Google+ Badge BLACK SOCIAL HISTORY

Saturday, 23 May 2015

BLACK SOCIAL HISTORY : AFRICAN AMERICAN " JENNIFER BASZILE " IS AN AUTHOR WITH HER MEMOIR " THE BLACK GIRL NEXT DOOR " IS A REFRESHING ADDITION TO THE WRITTEN HISTORY OF THR AFRICAN AMERICAN EXPERIENCE : GOES INTO THE " HALL OF BLACK GENIUS "

       BLACK     SOCIAL      HISTORY                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Uncharted Territory



Jennifer Baszile’s memoir, “The Black Girl Next Door,” is a refreshing addition to the written history of the African-American experience. Hers is not a story heavily wrought with angry, painful and bitter musings about race and gender. Taking her cues from events that occurred during her childhood and teenage years, in the late 1970s and the 1980s, the author deftly exposes her picture-perfect black middle-class life — she recalls that the Basziles were sometimes likened to the Huxtables on “The Cosby Show” — as an emotional house of cards. There is pressure and strain on everyone to maintain his or her role in what is called the “family project,” to “stay on track” during this era of racial integration. Heads are to be held high and smiles fixed for the many photographs destined to make it into a growing family scrapbook filled with newspaper clippings and awards. It’s no surprise that the girl who grows up on Chelsea Road in the white suburb of Palos Verdes Estates in California will become a professor of history at Yale.


Miriam Berkley
Jennifer Baszile

THE BLACK GIRL NEXT DOOR

A Memoir
By Jennifer Baszile. Illustrated. 310 pp. Touchstone/ Simon & Schuster. $25

Multimedia

 Jennifer Baszile on the Book Review Podcast (mp3)
The Basziles are ideally cast as post-segregation achievers. There are the two adorable girls, Natalie and Jennifer. Add the father, a native of rural Louisiana who leaves his sleepy boyhood roots for California, raises a family and becomes a successful business owner. He is a commanding figure whose determination to have the best and be the best for his family may be the cause of his undoing. Then there’s the mother, a Michigan native and schoolteacher whose own childhood is both revelatory and cloaked in mystery. The Basziles are traveling in mostly uncharted territory for black Americans, with only a faint idea of their destination but a determination not to veer off course on their way toward the American dream.
This coming-of-age story contains the classic elements: reminiscences of jousting in the schoolyard, and always being alert to the pecking order; friendships won and lost; awkward adolescent socializing; and furtive first kisses. These remembrances are gently amplified and infused with personal observations about race — from a child’s view, though with some adult comprehension. A captivating story­teller, Baszile builds layers upon layers of significant events as perceived through the eyes of a girl — seeing but not fully knowing.
Young Jennifer capably fights for herself when she’s called “nigger” and challenged to fisticuffs by three white boys. She emerges victorious and manages a smile that day for her class picture, with spoiled braids and wayward ribbons as her badge of courage. And there’s the story about Jennifer winning an innocent footrace: the next day her dad must make a trip to school, outfitted in his suit coat, to refute a classmate’s assertion that she won because “black people have something in their feet to make them run faster.” Even her teacher will not deny the racist claim, until her father shows up; only then is the classmate set straight. It’s her father again who fights for an apology when his jealous brother levels a flippant insult at Jennifer. A father protecting his daughter is cause for celebration, of course, but he is also revealed as a man of foibles and fears in this new racial landscape.
The theme of self-definition runs throughout this memoir. Baszile’s sister is able to assimilate into the world of the black middle class, which mirrors the white middle-class model in its rigidity and formality and social snobbery. The identity of “the black girl next door” is thrust on Jennifer by circumstance. She struggles and ultimately achieves her own identity, perhaps not following the path envisioned for her but definitively finding her place in the world — a world that lies beyond the neighborhood her parents fought so hard for her to live in.