It's written in a simple open style except when he goes off on his black-politics tangents. But even that helped illuminate his inner workings...
It could be argued that there are two books here under one cover: one is a fascinating story on... a black man finding his white kin; and the other is on impersonal racial politics. I skipped thru the politics. ... the story always got back to the struggle within the black author himself , of his anger, and of his conflicting black and (largely unknown) white heritage.
When the author finally made first contact with his contemporary (white) distant cousins, who were indeed vaguely aware of a black half-aunt from a few generations back... it was very moving... What an adventure in closing the circle that spanned over a century. amazon
Shortly after the end of the Civil War, Laura Brumley, a young, educated mulatto ex-slave entered into a "loving" involvement with A.J. Beaumont, a white overseer on a plantation in Louisiana. A photo of Beaumont, his crinkled newspaper obituary and his deathbed note acknowledging his mixed-race daughter, Pearl, were passed down as heirlooms on the African-American side of the family. These fragile links were the end of the story until Brumley's great-great grandson Henry, associate professor of journalism at U.C.-Berkeley, used his investigative skills to try to locate his white relations. The more Henry searched, the more he examined his own troubled life as a black man, which he retells in a stream-of-consciousness style that is exasperatingly repetitious. But buried in the flashbacks and flash-forwards are some gems. For example, he recalls his mother telling him about reciting "I pledge allegiance to the rag," a common utterance among African-American schoolchildren during the days of Jim Crow that's rarely been mentioned in other memoirs. Henry's recollections of his Princeton days of being alienated from both the preppy Beach Boys culture and the lingo-speaking fans of the O'Jays are quite moving. He piques further interest by briefly mentioning his grandmother's 1920s trip to the Soviet Union, where she had heard blacks were treated as well as whites. In the end, Henry succeeds in his mission, but the emotional insights this memoir brings are the reward received, for both author and reader. Photos not seen by PW. Agent, Jill Kneerim. (May) Forecast: Readers who enjoyed James McBride's The Color of Water may find Henry's tale equally compelling. Additionally, his journalistic connections (the book mentions many Washington Post writers, and the jacket has a plug from Bob Woodward), may help the book garner high-profile media attention.