What emerged on the page, from grade school through college to adulthood in New York, was a crescendo of this constant push/pull, both a yearning for and rejection of the embodiment of Blackness. Carroll experienced a disorienting grief, a phantom limb gesturing wildly into the atmosphere of her daily life in an isolated struggle to root out her racial identity ... Carroll unearths complex, uncomfortable truths about legacy and parenthood in her memoir’s short chapters, re-creating a child’s rich worldview with penetrative grown-up perspective. Her voice is generous, intimate, searching, and formidable, her story excavated from her core and delivered with fervor and clarity. As the book progresses, Carroll’s innermost reflections about her Black biological father feel almost as absent as he is, but her narrative raises crucial questions of self-representation, the intricacies of transracial adoption, and the nuances of group membership. She crystallizes well-founded resentments and deeply painful revelations without saddling the reader with self-pity or melodrama. She weaves in with exquisite resonance a sense of beauty, gratitude, and, ultimately, hard-won self-reconciliation and unbound joy.
As Rebecca Carroll vividly reveals in her searing memoir, Surviving the White Gaze , her adoptive parents were woefully unprepared to raise a Black child, clueless to the challenges she faced as the only Black resident of their rural New Hampshire town ... Her Blackness is praised and almost fetishized by her parents, and yet they do nothing to introduce her to Black culture. She’s 6 when she meets her first Black person ... As Rebecca becomes more aware of the world and her place in it, she begins to absorb the racist sentiments openly directed at her, as when her elementary school teacher tells her she’s pretty 'for a black girl' ... As Rebecca matures, and her world opens up, she encounters more Black people and broadens her understanding of her own identity. At the same time, she must navigate the incessant micro- and macroaggressions of her white community ... She inserts herself into the popular crowd and strives to date cute white boys. Despite her damaged psyche, Rebecca does not lack self-assurance. Though Carroll doesn’t explicitly say so, her beauty, charisma, and intelligence open doors that might have otherwise stayed closed ... Carroll’s language toggles between the blinding eloquence of a literary essay and the informal chattiness of a social media post, her fierce sense of self always shining through. A successful writer and cultural critic, a loving wife and proud mother, she achieves the happily-ever-after ending of adoption lore, despite, not because of, her white parents, adoptive and natural.
... gorgeous and powerful ... In nuanced and richly textured scenes, Carroll reminds us how identity, particularly racial identity, is forged in a thousand different moments ... Carroll writes with the urgency and persuasiveness of someone whose life is hanging in the balance, and the result is raw and affecting.