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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 a writer, cultural critic, and host of the podcasts Come Through with Rebecca Carroll (WNYC Studios), and Billie Was a Black Woman. Her writing has been published in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Essence, New York magazine, and The Guardian, where she was a regular columnist for two years. A former cultural critic for WNYC, and critic-at-large for the Los Angeles Times, she is an editor-at-large for The Meteor media collective, as well as the author of several interview-based books about race 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.

Photograph © Laura Fuchs

Rebecca Carroll is a writer, cultural critic, and host of the podcasts Come Through with Rebecca Carroll (WNYC Studios), and Billie Was a Black Woman. Her writing has been published in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Essence, New York magazine, and The Guardian, where she was a regular columnist for two years. A former cultural critic for WNYC, and critic-at-large for the Los Angeles Times, she is an editor-at-large for The Meteor media collective, as well as the author of several interview-based books about race 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.

"Critic and podcaster Rebecca Carroll narrates her accomplished memoir about growing up the adopted daughter of a white couple and being the only Black resident in her small New Hampshire town. This affecting chronicle illuminates the overt and subtle racial discrimination she encounters as she searches to find her place in the world. As Carroll recounts her bohemian upbringing and troubled relationship with her biological mother, her story will resonate with anyone who has felt like an outsider in their own family or community. Her measured delivery and unforced pacing underscore the narrative's disquieting moments as well as her growing unease and awareness. Her quietly expressive narration adds potency to this well-told and relatable story."

– AudioFile Magazine