Books: In Review

December 04, 1991 5 min read

Pride of Family: Four Generations of American Women of Color, by Carole Ione.

While the lives of men in her family were well documented, Carole Ione, a New York playwright and psychotherapist, found her female forebears shrouded in mystery. She set out to change that, and the results of her journey into the past form this chronicle of black women’s experience. Starting close to home, Ms. lone documents the lives of family members such as her journalist- songwriter mother; her great aunt Sistonie, one of the first black women doctors in Washington; and her grandmother Be-Be, a former vaudeville dancer and restaurant proprietress. She also shares the discovery of her great-grandmother’s diary, which gave her new insight into the hopes and disappointments of the Reconstruction era. Throughout these recollections and discoveries, the author points to recurring traits of “pride and willfulness” that gave her a greater awareness of herself. As she writes, “finally, after all the rootlessness of the past years, after centuries of homelessness among the women in my family, I had found a place for myself.”

Summit Books, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, N.Y. 10020; 224 pp. $19.95 cloth.

Blacks in the White Establishment? A Study of Race and Class in America, by Richard Zweigenhaft & William Domhoff. In this important and readable look at race relations in the upper echelons of American schooling, a social psychologist and a political sociologist report on the early graduates of A Better Chance, the program designed in the 1960’s to recruit and prepare minority students for entry into exclusive boarding schools, elite postsecondary schools, and successful and influential careers. They relate how these young men and women adapted to their new environments, the discrimination they faced, and problems they encountered upon returning home. The stories extend to the students’ progress after school, in college, work, marriage, and family, and are deftly woven into the larger context of the continuing importance of race and class in American society.

Yale UniversityPress, 92-A Yale Station, New Haven, Conn. 06520; 198 pp., $27.50 cloth.

Different and Wonderful: Raising Black Children in a Race-Conscious Society, by Darlene Powell Hopson & Derek S. Hopson.

This book by two clinical psychologists who are married to each other and are raising children attempts to answer questions central to many black parents, the foremost being how to foster a healthy, productive childhood in a society torn by questions of race. The central thesis of Different and Wonderful is that parents are the most effective teachers in matters of self-esteem and moral development, and that there are concrete methods that will help African-American parents instill a positive outlook and a sense of identity and self-worth in their children while broaching sensitive, race-related questions with them. Using provocative quizzes, checklists, and suggestions, the authors re-examine racial perceptions from a child’s viewpoint. They cover such topics as the need for role models, the existence of subconscious taboos, the importance of ethnic identity, and peer-group support. The book, with a foreword by the Harvard University psychiatrist Alvin F. Poussaint, includes a resource guide on African-American materials.

Prentice Hall Press, 15 Columbus Circle, New York, N.Y. 10023; 242 pp., $19.45 cloth.

Shades of Black: Diversity in African-American Identity, by William E. Cross Jr.

Written by a Cornell University psychologist, Shades of Black debunks the myth that self-hatred is the dominant theme in African-American identity. William E. Cross reviews the social-scientific literature on black identity produced between 1936 and 1967 to demonstrate the prevalence of important themes of mental health, particularly those of adaptive strength. These, he says, have been ignored by many in the formulation of a supposed “black pathology” based on a conscious or unconscious disavowal of the self as worthy. The author traces the effect of the Black Power movement on group identity and introduces a model depicting the stages of black identity-development, which includes an analysis of the way blacks are likely to act, think, and feel as they move from stage to stage.

Temple University Press, Philadelphia, Pa. 19122; 272 pp., $39.95 cloth.

The Closing Door. Conservative Policy and Black Opportunity, by Gary Orfield and Carole Ashkinaze.

Using the city of Atlanta as a microcosm, The Closing Door presents a distressing analysis of the decline of black opportunity in metropolitan America. Written by a premier desegregation export-the University of Chicago political scientist Gary Orfield and a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, the book is the first to emerge from the Metropolitan Opportunity Project, a five-year research effort tracking the impact on minorities in five cities of conservative policies introduced during the Reagan years and still in place today. The project director, Mr. Orfield, paints with Carole Ashkinaze, now of the Chicago Sun-Times, a portrait that is both statistical and personal to reveal what the authors see as a self-perpetuating cycle of inequality that maintains segregated and fundamentally different societies for blacks and whites. They propose as solution an agenda for reinvigorating the civil-rights movement and providing real economic help in housing, job-training, schools, and transportation.

The University of Chicago Press, 5801 South Ellis Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60637,’ 275 pp., $22.50 cloth.

Voice of Deliverance: The Language of Martin Luther King Jr. and Its Sources, by Keith D. Miller.

Recent disclosures about Martin Luther King’s unattributed appropriations in his Ph.D. dissertation have led to charges that Dr. King’s persuasive voice was not solely his own but was derived from unacknowledged sources. Focusing on the civil-rights leader’s speeches and essays, the Arizona State University scholar Keith Miller offers a rejoinder to that charge. Dr. King’s “voice of deliverance,” he writes, was in fact a merging of the oral traditions of the African-American church with the printed sermons of white liberal Protestant preachers and others. He argues that Dr. King’s skillful borrowing and blending of these two sources was in fact the key to his strength of language--and to his effectiveness in galvanizing blacks to action and attracting moderate and uncommitted whites to the civil-rights movement. Dr. King “validated himself by offering forms of argument that whites had already internalized and respected,” he writes. “Had he instead supplied sermons with profoundly original content, he would never have legitimized his radical tactic of civil disobedience and his radical goals of ending racism, poverty, and war.”

The Free Press, 866 Third Ave., New York, N.Y. 10022, 282 pp. $22.95 cloth.

A version of this article appeared in the December 04, 1991 edition of Education Week as Books: In Review