Tuesday, January 25, 2011

O'Brien Book Excerpt


While on assignment in New Orleans, Soledad O’Brien spent an evening (January 5th) at the National Civil Rights Museum reading from and signing copies of her latest book The Next Big Story.

The following is an excerpt from the first chapter of her book which she read at the event.

"I’m eleven. My sister Estela is fourteen. We’re at a photographer’s studio to get a picture taken to give to our parents. The studio is on the main street in Smithtown, Long Island, not that far from where we live. The photographer says, “Forgive me if I’m offending you, but are you black?”
For a moment, I’m speechless. I turn the comment over in my head. I can’t figure out what he means. My sister is light-years ahead of me. She starts to shred the guy. “Offend us? Offend us? By asking if we are black?” He is maybe thirty but he seems old to us. He has dark brown hair and he’s tall. He’s white and we’re two mixed-race girls trying to get our picture taken as an anniversary present for our parents. It’s 1977. I’m this cheery, optimistic kid who suddenly feels quite sunk. I just stand there in my big sister’s shadow. I’m trying to figure out why the nice-sounding words make me feel small and embarrassed. The photographer is being exceedingly polite but he’s crushing my girlish self-confidence. “Forgive me if I’m offending you . . .” What is that supposed to mean? Why would it be offensive if he were to call me black? I am black. I am also Latina, and half white through my Australian father."
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