Karyl's Reviews > Secret Daughter: A Mixed-Race Daughter and the Mother Who Gave Her Away

Secret Daughter by June Cross
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's review
Dec 06, 2011

liked it
bookshelves: library-reads, non-fiction
Read from December 06 to 08, 2011

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 with.

However, I felt this book fell flat a bit. Being raised by a black family, and looking more black than white, Cross seems to identify most with her black side, which makes sense. She is angry that she is hidden by her mother, shoved into various lies that she's her mother's adopted child, or niece, or friend, or whatever is convenient for her at the time. However, she denies her mother as well, refusing to admit that her mother is white because she's afraid that won't make her black enough. What a hard line to have to walk throughout one's life!

My main objection to the book is I felt it dwelled a bit too much on Cross's personal achievements in journalism, and name-dropped a bit too much with all the celebrities she had met due to her mother's famous husband. I understand that her mother's celebrity lifestyle afforded her opportunities she would never have had otherwise, but I began this book without a clue who June Cross was. I had no idea that this wasn't an autobiography of just any biracial child, but a biracial child of two relatively famous people. I think I would have preferred a memoir by a person who was unknown, and who had to figure out who she was in every aspect of her life, without the eye of publicity staring at her. Then again, that's why her mother denied her for so long, since Cross's very ethnicity could ruin her stepfather's Hollywood career. Such a tangled web, and one that I think Cross managed to unravel to her advantage.

At any rate, this is a very interesting peek into what it was like to be black during the most tumultuous period of the 20th century. I hope that we are more progressive now; however, moving back to southern Virginia has taught me that unfortunately, that isn't so. Perhaps my children's generation can finally figure this whole race thing out.
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