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Black & White

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  1,437 ratings  ·  216 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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Average rating 3.63  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,437 ratings  ·  216 reviews

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May 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
****4.5 Stars****
Apr 06, 2010 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
Dec 18, 2007 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
Sep 18, 2007 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
Feb 10, 2011 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
Amy Obenhaus
Feb 02, 2009 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
Tumelo Moleleki
Sep 24, 2017 rated it did not like it
So glad I can put this book behind me. It didn't defeat me. I skipped the epilogue. This was an awful story. I can't remember one moment beyond the first few pages where I was not annoyed by the Clara character. Such self-importance. She was just like the mother she hated. ...more
J.A. Carter-Winward
Oct 20, 2014 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
Jul 03, 2012 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
Chris Witkowski
Sep 19, 2015 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.
Monica Ferrier
Jan 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Clara's story was an interesting one. She left her home in New York to get away from the fame that her mother's art has brought her. Ruth made me very angry during the story when she ignored Clara's honesty about her feelings. Clara told her mom that she hates the pictures, but she acted like her daughters opinions didn't matter, even though it is Clara in her mom's work. I felt bad for Clara's sister because she was ignored by her mother, but she wasn't a favorite character of mine since she se ...more
Oct 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This is the first fiction book I read by Shapiro, and enjoyed the storyline quite a bit.
Sep 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
not fully satisfied with the ending but otherwise loved this story. I continue to be obsessed with Shapiro’s writing.
Jan 24, 2021 rated it really liked it
Loved it. Dani Shapiro quickly becoming one of my favorites.
Aug 28, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-book, 2020
Wanted more fury fomr he daughter, but whatever, still an engaging read.
May 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
My full review is at: http://elleisforliterature.blogspot.c...

I found that it evoked so many emotions in me for Clara and her situation, both as a child and an adult. I really enjoyed Shapiro's writing style of leaving sentences unfinished and somehow conveying the emotions with even more punch. This is not for everyone but I enjoyed it.
Apr 09, 2015 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
Frieda Vizel
Apr 30, 2013 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
Apr 08, 2008 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. ...more
Canuck Mom of Three
Sep 17, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: women-s-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Priscilla Herrington
Aug 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is the second Dani Shapiro book I've read, and this time it's a novel. Fiction. Although of course, having just read her memoir, Inheritance, I couldn't help but think there were themes and influences from her own life. And this just made the novel that much better.

Again, many questions were raised, especially concerning the rights of parents and children. In this case, the mother, a gifted photographer, became a famous and wealthy photographer by photographing her younger daughter, nude, f
Oct 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
Some spoilers - I read this to get a sense of how the author writes. We are reading Inheritance, by this author for our bookclub book this month. It was well written, though I found the topic disturbing. The daughter was the subject of her mother's photographs - which would be fine except for the fact her mother had her pose nude for every series of pictures. I for one would not have found that to be art and the fact that the father did nothing to protect his daughter from the obsession of the m ...more
Dec 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars

Interesting story about a woman (Clara) who was photographed by her mother when she was a child. The photos were "works of art" and made her mom famous and rich; but they showed Clara naked and vulnerable. Some, including Clara, saw the photos as pornography. Clara runs away and starts a new life where no one knows about the photos.

Fast forward and her mother is dying. Clara decides to take her husband and 10-year old daughter to meet her and stay with her until she dies. Complications,
May 03, 2019 rated it liked it
I listened to the audio book during a road trip. I did not enjoy the narration at all. I’m not sure if it that is how the narrator naturally reads or if she was following the director’s interpretation of the work, but she had a haughty, scolding tone that was almost impossible to listen to. When she reached for a low tone for a man’s voice, it made me cringe.

That said, it’s an intriguing story with themes that I wish had been more thoroughly explored. I enjoy Shapiro’s memoirs very much and she
Barbara Smoyer Peterson
Oct 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book was incredibly riveting--a real page-turner, I could hardly wait to find out what the mother would do (or had done!) next. But it was so disturbing, the images of child pornography--which may be triggering to some readers, so be forewarned. But this was the first book I read by Dani Shapiro, and I enjoyed her writing enough to want to keep reading more. I enjoyed her nonfiction just as much--still, I'd love to read another novel by her, maybe with a less disturbing subject matter, thou ...more
Bob In
Aug 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Good story, mainly well told. It's 4 rather than 5 stars imo because it doesn't cover its important, though narrow theme (the rupture in a mother-daughter relationship) into new tracks. It covered it well, but unsurprisingly.

I enjoyed the New York scenes, but I wanted the long-standing issue to resolve in a climatic scene rather than fizzle away in half-felt rationalizations.

The Maine life style scenes enhanced the story.
Jenny T.
Feb 17, 2019 rated it it was ok
Clara Brodeur returns to NYC after a 14 year absence when she is contacted by her sister, Robin, about their mother's illness and impending death. Clara confronts her past and her complicated relationship with her mother, Ruth Dunne, whose rise to fame as a photographer is based on her series of naked photos of Clara as child. An evocative novel in which relationships are not easily described as "Black & White." ...more
Aug 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Black and White is the first Dani Shapiro novel I've read. The writing is pretty descriptive. I was able to imagine the characters and settings clearly in my mind.. Imagine being the adult who was the subject, as a child, of highly lauded and widely viewed collection of nude photographs by your famous photographer mother. It's daunting to consider. ...more
Feb 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
a woman, whose mother became a famed photographer by taking naked pictures of her, has been hiding out in maine for 14 years, living her life as invisibly as she can.
her sister calls her because her mother is dying.
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Dani Shapiro is the bestselling author of the memoirs Hourglass, Still Writing, Devotion, and Slow Motion, and five novels including Black & White and Family History. She lives with her family in LItchfield County, Connecticut. Her latest memoir, Inheritance, will be published by Knopf in January, 2019.

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