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Categories : 1,000 Words, Posts They Will Hate Me For Later
More than a month ago in this post, I promised to review Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson. I had completed the book and was excited to share my
brilliant insights thoughts. Then PJ broke her arm and that threw my schedule off. Two days ago she got her cast off, I think that means I can probably get back to the post.
The real question those of you who haven’t read the book yet but are fans of Samuelsson want to ask is, “Is the book as yummy as Marcus?” The answer is unequivocally, yes.
The truth is, I was NOT a Samuelsson fan before I read the book. I know to some of you that is simply blasphemy. In reality, I didn’t know about him until he was on Top Chef Masters a few years back. When I saw him on the show I recognized he was Ethiopian and did a quick google search. And then I promptly laid the reputation of an entire nation that I love on his back (seems fair.) I can’t even remember what he did on the show that bothered me, but it was enough to make me turn off Top Chef Masters and to write him off (being the forgiving sort that I am.)
Last year, when he held a fundraiser to provide famine relief, I took notice of him again most notably because people I respect, respect
lust after him. However, just recently, I also found out that I have a few friends, FRIENDS WITH CHILDREN FROM ETHIOPIA NONE-THE-LESS who do not know who Samuelsson is. When an Ethiopian is famous around the world for something other than running, and when said Ethiopian looks like this…
we should all know who he is. But it is more than being Ethiopian. How about the fact that he is a trans-racial adoptee who has won every major award in his chosen field? Shouldn’t that get our attention?
Also, note-to-self, snap judgements based on a reality show probably are not the smartest way to go.
This summer, I put myself on the waiting list for his autobiography before it was officially released and had it in hand a few weeks later.
I thoroughly enjoyed every page of it.
In an effort to avoid, once again, a third grade book report format, please allow for a few bullet points.
- Marcus was born in Ethiopia.
- As a young child he and his biological sister were adopted by a white, Swedish family.
- His grandmother taught him to cook and inspired his love for the culinary arts.
- He paid his dues, or whatever it is called in the foodie world, in what seems to be both a typical and a somewhat extraordinary fashion. Honestly, I know nothing about the journey most chefs take to make it to the top in fine-dining and found this aspect of the book fascinating.
- He has returned to Ethiopia and established a relationship with his biological father, siblings and extended family members.
- He won the second season of Top Chef Masters, has received many major culinary accolades and prepared a White House State Dinner.
- Being adopted and being black played a role in every aspect of his life while simultaneously playing almost NO role in any aspect of his life. And if that doesn’t make sense, I suggest you read not only Yes, Chef but also How To Be Black (which I reviewed here.)
most books I check out from the library How To Be Black, I returned this book to the library on time, which means I will not have any brilliant direct quotes in this post. You will just have to trust that my interpretation is EXACTLY what Samuelsson was saying….
My favorite part of the book was at the end, where Samuelsson makes an attempt to sum up the role race has played in his life. He acknowledges the labels OTHERS have given him… is he Black? Ethiopian? African-American? a Swede? And he points out that these are LABELS OTHERS GIVE HIM. Get it? Labels from others don’t define him (us). The fact that he has received so many different labels is proof that the label has more to do with time and place and probably most of all it has to do with the label-er, not the labeled.
If Saumelsson wasn’t so driven, hard-working and successful, I would give him the label of eye-candy.
I think you will enjoy this book. And I really look forward to a time where my son is old enough to read Yes, Chef and see Samuelsson for the inspiration that he is.
*My version of WordPress will not allow me to use italics in the headline. I actually know the book title should be italicized.
Comments : 7 Comments »
Categories : Adoption, Ethiopia, Post-racial Reality Check
Baratunde Thurston of Jack & Jill Politics and The Onion published his first book this year, How To Be Black, and it an amazing read. It is funny – as you would expect considering Thurston is a stand-up comedian. And it is smart – as you would expect considering Thurston is a Harvard graduate. And it offered a refreshing perspective on life as an African-American – as you would expect considering Thurston was named one of the 100 most influential AAs of 2011.
I have been struggling to write a review of this book, which I think was great and which I really want you to read (regardless of whether you are part of a trans-racial family or not). Why am I struggling? Because it keeps coming out like a third grade book report where I tell you the plot, the main characters and all the nifty things I learned, (like the paragraph above, which I basically just rewrote from the book jacket.)
I don’t want to tell you what is in this book. I want YOU to read this book and discover the clever way he put it together. I want you to discover that there are places in society where being a minority “representative” in a majority climate “the black guy at work,” “the black friend” etc… is both awkward and enlightening. In those places where some of us, okay – me for sure, have sometimes ended up in weird situations, there is potential to do better. Without making me feel so guilty that I had to put down the book and drink a beer, Thurston pointed out some situations where my behavior was
more than a little strange and completely, embarrassingly typical. (Thank you, Baratunde, I will do better.)
But more important than what actually became tips on, “How not to be the foolish white person who is trying to be an ally but is looking like an ass” is that in the end the book reminded me of what I already knew.
The truth of this book reminded me of what I used to know but somehow forgot. It reminded me of why even knowing the potential pitfalls of trans-racial adoption, we still moved forward. It reminded me that my son will probably end up having a wonderful life despite the fact that I am white.
It reminded me that my son will be black regardless of whether he is a flute player or a football player. My son will be black regardless of what music he listens to, what accent he has or whether he can dance (currently all signs point to no.) If my son really wants to be black in America he better think about a career as a professional athlete (or a professional politician). He ought to consider a traditional black college (and all the ivy league schools.) He needs to be aware that there will be plenty of people trying to hold him down (and plenty of others trying to lift him up – not the least of all; his father and me.)
While I appreciate all the advice out there, I want to say to the ladies of the internet who insist my son’s hair-cut at the age of two is a reflection on the entire black race… you are wrong. Ask Baratunde, I think he will agree with me.
This book put me back in the place I started from before I became distracted and distressed by so many who think they know everything. Every single human being is unique and the sum total of each person’s life writes a new definition of what it means to be human (and also black or white, male or female, gay or straight, Christian or pagan…). Those who wish to box others in, who in an attempt to promote unity tell others what they can and cannot do, are simply acting as oppressors. And speaking of oppression…
In his chapter entitled The Future of Blackness Thurston reminded me that the “Black Struggle” can and should be solved by white people. In fact, it can only be solved by white people. Oh, and “gay rights” can only, ultimately be distributed by straight people. The “dream act” will ultimately be passed by the children of immigrants – most of which are third or fourth generation – not new “illegal” immigrants. And the folks who refused to pass the ERA – were men. Women alone cannot fight for women’s issues – there are simply not enough of us in power.
If I want the world to be a better place for my black son, I need to get my white-ass in gear. If I want the world to be a better place for my daughter, I need my husband to “man-up.” (Wow, I really hate that expression, but I am hoping it makes my point without me having to mention my husband’s genitals – oops.)
Thurston called on some of his friends and colleagues to help with this book. In this chapter two of them weigh in on The Future of Blackness.
Damali “I’ve done workshops where I have literally taken all the people of color out and left the white people and said, “Your job is to end racism, and I’ll be back in twenty minutes. You set it up. Take it down.”
Kanau “I’ve recently come to the conclusion: I think that all people who are fighting for oppressed people should only be allowed to work for the group that’s one over from them. Black people should only be allowed to work for the Mexican immigrants’ struggle in America. Mexican immigrants should only be allowed to work for gay marriage. Gay marriage should only be allowed to work for black people. I feel like if we all just stepped one group over, I think we would get things done a lot quicker.
You can’t end racism and make sexism worse. You can’t end racism and make homophobia worse. You have to put it all forward… So a big part of my how-to-be-black is actually trying to be inclusive of all the struggles. Slow clap.”
In conclusion (yes, we are going back to third grade):
How To Be Black is funny.
How To Be Black is challenging.
How To Be Black is reassuring.
How To Be Black is motivating.
You should read How To Be Black.
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Categories : Reading Is Fundamental
I have come to realize that the longest lines at any event we go to are at the face painting booths. Sure, sometimes you can find a short line if there are LOTS of face painting booths at the same event. Maybe you can drop a couple dollars in the jar at a not-for-profit or church booth and your kid will get a small flower on his or her cheek. But usually, in our town, where there seems to be a bit of a face-painting monopoly, you have to wait in a very long line – often well over an hour – to get a beautiful design – but it is going to cost you $5 a piece. And really, it just isn’t worth it.
Yesterday, we were at a Heritage Festival and between the men in coonskin caps, the traditional frontier toy making booths and the covered wagons, there was, of course, face-painting. (Remember the face-painting episode on Little H0use 0n the Prairie?) The lines were just too long and I really wanted to spend my cash on kettle corn. So I promised the kids that if we skipped face-painting with
only minimal amounts of no complaining, I would go to the store and buy supplies and paint their faces myself. The wonderful thing about pre-schoolers is that they believe with all of their hearts that their parents can do anything and everything well. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha….
I was hoping for a kit with some stencils or directions but H0bby L0bby failed me again. So in the end, it was just me, a bunch of brushes and some paints. I guess a kit would not have been that helpful since Little Dude wanted “an apple tree with red and yellow apples.” Yeah, I don’t think that is in many face-painting manuals.
So, I free-styled.
Sometimes it pays to be both cheap and impatient.
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Categories : But I Digress