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Black Is the Body

Stories from My Grandmother's Time, My Mother's Time, and Mine

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Description

An extraordinary, exquisitely written memoir (of sorts) that looks at race--in a fearless, penetrating, honest, true way--in twelve telltale, connected, deeply personal essays that explore, up-close, the complexities and paradoxes, the haunting memories and ambushing realities of growing up black in the South with a family name inherited from a white man, of getting a PhD from Yale, of marrying a white man from the North, of adopting two babies from Ethiopia, of teaching at a white college and living in America's New England today. From the acclaimed editor of Remember Me to Harlem: The Letters of Langston Hughes and Carl Van Vechten ("A major contribution," Henry Louis Gates; "Magnificent," Washington Post).

"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 a New England college town. Bernard writes how, when she was a graduate student at Yale, she walked into a coffee shop 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."

From Publishers Weekly

Nov 12, 2018 – Bernard, a University of Vermont professor of English and race and ethnic studies, intimately explores her life through the lens of race in this contemplative and compassionate collection of personal essays. As a Yale graduate student, Bernard was the victim of a mass stabbing, an event at the center of the book's opening essay, "Beginnings," and her premise that writing about and remembering a traumatic past is a process "fundamental in black American experience." She aims to "contribute something to the American racial drama besides the enduring narrative of black innocence and white guilt," in essays that include "Teaching the N-Word" and "Motherland," about adopting and raising two girls from Ethiopia with her white husband. Bernard's voice throughout is personable yet incisive in exploring the lived reality of race. By examining her family's Southern roots and her present life in Vermont, in "Interstates," she explores the differences and the bridge between white and black in her life. In "Black Is the Body," a beautiful reflection on racial difference and disparities, she acknowledges how race has informed "everything I do, and everything I write." Bernard's wisdom and compassion radiate throughout this thoughtful collection.
Black Is the Body
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  • $13.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Biographies & Memoirs
  • Published: Jan 29, 2019
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Seller: Penguin Random House LLC
  • Print Length: 240 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: This book can only be viewed on an iOS device with Apple Books on iOS 12 or later, iBooks 1.5 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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