March 11, 2009

Secret Daughter: A Mixed-Race Daughter and the Mother Who Gave Her Away by June Cross

BOOK #: 16
CHALLENGES: In Their Shoes Challenge, A to Z, What's in a Name?, Triple 999
RATING: Amazing! (4 stars)

This memoir tells the true story of June, the daughter of white, aspiring actress Norma Booth and well-known black comedian James "Stump" Cross. Born in 1954, June could 'pass' as white. However, before she was even in school, her skin was too dark for her to 'pass' as white any longer. Her mother, single (because of domestic abuse), heartbroken and riddled with guilt, gave her to black friends to raise, but making it clear she was still to be a part of June's life. June's 'Uncle' Paul and 'Aunt' Peggy raised her and she shuttled back and forth between their home in Atlantic City and her mother's home, first in New York, and then in L.A. when she married actor Larry Storch.

June's account of the "fractal geometry of her life" is written as if she is your best friend and she is telling you her deepest, darkest family secrets and the fears she deals with. June deals with having to pretend she is a niece or adopted into the family around her mother and Larry's showbiz crowd for fear of Larry not finding work. She feels the need in her Atlantic City neighborhood to embrace everything black about her and feels insecure about revealing anything about her stepfather or mother.

She comes of age torn between these two worlds in a time when desegregation was just beginning to come into play. To make matters more complicated, Norma and Aunt Peggy had mostly two different ideas about how June should behave, how she should dress, and what she should do with her life.

June makes startling discoveries about her mother, her father, and about herself along the way. She has an enviable perseverance in the face of adversity and a delicate humanity that makes you want to grab her and hug her. I think that June's memoir is brave, spirited, and absolutely lovable.

Other Reviews:


  1. What a great story. Isn't it wonderful that people don't judge one another like they did in times back. There is so much more love in people's hearts today. This sounds like a definite Must Read!

    Thanks for the great review :)

  2. I love memoirs and you've made this one sound like a great one. Thanks!

  3. This sounds wonderful and heartbreaking. I have never been much into memoirs until recently. They've given me a new perspective on life.

  4. I got this one last week and I'm really looking forward to reading it.

  5. This is definitely one of my favorite memoirs.

  6. This sounds like one I definitely need to read this year for my Diversity Rocks challenge. Thanks!

  7. Hint, hint for all of you who are paying attention: this will be my next giveaway book, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled.

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