Black Is the Body: Stories from My Grandmother's Time, My Mother's Time, and Mine

Black Is the Body: Stories from My Grandmother's Time, My Mother's Time, and Mine Review

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."

Title:Black Is the Body: Stories from My Grandmother's Time, My Mother's Time, and Mine

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    Some Testimonial About This Book:

  • K

    Wow *cracks knuckles* this book y'all. The introduction and first essay is amazing. So amazing that I had to put the book down and grasp for air. After that, it seemed as though the book went downhill...

  • Rebecca H.

    This essay collection has pieces on Bernard's experiences as a black woman in Vermont, on her family history in Alabama and Nashville, on her experiences teaching African American literature, and on a...

  • Tricia Nociti

    Profound, compelling, relatable, and full of purpose. A new and important addition to the conversation of race and privilege going on in America right now. Ms. Bernard shares the story of her stabbing...

  • Traci at The Stacks

    The earlier essays were good. I could really relate to her thinking and experiences. However as the book went on they felt repetitive. I think overall it could’ve been less. Also worth saying. This ...

  • Awkward Book Nook

    Teen fantasy is my staple, so this is definitely a change of pace. Also, this review is coming from a white woman who lives in the South, in a place that is 76% white, and racial tension and prejudice...

  • Kate

    A definite contender for my personal best books of 2019 list! This book is a gift. I savored every essay. ...

  • Esther Gulli

    Spectacular! An amazing tapestry of essays woven together with grace and elegance. Bernard’s book should be required reading for all first year college students. Her reflections on race and othernes...

  • Kate

    Just read this in one sitting. Insightful and beautifully written essays. ...

  • SharonMO

    I found each essay captivatingly intimate. I especially love how Emily expresses her deliberations and honest interpretations of life and humanity. Black Is The Body is a fluid, lovely, meaningful rea...

  • Kristin

    A beautiful essay collection about the complexities of living in a black female body in America. Lyrical and literary. Personal and communal....