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Real American
Cover of Real American
Real American
A Memoir
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"Courageous, achingly honest."
—Michelle Alexander, New York Times bestselling author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

"A compelling, incisive and thoughtful examination of race, origin and what it means to be called an American. Engaging, heartfelt and beautifully written, Lythcott-Haims explores the American spectrum of identity with refreshing courage and compassion."
—Bryan Stevenson, New York Times bestselling author of Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption

A fearless memoir in which beloved and bestselling How to Raise an Adult author Julie Lythcott-Haims pulls no punches in her recollections of growing up a black woman in America.

Bringing a poetic sensibility to her prose to stunning effect, Lythcott-Haims briskly and stirringly evokes her personal battle with the low self-esteem that American racism routinely inflicts on people of color. The only child of a marriage between an African-American father and a white British mother, she shows indelibly how so-called "micro" aggressions in addition to blunt force insults can puncture a person's inner life with a thousand sharp cuts. Real American expresses also, through Lythcott-Haims's path to self-acceptance, the healing power of community in overcoming the hurtful isolation of being incessantly considered "the other."

The author of the New York Times bestselling anti-helicopter parenting manifesto How to Raise an Adult, Lythcott-Haims has written a different sort of book this time out, but one that will nevertheless resonate with the legions of students, educators and parents to whom she is now well known, by whom she is beloved, and to whom she has always provided wise and necessary counsel about how to embrace and nurture their best selves. Real American is an affecting memoir, an unforgettable cri de coeur, and a clarion call to all of us to live more wisely, generously and fully.

"Courageous, achingly honest."
—Michelle Alexander, New York Times bestselling author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

"A compelling, incisive and thoughtful examination of race, origin and what it means to be called an American. Engaging, heartfelt and beautifully written, Lythcott-Haims explores the American spectrum of identity with refreshing courage and compassion."
—Bryan Stevenson, New York Times bestselling author of Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption

A fearless memoir in which beloved and bestselling How to Raise an Adult author Julie Lythcott-Haims pulls no punches in her recollections of growing up a black woman in America.

Bringing a poetic sensibility to her prose to stunning effect, Lythcott-Haims briskly and stirringly evokes her personal battle with the low self-esteem that American racism routinely inflicts on people of color. The only child of a marriage between an African-American father and a white British mother, she shows indelibly how so-called "micro" aggressions in addition to blunt force insults can puncture a person's inner life with a thousand sharp cuts. Real American expresses also, through Lythcott-Haims's path to self-acceptance, the healing power of community in overcoming the hurtful isolation of being incessantly considered "the other."

The author of the New York Times bestselling anti-helicopter parenting manifesto How to Raise an Adult, Lythcott-Haims has written a different sort of book this time out, but one that will nevertheless resonate with the legions of students, educators and parents to whom she is now well known, by whom she is beloved, and to whom she has always provided wise and necessary counsel about how to embrace and nurture their best selves. Real American is an affecting memoir, an unforgettable cri de coeur, and a clarion call to all of us to live more wisely, generously and fully.

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About the Author-
  • Julie Lythcott-Haims is the New York Times bestselling author of How to Raise an Adult. She holds a BA from Stanford, a JD from Harvard Law School, and an MFA in writing from California College of the Arts. She is a member of the San Francisco Writers' Grotto, and resides in the Bay Area with her husband, their two teenagers, and her mother.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    June 26, 2017
    Lythcott-Haims (How to Raise an Adult) has written a bold, impassioned memoir that explores the emotional and cultural divide imposed by American racism on people of mixed race. Born in 1967 to an African-American father and a white British mother, she was proud that her parents “broke the rules” despite the racial sneers and ridicule she experienced growing up in Palisades, N.Y., and Madison, Wis. However, the steadfast support of her loving mother and of her father, an accomplished physician appointed by President Carter as assistant surgeon general in 1977, couldn’t prepare the insecure, mixed-race teen for navigating a white world (“I don’t think of you as Black. I think of you as normal,” says one high school friend while the two were watching Gone with the Wind). Upon graduating from Stanford University (she would serve as dean of freshmen there years later), Lythcott-Haims married a white Jewish man and gave birth to “quadroon children,” which further complicated her quest for self-understanding. Later, she became empowered through her determination not to let hate define her or the lives of her children. Riveting and deeply felt, Lythcott-Haims’s memoir sheds fresh light on race and discrimination in American society.

  • Library Journal

    July 1, 2017

    In this open and revealing memoir, Lythcott-Haims (How To Raise an Adult) faces difficult truths head-on as she explores growing up biracial in the United States. Using powerfully effective prose, the author explains the impacts of racism on her daily life in both small and large ways, its chipping away at her feelings of self-worth. Despite earning multiple degrees from elite institutions, she spends much of her time not feeling good enough, black enough, and white enough. Instead, she feels as if she doesn't belong, wherever she tries to fit in. That is, until she finds a home at Stanford University, first as a student and later as dean of students. Encountering the term mixed for the first time while attending an undergraduate workshop on race, Lythcott-Haims begins to realize that the world is not black or white, as she had spent much of her life believing. As she finally learns self-acceptance, she also sees the importance of bringing others along on that important journey, too. VERDICT A compelling and important addition to any collection of personal narratives by women of color.--Venessa Hughes, Buffalo, NY

    Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    August 1, 2017
    In a text that resembles a memoir, a prose poem, and an album of verbal snapshots, a writer from a mixed racial background chronicles her journey--and battle--to understand her racial identity.Lythcott-Haims (How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success, 2015), who holds a variety of academic degrees (including Harvard Law), writes about her girlhood and youth as the daughter of a black father and a white mother. Her father was a very successful man, a doctor who served as an assistant surgeon general, and her mother would earn a doctorate, as well. The author grew up in mostly white neighborhoods, an experience that delayed her determination to define and identify herself as a black woman. In a series of numbered sections whose lengths vary from a few pages to a few words, Lythcott-Haims tells not only the story of her life and considerable accomplishments, but also about current--and relatively current--issues, from the elections of Presidents Obama and Trump to the spate of police shootings of young black men. Her son is now a teen, and she, like Ta-Nehisi Coates, to whom she refers several times, worries deeply about his safety. Occasionally, the author offers lines of poetry, especially at the conclusion of a section, and her verse is blunt and stark: "We continue to try to forgive. / To live." The author also poignantly describes the assorted indignities she has endured, from attending an event at a child's school where she saw characters in blackface to resisting a Stanford colleague, a woman who fondled her hair in a meeting. She also writes affectionately about her white husband of many years--though she wonders at times what it would have been like to be married to a black man. Many potent and painful reminders that we have a long, long way to go regarding race and identity.

    COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • The Improper Bostonian "Fierce and emphatic from the first page, Julie Lythcott-Haims's self-searching memoir unrolls her own relationship to race and its evolving meaning in her world. . . . Throughout the memoir, painful questions ring like ominous bells, hopefully raising alarm for all readers."
  • The National Book Review

    "Written in short, impressionistic, elegant chapters, Real American focuses on the evolution of Lythcott-Haims's own consciousness, from her grappling with slavery to her thoughts about the Charleston church slayings--and, most interestingly, her own identity."
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