The Black Notebooks: An Interior Journey

Toi Derricotte, Author W. W. Norton & Company $21.95 (205p) ISBN 978-0-393-04544-4
Many readers of this book will want to find positive, hopeful images, but poet Derricotte--a black woman who is sometimes mistaken for white--prefers to ""record the language of self-hate,"" the internalized racism she sees in herself and others. She began these diffuse but resonant notebooks some 20 years ago, during an increasingly infuriating search for a house in a white suburb of New York City. As her frustrations and isolation mount, her marriage frays; her dark-skinned husband who is a banker acknowledges to her that he married her in part for her light skin, while Derricotte confesses some revulsion at his looks. Her diaries plumb numerous racially freighted incidents. After she fights off a black attacker, the author thinks she hears him disparage her color. The white students she teaches write cathartic poems about childhood but black ones write about race. A white colleague at an artists' colony treats her with condescension. Yet the author also acknowledges she picks white women as confessors, ""maybe precisely because they didn't have the same agony about race."" Derricotte might have done more to analyze how much of her anguish is personal rather than racial, but her candor is brave. Author tour. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/29/1997
Release date: 10/01/1997
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 205 pages - 978-0-393-31901-9
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