I received a free copy of Real American: A Memoir in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Movies and TV are how I escape reality. Books are where I like to keep it real. From learning how to be a more hands-free mama to jumping into the art of social media and most recently, my eye-opening journey through the pages of Real American, a memoir by Julie Lythcott-Haims thanks to the advanced copy I received.
Real American – A Memoir
Real American is a book that I had trouble putting down from the very beginning. Just as Julie Lythcott-Haims got lost in Good Woman by Lucille Clifton and looked up at the clock to realize an hour had passed, that too happened to me while reading Real American. I honestly wish this could be required reading for high school seniors or college freshman, especially with all the racist acts in this country recently.
I’ve been trying to put my thoughts into words about the 269 pages of Real American. I wasn’t expecting how raw and honest this memoir is, and I appreciate that. Written much like journal logs, Julie brings you inside of her life, going all the way back to her great-great-great-great-grandmother Silvey, who worked on a plantation in the late 1700’s.
Silvey bore three children, after being raped by her master, and generations later Julie’s father was born in 1918. George Lythcott was a doctor and Assistant Surgeon General of the United States. George eventually married Julie’s mother, who was born in England. After some backstory, we jump right into the 1970’s childhood of Lythcott-Haims.
Looking back over the years of even my earliest childhood, the clues were everywhere.
– Julie Lythcott-Haims
This part of the book breaks your heart as a mother and a woman. You learn how hard Julie’s mom works to understand how to raise her biracial Black daughter. How Julie begins to realize that people judge based on skin color. What it’s like being the only Black kid in a white community where people think your dad is the groundskeeper of the large beautiful house your parents own.
For years I’d been trying to be more Black to fit in with Black people while simultaneously trying to pass as a white enough to avoid the judgment of whites.
– Julie Lythcott-Haims
After childhood, Julie Lythcott-Haims takes us along to Stanford in 1995. Where assumptions and glares remind her that judgment is always there for people who are not white. During this time we also learn more about Dan, who eventually becomes her husband and father of her two children.
Dan is white and we go on a back and forth with Lythcott-Haims throughout the last half of the book about that fact. Whether or not her daughter is too white and how she will raise her. If she has done enough to teach and protect her teenage son in 2017 America.
You see, as a mother with an 11-year-old son, I know what it’s like to have a child who thinks they are immortal and invincible. The difference is, my son is white. He can play Nerf guns in the yard with out fearing for his life. He can buy Skittles at the gas station and walk out with his hands in his pocket and not be shot. Julie Lythcott-Haims doesn’t have the privilege to not worry about her son getting shot or arrested for what he plays with or how he walks. That’s a big problem in America and that part of Real American hit me hard.
There are times throughout Real American where you have to double a take on what year she is writing about. Ignorance I will no longer show because no matter what decade it is, sadly racism has always been and still is in America. As a white woman, I do not know what it is like to live as a light-skinned biracial Black woman in America. After reading every word that Julie Lythcott-Haims wrote I understand better what life was like for her. That understanding saddens and angers me at the same time. A sadness and anger that I need to turn into change because Real American will inspire you to be a better ally.
I come from people who surivied what America did to them. Ain’t I a Real American?
– Julie Lyhcott-Haims
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I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.