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Surviving the White Gaze

A Memoir

A stirring and powerful memoir from black cultural critic Rebecca Carroll recounting her painful struggle to overcome a completely white childhood in order to forge her identity as a black woman in America.

Rebecca Carroll grew up the only black person in her rural New Hampshire town. Adopted at birth by artistic parents who believed in peace, love, and zero population growth, her early childhood was loving and idyllic—and yet she couldn’t articulate the deep sense of isolation she increasingly felt as she grew older.

Everything changed when she met her birth mother, a young white woman, who consistently undermined Carroll’s sense of her blackness and self-esteem. Carroll’s childhood became harrowing, and her memoir explores the tension between the aching desire for her birth mother’s acceptance, the loyalty she feels toward her adoptive parents, and the search for her racial identity. As an adult, Carroll forged a path from city to city, struggling along the way with difficult boyfriends, depression, eating disorders, and excessive drinking. Ultimately, through the support of her chosen black family, she was able to heal.

Intimate and illuminating, Surviving the White Gaze is a timely examination of racism and racial identity in America today, and an extraordinarily moving portrait of resilience.

Photograph © Laura Fuchs

Rebecca Carroll is host of the podcast Come Through with Rebecca Carroll, and a cultural critic at WNYC where she also develops and produces a broad array of multi-platform content, and hosts live event series in The Greene Space. Rebecca is a former critic at large for the Los Angeles Times, and her personal essays, cultural commentary, profiles and opinion pieces have appeared in The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Guardian, Essence, New York magazine, Ebony, and Esquire, among other publications. She is the author of several interview-based books about race and blackness in America, including the award-winning Sugar in the Raw: Voices of Young Black Girls in America. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and son.