Black, White, and Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self
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Black, White, and Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self

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3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  1,774 ratings  ·  155 reviews
When Mel Leventhal married Alice Walker during the civil rights movement in the 1960s, his mother declared him dead and sat shiva for him. By the time her parents divorced, when Rebecca was eight, the excitement of the milieu that had brought her parents together and produced a "Movement baby" had died down and the foundation that gave her life meaning dropped out from und...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published December 28th 2000 by Riverhead Books (first published 2000)
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Erin
Easy read, but I fixated on the fact that her parents didn't parent instead of the point of view of the book in explaining how hard it was being black, white and jewish and not fitting in with extended family or groups of friends. In fact, the majority of the read I was infuriated with the parents and couldn't get over it.

I also heard that Alice Walker, her mother, stopped talking to her after this book was published. If I'd been her mother and read this account I think I would have felt I need...more
Danika
I read Black, White & Jewish while I was in high school. It was one of the single most important autobiographies I read during that period. At the time, I felt like the only mixed kid on the block and was going through severe identity issues. Black, White & Jewish has one simple message: you are the architect of your own identity.

I'm not sure how much I agree with that statement now, but it is a cornerstone of the way I reflect upon myself and how I choose to live.
Laura Avellaneda-Cruz
Provides (beautifully narrated) insight into:
-why girls use sex to get attention and affection and fill painful little gaps in their lives
-some challenges that mixed race youth may face
-what happens to children of neglectful, in attentive parents
-the effects on youth of parents who do not embrace all of their identities and attempt to impose identities on them
Carolyn
Everybody has a childhood issue that has to be dealt with during adulthood. Walker's birth symbolized the ideal of blacks and whites (and Jewish in this case) embracing in a segregated America at the height of the civil rights movement. Alas, dreams are usually much sweeter than reality, which Walker makes abundantly clear. After her parents' divorce when Walker was just a few years old, she was shuffled between them for two years at a time. It is this tension, between the permissive parenting o...more
Leslie
Interesting…this was not nearly as much about being “Black White and Jewish” as being parented by parents lacking parenting skills. I wanted to shake the begeezes out of both her mother and father for the ridiculous set up of living in New York (or its suburbs) for two years then San Francisco and then back again. That’s just poor, no common sense parenting from two intelligent people.

The amount of sex Rebecca engaged in, especially in middle school, horrified me. It’s just plain scary because...more
Catherine
I liked the beginning of this book less than I'd hoped to, and the end much more than the beginning led me to believe I would. Confusing, perhaps.

After reading Walker's Baby Love, and the record of her relationship with her mother falling apart so spectacularly, I wanted to read the book that was - for Alice - a large part of the cause. In the end, the Alice here is not the dragon I had expected to read about. She's withdrawn and self-controlled and there are glimpses of her depression, but she...more
Chaz
Ekkkk- this memoir was a required reading for my graduate social diversity class and was a complete failure and waste of time. Since the majority of reviews have been female --here's my take as a male--stay far away!

O.K book -- for coming of age adolescent girl. I found it to be a overly melodramatic, perfumed exposition of a upper-middle-class brat who pities herself while boasting about her numerous sexual relationships and experiences from the age of 12 on.

To read a page and a half about her...more
Luke Dani
If you're looking for a really in-depth, thoughtful view of being in-between in terms of race and cultural, this unfortunately is not it. Okay, so i read it a while ago, but I'm still annoyed about what Walker's book did not do. Black, White, and Jewish is an accounting of pain without probing analysis, a sort of laundry list of who said what. Walker's complaints are not trivial--absent, self-absorbed parenting is bad enough without suspicion and racism to contend with from one's entire extended...more
Rachel
Black White & Jewish is a compilation of compulsively readable memoirs by Rebecca Walker, who happens to be Alice Walker's daughter. I call them "memoirs" rather than autobiography because the author makes many stylistic choices which, astute though they may be, definitely mar the chronological format. The chapters are also artistically brief, sometimes mere vignettes, divided once again by theme. This singular style, compounded with Walker's direct but moving prose, is what makes her story...more
Ciara
Dec 27, 2008 Ciara rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: mixed race kids, teenagers, parents of mixed race kids, people who like good memoirs
rebecca walker is the only child of a white jewish father (a prestigious civil rights lawyer, though damned if i can remember his name) & a black mother (author alice walker, who wrote the color purple, possessing the secret of joy), etc. this is her memoir of growing up mixed race & trying to navigate the two different cultural worlds she inherited upon her parents' divorce. i don't know what to say about this book besides, "it was really, really good & you should read it." i mean,...more
Zack
A quick, engaging read, Walker covers the terrain of her fascinating, if troubled childhood, split between multiple homes, schools and identities. Simultaneously, she paints a rich portrait of the different layers to American culture in the 1970s and 80s. As a child of divorce whose parents took two-year turns with her in different cities and then on separate coasts, she was often left to her own devices and had access to many different communities, of which she never felt quite a part. Walker h...more
Jessica
The focus of this important memoir is to convey the fullness of Walker’s experience as a bi-racial female from childhood to adolescence. The memoir stands as testament to the social construction of gender and race. (The sociologist in me loves this.) Walker must assume distinct dialects, body language postures, and pop cultural tastes depending on whether she is in San Francisco with her mother, the African-American acclaimed author, or in Jewish suburban towns of New York with her father, a civ...more
Amy
The book is "autobiography of a shifting self," Walker was born in the 60's with a black mother and white, Jewish father. Her writing is vibrant with imagery and conversational and random dialogue. Walker writes about her life based on finding identity through a world of symbolic interactionism. She discusses her experiences from toddler to college years, through transitions of different cities, trying to find a purpose in a time where people were inquisitive of interracial children.

I recommend...more
Peggy Walt
Not sure how I feel about this book - parts are very compelling and Rebecca Walker (daughter of author Alice Walker) had anything but a normal upbringing - in fact she kind of brought herself up, which often made me very sad. How her parents could think it was a good idea to spend two years with one in New York, then two with the other in San Francisco is a bit of an unexplained mystery. While this book is very much about her experience and her coming to terms with who she is, there is so little...more
Dana Nucera
What an interesting autobiography. I very much enjoyed the author's writing style. She just wrote her thoughts down, randomly and cohesively. She weaved a very good thread of life as she lead it. It wasn't the usual timeline of events, etc. She wrote from the heart and you really got a feeling of what was going on in her head. She did very well at explaining what it means 'to identify' with yourself, when yourself is not so cut and dry. It was definitely a story of what exactly it feels like to...more
Sarah
I have no sympathy for Rebecca Walker. She manipulates the system, embraces the different pieces of her identity when it serves her to do so, dismisses and trash talks them when they're not going to work to her benefit. Ugh.
Paige
This memoir by Alice Walker's daughter, Rebecca Walker, was truly amazing. Walker's experiences of what it feels like to not fit in, to feel not totally a part of one thing or another--one race or another--and to have her identity always be in question is so very relatable, even for non-mixed/Jewish readers. Her writing is real and raw and her style is straightforward, yet poetic. Her words were so inspiring and brought up so many memories and emotions that I spontaneously wrote a lengthy essay...more
Claire
I believe that this is a pivotal book! Amazing revelations as to growing up between worlds of race, religion, and parental divorce. I love Rebecca's wisdom and insights into "how memory works". She is a gifted author. She is a person who can articulate and help others understand, to actually feel what she's lived through and continues to work on intellectually and emotionally. I LOVED this book. It is a gift to many people, biracial and everyone else who is struggling with life and all the contr...more
Callie
Half way through this memoir, I started to get tired of it. All right, all ready I get it. You didn't fit in anywhere. And nobody watched over you, so you did a lot of dumb things, like having sex way too young, and experimenting with drugs. Some memoirs are able to transcend what happened to the writer and make it mean something to the rest of us, I didn't think this one did that. It was more just scene after scene of Rebecca and her friends getting into trouble and Rebecca not fitting in. She...more
Amy Keyishian
Ech, I don't know what to think. I'm not so naive as to expect novelist Alice Walker to be a perfect person, but her daughter's tale of being left alone as an early teenager for days and even weeks at a time, eating fast food and schtupping for comfort, made me want to tear my hair out. On the other hand, there were amazing benefits to her upbringing -- an amazing private high school, jobs and internships that were surely easier for her to access given her mom's reputation -- that she comes off...more
Libby Unwin
I'm almost done, and honestly, looking at the finish line. It quit being interesting about 100 pages ago, but I'm too stubborn to put it down without finishing.

I think what frustrates me the most is I don't feel like I ever know where she is, or anything about the people she's with. Not a lot of character development, except for her own person and her parents (who are awful, and I'm truly sorry for that). Her friends, her boyfriends -- no idea. There's not much navigational data in the book, and...more
Mychael
Overall, pretty good, I thought she kind of overdramatized her "not fitting anywhere" more often than she actually gave us instances where she really came to a crossroads or parsing out of the different cultures that influenced her identity. It was pretty only two formulation, 1)"I was in a room, and there were black people there too, and I thought about how much I didn't fit." Or 2) "I was in a room, and there were white people there, and I thought about how much I didn't fit." Which is a momen...more
Lily
This was beautifully written. The daughter of Alice Walker and Jewish civil rights lawyer Mel Leventhal, Rebecca Walker detailed her incredibly painful and isolated childhood shuttling from coast to coast, city to city, dealing with divorce and her dual identity as both black and Jewish. Her childhood really was upsetting. The constant moving meant she had to keep making new friends, which forced her to be completely adaptable, switching from stereotypically black to stereotypically suburban to...more
Alex
I expected an intriguing analysis of identity from this memoir - something I could identify with despite being white and Protestant. I did find several pages with beautiful words on identity and personality and individualism within community.

What I mostly found instead was a coming-of-age story of highly detailed sex, drugs, alcohol, numerous lovers of both genders, "friends" and enemies of all ages, and a lot of cursing. Walker does not provide commentary or evaluation regarding her life choice...more
Super Amanda
This book is fabulous. One of the few memoirs that accurately gives the reader an idea of what the Bay Areaa was like before the dotcoms and staggering wealth appeared, irrevocably altering the landscape of the real Bay Area forever. It is interesting that so many readers who are uncomfortable with the author's explicit sexual recollections would have no issue buying a Katy Perry or Miley Cyrus record for their young child or themselves. Rebecca's book is not sanitized sexual memoirs as marketin...more
T.J.
May 13, 2008 T.J. rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: multiracial folk, would-be activists, human interest story readers
As a half black, half white male, this book was electrifying as a senior in high school. "I am not a movement child," Rebecca Walker intones, purposefully denying the fact that her parents' marriage was based in part on 60's interracial idealism and exuberance. Her story manages to echo the ache and loneliness and inherent contradiction of multiracial upbringing, particularly in the middle class America that I know so well. Thankfully, Walker rarely slips into over-sentimentality or emotional te...more
Terry
I think this is one of those books that I see on the shelf and I can't remember whether I've read it or not, and then I read it, and I still can't remember if this is the first time I'm reading it or not. Hmm. This is what I have to say about this book: just a few days ago at work, I saw a coworker reading Sloan Crossley's I Was Told There Would Be Cake, a book whose popularity baffled me for many reasons, but I realized that I'm just too old for that book. It's a book to read in your early 20s,...more
Jack
This book was quite dull at first and it appeared to be one of those books that seems like it would never progress. As it got to the climax, the novel started to get more interesting. Other than that, this was a book about a young girl, Rebecca Leventhal, who experienced discrimination and began to grasp the challenge of expressing her "personal identity." Throughout the novel, she basically learns to be herself and to avoid others from intimidating her. She tries to create a name for herself in...more
Ocean
this book was really absorbing, but pretty disjointed. i thought a decent amount of it seemed like it was more suited for rebecca walker's journal than a published book. i wish there had been more of a narrative arc, and i also wish it had been more queer! we get an endless exhaustive run-down of her many boyfriends, even the ones that don't seem terribly significant to her life, and only a vague mention of the female partner she's raising a child with at the time of the writing. a big theme of...more
Dayspring
I read this book for several reasons. First, I heard an interview with Rebecca Walker about a year ago and was captivated by her story. I love a good memoir, particularly one that deals with identity development. I fully admit that my second reason for reading the book was that it was written by Alice Walker's daughter. I am not familiar with Rebecca Walker's work as a feminist and writer, but my respect for her mother was enough to draw me in.

It took a few chapters for me to ease into Walker's...more
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