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White Boy: A Memoir
by Mark Naison
Publisher: Temple University Press 2002
Category: Non-fiction20th centuryBronxBrooklynPolitics
Avg Rating: (0 reviews)
For our generation, writes Fordham University African-American studies professor Naison, part of becoming American was becoming culturally black.' In this forthright and thoughtful memoir, Naison (Communists in Harlem During the Depression), who became, in the early 1970s, one of the first professors (and the only white man) at Fordham's new Institute of Afro-American Studies, recalls a lifetime of fascination with black history and culture and of antidiscrimination activism. Growing up in then mostly Jewish and Italian Crown Heights, Brooklyn, in the 1950s and '60s, Naison saw white flight transform his neighborhood and make his previously liberal Jewish parents openly racist. Naison grew up worshiping black athletes and musicians; as neighborhood tensions grew, he became increasingly estranged from his parents and found himself caught up in civil rights and antiwar activism. He recalls his days in Students for a Democratic Society and the Weathermen; his political organizing efforts in the Bronx; and his decision to turn from revolutionary activism to academia as radical movements fell apart or became increasingly fractious and militant in the '70s. At the height of his activism, Naison was also romantically involved with a black woman, and he reflects on the challenges of an interracial relationship at the time (he felt hostility from black men in the community; she was pressured by other black activists to leave him), and its effects on the heightened tension with his parents. An adroit writer with a winning voice, Naison avoids romanticizing his activist days; he is at times also critical of New Left tactics (particularly those that reinforced racial polarization among activists), and he interrogates his own interest in and identification with black culture.

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