gave Her Away

3.76  ·  Rating Details ·  739 Ratings  ·  89 Reviews
A powerful memoir about the complicated but ultimately loving relationship between a black daughter and her white mother.

Secret Daughter is a deftly drawn and moving portrait of a childhood spent in two very different worlds: one white, one black. In 1957, when June Cross was four years old, she was sent by her white mother to live with a black family in Atlantic City. Her
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published May 18th 2006 by Viking Adult (first published 2006)
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Mixed Race Readings
23rd out of 116 books — 78 voters
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17th out of 25 books — 4 voters

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Community Reviews

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Trupti Dorge
Jul 14, 2009 Trupti Dorge rated it really liked it
Shelves: i-own
First Sentence:

I search for my mother’s face in the mirror and see a stranger.

June Cross, the author, was born to a white mother and a black father. At a time when the color of your skin was decisive of the way you live your life and the privileges you were given, June Cross couldn’t decide what she was.

June’s mother Norma was an aspiring actress and a single woman when she gave birth to June. She kept June with her until she could pass as a white girl. But as she grew up her color started to d
Dec 08, 2011 Karyl rated it liked it
It's hard for me to articulate how I feel about this book. I've always been fascinated by race, and though I am white (and therefore part of the "privileged" class), I have been discriminated against and bullied due to my Jewish maiden name. As a young child, I grew up in a predominately black neighborhood, and experienced the greatest feeling of acceptance I would have as a kid. Plus my brother is adopted, and of a completely different ethnicity, so it's something my family has always dealt wit ...more
Lenette Graham
Dec 15, 2009 Lenette Graham rated it really liked it
I feel a real kinship with June! I was there! I can totally relate to this book! As a mulatto child growing up, my Polish mother decided to leave me in Detroit with my Black father as she went off to Vegas with some new dude! WTH?!? So I grew up identifying as Black, not mixed, bi-racial or mulatto, even though I was often mistaken for being a Latina with my semi-straight/slightly wavy hair. I am just now, as an adult, recognizing my Polish ancestry. Partly because of my children. With my mother ...more
Sep 22, 2008 Kameka rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people seeking to understand what it can be like to be a bi-racial child
I had higher expectations for this book based on the liner notes I had read about it. It was an interesting read. Rather intriguing in the beginning as the pictures of the various individuals in Cross' life were painted. However, in the end I was not as captured as I was in the beginning. I felt like she was droning on and on about things she had already identified earlier in the book. I do think it was a very difficult life and story, but I think the story telling in the end was not nearly as v ...more
Wendy Hines
Jun 19, 2013 Wendy Hines rated it really liked it
Black, white, brown and yellow colored skin should not matter. Everyone has a heart and deserves to be treated with respect and love.

June Cross was only four years old when her mother sent her to live with a black couple, Paul and Peggy, in Atlantic City. June's mother, Norma, was white, and June was the product of her mother's short fling with Jimmy Cross. When Jimmy found out Norma was pregnant, he left her. He had no desire to be married or raise a family. Norma was still involved in show bus
Mar 19, 2008 Léa rated it really liked it
It is so honest and personal an account of a life lived in two places, one black and one white and the inner struggles and outer slights that resulted from this displacement. It is also a love story of a white mother who couldn't keep her bi-racial daughter, didn't always understand the shoes that she walked in, but loved her the best way she knew how from afar. The author writes from such a deep place that anyone can identify with her, no matter what their background. The writing is moving, won ...more
Jun 19, 2007 Christina rated it liked it
This was a really interesting memoir. I learned a lot about the Civil Rights movement from the black perspective, which, honestly, was something I haven't ever really considered. It didn't come across as a "racial" book, though, which I thought was a pretty impressive feat. Race was certainly a strong presence, but it didn't overpower the story.

I had a hard time getting into the story, and thought I would put it down for good at a couple points. However, I plugged through, and I was definitely
Apr 19, 2013 Alaine rated it really liked it
A very interesting memoir of a biracial child(caucasian and african-american). She was raised by a loving family friend and her husband. Her mother had 3 children and actually did the same thing with all 3 children. I cannot imagine how confusing it must have been for June as a little girl, as she would often visit her mother on the weekends. I enjoyed the book and would love to hunt down and watch the documentary now.
Marcie Perriton
Sep 03, 2015 Marcie Perriton rated it it was amazing
Fantastic characters in this book. You have great anger with different people throughout the book but by the end I had nothing but compassion for each individual.
Jun 10, 2008 Sherese rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
I loved this book-- Let me start off by saying that I never even heard of June Cross (noted journalist). Again, this was one of those books just happened to come across while searching for a different book. I read some reviews on Amazon and promptly placed book on hold at library. And I'm glad I did. I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir and became emotionally involved with each person to come into June's life. I struggled throughout the narrative to withhold judgement of June's biological mother, No ...more
Oct 12, 2016 Charissa rated it really liked it
A moving memoir from a mixed-race daughter about race relations in America. I highly recommend this book. My emotions were all over the place, ranging from anger to tears, from one person to the next. Ultimately, I feel that I am a better person because I read Ms. Cross' memoir.
Synopsis from B&N: June Cross was born in 1954 to Norma Booth, a glamorous, aspiring white actress, and James 'Stump' Cross, a well-known black comedian. Sent by her mother to be raised by black friends when she was four years old and could no longer pass as white, June was plunged into the pain and confusion of a family divided by race. This is an inspiring testimony to the endurance of love between mother and daughter, a child and her adoptive parents, and the power of community. \nI actua ...more
Gayle Cappelluti
Jul 19, 2016 Gayle Cappelluti rated it liked it
Secret Daughter was meant to be a moving, often heart breaking account of how racism in America broke one young girl's family apart, causing her white unwed mother to give her half-black daughter away to a black couple - not family, but former landlords!!! - where she might have a normal childhood free from stares and other cruelty and mom could have her shot at stardom. To me, it read more like the life of a bi=racial child who had the misfortune of being born to a cold, reckless, and selfish m ...more
Tracy Antol
Feb 09, 2013 Tracy Antol rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
An autobiographic and very personal account of what it was like to grow up mixed race during the dawn of the Civil Rights era and beyond. I felt so bad for this little girl who didn't quite understand why her mother seemed to be ashamed of her from time to time. Passages where her mother says she had hoped she stayed "light skinned" so in a best case scenario she could "pass". Her family in Atlantic City did their best to instill pride and a sense of a loving family in this girl. Although I don' ...more
May 21, 2016 Amanda rated it it was amazing
Great book. I don't read a lot of memoirs, but J. kindly left this at my house and I picked it up.

An interesting portrait of a woman who was subject to the particular pressures of her day, very similar to The Girls Who Went Away, in that it helps us understand why a woman would make a choice that many of us think impossible.

I was amazed at Cross' empathy for her mom, her ability to still revel in her love for the woman who essentially told her that if she were lighter skin she would have raised
The story of June Cross, a little girl born to a white mother and black father. June's mother dotes on her but unfortunately just before June turns 4, she's sent to live with a black family as June can no longer 'pass' as white. Although June is well looked after by Peggy and Paul, she often lacks a sense of identity. Her mother visits her and sends for her to visit her but after her mother marries, she starts introducing June as her adopted niece and asks June to stop calling her mommie. Peggy ...more
Maureen M
May 28, 2009 Maureen M rated it it was amazing
I read this book on the heels of Obama's "Dreams from my Father," and it was an excellent segue. It's a searching memoir by broadcast journalist-turned-college professor June Cross into her bifurcated upbringing. Part white, part black. Part loved, part abandoned. The daughter of a white woman and black man, both frustrated entertainers, Cross is sent to live with a black family after her parents split up and her skin starts to darken. She also struggles to find peace by piecing together her pas ...more
Jan 12, 2014 Jessica rated it it was amazing
Secret Daughter was an excellent book, (a memoir) I really enjoyed it , Secret Daughter is about a story about a young colored girl in the era of segregation. Her mother a young attractive white women trying to make it in the acting world and slept with a famous black comedian named James "Cross" Cross. In these times it was a no brainer that her mother couldnt not been seen having a black child therefor her mom had givin her to a black couple who she grew up knowing them as "aunt peggy uncle pa ...more
Jill Robbertze
Mar 08, 2015 Jill Robbertze rated it liked it
A very interesting memoir. June, a mixed race child, grew up living with a loving but strict African American family in Atlantic City while her mother, an aspiring white actress pursued her career in New York. June was torn between 2 very different lives, and was conflicted about her Mother who had sent her away. Having an illegitimate daughter and especially one that was born to a black father was taboo at that time. Things were beginning to change due to the civil rights movement but there was ...more
May 06, 2009 Denise rated it it was ok
I was drawn to this story in the first place because it is written by a women born the same year I was. So it was interesting to see what her life was like, being raised in a black family, compared to what I experienced growing up. How did she view the events in the civil rights movements and compared to how I viewed them?

I feel that the event that shaped her more than color, was the mixed messages she received from her mother when they visited. Sometimes she could be her daughter, sometimes s
Nov 19, 2010 Rebekah rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: recommend
This book touched me very deeply, very personally. June Cross, an accomplished journalist, does everyone in her family justice -- putting the pieces of her family history together in such a kind and generous way that the humanity pours out of every page. It goes beyond love and the desire to be loved to the roots of the human condition: how people do the best with limited means, in imperfect circumstances.

Every year I choose my favorite books to purchase and send around to my family and friends
Carly Thompson
Secret Daughter is a fascinating memoir by journalist June Cross. Cross was raised by a black couple in Atlantic City, while visiting her white mother on summers and holidays. She describes the confusion created by her bifurcated upbringing and the feelings of never quite belonging in white culture. Cross traces both her white mother and black father's background and their relationship which emerged out of the New York comedy scene of the 1950s (her father was comedian Jimmy Cross and her father ...more
Robin Moore
Sep 29, 2013 Robin Moore rated it it was ok
The writer tells her the story of her life as the daughter of a white mother and a black father. Her mother had 3 children by 3 different men. The writer had a relationship with her white brother but not with her white sister or with her black sister. Her mother surrendered the care of her daughter to "Aunt Peggy" and "Uncle Paul", a black couple who had no children of her own. Being born in the 1950's, when interracial couples were certainly not common, and having faced disapproval and a lack o ...more
Aug 04, 2007 Jamia rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone... it will melt your heart and then heal you.
This book was amazing... It cut to the core but also left me beaming with the most lustrous feeling of being covered in gold....knowing the strength of love and family over the craziest sort of adversity.

It will outrage, inspire, and heal. It also restored so much of my faith in humanity, truth, and relationships.


And check out the PBS site of the documentary and e-mail the author. I wrote her about how much her book inspired me and she actually wrote me back an amazing e-mail. Support
Nov 19, 2009 Linda rated it it was amazing
June Cross is roughly my age. In my sheltered youth, I did not completely understand the difficulties she would face simply because she was biracial. I also naively believed most of that changed during the late 60s. It would be easy to condemn her mother for her choices concerning June--some certainly deserved, as she was an extremely selfish and self-centered person. However, the people and their prejudices must share in the blame as well. This book was a revelation. June Cross definitely deser ...more
Nov 20, 2011 Aimee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: african-american
A poignant and riveting account of June Cross' life as a biracial girl who straddled two worlds growing up in the 50's and 60's: black and white, family and foster family, never feeling like she belonged or was fully accepted for who she was. Despite the pain and confusion of struggling to find herself and her identity, Cross found truth, acceptance, and forgiveness. The following, attribted to an unknown author, applies to this story, too: “Isn’t it ironic? We ignore those who adore us, adore t ...more
Sunny Shore
Sep 19, 2008 Sunny Shore rated it it was ok
Recommended to Sunny by:
I liked this book in the beginning, but I got bored with it when she went off to college. It didn't keep my interest. I found the premise fascinating and it is a memoir, so the story is real. However, the pictures ruined it for me, because they gave much of the story away. I don't know why but I stopped reading it 1/2 way through which is unlike me. But I wasn't looking forward to going back to it.
Jan 05, 2014 Rachel rated it really liked it
June Cross tells a moving story about her relationships with her mother, the woman who raised her, her father, step-father, and the man who raised her. She tells about growing up and trying to fit in as a member of her various families and communities- black & white. This is difficult enough for any young woman, but this adds the trauma of being "hidden" by her birth mother, abandoned by her birth father, and not accepted by extended family.
Mar 11, 2010 Brandi rated it liked it
i can't get over how pervasive the author's guilt exists throughout the book. at the end, she still seemed more focused on her mom's affirmation and legacy than confronting the pain of being forced to endure (and co-conspire) her mother's denial. the book, however, is well-written; albeit confusing at times as she jumps back and forth in time.

it is sad that this type is situation occurred frequently in America.
May 05, 2009 Katrina rated it it was amazing
June Cross is an amazing storyteller. I was able to follow along with her emotions and experiences as if I were there with her, and she developed the story in such a way that I only came to understand all of the angles of the story as she herself had, and as she chronicled her life. The ending was rather surprising and fascinating for me, as I realized along with June that her mother had quite probably done the right thing.
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Secret Daughter 5 26 Mar 28, 2009 07:50PM  
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