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Secret Daughter


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About the Author

June Cross is assistant professor of journalism at Columbia University. She has been a television producer for Frontline and the CBS Evening News and was a reporter, producer, and correspondent for PBS's MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour.


Using her 1997 Emmy Award- winning documentary, Secret Daughter, as inspiration for her memoir of the same name, Cross, a TV producer and journalism professor at Columbia University, narrates her life as the daughter of a white woman and a well-known black vaudevillian (Jimmy Cross) who was handed over to a black couple for rearing. Several elements fight for the center of this memoir: the emotional roller coaster of life spent between her bourgeois adoptive black family in Atlantic City and her Hollywood show business biological mother (who usually introduced her daughter as a niece or having been adopted); her undergraduate difficulties at the Harvard Crimson, "a club of smart-assed white boys and prefeminist women, more butch than liberated"; and life in the '60s ("It was the season of Angela Davis's trial, so prisons were hip"). She also weaves in gossipy show business tales that follow the career trajectory of F Troop actor Larry Storch as well as some settling of scores (Jerry Lewis borrowed from her father's act "Stump and Stumpy" but didn't send flowers to his funeral). Unfortunately, the bits and pieces fail to cohere, and her narrative often falls flat ("I rose from the piano stool and crossed the room") in what is otherwise an intriguing story. (May 22) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

In this memoir, which grew out of a 1996 Emmy award-winning documentary, Cross (journalism, Columbia Univ.) reveals her experiences as a mixed-race child born in mid-20th-century America. Dedicated to pursuing an acting career, her mother left Cross to be cared for by a black family friend. Cross recounts her childhood and relays her impressions of both the black and the white world during the chaotic period of the Civil Rights Movement. She describes in intimate detail fine racial boundaries at times nearly invisible to outsiders and provides unique insight into the societal repercussions of crossing these racial boundaries and "passing" as a member of another race. Amazingly, she avoids bitterness, instead describing a journey toward forgiveness and self-acceptance, as well as her discovery of a biracial older sister who had been put up for adoption by their parents. Cross has crafted a touching memoir that exposes the angst of a young girl struggling for acceptance across two worlds. Recommended for undergraduate and public libraries.-Kristin Whitehair, Kansas State Univ. Libs., Manhattan Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

A painful, richly detailed account . . . [that reveals] astonishing truths. (Newsweek)

Searing, revelatory mind-boggling in its rich and complex interplay of personalities [and] social and racial pressures. (Elle)

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