Black White & Jewish

Black White & Jewish

by Rebecca Walker


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The Civil Rights movement brought author Alice Walker and lawyer Mel Leventhal together, and in 1969 their daughter, Rebecca, was born. Some saw this unusual copper-colored girl as an outrage or an oddity; others viewed her as a symbol of harmony, a triumph of love over hate. But after her parents divorced, leaving her a lonely only child ferrying between two worlds that only seemed to grow further apart, Rebecca was no longer sure what she represented. In this book, Rebecca Leventhal Walker attempts to define herself as a soul instead of a symbol—and offers a new look at the challenge of personal identity, in a story at once strikingly unique and truly universal.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781573229074
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/28/2002
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 340,906
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Rebecca Walker has received numerous awards and accolades for her writing and activism. Her work has appeared in many anthologies and publications; in addition to the international bestseller Black, White, and Jewish, her books include Baby Love: Choosing Motherhood After a Lifetime of Ambivalence, and the anthologies To Be Real: Telling the Truth and Changing the Face of Feminism, which has become a standard text in gender studies courses around the world, and What Makes a Man: 22 Writers Imagine the Future. A popular speaker at universities and in business settings, Walker teaches the art of memoir at workshops and writing conferences internationally. She lives in Hawaii.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Compelling."—The Washington Post

"Stunningly honest."—San Francisco Chronicle

"A complex, all-American story."—USA Today

"Walker masterfully illuminates differences between black and white America...A heartbreaking tale of self-creation."—People

"[Walker] offers painful childhood memories of straddling two vastly different cultures—black bohemia and Jewish suburbia—to fashion a cautionary tale about the power of race in shaping identity...[a] highly readable debut."—Entertainment Weekly

"Walker [writes with] elegant, discreet candor...will attract a wealth of well-deserved praise."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"A beautifully written meditation on the creation of a woman’s sense of self."—Jane Lazarre, author of Beyond the Whiteness of Whiteness

"Powerful...deeply affecting."—Danzy Senna, author of Caucasia

Reading Group Guide

Black, White, and Jewish is the story of a child's unique struggle for identity and home when nothing in her world told her who she was or where she belonged. Poetic reflections on memory, time, and identity punctuate this gritty exploration of race and sexuality. Rebecca Walker has taken up the lineage of her mother, Alice, whose last name she chose to carry, and has written a lucid and inventive memoir that marks the launch of a major new literary talent.



Rebecca Walker has written for or been featured in stories in The New York Times, The Chicago Times,Harper's Bazaar, Elle, Esquire, and U.S. News & World Report, and has appeared on CNN, MTV, and Charlie Rose. She is the founder of Third Wave Direct Action Foundation, a national nonprofit organization devoted to cultivating young women's leadership and activism.


"The daughter of famed African American writer Alice Walker and liberal Jewish lawyer Mel Leventhal brings a frank, spare style and detail-rich memories to this compelling contribution to the growing subgenre of memoirs by biracial authors about life in a race-obsessed society. Her artfulness in baring her psyche will, spirit and sexuality will attract a wealth of deserved praise."

—Publishers Weekly (starred review)


  • While most teenagers struggle to move away from their parents, Rebecca Walker searches for closeness with her immediate and extended families. Why is it so difficult for her to enjoy the independence she is given?
  • Rebecca recalls how a drunk student walks into her dorm room at Yale and asks if she is "really black and Jewish." After he leaves, Rebecca sits in the dark wondering whether she is "possible." Self-doubt appears to be a recurring theme in her life. How do her self-perceptions change as she moves between her parents' houses, from Brooklyn to Atlanta to Washington DC to San Francisco to Bronx to Larchmont and back to San Francisco? Discuss her experiences in different neighborhoods and how her self-acceptance is shaped by social acceptance.
  • Rebecca becomes sexually active earlier than an average teenager. What is the meaning of sex in her life? How has it changed since her early experiences? Does she manage to find her true identity through her lovers? Discuss her experience with Michael and with Andrew. How does the color of their skin (Michael is black, Andrew is white) affect their relationships with Rebecca?
  • What was your reaction to Rebecca having an abortion at the age of 14? Can you explain why she didn't grieve for her unborn child?
  • Rebecca is candid about her experimentation with drugs. Do you think she really had a choice not to take them? Discuss how our peers can sometimes make decisions for us and why we accept their decisions.
  • What does it mean to Rebecca to be a "movement child"? How — if at all — does the meaning change from the beginning of the book, when she sees her parents happily married, to the end, when she struggles with their uneasiness during her graduation party?
  • Throughout her childhood and adolescence and after her parents divorced, Rebecca must make choices between her mother's African American heritage and her father's Jewish heritage. Has she found peace with herself being biracial and thus "the translator, the one in between, the one serving as the walkway between two worlds"? Or, has she chosen one over the other? Why does she feel more of an affinity towards her black ancestors?
  • The book begins and ends with a discussion of memory. What is the meaning of memory in Rebecca's life? Does she refer to her brain's ability to retain information or to some deeper innate knowledge? What knowledge is it? What is "genetic memory"? What role does it play in our lives? How does the discussion on memory at the beginning differ from the one at the end?
  • What is significance of the subtitle? Why does Rebecca refer to her self as "a shifting self"? Has she found a place where she is no longer "shifting"?

Customer Reviews

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Black White & Jewish 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book, to me, was similar to The Color of Water because of the mere fact that people who are mixed are sometimes confused or lost on where and who they fit in society. That's why it's important to love yourself first, before loving someone else.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was amazed on how honestly Rebecca felt about living with both parents separately. Her dad who is Jewish, and masking herself as a conserved Jewish white girl. Then shifting gears and living with her mom an African American, feminist, civil rights author who felt Rebecca should be independent and treated her like a sister more than a daughter. When Rebecca was with her mother she tried to be tough, independent Rebecca but doesn't really feel she belongs. She gets the same feeling growing up with her dad and trying to be something she is only half. In her youth she never really felt complete. Rebecca's up and downs of going to schools as the black and white girl affect her tremindously and shaped her to being the person she is today.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was so inspiring to me. I had no idea the kind of hardships that mixed people go through. The style in which she wrote this book was just amazing. I loved it so much. I just couldnt put it down until I finished it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Although well written, this story is basically unappealing. Walker never comes across as someone who is really interesting in her own right. One rarely gets the feeling of her mixed "identities" as being in a creative tension, or as having a serious effect on the conduct of her life. Instead, she comes across as an indulged child of divorce, private schools and Yale - so what's new?
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was very disappointed in this book. The author focused almost exclusively on the negative attributes of her youth. Yet you know all along she had an incredibly famous mother and she herself ended up at Yale! Something good must have happened to her! Her continual focus on sex, drugs and misbehaving as a young teen diminish her story. It often sounded to me like typical teen bragging. Why didn't she spend more time talking about the private school community that evidently provided the background of her success? Many young people are confused about their idenity, and divorce, mixed families, and traveling back and forth between families is a fact for many young people. I'd rather read what leads young people out of the quagmire and on to productivity, not about how badly they misbehaved before they grew up and accepted responsibility for themselves.
orangejulia on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Excellent book and intense emotionally at times. The story of Alice Walker's daughter with her white & Jewish ex husband. Well written.
MoiraStirling on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Honest portrayal of one Bi-racial woman's struggle to determine her identity. Enjoyable. However, I found myself frustrated with her anger and ignorance, and blind willingness to follow the "leaders" of colour. Frustrated that she succumbed to confusion and let her voice be suppressed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very interesting book
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Guest More than 1 year ago
A wonderful read. Walker is funny and descriptive in her childhood experiences. Her writing style allows me to drift back with her as she recounts the styles and songs of the 80's. Her depiction of numerous addresses gives insight to her strength, maturity, and intellegence. For me this memoir was an autobiography of a 'found' self.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I bought this book, my purchase was solely based on the cover. But after a boring friday night of no sleep I picked it up and entered the emotional world of an ethnically frustrated and socially confused woman. Rebecca Walker's story is not only unique but familiar to anyone who came across a time in their life when they needed to find out who they truely are. I would recommend this book to anyone, and in fact I have... I work at a bookstore.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hon Approdite doesnt want any of her children Posiedon he cares about us .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If u wanna talk to her shes with me
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
R u single?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Name: Brice Age: 16 Birthday: June 28 Looks: reddish hair, brown eyes, 5' 11" Girlfriend: Savanah aka Savvy Family: Savvy, Anna 2 years old, Logan one day old