In this conversational and often comic memoir-in-essays, Cuban American novelist Crucet (Make Your Home Among Strangers) examines entitlement and dislocation in a white world. In 1999, Crucet and her family drove from Miami to Cornell University (she was the first in her family to attend college), ignorant of the “extra long twin sheets, mesh laundry bags” she would need for her dorm but eager for an education that “would plug me into a kind of access and privilege I didn’t yet have a name for.” In “Say I Do,” she writes of her immersion into a white world that had her “marrying a gringo” she met in college at 23; she describes their Cuban wedding at “a parrot-infested jungle island theme park in Miami Beach” as “edutainment for the white guests.” Crucet writes in “Going Cowboy” of leaving Florida in 2015 to teach at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, and of staying at a working cowboy ranch “to see the real Nebraska.” Shaken by the owner’s rant “about Mexicans getting passes into the United States,” she acknowledges that her “light skin and the privileges it affords” let her pass as white, admitting, “I was helping him perpetuate his ignorance by choosing instead to ensure my own safety.” An excellent prose stylist, Crucet easily immerses readers in her narrative. (Sept.)
“My Time Among the Whites lay[s] bare the ways power and money and race and class work in America in a way that’s serious but that can also be bitingly funny.” —Anna North, Vox
“Remarkable.... an interrogation of the American Dream, of American myths, and the whiteness that undergirds it all. My Time Among the Whites is also a thoughtful exploration of what it means to be a first-generation college student, a child of immigrants, and a professor to boot....An exploration of what it means to be Latinx in the time of Trump." —Renee Hudson, Los Angeles Review of Books
“An excellent primer on privilege and power, and the ways in which one can be both marginalized by whiteness and benefitted by it. This is a must-read for all white Latinx, and everyone else in the U.S., too.” —Christine Arreola, Bustle
“Thoughtful, deftly crafted reflections on race and identity.” —Kirkus Review
“Crucet interrogates identity, assimilation, and success through the eyes of an outsider.... My Time Among The Whites explores what it means to come of age and live in a country designed to exclude you.”—A.V. Club
“Crucet’s well-written essays are entertaining and accessible, without letting readers or the author herself off the hook for reflecting on and addressing cultural issues. Strongly recommended for all readers.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“As Jennine Capó Crucet makes clear in her provocative collection of essays, whether you are or are not white isn't the point—it's everything. If you are white, the culture that absorbs you so easily may well be taken for granted. In this country you've known little else. If you're not white, it's the depth and breadth of that white culture that either pushes you to the side or inspires you to push back. For Crucet, there's no question about which way to go, and in her exquisitely fierce way, she does.”—Bookpage
“Lucid and unfeigned...Crucet's essays are hopeful, though grounded in the recognition that the social systems in place will not shift anytime soon. Sympathetic and encouraging, Crucet's observations and experiences offer a path toward learning how we can become less foreign to each other.”—Booklist
“Aside from being smart and fearless when it comes to writing about her experience (or lack thereof) of the so-called American Dream, Jennine Capó Crucet is also… funny. Of course, a sense of humor is a necessary survival mechanism when navigating America’s hypocritical self-mythologizing, as you quickly discover that laudatory boot-strap immigrant narratives are generally reserved for the lily white Irish ancestor. Capó Crucet’s essays of her Cuban-American experience—as it occurs across the country, from Disney World to Nebraska—assert new narratives of what it means to come to this country, at once hopeful and dispiriting, infuriating and comic.”—Jonny Diamond, LitHub
“The stories Crucet tells in these essays are familiar to most of us, but as something held behind our teeth that she has instead written down. Again and again in My Time Among the Whites, she untangles the one story no one tells from the other one that everyone seems to know, a high wire act where the stakes are not just her life but everyone you know. Crucet is an essential truth-teller, the whisper in your ear you should listen to, wise and funny as she tries to save your life—and this book is a triumph.”—Alexander Chee, author of How to Write an Autobiographical Novel
“My Time Among the Whites is a powerful book on the American experience that is both timely and still ticking, asking the reader to continue thinking past the book's pages and toward a better country where every kind of human being has the right to belong and thrive. A funny, intimate, important and most necessary read.”—Amber Tamblyn, author of Era of Ignition
Praise for Jennine Capó Crucet
“This is definitely a young writer to watch for, sassy, smart, with an unerring ear for a community’s voices, its losses, its over-the-top telenovela extravagances, and its poignant struggles to understand itself in a new land.”—Julia Alvarez, author of In the Time of Butterflies and Once Upon a Quinceañera
“Jennine Capó Crucet is a wonderful writer… wise and honest… furious and funny.”—Lauren Groff, author of Florida and Fates and Furies
Autobiographical essays reveal the challenges of a first-generation American.
New York Times contributing opinion writer Crucet (English and Ethnic Studies/Univ. of Nebraska; Make Your Home Among Strangers, 2015, etc.), winner of the Iowa Short Fiction Prize, among other awards, makes an affecting nonfiction debut with a collection of essays that explore family, culture, and her identity as a Cuban American. Her parents, Cuban refugees, named her after a beauty queen in the Miss USA pageant. They believed that "you give your kids white American names so that their teachers can't tell what they are before meeting them," and so they have a better chance at avoiding prejudice. For Crucet's mother, "her ideal daughter was a white girl because she had long internalized the idea that as Latinas, we'd be treated as lesser, that we were somehow lesser. And she just wanted better for me, which meant: whiter." Because she grew up seeing Cubans who worked as doctors, police officers, and teachers, she did not realize, until she went to college in upstate New York, that mainstream American culture looked predominantly white. As a light-skinned Latina, Crucet often made a deliberate choice not to reveal her racial identity. In college, when she read Nella Larsen's novel Passing, she "first recognized this trespassing as an act in which I had sometimes found myself but didn't yet know how to define" and first noticed that whites "who misread me as also white" sometimes showed "the kind of pervasive racism usually reserved for white-only spaces." Among the "white-only spaces" she sensitively examines are Disney World, "grounded in whiteness and heteronormative gender roles"; college classes, where white professors and white students singled her out "as the official Latinx ambassador"; the process of planning a wedding to a man who came from "a white monolingual American family"; and a cattle ranch in Nebraska, where she signed up to work with the hope of learning something about the culture of her prospective students at the university.
Thoughtful, deftly crafted reflections on race and identity.
In her first book of essays, Crucet (English & ethnic studies, Univ. of Nebraska-Lincoln; Make Your Home Among Strangers) reflects on her experiences as a first-generation college student, as well as the limits of the American Dream, Cuban and American politics, marriage and divorce, culture clashes, financial planning, working in academia, and family communication and conflicts in theory-informed, narrative-driven essays. As a Latina and first-generation American, Crucet takes on privilege, whitesplaining, and white tears; the gulf that can grow between first- generation Americans and their immigrant families; and the contradictions and self-deceptions inherent in the American Dream. Notably, the author also discusses the role of fantasy in dominant U.S. culture and the importance and potential of reclaiming fantasy in order to envision one's possible future(s); the promise of color-blindness and the reality of cultural erasure; and the way dominant cultures change depending on where you are, and how what seems possible in one place becomes impossible elsewhere. VERDICT Crucet's well-written essays are entertaining and accessible, without letting readers or the author herself off the hook for reflecting on and addressing cultural issues. Strongly recommended for all readers.—Monica Howell, Northwestern Health Sciences Univ. Lib., Bloomington, MN