I heard of this story last year, and thought it incredible.
Stories about passing are always fascinating to me. From Passing by Nella Larson to Devil In A Blue Dress by Walter Moseley, I have found these stories beyond intriguing. The fascination was the idea that being white, or whiteness, can be faked–and blackness erased. I was not born a fair skinned child, my blackness is undeniable and evident. But for the author’s mother, born in 1920’s Jim Crow New Orleans…this was an option.
I was enrapt in this story, and finished it via Audible in 2 days. I haven’t so devoured a book since The Coldest Winter Ever. The book starts any good story–foundation laid, details given, until your breath is taken. As this story unfolded, you feel everything Gail is feeling. You feel every detail, and all the magic that permeates everything New Orleans is involved with.
I won’t lie to you, when I started reading/listening to this book, I was so angry. In the climate the nation is in, with the sanction of the government willing to stamp out and erase blackness with a quickness only divine beings understand, I was ready to slam this book! I was ready to let Dr. Gail Lukasik, have it! Then I remembered compassion, and the imagination as a writer. I remember what it was like to be a daughter, privy to only what your mother is inclined to tell you–and the rest you learn by accident or research.
The same can be said for Gail. She details in the book the need she had for her mother to deepen her conversations with her daughter. It was only by doing family research on a whim, due to her curiosity, that she discovered her (white) mother, during a New Orleans census was classified as B, for black.
The book details the assault Gail begins on her family tree, determined to pull it all together–to make it make sense; we see her tenacious writer’s imagination fueling this. My heart broke when she confronts her mother about her birth certificate, her census information, and why she never told anyone she was black. Her mother is detailed to have said in the story, “How can I hold my head up among my friends? Promise me you won’t tell anyone until after I die!”
As a daughter–I had no suitable answer.
This book spares no feeling as Gail discusses the microaggressions given to her while she tells what she calls ‘her mother’s secret’ or ‘her mother’s racial secret’, in public and private. I highly recommend this book! I recommend this book to Gender Studies majors, everyone in the Black Lives Matter movement, and those, like my daughters, whom are biracial.
There is an honesty, a soulfulness in her writing, as we find the story out with her. We see her eagerness, trepidation and even her thoughts of quitting the search due to the emotional toll.
Thank you Dr. Lukasik for being bold, and daughter and writer. The rapt of your audience appreciates it.