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Bliss Broyard

Author, One Drop: My Father's Hidden Life: A Story of Race and Family Secrets

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 Bliss Broyard Biography

After the literary critic Anatole Broyard died in 1990, his family arranged a memorial reception at a suburban Connecticut yacht club. It was a club that claimed to have no black members until, after Mr. Broyard’s death, his mixed racial lineage was made known. After that, the club cited him as evidence of integration.

What was it like for Mr. Broyard to keep his secret in such surroundings? For a self-made man who had come so far in life, reading so many books in the process, did the clubhouse’s view of Long Island Sound bring to mind the grand illusions of “The Great Gatsby”?

Not likely, says his smart, tough-minded daughter, Bliss Broyard, in “One Drop,” an investigative memoir about her father’s life. (Mr. Broyard was a longtime book critic and editor for The New York Times and an essayist for its Book Review.) As this fascinating, insightful book makes clear, Mr. Broyard left a legacy of racial confusion and great autobiographical material, not necessarily in that order.

Ms. Broyard shares her father’s bracingly unsentimental spirit, to the point where she knows that he had none of Jay Gatsby’s self-congratulatory outlook or sense of American tragedy. More to the point, she says, “It never seemed to occur to him that someone might want to keep him out.”

When a guest at the memorial service noticed three light-skinned black people sitting with the Broyards, he was surprised that the family had so much help. But those weren’t the servants; they were black Broyards who had been kept at arm’s length by Anatole, whose birth certificate listed him as white. By the time he got to Connecticut, after early years in New Orleans, a Brooklyn boyhood and time spent in the Army and Greenwich Village, he no longer talked about his lineage. Black friends assumed he was black. Whites didn’t ask what they thought of as rude questions. It was a rare moment in the Broyard household — say, when dinner guests realized that Bliss and her brother, Todd, knew nothing about their black heritage — when race seemed to make any difference at all.

Only after her father died did Ms. Broyard begin to realize how little she understood. And so she began, in ways that elevate “One Drop” far above the usual family-revisionist memoir, to make up for lost time. She knew no Broyards in New York, but found plenty in Los Angeles, even bringing them together for a family reunion as an early step in her process of discovery. What made this gathering tricky is that some Broyards regarded themselves as white and others as black, drawing vehemently different conclusions from similar sets of facts.

Ms. Broyard knew that her father’s heritage was an open secret when she found a close confidant in Henry Louis Gates Jr., the renowned scholar. She got to know Mr. Gates by his nickname, Skip; she marveled at how generous he was with his time and interest. Then she learned that he planned to write the Broyard story for The New Yorker, and she was infuriated at having been so manipulatively treated. “Years later,” she writes astutely, “I’d realize that my biggest fear was that Gates, a stranger who had never even met my father, would understand him better than I could.” But she sharply excoriates Mr. Gates for his tactics, his glibness and the harm that she feels his article inflicted on her family.

When she published her first book, a story collection called “My Father, Dancing” in 2000, Ms. Broyard had not written about race. Yet her book was included in the African-American Book Expo in Chicago and on the Black History Month agenda. An investigation into her own past and her family’s was clearly something she could not avoid.

A half-hidden family history is no guarantee of an interesting one, however. And for all its prodigious research, “One Drop” deals more engrossingly with the stories of Ms. Broyard and her closest relatives than it does with the 18th-century origins of the Broyards in America.

Nonetheless, armed with the knowledge that genealogical Web sites are almost as popular as pornographic ones, Ms. Broyard zealously assembled an account of her roots. Among the first things she discovers about a large, Creole, New Orleans-based family like hers is that racial delineations and stereotypes make no sense at all.

And slavery, which she regards as a defining issue in matters of black identity, holds its own share of surprises. “In a few short hours, I’d gone from believing that my great-grandmother was born a slave to discovering that she’d grown up in a family of black slave owners,” she writes after one fact-finding trip. “These weren’t the noble tragic figures I’d been expecting to encounter.”

Though its scope is large, the heart of “One Drop” lies with the author’s father. She must try — as Philip Roth did in “The Human Stain,” a book that was seemingly prompted by the Broyard story but goes unmentioned here — to understand the choices that he made, whether by action or omission. In a speculative account of what happened when her father applied for a Social Security card, Ms. Broyard guesses at how he might have been flummoxed by the decision of what racial identity to choose yet unaware of how important this choice would be. “I doubt that my father walked away feeling that he’d redirected the course of his life,” she writes.

Drawing on both her father’s autobiographical account and some of what Mr. Gates had to say, “One Drop” culminates in a cultural and intellectual history of Mr. Broyard’s life and times. His Greenwich Village days (described in his book “Kafka Was the Rage”) were full of ambition and contention, not to mention consummate lady-killing. (Mr. Broyard was “New Orleans French, handsome, sensual, ironic,” according to the hotblooded diarist Anaïs Nin.) And some of his most assertive early essays about race and hipness made his bona fides clear.

Mr. Broyard proudly kept a 1950 issue of Commentary near the family’s dinner table. But the author’s identifying note had been neatly cut out of the contributor’s page. Now his daughter knows what it said: that Anatole Broyard was “an anatomist of the Negro personality in a white world.” And she wonders, with lucid and sharp introspection, how her own life would have changed if she had known that sooner.

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One Drop: My Father's Hidden Life--A Story of Race and Family Secrets

One Drop: My Father's Hidden Life--A Story of Race and Family Secrets

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  • HOW TO BOOK Bliss Broyard?

    Our booking agents have successfully helped clients around the world secure talent like Bliss Broyard for speaking engagements, personal appearances, product endorsements, or corporate entertainment for over 15 years. The team at All American Entertainment represents and listens to the needs of organizations and corporations seeking to hire keynote speakers, celebrities or entertainers. Fill out a booking request form for Bliss Broyard, or call our office at 1.800.698.2536 to discuss your upcoming event. One of our experienced agents will be happy to help you get pricing information and check availability for Bliss Broyard or any other celebrity of your choice.
  • HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO BOOK Bliss Broyard?

    Booking fees for Bliss Broyard, or any other speakers and celebrities, are determined based on a number of factors and may change without notice. Pricing often varies according to the circumstances, including the talent's schedule, market conditions, length of presentation, and the location of the event. Speaker fees listed on this website are intended to serve as a guideline only. In some cases, the actual quote may be above or below the stated range. For the most current fee to hire Bliss Broyard, please fill out the booking request form or call our office at 1.800.698.2536 to speak with an experienced booking agent.
  • WHO IS THE AGENT FOR Bliss Broyard?

    All American Entertainment has successfully secured celebrity talent like Bliss Broyard for clients worldwide for more than 15 years. As a full-service talent booking agency, we have access to virtually any speaker or celebrity in the world. Our agents are happy and able to submit an offer to the speaker or celebrity of your choice, letting you benefit from our reputation and long-standing relationships in the industry. Fill out the booking request form or call our office at 1.800.698.2536, and one of our agents will assist you to book Bliss Broyard for your next private or corporate function.
  • WHAT IS A FULL-SERVICE TALENT BOOKING AGENCY?

    All American Speakers is a "buyers agent" and exclusively represents talent buyers, meeting planners and event professionals, who are looking to secure celebrities and speakers for personal appearances, speaking engagements, corporate entertainment, public relations campaigns, commercials, or endorsements. We do not exclusively represent Bliss Broyard or claim ourselves as the exclusive booking agency, business manager, publicist, speakers bureau or management for Bliss Broyard or any other speaker or celebrity on this website. For more information on how we work and what makes us unique, please read the AAE Advantage.
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Bliss Broyard

Author, One Drop: My Father's Hidden Life: A Story of Race and Family Secrets

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Bliss Broyard Biography

After the literary critic Anatole Broyard died in 1990, his family arranged a memorial reception at a suburban Connecticut yacht club. It was a club that claimed to have no black members until, after Mr. Broyard’s death, his mixed racial lineage was made known. After that, the club cited him as evidence of integration.

What was it like for Mr. Broyard to keep his secret in such surroundings? For a self-made man who had come so far in life, reading so many books in the process, did the clubhouse’s view of Long Island Sound bring to mind the grand illusions of “The Great Gatsby”?

Not likely, says his smart, tough-minded daughter, Bliss Broyard, in “One Drop,” an investigative memoir about her father’s life. (Mr. Broyard was a longtime book critic and editor for The New York Times and an essayist for its Book Review.) As this fascinating, insightful book makes clear, Mr. Broyard left a legacy of racial confusion and great autobiographical material, not necessarily in that order.

Ms. Broyard shares her father’s bracingly unsentimental spirit, to the point where she knows that he had none of Jay Gatsby’s self-congratulatory outlook or sense of American tragedy. More to the point, she says, “It never seemed to occur to him that someone might want to keep him out.”

When a guest at the memorial service noticed three light-skinned black people sitting with the Broyards, he was surprised that the family had so much help. But those weren’t the servants; they were black Broyards who had been kept at arm’s length by Anatole, whose birth certificate listed him as white. By the time he got to Connecticut, after early years in New Orleans, a Brooklyn boyhood and time spent in the Army and Greenwich Village, he no longer talked about his lineage. Black friends assumed he was black. Whites didn’t ask what they thought of as rude questions. It was a rare moment in the Broyard household — say, when dinner guests realized that Bliss and her brother, Todd, knew nothing about their black heritage — when race seemed to make any difference at all.

Only after her father died did Ms. Broyard begin to realize how little she understood. And so she began, in ways that elevate “One Drop” far above the usual family-revisionist memoir, to make up for lost time. She knew no Broyards in New York, but found plenty in Los Angeles, even bringing them together for a family reunion as an early step in her process of discovery. What made this gathering tricky is that some Broyards regarded themselves as white and others as black, drawing vehemently different conclusions from similar sets of facts.

Ms. Broyard knew that her father’s heritage was an open secret when she found a close confidant in Henry Louis Gates Jr., the renowned scholar. She got to know Mr. Gates by his nickname, Skip; she marveled at how generous he was with his time and interest. Then she learned that he planned to write the Broyard story for The New Yorker, and she was infuriated at having been so manipulatively treated. “Years later,” she writes astutely, “I’d realize that my biggest fear was that Gates, a stranger who had never even met my father, would understand him better than I could.” But she sharply excoriates Mr. Gates for his tactics, his glibness and the harm that she feels his article inflicted on her family.

When she published her first book, a story collection called “My Father, Dancing” in 2000, Ms. Broyard had not written about race. Yet her book was included in the African-American Book Expo in Chicago and on the Black History Month agenda. An investigation into her own past and her family’s was clearly something she could not avoid.

A half-hidden family history is no guarantee of an interesting one, however. And for all its prodigious research, “One Drop” deals more engrossingly with the stories of Ms. Broyard and her closest relatives than it does with the 18th-century origins of the Broyards in America.

Nonetheless, armed with the knowledge that genealogical Web sites are almost as popular as pornographic ones, Ms. Broyard zealously assembled an account of her roots. Among the first things she discovers about a large, Creole, New Orleans-based family like hers is that racial delineations and stereotypes make no sense at all.

And slavery, which she regards as a defining issue in matters of black identity, holds its own share of surprises. “In a few short hours, I’d gone from believing that my great-grandmother was born a slave to discovering that she’d grown up in a family of black slave owners,” she writes after one fact-finding trip. “These weren’t the noble tragic figures I’d been expecting to encounter.”

Though its scope is large, the heart of “One Drop” lies with the author’s father. She must try — as Philip Roth did in “The Human Stain,” a book that was seemingly prompted by the Broyard story but goes unmentioned here — to understand the choices that he made, whether by action or omission. In a speculative account of what happened when her father applied for a Social Security card, Ms. Broyard guesses at how he might have been flummoxed by the decision of what racial identity to choose yet unaware of how important this choice would be. “I doubt that my father walked away feeling that he’d redirected the course of his life,” she writes.

Drawing on both her father’s autobiographical account and some of what Mr. Gates had to say, “One Drop” culminates in a cultural and intellectual history of Mr. Broyard’s life and times. His Greenwich Village days (described in his book “Kafka Was the Rage”) were full of ambition and contention, not to mention consummate lady-killing. (Mr. Broyard was “New Orleans French, handsome, sensual, ironic,” according to the hotblooded diarist Anaïs Nin.) And some of his most assertive early essays about race and hipness made his bona fides clear.

Mr. Broyard proudly kept a 1950 issue of Commentary near the family’s dinner table. But the author’s identifying note had been neatly cut out of the contributor’s page. Now his daughter knows what it said: that Anatole Broyard was “an anatomist of the Negro personality in a white world.” And she wonders, with lucid and sharp introspection, how her own life would have changed if she had known that sooner.

Bliss Broyard Videos

  • Writers' Series: Bliss Broyard - YouTube

Bliss Broyard Books

FAQs on booking Bliss Broyard

  • How to book Bliss Broyard?

    Our booking agents have successfully helped clients around the world secure talent like Bliss Broyard for speaking engagements, personal appearances, product endorsements, or corporate entertainment for over 15 years. The team at All American Entertainment represents and listens to the needs of organizations and corporations seeking to hire keynote speakers, celebrities or entertainers. Fill out a booking request form for Bliss Broyard, or call our office at 1.800.698.2536 to discuss your upcoming event. One of our experienced agents will be happy to help you get pricing information and check availability for Bliss Broyard or any other celebrity of your choice.
  • How much does it cost to book Bliss Broyard?

    Booking fees for Bliss Broyard, or any other speakers and celebrities, are determined based on a number of factors and may change without notice. Pricing often varies according to the circumstances, including the talent's schedule, market conditions, length of presentation, and the location of the event. Speaker fees listed on this website are intended to serve as a guideline only. In some cases, the actual quote may be above or below the stated range. For the most current fee to hire Bliss Broyard, please fill out the booking request form or call our office at 1.800.698.2536 to speak with an experienced booking agent.
  • Who is the agent for Bliss Broyard?

    All American Entertainment has successfully secured celebrity talent like Bliss Broyard for clients worldwide for more than 15 years. As a full-service talent booking agency, we have access to virtually any speaker or celebrity in the world. Our agents are happy and able to submit an offer to the speaker or celebrity of your choice, letting you benefit from our reputation and long-standing relationships in the industry. Fill out the booking request form or call our office at 1.800.698.2536, and one of our agents will assist you to book Bliss Broyard for your next private or corporate function.
  • What is a full-service talent booking agency?

    All American Speakers is a "buyers agent" and exclusively represents talent buyers, meeting planners and event professionals, who are looking to secure celebrities and speakers for personal appearances, speaking engagements, corporate entertainment, public relations campaigns, commercials, or endorsements. We do not exclusively represent Bliss Broyard or claim ourselves as the exclusive booking agency, business manager, publicist, speakers bureau or management for Bliss Broyard or any other speaker or celebrity on this website. For more information on how we work and what makes us unique, please read the AAE Advantage.

Bliss Broyard is a keynote speaker and industry expert who speaks on a wide range of topics . The estimated speaking fee range to book Bliss Broyard for your event is available upon request. Bliss Broyard generally travels from Brooklyn, NY, USA and can be booked for (private) corporate events, personal appearances, keynote speeches, or other performances. Similar motivational celebrity speakers are Shannon Kopp, Kate Clifford Larson, Caroline Adams Miller, Karen E. Bender and Barbara Rainey. Contact All American Speakers for ratings, reviews, videos and information on scheduling Bliss Broyard for an upcoming event.

Bliss Broyard Speaker Videos

  • Writers' Series: Bliss Broyard - YouTube

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Speakers Similar to Bliss Broyard

This website is a resource for event professionals and strives to provide the most comprehensive catalog of thought leaders and industry experts to consider for speaking engagements. A listing or profile on this website does not imply an agency affiliation or endorsement by the talent.

All American Entertainment (AAE) exclusively represents the interests of talent buyers, and does not claim to be the agency or management for any speaker or artist on this site. AAE is a talent booking agency for paid events only. We do not handle requests for donation of time or media requests for interviews, and cannot provide celebrity contact information.

If you are the talent, and wish to request removal from this catalog or report an issue with your profile, please click here.

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