Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Nonfiction Files

The Nonfiction Files is a weekly journal of my adventures reading my toppling piles of nonfiction books. I won't be posting reviews, but rather my thoughts about what I'm reading, while I'm reading it.

I'm joined in The Nonfiction Files by Jehara. If you would like to play along with us, let me know!

My current read is Secret Daughter: A Mixed-Race Daughter and the Mother who Gave Her Away by June Cross. You can read my first post about this book here, and my second post here.

Synopsis from publisher:

June Cross was born in 1954 to Norma Booth, a glamorous, aspiring white actress, and James “Stump” Cross, a well-known black comedian. Sent by her mother to be raised by black friends when she was four years old and could no longer pass as white, June was plunged into the pain and confusion of a family divided by race. Secret Daughter tells her story of survival. It traces June’s astonishing discoveries about her mother and about her own fierce determination to thrive. This is an inspiring testimony to the endurance of love between mother and daughter, a child and her adoptive parents, and the power of community.

My final thoughts:

This final section of the book finds June really coming into her own, making decisions to please herself instead of her mother or Aunt Peggy. She pursues her own dreams of becoming a journalist, has relationships on her own terms, and begins to make peace with the lifetime of betrayal she has endured from her mother.

June decides to meet her father - for all of her life, she has thought of him as a drunk, a wife beater, and the man who abandoned her. However, when she meets him, she finds the story is not exactly as she had believed all her life. She is able to form a relationship with her father, and understand him in a way she had not thought possible. I am continually impressed with her ability to meet the people who hurt her in the past without bitterness or anger. I wonder if it is the journalist in her - she is able to put aside her own personal hurt, and just meet that person where they are.

I was most surprised when June asks her mother to take part in a documentary about their life story, and her mother agrees. While it doesn't go perfectly as planned, June is able to discover truths about her mother's life that tragically mirror her own. I'm so glad June's mother shared her story with June, who eventually shared it with us - while I still can't understand how she could leave her daughter, I can sympathize with the reasoning behind what she did.

I can't recommend this book highly enough. June's story is heartbreaking, but she doesn't tell it to portray herself as a victim. This book also gives readers an important look into race and class in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s in America. It's that great combination you sometimes find in nonfiction of historical impact and fascinating storytelling. Books like this are why I read nonfiction - go find a copy!

Finished: 2/13/10
Source: review copy from Author Marketing Experts - thank you!
Rating: 8/10

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