Starting with "Dreams from my Father", the president's 1995 memoir, and perhaps before, bookstores have embraced a literature of interracial family mysteries that explore both America and identity—and frequently return to race.
I recently sat down with Ralph Eubanks, a fantastic writer and a great wit, about this phenomenon, and his new book "The House at the End of the Road", about his grandparents, an interracial couple that got together—wait for it—in 1914. They protected themselves from the fray of early 20th century racism by living at the end of the road in the book's title, and raised a family with skin so light they could all have passed for white.
Eubanks, who also did an interview with THE ROOT, spoke about the difficulties of excavating his history, the racism of his white family, the scholarship of Kwame Anthony Appiah, the mysteries of the human genome, the difficulty of "passing", and more. Watch our talk here:
I also spoke with writer Danzy Senna at sister site DoubleX, about her new book, "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" which treats similar themes. She discussed her parents 1968 marriage, at the height at the Civil Rights era and just a year after the Supreme Court decision in Loving v. Virginia made their union legal:
I didn’t read "Dreams From My Father." And it’s ridiculous that I haven’t read it, but I have not. In terms of my family, my parents were doomed for a lot of reasons, some of which had to do with their class and race differences and a lot of which had to do with my father’s personal demons. …
But I think there was a sense also on her part that they were part of a wave of history that they came together by forces that were outside of them. Her father was a civil rights lawyer, and she was a civil rights activist ,and they were writers, and there was the exotic allure of the other. And so when she says “something else,” she’s probably talking about a lot of those factors.
Covers the White House and Washington for The Root. Follow her on Twitter.