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Black White and Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self

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3.77  ·  Rating details ·  2,587 ratings  ·  203 reviews
On October 3, 1993, a band of U.S. soldiers embarked on a mission in Somalia to capture two warlords. It was a simple plan. What erupted instead was a night of bloodshed and death. It became the longest sustained firefight involving American troops since the Vietnam War. This is the extraordinary minute-by-minute account of that courageous, historic, and brutal night.
Hardcover, 322 pages
Published January 8th 2002 by Turtleback Books (first published 2000)
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Danika
Jul 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Erin Rouleau
Aug 25, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookclub
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
...more
Laura Avellaneda-Cruz
Dec 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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
Kathryn in FL
I read this story when it was published in 2002. Though, I can't address this in the format of a "proper" book review (my memory 17 years later is a tad foggy), this was a very insightful story that has continued to resonate with me. The challenges Rebecca shares as a biracial individual is vivid and heart wrenching.

The book starts out much as the publisher's introductory blurb. "The Civil Rights movement brought author Alice Walker and lawyer Mel Leventhal together, and in 1969 their daughter,
...more
Doris Jean
A sad angry book.? I think it was cold and sad and poorly written because of suppressed anger, maybe? The author's subtitle was accurate, it was "Autobiography of a Shifting Self" and the book was ungrounded and skipped around on many levels. Time shifted from present to past without any guidance for the reader to become oriented. It was a shifting book - in many ways. The main feeling of the book was the shifting and the instability and hatred of her parents that the author felt as a child of ...more
Leslie
Aug 01, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Carolyn
Aug 15, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Chaz
Jan 28, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sarah
Oct 10, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
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.
Su
Sep 24, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
On the back cover this work is the promise that its inner contents are an exploration on identity when you are the child of a Black mother and White-Jewish father in the still deeply-segregated 1970s South, and how that affects your life for the rest of your life. At first glance that may seem...trite? Tired?Preachy? Admittedly, this genre of memoir often can be. But one of the first excerpts I'd read was Walker writing "I am not tragic," and I was certain this memoir would not be (Walker, 24). ...more
Jessica
Apr 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Vonetta
Sep 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the best memoir I have read since "The Glass Castle" or "The Liar's Club." I would beg to know why "Black White and Jewish" is not as popular a memoir as the previous two, but I already know the answer: the title is contentious and scary, so people stay away from it. And they should not, because this was a joy! Walker, like her mother, has a way with language that is so poetic, and her imagery is essentially photographic. I will admit that the dialogue not being in quotation marks threw ...more
Melissa
I got far enough in this book to count it as read but I'm not going to finish this book. I see what she's doing, I get her point. I wanted to love this book but I could not. I will still try to read more from her but I just didn't get into this one.
I found it too chaotic which probably mirrored her life but still... dude.
SunnyD
where were her mama's people to tell her that this was not for publishing? eeek. really bad. she did not inherit alice's talents.
Audrey
Feb 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Readers who complain about Walker's focus on parenting are not giving the book a fair assessment. What is striking is the juxtaposition of switching between her separate lives, her seemingly disparate identities as black, white, and Jewish. Each chapter about her father is contrasted with her mother and the difficulty she finds in identifying herself in relation to the multiple claims she feels upon her identity. She comes to the conclusion that she "exist[s] somewhere between black and white ...more
Jen Hirt
I'm way late to the game on this 2001 memoir, and I picked it up because I was intrigued that Alice Walker married a white Jewish lawyer and they had a daughter, Rebecca, who is largely credited with coining the terms "third wave feminism," and then Alice got very mad when Rebecca published this book, which became a bestseller. Whoa. What rock had I been under? This book introduced me to the term "movement child," which is what Rebecca smartly defines herself as at one point, and that made the ...more
Rachel
Jun 27, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: summer-10
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
Nov 04, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Apr 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...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
Amy
Aug 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Michi
Dec 25, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: biracial women and those who have to live with us!
Recommended to Michi by: a women's studies prof
When your racialized personhood is ambiguous, everything you do is scrutinized for others to categorize you, based on who you fuck, how you dress, the lightness/darkness of your skin, your language, your name, your class. This book brought back all the painful moments of adolescence in which all my friends were finding out who they were, and I always felt like I was finding out who I wasn't; that all the suburban Clinton-era propaganda about what it is to be a child in diverse America was a ...more
Wanda
Sep 20, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"How sad," is the only coherent thought I have right now, five minutes after completing the book. She was given so much and so little all at once. Perhaps after my shocked, projecting soul has had time to process what I have read I can be more specific.
Ima Omar
The beginning of the book gave a very detailed account of Rebecca Walker’s early childhood years with her family. After the first few chapters, she lost direction and veered off to her life as a coming of age young woman growing up. I do not feel that she touched a lot on the topic of how her mix race played a role in her growth as a woman finding her identity in a post-segregated world. The story was more of a coming of age, misadventures of a young woman exploring with drugs and sexuality -- ...more
Heather
Never before has a book so completely spoken to my heart. I originally found this last year when I was looking around for around for women's memoirs to be put into myDiverse Books Tag focused on that genre (a book with a biracial protagonist).I recommended it to my library but got quickly absorbed in a number of other books while I waited for it to be available or for the right time to pop up. At last, my library purchased it and I was the first one to get it when it came out.

I have to say that
...more
Pumpkinbear
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Diane Adams
Feb 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I became interested in reading this book when some controversy arose about antisemitism in the Women’s March movement recently. This brought about responses from a number of Jewish women of color, whose allegiance was torn, as well as controversy surrounding Alice Walker and her works, including her refusal to have The Color Purple translated into Hebrew, a specific poem, and support of other anti-Semitic works. The fact that Walker’s daughter is half white and embraces her Jewish identity adds ...more
erl
Aug 10, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have conflicting feelings about this book. Walker's style is engaging, if blunt. But her story is not told chronologically, which makes it sometimes hard to follow. Her parents did not parent her-- neither of them. The person who seems to parent her most is her stepmother, whom she grows to detest. She was left on her own from the time she was in middle school. She never felt comfortable in her own skin, never felt she fit in anywhere she went. She only felt accepted when she was having sex. ...more
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