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Black Is the Body: Stories from My Grandmother's Time, My Mother's Time, and Mine
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Black Is the Body: Stories from My Grandmother's Time, My Mother's Time, and Mine

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  2,210 ratings  ·  383 reviews
An extraordinary, exquisitely written memoir (of sorts) that looks at race--in a fearless, penetrating, honest, true way--in twelve telltale, connected, deeply personal essays that explore, up-close, the complexities and paradoxes, the haunting memories and ambushing realities of growing up black in the South with a family name inherited from a white man, of getting a PhD ...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published January 29th 2019 by Knopf Publishing Group
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Average rating 4.10  · 
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 ·  2,210 ratings  ·  383 reviews

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Feb 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
Wow *cracks knuckles* this book y'all. The introduction and first essay is amazing. So amazing that I had to put the book down and grasp for air. After that, it seemed as though the book went downhill for me, for several reasons. I have a lot in common with the author of this book. I grew up in the south and moved to the North. My mother's family resides on the same historical land that they have since the end of (and during) slavery. I entered white Academia, and maintain a lot of close friends ...more
Traci at The Stacks
Feb 18, 2019 rated it liked it
The earlier essays were good. I could really relate to her thinking and experiences. However as the book went on they felt repetitive. I think overall it could’ve been less. Also worth saying. This is a book filled with intimate small essays not essays on giant trauma. It’s not about the pain of blackness. It’s about Bernard’s experiences as a black woman.
Jan Rice
Mar 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is a jumble of ideas and stories. The author is a seeker. But sometimes her ideas exist right next to each other without touching, that is, without the author's connecting them. For example, the very first story is on the episode of mass violence that the author says gave her her voice (allowed her to begin writing): she was among the victims in a 2001 stabbing near Yale in a New Haven coffee bar where she had been one of the patrons. Although she was the only black customer, her color ...more
chantel nouseforaname
Should be called: Black is the Body, White is the Life. Sorry homegirl.

So here’s the premise:

Light skin, highly educated black woman, originally from Nashville by way of Mississippi relocated to Vermont, in a white-black interracial relationship, living in a white town, LOVES white people. Has fully integrated white folks into her life. Is happy. Struggles with her and others' blackness. However, that doesn’t make her any less black. Because "black people aren't a monolith?" She isn’t your qui
Meh. Obviously, this book wasn't written for me. It was written for a non-black audience. The majority of the essays feature the author describing mundane interactions between her husband/daughters/family friends and trying to find some racial significance in them. Maybe it was meant to be intimate and show what it is like to live as a black person in a white space; instead, these moments felt shallow and forced. Worse, in each of these moments, the author frequently came off as a snide instigat ...more
Karen Ashmore
Dec 16, 2019 rated it liked it
I wanted to like this book but it was a book written by a black woman centered on whiteness. She married a white man and got a job in white academia in one of the whitest states in the country. She readily admits she went through long periods with no black friends and now has only one good black friend.

My goodness! I have a lot more black friends than white friends and I am white! I felt like I was reading the memoir of an Oreo. Where was the love of Blackness? The political analysis of racism
Oct 05, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2019-reads, memoir
I think she was trolling us...I desperately want to believe so. Returned to the library about halfway through, and would not recommend for anyone I can think of on my feed.

Bernard writes exactly like the worst professors you encounter in college—very bizarre and confusing when she could just be clear. She wants you to feel how smart and edgy she is, and be impressed by all of her tricks and turns. However, I just came away feeling uncomfortable and put on the spot, even while reading at home in
Rebecca H.
This essay collection has pieces on Bernard's experiences as a black woman in Vermont, on her family history in Alabama and Nashville, on her experiences teaching African American literature, and on adopting twin girls from Ethiopia. It's a strong collection, with a lot of interesting ideas and probing explorations of how we talk and think about race. Some of the best pieces are on how her students respond to issues of race in the classroom, and I loved the way Bernard dwells on questions rather ...more
Tricia Nociti
Oct 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Profound, compelling, relatable, and full of purpose. A new and important addition to the conversation of race and privilege going on in America right now. Ms. Bernard shares the story of her stabbing, her black physical body and also her black cultural body experience.

Her willingness to share her vulnerability is apparent and I appreciated it very much. I was struck with a visceral reaction when she confessed to her internal struggles and beliefs about the feelings white people (including her
Jul 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A beautiful series of essays that tell about the author's life as an African American woman whose husband is white and whose daughters they adopted in Ethiopia, as well as her mother's and her grandmother's lives. She is a brilliant story teller, which she attributes to her mother's side of the family. We also learn about her experience of being a professor at the University of Vermont and what it is like for her to live in Vermont, a very white state. Her writing is expressive and clear, and I ...more
What a thoroughly enjoyable and deeply thought-provoking book, written with such vulnerability and strength. Emily Bernard's writing style is as powerful as it is descriptive. This is a book I definitely recommend to anyone interested not just in stories of this author's experiences being black but in being human. I will definitely look for her other books to be immersed in! ...more
Leigh Kramer
Apr 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, memoir
The first few chapters were more academic in tone, which can be harder for me as a reader. But then Bernard delved more into her story and I was blown away.

This is not a linear memoir and the stories aren’t always connected in obvious ways. But they do have power and I’m very glad I read each essay. Towards the end, Bernard notes: “In every scar there’s a story. The salve is the telling itself.” And I think that sums up this book rather well. It’s not just Bernard’s story but that of her mother
Jaclyn (sixminutesforme)
Strong start, but dwindled after that for me (content felt repetitive, and collection may have benefited from brevity). I did enjoy the discussions she shared about conversations with her daughters about their identification with race. Definitely leans more to a memoir of the author and her own experience (and that of her family) rather than a broader discussion about race and identity more broadly.
Feb 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Smileitsjoy (JoyMelody)
May 13, 2020 rated it did not like it
Okay, so this rating was hard to do. I really was so eager to read this book; however, the title is very misleading. I regret purchasing this book.

I am not saying there were not interesting parts, two essays were amazing, but what I am saying is overall this book was just bad. It read like an apology for being Black and explaining why she married a white man.

1) the subtitle "stories from my grandmother's time, my mother's time, and mine" is not accurate AT ALL. She mentions her family mother a
Stephanie (steph.n.sketch)
Teen fantasy is my staple, so this is definitely a change of pace. Also, this review is coming from a white woman who lives in the South, in a place that is 76% white, and racial tension and prejudices are fairly common.

This book is written so well and felt so genuine. After the first story (which blew my mind), the essays taper off in pace. But I was already captivated by her words. I loved the contrasts and comparisons to her life in the south versus her life in Vermont.

You can tell she loves
Beautifully written, intelligent and sensitive essays about the intersection of black and white in America and in the author's life. This was really just lovely, and thought-provoking. The author writes about so many things--living as a black woman in Vermont. Growing up in the South. Her mother and grandmother's lives. Her marriage to a white man. Her twin daughters adopted from Ethiopia--each subject treated with great thought and care. This was really a treat. ...more
I waited to rate this book as I wanted to think about it more and I finally decided on 4 stars. I really enjoyed the book.
Madeline O'Rourke
I really wanted to like Black is the Body more, but it just wasn't what the title made it out to be.

At the most superficial level, I disagree with the subtitle. There wasn't a whole lot of story about Bernard's mother's and grandmother's time—certainly not a large enough part of the book to present as though it was a collection of intergenerational experiences. It was, at its core, stories of Bernard's time. Even "Black is the Body" isn't necessarily an accurate summary of a book that deals more
Julie Rand
Mar 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: essays
This has been my favorite book so far this year. Bernard's essays gave me so much to think about, especially about the topic of race, in an honest, non-judgmental way. As an adoptive mother, I also loved reading about her adoption of twins from Ethiopia.

Bernard's essays are personal but not self-pitying; even the first in which she describes being stabbed for no reason in a coffee shop in New Haven. She talks about being one of the few black people in Burlington Vermont where she teaches Africa
Esther Gulli
Feb 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Spectacular! An amazing tapestry of essays woven together with grace and elegance. Bernard’s book should be required reading for all first year college students. Her reflections on race and otherness are deep and thought provoking. But what I found most moving were her essays on family - her childhood growing up in Nashville and family pilgrimages to Mississippi - the life she’s created in her new home in Vermont with her Italian husband and adopted children from Ethiopia. It’s just an extraordi ...more
Jeanie Phillips
Apr 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: teenlitmob
I LOVED this book with my whole heart! Emily Bernard's essays are rich and deep and timely and beautiful. The writing is gorgeous, the sentiments are layered and complex, every word rings true. The last essay in the book, "People Like Me" should be required reading for all Vermonters. I spoke with a 9th grader at Teen Lit Mob yesterday who suggested this book as one teachers ought to be teaching and I completely agree! Highly highly recommend! ...more
"I am black--and brown, too," writes Emily Bernard. "Brown is the body I was born into. Black is the body of the stories I tell."
An excellent essay collection/memoir.
Feb 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I found each essay captivatingly intimate. I especially love how Emily expresses her deliberations and honest interpretations of life and humanity. Black Is The Body is a fluid, lovely, meaningful read.

If you value motherhood, family, friendship, culture and human connections, you will love this book!
Lisa Porter
Feb 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Emily Bernard, what a story teller! Loved this book. I laughed, cried, reflected, and learned. Can’t wait to read it again. Emily’s words are magic. Some parts I just want to read over and over again because the writing is so beautiful.
Feb 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Just read this in one sitting. Insightful and beautifully written essays.
Feb 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: booktopia-2020
I think this is one of the best essay/memoir books I have ever read. I often find memoirs somewhat self-indulgent, which is off-putting to me, but I don’t sense that here. This is honest, and very raw in places. I do have a particular interest in how race has shaped our lives in this country. I have in mind a couple of friends that I would like to encourage to read this book so that I could discuss and see what they think.
Nov 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-group
Loved this book with all my being. Emily Bernard's short vignette-like essays paint such a deep, rich portrait of what it feels like to be in her body in the world. This book hops over from academia to body-based thought -- which was particularly impressive for an academic like Emily Bernard. For this book to be largely set in Burlington, and to have run into her now a few times around town, brings this book to life in a whole new way. Another window into being a person of color in VT. ...more
Jul 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Beautiful writing and heartwarming meditations on motherhood and family and race
I found the tone of this book to be somewhat detached, but also I read so much of fear in these essays. I did not connect with the narration, but I wish I had. With the subtitle, I had expected to see more about family experiences throughout generations, but I didn't get a lot of that either. This was kind of a letdown for me because I really thought I would love the process of reading it. ...more
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There are many ways to take action against racism. Reading in order to learn more about oppression and how to oppose it is just one of those...
1487 likes · 242 comments
“ every scar there is a story. The salve is the telling itself.” 2 likes
“...perpetuating the pain of the past. Is the telling the salve or the wound?” 0 likes
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