Books: Identity Gap

A memoir of growing up biracial falls too short

What are memoirs, really, but an invitation to rubberneck at the multicar pileups in someone else's life? Rebecca Walker's foray into the genre, Black, White and Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self (Riverhead Books; 320 pages; $23.95), is plenty gapeworthy. Her book teems with childhood wreckage: premature sex, reckless drug experimentation, the end of her parents' interracial marriage, and her own consistently tenuous relationships born of desperation. Interwoven are heartrending but barbed recollections of absent, distracted parents--a self-absorbed mother, writer Alice Walker, who hires someone to take her daughter clothes shopping because she is "too busy to do it; too tired";...

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