Say I'm Dead: A Family Memoir of Race, Secrets, and Love

Say I'm Dead: A Family Memoir of Race, Secrets, and Love

by E. Dolores Johnson


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Say I’m Dead is the true story of family secrets, separation, courage, and trans-formation through five generations of interracial relationships. Fearful of prison time—or lynching—for violating Indiana’s antimiscegenation laws in the 1940s, E. Dolores Johnson’s black father and white mother fled Indianapolis to secretly marry in Buffalo, New York. 

When Johnson was born, social norms and her government-issued birth certificate said she was Negro, nullifying her mother’s white blood in her identity. Later, as a Harvard-educated business executive feeling too far from her black roots, she searched her father’s black genealogy. But in the process, Johnson suddenly realized that her mother’s whole white family was—and always had been—missing. When she began to pry, her mother’s 36-year-old secret spilled out. Her mother had simply vanished from Indiana, evading an FBI and police search that had ended with the conclusion that she had been the victim of foul play.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781641602747
Publisher: Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 06/02/2020
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 148,604
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

E. Dolores Johnson’s writing focuses on the evolution of attitudes on interracial relationships through American history, with an eye to the accelerating browning of America’s future. She has written for Narratively, Buffalo News, Lunch Ticket, The Writer of Color Anthology: Boundaries and Borders and Pangyrus, among others. Johnson has consulted on diversity for universities, major corporations, and nonprofits and has served as a panelist for the Harvard Faculty Seminar on Inter-racialism.

Table of Contents

Prologue xi

1 Code Switch 1

2 Dress Box 10

3 Lonely Only 20

4 My Whole Self 37

5 Details 45

6 A Train Ride 60

7 Black Girl 75

8 I Am Somebody 90

9 Searching 100

10 Deep South 113

11 A Lingering Smoky Odor 124

12 Too Through 131

13 Just Listen 142

14 The Visit 152

15 Indiana Chronicles 159

16 The Guard Tower 166

17 Shift 177

18 Europe 189

19 Belonging Everywhere 198

20 Flow On 204

21 Leaning into Brown 214

Epilogue 221

Acknowledgments 223

Questions for Discussion 225

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