Identity and Culture Crisis: White or Black?

Sunday, September 09, 2012 Dr. Vishaal Bhat 0 Comments

The premise for the autobiography Life on the Color line: The True Story of a White Boy Who Discovered He Was Black seems unbelievable and readers may question how author Gregory Howard Williams could not know he was black - he would only have to look in the mirror to see his skin colour.

Reader's learn that the author's father. Buster Williams had "passed," or looked pale enough that whites did not realize that he was black. By marrying a white woman and running a successful business Buster did well in white society.

Eventually the author's parents divorced, and Buster took Gregory and his brother back to his hometown to live with their grandmother. The boys had not been told that they were black. Instead they had been led to believe by their parents they were Italian; consequently, the boys learnt on the train ride to Muncie, Indiana, their father had been "passing".

Describing that moment the author remembers thinking; I'm white! I look white! I go to "whites only" school,'whites only" movie theaters and "whites only" swimming pools! I bad never heard anything crazier in my life! How could  Dad tell us such a mean lie? "I saw my father as I had never seen him before. In my .eyes he was transformed from a swarthy Italian to a high-yellow mulatto."

This book is a good source of information about the social conditions of blacks in the United Stated during the 1950s and '60s. Gregory Howard Williams and his brother had the unique experience of living in two different cultures, and experienced first hand how whites were more privileged. Blacks in the United Stales were segregated from the rest of society in lower paying jobs. In public places such as buses and swimming pools they were not allowed in the same areas as whites.The author describes his frustration at not being able to do the things that he had grown up doing, such as sitting at the front of the bus.

The father's story about passing as a white person would also be interesting to the reader. As well as wanting to learn more about William's grandmother. Miss Sallie and how she felt about being a cook at her own son's restaurant and being unable to acknowledge her own child and grandchildren. The author also leaves the readers hanging because even though he writes about what be and his brother and a few of his friends are currently doing, he doesn't describe his present relationship with his mother's side of the family and whether he has any contact with them.

Gregory Howard Williams' book is easy to read and gives readers a glimpse into a boy's experience of having his life turned upside down.

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The Naked Ape—A Book Review

Saturday, September 08, 2012 Dr. Vishaal Bhat 0 Comments

The Naked Ape: The Naked Ape, by Desmond Morris is a book I came across in a second hand book shop during one of my trips to Bangalore. After purchasing the book, I learnt that it had a controversial history, with scholars arguing it to be a textbook,  in biology, pre-med, sociology, and psychology courses.Just what is this book all about? It's about us . . . the human race.

There are 193 living species of monkeys and apes, 192 of which are covered with hair. Number 193 is the naked ape called man. Man came into being about 15 million years ago. At that time a sudden change in the climate occurred that sharply reduced. the size of the forests and forced a still hairy ape to forage for his food in the open spaces. Separated from the relatively easy - life of getting his food, man's' ancestors, says Morris, were forced to become hunters in order to survive. In the swift pace of the hunt, those with the least body hair became the least overheated and ran down the most game. Through the process of evolutionary selection, man gradually shed his furry coat entirely.

Some very interesting questions are raised in The Naked Ape and the  answers are somewhat startling, if not somewhat  logical and understandable.- For example, Why do 80 per cent of human mothers hold their infants in their left arm? It places the child closer to the heartbeat that comforted him in the womb. The reassuring effects of that heartbeat, according to Morris, continue into adult life.

A nervous speaker" often rock's back and forth on his feet at a heartbeat frequency. And why is he so nervous? Because everyone in the audience is staring at him - a signal of primitive aggression. Another interesting development about the naked ape is his sex life.

Emergence from the forest converted man into "the sexiest primate alive". To ensure that the female would be faithful to the male while he was away on the hunt, and that -the man would remain with the female to help in the extended rearing of the more slowing developing offspring, the "pair bond", or love, came to Homo Sapiens.

At the same rime, sexual relations became more rewarding to both the female and the male. The once brief mating season turned into a year-round affair.

In all of his endeavors, argues Morris, man should, take pains not to ignore his primeval instincts or else "our suppressed biological desires will build up and up until the dam bursts and the whole of our elaborate existence is swept away in the flood". A little dramatic, perhaps, but by taking this approach, and enhancing it with wit and graceful, non-technical prose, Zoologist Morris strikes a responsive chord in the very primate he is attempting to explain.



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The Turning Leaves - A Delightful Book

Saturday, September 08, 2012 Dr. Vishaal Bhat 0 Comments

Candlelight, beautiful antiques, and famous old paintings form the setting for a best seller- "The Turning Leaves" by Ellen Proctor.
A Warm book for the sleepless nights
The Turning Leaves by Ellen Proctor - A Delightful read

The theme centers about a typical American family with a long line of American ancestors which were remembered for their many and varied achievements. The father, James IV, didn't inherit this ambitious ability to forge ahead and as a result is just a lawyer of little renown.

The mother is an uncolorful personality, living mostly in the past, centering all her energies in bringing up her children—seven in number.

The experiences of these children, who had inherited all the spirit and fire that their parents lacked, are told in a most extraordinary manner—extraordinary in that they are narrated without obvious fiction, making one feel the comparison to personal experiences.

The two main characters, Julia and Gabrielle, were the fourth generation of daughters to bear these names. Julia has a strange driving ambition with no particular talent while Gabrielle has talent—her voice pointing her toward opera-- but she lacks the ambition to force her to that goal.

Julia and Gabrielle unconsciously face the same problems, dream the same dreams, and experience the same joys and sorrows that shaped the lives and molded the destinies of the other Julias and Gabrielles that preceded them. They cannot see this repetition but their father who had studied records of his ancestors, can see these likenesses reflected in the lives of his daughters and ponders over them.

The affect of this rich, yet strange American heritage upon these children, is given in one of the most delightful books, "The Turning Leaves." A $10,000 Prize Winning Novel This story sweeps you along in the turmoil of daily activities of a large, boisterous family. You will be most affected by its laughter and its lusty living.

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