Rebecca Leventhal Walker was born in Jackson, Mississippi in 1969. Her mother, famed black author Alice Walker and her father, Jewish lawyer Mel Leventhal, met at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. In her memoir Black, White and Jewish Walker poignantly describes a childhood split between two worlds, particularly after her parents’ divorce: between her mother’s home in San Francisco where she feels never quite black enough and her father’s home in Riverdale, New York where she feels never quite Jewish enough.
Walker’s acclaimed 2002 memoir, which starts with an account of her first birthday, presents flashes of memories that are alternately elating and distressing, and which feel no less urgent one decade later. Her hopes, anger, frustrations, and determination ring loudly from the pages.
In fact, looking for the book in the aisles of your local bookstore is itself an illustration of Walker’s predicament: Can it be found in the “African-American” section, the “Jewish” section, the “Women & Gender” section? Through Walker’s sensitive reflections and astute analysis, we see how restrictive being forced into just one category can be.
January 21, 2013