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Black is the body : stories from my grandmother's time, my mother's time, and mine
2019
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Summary
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." And the storytelling, and the mystery of Bernard's storytelling, of getting to the truth, begins with a stabbing in the gut in a coffee shop in a New England college town. Bernard writes how, when she was a graduate student at Yale, she walked into Koffee?'s on Audubon Street in New Haven, and along with six other people, was randomly attacked by a stranger with a knife ("I remember making the decision not to let the oddness of this stranger bother me,"). "I was not stabbed because I was black," she writes (the attacker was white), "but I have always viewed the violence I survived as a metaphor for the violent encounter that has generally characterized American race relations. There was no connection between us, yet we were suddenly and irreparably bound by a knife, an attachment that cost us both- him, his freedom; me, my wholeness." Bernard explores how that bizarre act of violence set her free and unleashed the storyteller in her ("The equation of writing and regeneration is fundamental to black American experience."). She writes in Black Is the Body how each of the essays goes beyond a narrative of black innocence and white guilt, how each is anchored in a mystery, and how each sets out to discover a new way of telling the truth as the author has lived it. "Blackness is an art, not a science. It is a paradox- intangible and visceral; a situation and a story. It is the thread that connects these essays but its significance as an experience emerges randomly, unpredictably . . . race is the story of my life, and therefore black is the body of this book." And what most interests Bernard is looking at "blackness at its borders, where it meets whiteness in fear and hope, in anguish and love.
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Booklist Review
Bernard covers four generations in her family in a dozen essays offering unexpected revelations about race and life experiences. Bernard explains that the book was conceived in a hospital in 2001 when she was recovering from surgery to repair an injury sustained when she and six others were stabbed by a deranged white male while they were sitting in a New Haven, Connecticut, coffeehouse. Bernard then remembers her grandmother and the stories she told about the terror of growing up in Mississippi during Jim Crow. Bernard's parents migrated from Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee, with their children; there Bernard recalls a segregated, close-knit, church-centered community. Her parents graduated from Fisk University and the Meharry Medical College; she earned a doctorate at Yale, and as a young professor married a white academic, who figures prominently in the book, along with the two Ethiopian daughters they adopt as babies. Bernard's musings about teaching, interracial marriage, and family are quickly read and richly engaging.--Grace Jackson-Brown Copyright 2019 Booklist
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Table of Contents
Beginningsp. xi
Scar Tissuep. 3
Teaching the N-Wordp. 21
Interstatesp. 45
Mother on Earthp. 70
Black Is the Bodyp. 84
Skinp. 98
White Friendp. 111
Her Gloryp. 122
Motherlandp. 137
Going Homep. 163
People Like Mep. 193
Epilogue: My Turnp. 215
Acknowledgmentsp. 219
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