Crossing Borders: A Memoir

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"An immensely brave, honest book. . . . The whole is seamlessly and deftly made--a compelling, forward-moving narrative. The writing is very strong." --Kennedy Fraser, author of Ornament and Silence: Essays on Women?s Lives

Telling the interracial love story of an English professor and a traditional woodcarver from a tiny Nigerian village, this powerful memoir follows one woman on her journey back into parts of her life where unresolved ...

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Overview

"An immensely brave, honest book. . . . The whole is seamlessly and deftly made--a compelling, forward-moving narrative. The writing is very strong." --Kennedy Fraser, author of Ornament and Silence: Essays on Women’s Lives

Telling the interracial love story of an English professor and a traditional woodcarver from a tiny Nigerian village, this powerful memoir follows one woman on her journey back into parts of her life where unresolved conflicts remain like landmines on her path.
 From bouts with anorexia, her mother's alcoholic marriage, a failed marriage of her own, and her trauma after being shot and nearly killed by two black teenagers (the violent confrontation that becomes a central reference point in this story), Kate Ellis’s life opens out in unexpected directions. In an attempt to come to terms with the assault, Ellis attends several black churches and volunteers to work with inner-city teenagers. While chaperoning a trip to Nigeria she meets Foley, an artist with whom she enters a marriage filled with challenges and surprises.
 "It's in places where I don't belong that the blessings of my life have found me," Ellis writes. Crossing borders that separate the United States from her birthplace in Toronto, North America from Africa, marriage from singleness, privilege from poverty, and blackness from whiteness, this dramatic autobiography describes a journey of discovery that explores class, race, and feminism and, finally, reconciles the author to her own history.

Kate Ellis is an associate professor of English at Rutgers University in New Jersey. She is the author of The Contested Castle: Gothic Novels and the Subversion of Domestic Ideology as well as poems and short fiction.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In her late teens, Ellis (now an English professor at Rutgers University) left her upper-class Toronto family for New York City's bohemian subculture. She began as a dancer in the heady outer circles of Merce Cunningham and the Living Theater, but finally realized (thanks to some severe anorexic episodes) that she wasn't meant to be a dancer. So she enrolled in a Ph.D. program at Columbia University, amid the turmoilof '68, although her first husband kept her from fully participating in the era's demonstrations. After their divorce, Ellis lived the single mom/academic life, which almost ended when she was attacked at knifepoint in her apartment building's lobby by a pair of black teenagers. She immediately exorcised any tendency to racist response by attending black funerals and volunteering for youth leadership programs. Realizing that "I like to cross boundaries, to go places that people like me are expected to avoid," Ellis ultimately found herself in Nigeria, where she married a young Nigerian woodcarver. There's a lot going on here, and a lot said, too from wonderment at the advantages of a Nigerian worldview to some oddly juvenile finger-pointing at her frigid, emotionally fearful parents but not much thinking or analyzing about the bigger questions raised. How can a self-avowed independent feminist say she's marrying to "escape the country of the unloved"? How does she accept a self-denying, male-defined marriage? What does it mean to be so exhilarated by the flaunting of one's otherness at cultural borders? An odor of cultural exhibitionism may bother some readers, but 50-something feminist academics may find this memoir familiar and even engaging. 11 b & w photos. (Dec.)Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Ellis (English, Rutgers Univ.), author of The Contested Castle, a study of the Gothic novel, has written a memoir that examines what some may view as the many disparate influences on her life and how they have shaped the choices she has made. With a direct and sincere approach, Ellis reveals many private details of her life, ranging from her childhood and schooling to her married life. She describes the experience of being a daughter, a wife, and an academic so compellingly and credibly that the reader often feels part of the narrator's experience. But this is no fairy tale; Ellis also openly discusses her bouts with anorexia, a failed first marriage, and getting shot and nearly killed by two teenagers. Yet all is not dark in this book either; this is a poignant story of redemption and falling in love with a traditional woodcarver from a small Nigerian village whom Ellis later married. It is also the story of "crossing borders," both psychological and physical (between the United States and Canada, and between North America and Africa). Recommended for all libraries. Sheila Devaney, Univ. of Georgia Libs., Athens Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813022840
  • Publisher: University Press of Florida
  • Publication date: 12/15/2001
  • Edition description: First
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 243
  • Product dimensions: 5.88 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
I Not Even on My Map 1
II In the Shadow of Kings and Queens 77
III The War Back Home 161
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