Book Review: Real American

Real American: A Memoir by Julie Lythcott-Haims

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Here we have a very small glimpse into the race issue from a woman who has lived, possibly lives it still, from both sides. The author writes with courage and insight into what her own struggle for identity, her own desire to fit into an America where her appearance—half white child, half black child—elicited stares and discomforting questions such as ‘where are you from, from?’

As the author states, ‘American at first sight’ means color, hair, appearance, not nationality. It meant, she writes, that ‘My existence was a ripple in an otherwise smooth sheet.’ That those who asked ‘where are you from, from?’ needed to remove that wrinkle in their expectation. They needed to ‘iron it down.’

Written with courage, blunt openness, and the right questions for our racially querulous times, Real American is a book that perhaps white readers should go over time and again. It demands the answer to the question as old as our odd republic, what does American mean? Reading books such as these, and there are more of them all the time which is a very good thing, makes any who consider themselves dedicated to the idea of America take note. It makes the fearless reader ask yet more questions, not ‘where are you from?’, but where are we going?

Five stars for lucid and beautiful prose, and for the lessons inside. Real American: A Memoir

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