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Real American: A Memoir

4.44  ·  Rating details ·  1,294 ratings  ·  202 reviews
A fearless debut memoir in which beloved and bestselling How to Raise an Adult author Julie Lythcott-Haims pulls no punches in her recollections of growing up a biracial black woman in America.

Bringing a poetic sensibility to her prose to stunning effect, Lythcott-Haims briskly and stirringly evokes her personal battle with the low self-esteem that American racism routinel
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published October 3rd 2017 by Henry Holt & Company
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 ·  1,294 ratings  ·  202 reviews

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Feb 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Julie Lythcott-Haims is the daughter of a white British mother and an African-American father, and her memoir is basically a book-length reckoning with her complicated identity. She was raised in mostly white communities and attended elite universities, and she struggled in both places to fit in with either her white or black classmates. Her relationship with her mother has been strained at times because as much as her mother might want to understand where Julie is coming from, she’ll never full ...more
Ethel Rohan
Oct 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A powerful and disturbing read. This brave and bare memoir moved me deeply as a daughter, wife and mother. More, it rightly shook my sense of surety that I'm not racist and made me feel outright uncomfortable and challenged as a white woman. It's a book that demands America, and each and every one of us, confront conscious and unconscious racism. It's a stirring call to "take an interest in the experience of the other" and be "on the side of humans mattering." This book rattled me. I believe tim ...more
David Hornik
Sep 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"Real American" is riveting from beginning to end. Despite a wildly successful academic and then professional career, Julie Lythcott-Haims has spent a lifetime struggling with race and identity. As the daughter of an African American father (the direct descendant of slaves) and a white British mother, Lythcott-Haims found herself torn between two worlds, neither of which she found particularly comfortable. "Real American" explores the evolution of how Lythcott-Haims has dealt with her own race a ...more
Nov 01, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
So disappointed in this book. Of course it is terrible to read of many of the unfair things and situations that this woman endured (particularly growing up). That said...

1) Did not like the writing style. Was like a long manuscript of a stand up comic with the punch line being some bad racial situation - sometimes one liners (one liner "chapters") and others longer stories.

2) This woman was the Dean of Freshmen at Stanford at a time that I was on campus as a graduate student. Her "gripes" - I do
Nov 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
I know about Julie Lythcott-Haims because she was a keynote speaker for the school I work at. I respect her enormously as an educator and for her work on "How to Raise an Adult." This was a very different book, and to me, a different Julie. Maybe I mean, a different part of Julie. It was sad and heartwrenching to read. I am not black so her experience is not my own, but as a minority woman, reading about her experience tugged at a part of me I'm not sure I was aware of in myself. ...more
Daniel Chaikin
Apr 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
15. Real American by Julie Lythcott-Haims
read by the author
published: 2017
format: 6:39 overdrive audiobook (~184 Pages, 288 pages on hardcover)
acquired: Library
listened: Mar 19-26
rating: 3½

I like this more now then when I first finished. First of all Lythcott-Haims writes well and is excellent reader. This was easy to listen to because of the nice presentation. And second because I'm thinking about it more and when I think about it a lot things come up.

Lythcott-Haims is a mixed-race American who
Nov 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing

This is the memoir of a self-described "tragic mulatto" who goes from being embarrassed by her Black father to figuring out her own identity and embracing her truth as a woman of color and class privilege.

When she figured herself out, I wanted to scream and cheer for Julie.

La La
The author's story is packed full of important information and I highly recommend it for White Folk who are trying to educate and acquaint themselves with the struggles of biracial Americans. My only problem is the low description, almost textbook approach to the writing. The content was interesting, but for a memoir there was very little emotion to it until the last bit when she is reflecting. ...more
Oct 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is amazing. It is sparse and raw and absolutely everyone should read it. Everyone.
Nov 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I’m grateful Lythcott-Haims took the time and trouble to write her story and share it with the world. This book is real and personal and incisive and I think everyone should read it.
Nov 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir-biography
This was a very enlightening read about a young, upper-middle class, girl born to a British mom and Afro-American dad. Being born biracial or multicultural became a harsh reality as Julie grew up without many friends. She later dated and then married Dan, a Jewish man. They are now raising their two teens. The boy named Sawyer is the first born & the girl named Avery is the second born child for this couple. I learned a lot through the eyes of the author and plan to read more of her work.

I thoro
Oct 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What an incredible memoir. Julie Lythcott-Haims is the daughter of an African American father from the American South and a British mother from Yorkshire, England. This memoir, broken up into sections and little vignettes, is about her journey and struggle with identity.

As a white woman, I can’t even fathom what it is like to go through some of the things that Julie went through. I listened to 90% of the audiobook before reading the last 10%, and I think listening to it (read by Julie herself)
Sep 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Full review at:

Julie Lythcott-Haims’ memoir Real American is about the author’s experience growing up biracial in America and how it shaped who she is. Lythcott-Haims, daughter of an African-American father and a white British mother, was born in Africa when her parents were working there, but moved as a young girl to the U.S. She lived in a few different places, some more racially diverse than others, and spent much of her life feeling conflicting about
Grace MacLaine
May 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is very...goal oriented? Lythcott-Haims wants to get white people (especially complacent white liberals, like those she brushes shoulders with in Silicon Valley) on board with the Black Lives Matter movement, as she is all too aware that the movement needs white people in order to succeed (though she sometimes wishes it didn't). And she dedicated her memoir to making that happen.

And I think that she really succeeds. Her memoir is very well-crafted and well-structured. So many memoirs
Feb 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I started this book I was hoping that I would read about how this woman who was mixed, like me, made her way in this world and maybe give me a clue on how I could do it better... what I read was a heartbreaking memoir about a woman that could have been me and still figuring things out. Where I didn’t go to Stanford or Harvard, our experiences were very similar. From the friends we chose, the men we chose, the age when we finally woke up or had our “Pearl Harbor” moment. It gave me a validat ...more
Feb 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Growing up biracial in America. How do you find your identity? Enough said. Beautifully written. Julie has a way of drawing you into her inner turmoil and you root for her and get angry with her at times. But you cheer when she finds peace and comfort in her identity. This book is that journey.
Cydne B
Jul 10, 2018 rated it liked it
I look like the “Negro” classification on my birth certificate. My niece and nephew don’t. I pray their hardships in life are not centered on how they look.
Sep 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book is an honest, unflinching account of the challenges the author faced growing up in America as a biracial child. Julie Lythcott-Haims' insights and perspectives were really thought-provoking, and I appreciated her willingness to reveal her vulnerabilities and her doubts about where she really fit in. I've always marveled at writers who are willing to bare their souls to the world, and, in doing so, Julie Lythcott-Haims gives readers a lot to think about. This book is definitely worth re ...more
Danielle Teller
This book gave me a lot to think about. As a white person raised in a country without a history of slavery, I had only the most simplistic notion of what it meant to be African American when I moved to the USA, and most of what I thought I knew I had learned on TV. The only POC I knew in Canada were middle class immigrants or children of immigrants, and they had little in common with one another beyond the non-white color of their skin. Because the prejudice I knew was tied to country of origin ...more
Sep 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: early-reviewers
I won an ARC of this book from the publisher through Librarything. This is probably one of the best memoirs I've read this year. Lythcott-Haims writes in poetic style, with irregular chapter breaks, with some chapters being only a few lines long. She goes back and forth in time, describing her life as a biracial upper middle class girl and woman in the 60's and 70's. Born to a Nigerian father and British mother, Lythcott-Haims seeks to develop her identity, finding it difficult to feel a belongi ...more
Alexa Walker
Feb 16, 2021 rated it really liked it
A wonderful personal history of being biracial in America. As a biracial woman (white and Filipina) this read was evocative and revealing. This helped me grasp the reality of just how recent the idea of being biracial is, and it was nice to validate how confusing and frustrating it is, how it separates you from your own kin, having parents and children that don’t look quite like you and who you feel you don’t quite belong to. I think this an important read for anyone who questions if/how racism ...more
Oct 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I've been waiting for this book and it was so worth the wait - finished it in a matter of hours and it left me wanting to know more. In so many ways, the author's experience growing up in white suburban America in the 80s paralleled my own. But that simply misses the point - growing up the way I did kept me sheltered and in ways, perpetuated the stereotypes and discomfort shared so honestly in this memoir. It's an eye-opener and an invitation to better understand others and honor the institution ...more
Apr 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018-favorites
This was one of the most beautiful things I have ever read. Ms. Lythcott-Haims is so honest, laying her soul bare at the feelings she had of not belonging, of difference, of reality, of racism, and beyond. Her scholarly voice merges with her poetic gift to create a poignant narrative of a real life. Go read this now.
Sabra Kurth
Jun 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This book was very powerful. From her childhood and adolescence in Verona, WI to her education at Stanford and Harvard and her return to Stanford, Ms Lythcott-Haims chronicles her American story, the daughter of an African American father who served as Asst. Surgeon General in the Carter administration and a white British teacher and the wife of a white Jewish man raising a daughter and a son.
Oh my. Goodness. Powerful. Painfully honest. A work that should be read by all white people - every one of us.

I loved Julie Lythcott-Haims after reading How To Raise an Adult. Now I am just in awe of her. Please read this book.
Oct 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Well written and thoughtful. Unlike Michelle Obama's memoir, there was no . Strong sense of warmth (except towards her immediate family), instead she seemed very guarded and prickly. She made excellent points. ...more
Aug 03, 2020 rated it it was ok
In one chapter the author describes an incident when she was a lawyer. She had pro bono work to represent a Black child suffering consequences from a fight with a white child in school, on behalf of a senior lawyer in her firm. The senior lawyer on the day of a deposition is unhappy with the author's preparation. The author comes away resentful of the senior lawyer for failing to help her prep appropriately; she takes a little responsibility saying perhaps she could have studied up more. That's ...more
Sharon Dukett
Jun 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I just finished the audiobook version of this captivating memoir. Julie writes about a version of the black American experience I have not previously read. Her father worked in high level positions. Her mother was a white woman from England. She grew up economically privileged in white communities, was highly educated, personally motivated, and accomplished. How all this affected her and what she and her family experienced throughout their lives is a fascinating story. The audiobook is read by t ...more
Jan 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Such a powerfully written book.
Jan 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Bold and authentic. Powerful and vulnerable. We need more voices like this. Must read.
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Julie Lythcott-Haims is the New York Times bestselling author of How to Raise an Adult and Real American. She holds a BA from Stanford University, a JD from Harvard Law School, and an MFA from California College of the Arts. She resides in the Bay Area with her partner, their two itinerant young adults, and her mother.

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