Title: Secret Daughter
Author: June Cross
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics) (April 24, 2007)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I search for my mother’s face in the mirror and see a stranger.
June Cross, the author, was born to a white mother and a black father. At a time when the color of your skin was decisive of the way you live your life and the privileges you were given, June Cross couldn’t decide what she was.
June’s mother Norma was an aspiring actress and a single woman when she gave birth to June. She kept June with her until she could pass as a white girl. But as she grew up her color started to darken and then she could no longer pass as exotic in her mother’s white world. To hide the fact that she had given birth to a child of a black man, Norma left her with Peggy, her black friend who lived in Atlanta and was pretty secure in her little world.
Peggy and her husband Paul had no child of their own so they kept June with them. Norma visited her or called her to visit New York according to her convenience. Her entire life June craved for her mother to accept her as her own instead of telling people she was her niece or her friend. She was shuttled in two different worlds, Norma’s free and open world in New York and Peggy small and conservative world in Atlanta.
For me, there was a major negative point for the first hundred pages of this book. When sentences like ‘When I was five’ start appearing on every alternate page, you tend to think how a girl so young could remember so much. That kind of spoiled the first 100 pages for me. I even considered not finishing it as I was so irritated by it. But that could just be my problem. Somewhere after the 100 pages, something changed. June grew up 🙂 And no one could argue whether a teenage girl could remember things, right?
I’m so glad I did not keep this book aside. I really enjoyed the rest of the book. Norma, I think, was very selfish. Sorry for judging, but I just can’t help it. Whereas I could understand why she did what she did with June, her other children weren’t quite kept close either. She gave her first girl for adoption and sent her second son to boarding school. All she could think of was how they could affect her career or Larry’s, whom she married later.
This book really gave me an insight into how the lives of black and white American people were affected because of the Civil Rights movement in the 1950’s. For example, when the US government gave orders to integrate the schools. Also the rule that no colored man could play himself in a movie or a theatre production. That rule changed and it affected Larry, Norma’s husband who made a living by playing people from different backgrounds. This book gave two different perspectives, the back and the white which was very intriguing to read.
The author was pretty honest about her feelings and I can only imagine how much pain she would have gone through remembering and writing this book.
The more I think or write about this book, the more I want to increase the rating, so I’ll stop here. Definitely recommended if you like memoirs, or want to learn more about the Civil Rights movement without stressing your brain too much and without getting into too many details. The story of June Cross is worth reading, if only to learn how a black woman has managed to give voice to thousands of stories similar to her own and highlight the struggles bi-racial children went through.
June Cross produced a documentary called Secret Daughter which won an Emmy Award in 1997. The documentary was an inspiration to write the book.
P.S: Please do have a look at the site here; it’s really pretty and informative.
This book was from AuthorMarketingExpert. Thanks Paula.
18 thoughts on “Secret Daughter by June Cross”
Well when I was a 5 yr old [ are you irritated already? :P], I went to school in a green pleated skirt, white shirt, tie and etc etc…! J/K!
I really can’t remember much, but there are some things; like a video that are etched in my memory; i have a hard time thinking what my age would be in those 😀
But I think there are people who remember! But this sounds like a very good read! while reading your review, I already started disliking Norma 🙂 So it is ok if you formed that opinion “after” finishing the book 🙂
Have a nice day and a very good review!@
lol, Veens 🙂
I have a few things etched in my memory too like sceens from a movie or like a video as you said, but I really don’t remember what I felt like. The problem was she remembered what exactly she was doing and thinking when she was say, staring at the trees outside her house. I know some people who remember, but how much is too much 🙂
heart touching .
I think I have heard of this book. I might add it to my ever growing wish list.
Thanks for stopping by my site and leaving a comment. Also Chocolat is sort of fairy tale, but not over the top like Like Water for Chocolat.
I think Norma was selfish, too, but so was Norma’s mother, so maybe she just didn’t know how to take care of her own kids. I think June turned out remarkably well, all things considered.
This sounds like a great read. Something that can teach you a great deal. I’ve popped it on my TBR wish list
and what a great choice of photo for the cover.
I don’t like it when people seem to remember lots of things about when they were young either. It was one of the things that annoyed me most about Midnight’s Children – he starts the narration before he is born and continues observing things as a little baby – very annoying!
I remember reading a review of this quite a while ago and being very mad at the mother. You judge her, but seem to get past that to enjoy the book. Great review!
I don’t remember much from when I was 5, but then again, nothing much happened to me back then. LOL I can see how that would be a bit irritating, but this still sounds like an interesting book.
Thank you so much for reviewing my book!
I often get asked how I can remember things from so young. My older brother couldn’t believe that I remembered – accurately – things from when I was even younger than five. I will say I had help: I doublechecked my impressions by asking everyone who knew me what I was like as a kid. I had thousands of photographs from Peggy, and letters between the two of them; researched video archives to find footage of what Atlantic City and New York and California looked like during the time periods I wrote about.and I also interviewed everyone I could find who ever knew me about what I was like. I Including all of my former teachers. My former classmates. My relatives. So no, I didn’t just write off the top of my head. A lot a lot a lot of research went into it.
Thanks for reading though and these are really important questions that every author needs to be asked.
Thanks so much for stopping by. I do agree a question things a lot when I’m reading memoirs.
Thanks for letting us know the process of writing the book. It was certainly helpful.
Ooh, I like the sound of this. 😀
I’ve recently got really interested in African American history (here in Britain, we learn bugger all about it) so this is definitely going on my wishlist.
This one looks so good. I’ve had it on my list. I need to track down a copy.
When I was 5 years old, I was a pain in the butt. Seriously I am. LOL!
Thanks for the thoughtful review.
This sounds like a very intense read. Great and thoughtful review. Though I couldn’t expect much less from the daughter of a girl named Aarti!
I loved this book, too! It was well-written and so interesting. Good review! I will link to your review from mine.