Mel Staten's Reviews > Autobiography of a Blue-Eyed Devil: My Life and Times in a Racist, Imperialist Society

Autobiography of a Blue-Eyed Devil by Inga Muscio
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bookshelves: owned-books, 2015

I've thought a lot about what to say about this book.

I discovered Inga Muscio because of Cunt, which was a hugely inspiring book that, while I'm not sure I could recommend it to everyone, I was really happy to have read. When I wanted to read up on white supremacy, I found Autobiography of a Blue-Eyed Devil and I thought, since I was familiar with Muscio and liked her, that it would be a good place to start.

This book mostly suffers because she never decided who her audience is.

If her audience was bigoted, mired white people who need some sort of insight, the tone would drive them off pretty much immediately.

If her intended audience was self-conscious white people who are vaguely aware of the problems around them but who want a more nuanced insight in book-form, this really doesn't cut it. Most of this book is an introduction to institutionalized racism. She brings up a lot of important issues, but doesn't delve very deeply into them. I consider myself uneducated on this topic, but still knew most of the history that she goes into. In fact, I can't help but feel like it would have been more productive to read "A People's History" instead. Toward the beginning of Autobiography, Muscio even gives a list of authors, then says, (paraphrasing) "if you didn't recognize any of these names, you are part of the problem." She then never elaborates or discusses why they are important. I get it, I'm supposed to look them up, but seriously? Why does she think I bought the book?

If her audience was the already hyper-educated on the topic, then why write the book at all? She shares no real new information, and it would just come off as gratuitous.

There were sections that I genuinely appreciated. Her section on police violence was well-considered and held up very well to the issues going on today, ten years after the book was published.

It's not that everything in the book is bad or not worth reading, it just comes off as half baked sometimes.

Muscio's writing shines especially when she writes her personal anecdotes, which is part of what made Cunt resonate so much with me. Her anecdotes here, though, seem awkward and contrived. She writes about insignificant moments in her life that she adds significance too--the time she was buying things at a drug store and the white cashier was acting suspicious of three teens who walked in, she assumes, because of their race. The problem with anecdotes like this is that they are pure conjecture on her part. She can't know what that cashier was thinking, and indeed, she didn't ask. That doesn't make for a powerful story. The rest of her anecdotes are secondhand tales she's heard via her friends, so those don't really have much weight to them, either. In fact, this book would have been amazing had she done something like interview those friends or invite them to write segments for her book, instead of sharing them in watered-down form through her own filter as a white woman.

In fact, the last 50 pages of Autobiography was the most gripping, and I have a feeling it was because she was back on her home turf of gender and generalized liberal thought told via her own personal stories. This book made me think more about veganism than it did my own role in white supremacist racism. Which doesn't mean I'm absolved, it just means I have to take my education elsewhere.

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Reading Progress

July 8, 2013 – Shelved
July 8, 2013 – Shelved as: to-read
January 28, 2015 – Started Reading
January 28, 2015 –
page 12
2.23% "I've been looking forward to this because I loved "Cunt" but I'm already having trouble with it. She let's herself get distracted by too much nonsense: for example, she refuses to refer to George W. Bush or his administration by name because she believes "words give off resonations of power.""
March 4, 2015 –
page 177
32.9% "I have a lot of problems with this book so far that I may express at some point. I do feel like I'm finally at a part where she is sharing good information in detail (for what feels like the first time) so I'll soldier on."
March 12, 2015 –
page 251
46.65% "I've reached a part of the book that seems well researched and less general, which is a vast improvement. The section about police corruption seems especially relevant, even 10 years after Muscio wrote this book.\n \n Side note: dunno why Goodreads thinks this book is only 256 pages long--this is the only edition so I know I have it right."
March 27, 2015 – Shelved as: owned-books
March 27, 2015 – Shelved as: 2015
March 27, 2015 – Finished Reading

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