One Drop: My Father's Hidden Life - A Story of Race and Family Secrets
Little, Brown & Co., 2007 (2007)
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Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth
is a memoir, a personal history, and a racial history that recounts the story of a family torn apart by racial profiling.
is a daughter's chronicling of her father's life – that of Anatole Paul Broyard. A life he lived to the fullest on his own terms. A life he lived with a secret he kept from his two children – Bliss and Todd. A secret that was revealed as their father died.
e had a drop of black blood, which technically and in the era in which he was born, labeled him for life as black, even though he could easily pass for white. Anatole's Creole background was left behind in New Orleans when his father took his family to New York and a new life. Anatole never really denied being black but never gloried in it either. Learning her father's secret pushed Bliss onto the path that was to occupy her for seven years – searching out her family's roots and those still alive today. What she has written is a history of blacks in the United States and their fight to gain recognition as human beings, as well as an account of a family torn apart by race.
any of Anatole's relatives were resentful that he never allowed them into his life in his quest to live a
life. Others understood that he wanted a better life for his children than he could give them as
. Whatever his reasoning, he lived a chaotic and often frenzied life, in which he became well known as a book critic for the New York Times.
y humble words cannot do justice to
, which is a powerful rendering of the history of Creole blacks, who came to New Orleans as slaves and free men and made new lives for themselves. We can never really know someone until we know their history. That is just what author Bliss Broyard accomplished when she researched her own background. In trying to understand why her father would keep that
of black blood a secret from Bliss and her brother Todd, she realized the father she loved was not the man she thought he was and needed to discover what drove him.
ears of research have produced
. As well as using a paper trail, Bliss physically located relatives in both the white and black communities. Many of Anatole Paul Broyard's extended family passed as white. To do so, they had to leave their homes and travel to where no one knew them. Which is exactly what Anatole's father did in taking his family to Brooklyn.
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