Real American

In the vein of Ta-Nehisi Coates's Between the World and Me and Claudia Rankine's Citizen, Julie Lythcott-Haims's Real American fuses autobiography with politics, showing how the sinister nature of racism (institutional and otherwise) scars even those who may pass as unaffected. Told in a series of short chapters that often read as prose poems, the memoir is a look at Lythcott-Haims's past that relentlessly digs into what it means to be black in America.

Author of How to Raise an Adult, a critique of modern parenting, Lythcott-Haims is the child of an African American doctor (once the Assistant Surgeon General to the United States) and a white British mother. But part of Real American is Lythcott-Haims's shedding of the term "bi-racial," and coming to understand that she identifies as black, both in response to personal struggles and the larger forces in American culture. Real American is about acceptance, but also anger, and the ongoing struggle for equality in the United States (something that eludes Lythcott-Haims, even with two Ivy League degrees and a comfortable upper-middle-class life). She depicts how the treacherousness of racism is so pervasive--it so easily permeates her interactions--that no level of success has been enough to quell her feelings of self-hatred, inherited from American culture due to the color of her skin. Real American is not an easy read, taking a combative stance toward anyone who thinks they are on firm footing regarding race, and the book is all the better for it. --Noah Cruickshank, adult engagement manager, the Field Museum, Chicago, Ill.

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