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Say I'm Dead: A Family Memoir of Race, Secrets, and Love

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Say I’m Dead is the true story of family secrets, separation, courage, and trans-formation through five generations of interracial relationships. Fearful of prison time—or lynching—for violating Indiana’s antimiscegenation laws in the 1940s, E. Dolores Johnson’s black father and white mother fled Indianapolis to secretly marry in Buffalo, New York.  When Johnson was born, Say I’m Dead is the true story of family secrets, separation, courage, and trans-formation through five generations of interracial relationships. Fearful of prison time—or lynching—for violating Indiana’s antimiscegenation laws in the 1940s, E. Dolores Johnson’s black father and white mother fled Indianapolis to secretly marry in Buffalo, New York.  When Johnson was born, social norms and her government-issued birth certificate said she was Negro, nullifying her mother’s white blood in her identity. Later, as a Harvard-educated business executive feeling too far from her black roots, she searched her father’s black genealogy. But in the process, Johnson suddenly realized that her mother’s whole white family was—and always had been—missing. When she began to pry, her mother’s 36-year-old secret spilled out. Her mother had simply vanished from Indiana, evading an FBI and police search that had ended with the conclusion that she had been the victim of foul play. 


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Say I’m Dead is the true story of family secrets, separation, courage, and trans-formation through five generations of interracial relationships. Fearful of prison time—or lynching—for violating Indiana’s antimiscegenation laws in the 1940s, E. Dolores Johnson’s black father and white mother fled Indianapolis to secretly marry in Buffalo, New York.  When Johnson was born, Say I’m Dead is the true story of family secrets, separation, courage, and trans-formation through five generations of interracial relationships. Fearful of prison time—or lynching—for violating Indiana’s antimiscegenation laws in the 1940s, E. Dolores Johnson’s black father and white mother fled Indianapolis to secretly marry in Buffalo, New York.  When Johnson was born, social norms and her government-issued birth certificate said she was Negro, nullifying her mother’s white blood in her identity. Later, as a Harvard-educated business executive feeling too far from her black roots, she searched her father’s black genealogy. But in the process, Johnson suddenly realized that her mother’s whole white family was—and always had been—missing. When she began to pry, her mother’s 36-year-old secret spilled out. Her mother had simply vanished from Indiana, evading an FBI and police search that had ended with the conclusion that she had been the victim of foul play. 

30 review for Say I'm Dead: A Family Memoir of Race, Secrets, and Love

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn in FL

    Compelling isn't a strong enough word for what I read between these covers. I could not put this book down. I'll admit, the first few chapters made me wonder if this was a story I was excited to read. Frankly, I tend to avoid memoirs these days. I've read many memoirs in my time and the last ten or so years, I find that the genre has been subjected by an overwhelming number of people, who sadly believe that at the ripe old age of 30, they know all they need to know about life and possess great w Compelling isn't a strong enough word for what I read between these covers. I could not put this book down. I'll admit, the first few chapters made me wonder if this was a story I was excited to read. Frankly, I tend to avoid memoirs these days. I've read many memoirs in my time and the last ten or so years, I find that the genre has been subjected by an overwhelming number of people, who sadly believe that at the ripe old age of 30, they know all they need to know about life and possess great wisdom to pass along, where it is merely the stuff of overblown egos and narcissists, who believe in subjecting you to their literary masturbation's (I apologize about that term, if it offends but honestly, I can't think of a more honest observation!). I've been astounded at some of things that have been published and there are few I'd recommend. This isn't one of them, I assure you. However, if you liked James McBride's "The Color of Water" or "Black, White and Jewish" by Rebecca Walker (Alice Walker's daughter), this is in your wheelhouse. Dolores Johnson develops her story about growing up as biracial child in the 1950's, which seems to have been a quite lot different than the life of someone in the current age of multiculturalism. Where many people marry a partner of a different race and few blink an eye. In the 1943, when her black father and white mother ran off to New York to escape Indiana's miscegenation laws (forbidding of two people that are of different races from marrying). Her mother and father choosing to embrace his black parentage (which wasn't all that black (but I won't spoil it for you with details)) but "black enough in white society's eyes, and live among his mother and some of Mother's relatives. Although Dolores, her two brothers and mother were not always welcomed, there was not an option for the family to live in the "white" areas of town. Dolores always identified with her black ancestry with out little question until her teens, but she remained silent, observing that the family never discussed the maternal family that was missing from her life. Dolores was an outstanding student and won many accolades and scholarships, eventually getting her MBA from Harvard. She was hired by the telephone co. and was on the executive track often being the only black woman at the higher levels of management and frequently subjected to racism and ugly jokes. Today, that would not be tolerated by Human Resources (I worked in that field) She and her successful black husband moved to places that offered opportunity but often their interaction in their community was less than welcome (including a cross burning when they purchased a home in a "white" neighborhood in Baton Rouge). Fighting through some horrible experiences allowed them to see that the seventies and eighties were a start, but many cultural views still remained embedded in individuals. Dolores started to see things that her parents had tried to shelter her from, or at least to a lesser degree, if possible. Dolores began to challenge her mother's reasons for remaining intentionally vague about her family. Enlightened by Alex Haley's movie "Roots", Dolores explored her black roots back to a slave, who was brought to the United States in 1840's, then she sought the secrets her mother kept. Eventually, the bit by bit the secret was revealed but her mother made her promise not to make any contact. Dolores struggled with her own anger, curiosity and rage at the rejection, she felt from her white side lineage. It later became apparent that some of that was self rejection as well. As she explores her heritage and her views, new questions surface. It was exciting to join Dolores as she navigated her self-perception, her values, her thoughts on society. In High School, my best friend was Filipino and Chinese (she is now deceased) but adopted by the Caucasian man, who married her mother, who then shortly after abandoned her two very young daughters to his care entirely. Neither should have been parents! We had many conversations that were deeply disturbing and broke my heart. Years later, I became very good friends with a biracial woman, who favored Delores in both opinions and physically, and although she had light skin, her hair was quite kinky. Though it was obvious that she had both Caucasian and African American Heritage, she identified as black. When I asked her why, it was how she perceived other's view of her. I was surprised. I told her that I had perceived her as multicultural, the blessed to be of two cultures. My view did not influence her own. Having dated men from 4 continents, I have found that some, who are biracial define themselves either by their hair texture or skin coloring. It has always saddened me that people are constantly judged by features or significant aspect of cultural value: good looking vs. ugly; rich vs poor; smart vs stupid; thin vs FAT etc. I say it is time to toss labels! I think that is the essence of this story. One woman, Delores faced the facts of her ancestry and cultural experiences and came to see things an entirely different way. If you like memoirs, this is quite a good reading experience. I think this would be a fantastic book club read based on the number of different experiences, Delores struggles to understand and interpret, it also has book club discussion questions to facilitate comments. Thank you to Goodreads, Lawrence Hill Books and the author, E. Dolores Johnson (I hope she writes more) for the opportunity to read this story in return for an honest review. My experience and subsequent thoughts were unaffected by this gift.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    This is an incredible memoire. I didn't want to put it down. Heart-wrenching story of despair, courage, fortitude, strength and weakness, the challenges to and of our society. I highly recommend giving this book a read. This is an incredible memoire. I didn't want to put it down. Heart-wrenching story of despair, courage, fortitude, strength and weakness, the challenges to and of our society. I highly recommend giving this book a read.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Susanne

    I had just read James McBride's "The Color of Water" when I happened to stumble upon this book, and the comparisons are inevitable: the first was a satisfying and compelling read, but THIS one was vivid, even more compelling, and possibly life-changing. The difference? McBride's tale of a woman who ran away from Orthodox Judaism to marry a black man and raise twelve children made her into the sort of curiosity that makes people waggle their eyebrows and sigh "some people are strange. . ." McBrid I had just read James McBride's "The Color of Water" when I happened to stumble upon this book, and the comparisons are inevitable: the first was a satisfying and compelling read, but THIS one was vivid, even more compelling, and possibly life-changing. The difference? McBride's tale of a woman who ran away from Orthodox Judaism to marry a black man and raise twelve children made her into the sort of curiosity that makes people waggle their eyebrows and sigh "some people are strange. . ." McBride's mother was beyond the pale of my experience. But author Dolores Johnson could have sat beside me in any school classroom. She could have been my friend, my neighbor -- and her life experience would have directly contradicted all those who smugly declare that racism came to an end in America in the 1960's. To read her memoir is to clearly understand just how much people of color are up against in our country. Johnson writes about her own mother, a white woman who married a black man in 1943, and simply disappeared from her white family, leaving them to believe she had died rather than run the risk of breaking the law against miscegenation Indiana. She writes of her Black father who took comfort in whiskey when rage and frustration could find no safe outlet. Her parents raised three children in Buffalo, NY who ran the gamut of racial identifications and challenges: one son "looked white", one son was clearly Black, and the daughter was somewhere in between (but relished and valued her perceived Blackness). She also shares her own experiences, which are quite vivid: "code switching" between her white honors school classes and the joyfully raucous "ghetto bus" that carried her home each day. The guidance counselor who told her in 1965, "Oh no, Dolores, colored girls don't go to college." University degrees and a business management job that did not save her from a cross burning on the lawn of her first home in Louisiana in 1975. The fact that most of the Black men in her life died young. And yet the thrust of this book is much more than this litany of (well deserved) grievances about what racial discrimination does to people -- it is also the tale of the author's determined search to discover, know and finally understand her mother's white family. The fact that she did manage to engineer a reconciliation, and that she and her mother then had 26 years to enjoy this other side of their family makes it a hopeful read. The author's own daughter seems to travel successfully between both worlds, both cultures as well. I have to hope that in time more and more people will bridge this awful divide and that we will learn to live together as we should.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    There in that South Carolina gas station, I was Black, according to my family, society's one drop rule, and my government-issued birth certificate. It was the culturally and legally ridiculous to wonder if I wasn't. Because the biological fact of my birth was completely beside the point and counted for nothing. My beloved mother is white. • Thoughts~ What an incredible memoir! I found this facinating and relevant. It exposes the ugly truths and realities of racism's history in America. Johnson's mo There in that South Carolina gas station, I was Black, according to my family, society's one drop rule, and my government-issued birth certificate. It was the culturally and legally ridiculous to wonder if I wasn't. Because the biological fact of my birth was completely beside the point and counted for nothing. My beloved mother is white. • Thoughts~ What an incredible memoir! I found this facinating and relevant. It exposes the ugly truths and realities of racism's history in America. Johnson's mother and father were wed in a time where race-mixing could result in jail time. They then fled and married in sectet. With vivid honesty Johnson shares of her life and experiences being a biracial harvard educated, business woman in America and the challenges she has faced. She is also very candid about being raised by a White mother and a Black father. It was really interesting all her families histories. I dont want to spoil anything but digging into her ancestry stirred up some very unsettling facts. Highly recommend checking this one out! • Thank You to the publisher for sending me this book opinions are my own. • For more of my book content check out instagram.com/bookalong

  5. 4 out of 5

    Dee Dee G

    I’m so glad I read this. A fantastic book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    booksbythecup

    Thank you Chicago Review Press for the gifted book. All of us want to know our history, where our parents and grandparents come from to better come to terms with our sense of self and identity. To feel a sense of kinship to generations that have come before us. The author was motivated like many Black people to trace her ancestry before DNA kits could be sent to your home or before you could go to ancestry.com to get started for free. Roots by Alex Haley (excellent book BTW) sparked a longing in Thank you Chicago Review Press for the gifted book. All of us want to know our history, where our parents and grandparents come from to better come to terms with our sense of self and identity. To feel a sense of kinship to generations that have come before us. The author was motivated like many Black people to trace her ancestry before DNA kits could be sent to your home or before you could go to ancestry.com to get started for free. Roots by Alex Haley (excellent book BTW) sparked a longing in many people like Johnson. So imagine her surprise to find out her father was married to someone before her mother, that her grandmother on her father's side was a victim of plantation rape. That was only the beginning for her. She had an epiphany when she saw the family tree on her mother's side was empty. Her mother, who was white, ran away, abandoning her family and to marry a Black man, at a time when interracialmarriage was against the law in many places in the US. Those who did so could face imprisonment, violence and much much worse. Learning about Johnson's upbringing, the frustration her father felt at being mistreated because he was black and because he was married to a white woman. He coped by being a functioning alcoholic working everyday to take care of his family. Being pulled over by racist policeman, degraded in front of his wife and children. Equal opportunity racism, from black people & from white people, showing how racism isn't limited to one people against another people. And the things Johnson learned about herself, trying to understand her mix raced identity. Code switching to go from one world to another. But understanding the magnitude of not allowing race to define her and taking what she learned from both her parents to raise a daughter who didn't get stuck thinking she had to pick a side. She could just be a person. Thoroughly enjoyed this one.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Amy Hietapelto

    Insightful memoir on race, family and identity.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    What an amazing story. I kind of feel that I can't properly review it without spoilers. All of the histories of the people in this book were fascinating. The author's parents were brave for marrying in the 40s and the author herself was quite a pioneer for women in the late 60s, let alone a black woman. I actually cried during the pivotal scene between mother and her sister. What an amazing story. I kind of feel that I can't properly review it without spoilers. All of the histories of the people in this book were fascinating. The author's parents were brave for marrying in the 40s and the author herself was quite a pioneer for women in the late 60s, let alone a black woman. I actually cried during the pivotal scene between mother and her sister.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kada Sigl

    A must read that openly speaks to a family memoir that engages the reader on a courageous, alarming journey that no family should have to endure. SAY I'M DEAD, A Family Memoir of Race, Secrets and Love is about the commitments to love that overturned generations of fear, secrets, separation and sacrifice. A brave, stoic, woman shares an intense lifelong struggle spanning across three generations. Hoping Oprah has her eyes on this! A must read that openly speaks to a family memoir that engages the reader on a courageous, alarming journey that no family should have to endure. SAY I'M DEAD, A Family Memoir of Race, Secrets and Love is about the commitments to love that overturned generations of fear, secrets, separation and sacrifice. A brave, stoic, woman shares an intense lifelong struggle spanning across three generations. Hoping Oprah has her eyes on this!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Becky Stout

    If you are looking for a book to help you understand the Black experience in this country, look no further than Dolores Johnson’s memoir. Without being overly sentimental it nevertheless will make you weep, make you angry and break your heart while eventually warming your heart. You will become a book evangelist recommending this book to all your friends.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    Dolores Johnson’s remarkable and moving memoir captures the stark and ugly realities of racism in this country by describing the impact of a marriage between a black man and white woman in the 1940s – Johnson’s parents – at a time when this love expressed openly in the state in which they lived would have resulted in a multi-year prison sentence for both of them. Johnson, using searing honesty and unflinching details, tells of her own experiences as a black and then biracial woman in this countr Dolores Johnson’s remarkable and moving memoir captures the stark and ugly realities of racism in this country by describing the impact of a marriage between a black man and white woman in the 1940s – Johnson’s parents – at a time when this love expressed openly in the state in which they lived would have resulted in a multi-year prison sentence for both of them. Johnson, using searing honesty and unflinching details, tells of her own experiences as a black and then biracial woman in this country and how her sense of identity was both challenged and forged. The author’s desire to learn more about the white side of her family leads to decades held secrets revealed and a moving portrayal of forgiveness, understanding and love. A must read.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Grace Talusan

    During the 1940s, it was better to disappear or die than break anti-miscegenation laws. When Dolores wants to search for her white mother’s estranged family, “Say I’m Dead,” is what her mother tells Dolores to say should she find them. The prose is clear, sharp, and insightful, and the writer’s quest to find the truth about her family is as gripping as any mystery. Through one family’s story, the memoir explores the tragedy of how racism divides us and also how one family moves beyond fear and b During the 1940s, it was better to disappear or die than break anti-miscegenation laws. When Dolores wants to search for her white mother’s estranged family, “Say I’m Dead,” is what her mother tells Dolores to say should she find them. The prose is clear, sharp, and insightful, and the writer’s quest to find the truth about her family is as gripping as any mystery. Through one family’s story, the memoir explores the tragedy of how racism divides us and also how one family moves beyond fear and bias. A must-read memoir for readers interested in a daughter’s courageous search for her history, which is inextricably intertwined with the story of race in America.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ann MacDonald

    This book is terrific. A page turner that will make you cry at times, and yet also laugh out loud. The author, whose mother is white and whose father is black, sets off on a quest to find out more about her racial identity. In the process, Ms. Johnson illuminates so much about how racism has seeped into every corner of this country, poisoning people as well as communities. And yet, it also offers characters (richly drawn) who show grace and love and transcend expectations. This book is just what This book is terrific. A page turner that will make you cry at times, and yet also laugh out loud. The author, whose mother is white and whose father is black, sets off on a quest to find out more about her racial identity. In the process, Ms. Johnson illuminates so much about how racism has seeped into every corner of this country, poisoning people as well as communities. And yet, it also offers characters (richly drawn) who show grace and love and transcend expectations. This book is just what we need right now.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Priscilla Bourgoine

    Coming out this June, an artful, kickass family story. Not to be missed. Honored to have read this memoir, which chronicles a tragic and important part of our history. A must-read, for sure. I can't wait to buy my copy and additional copies to gift. It's THAT good. Coming out this June, an artful, kickass family story. Not to be missed. Honored to have read this memoir, which chronicles a tragic and important part of our history. A must-read, for sure. I can't wait to buy my copy and additional copies to gift. It's THAT good.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Natalie G

    This is by far the best book I've read this year and one of the most well-written memoirs I've read of all time. It is written with so much care, authenticity, and vivid language that it takes the reader on a story of falling in love, living in constant danger, and teetering between identities as a biracial child many years before being biracial was "accepted" by most. E. Dolores Johnson paints pictures of two Indiana's, one that is full of beauty, tight-knit and homogeneous communities that liv This is by far the best book I've read this year and one of the most well-written memoirs I've read of all time. It is written with so much care, authenticity, and vivid language that it takes the reader on a story of falling in love, living in constant danger, and teetering between identities as a biracial child many years before being biracial was "accepted" by most. E. Dolores Johnson paints pictures of two Indiana's, one that is full of beauty, tight-knit and homogeneous communities that live an honest life and raise their children in a white world with limited mixing with Black people. And another where Black people struggle to make an honest living and are regularly terrorized and sometimes lynched for being Black. And somehow, a white woman and a Black man find their way to each other and are able to fall in love, relocate to New Jersey, start a family and stay together through racism, being rejected by Black and white people alike, and having all odds against them. Then E. Dolores paints the picture of growing up biracial and having situations where people mistake her for being white and speak with open disgust about Black people in front of her. The isolation of growing up in a family that predates the legality of interracial marriage is a huge burden to carry but she overcomes it anyway and thrives despite it all. It really opened my eyes to the experience of multiracial children and adults and the many challenges and frustrations they face in having to constantly explain or defend their identities, or be forced to choose a side. I enthusiastically recommend this book, it gives a very personal take on the lived experience of racism in America and how love can be the strength one needs to overcome any obstacle or challenge.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Karla

    This book was interesting to me from so many angles - Black and White interactions in the US, 1960's history, genealogy. It is an honest and personal story written by Dolores, the child of a mixed race (black, white) marriage from the 1960's prior to when mixed race marriage was illegal. It looks at the personal ramifications experience by Delores and her family from almost every angle: A white woman marrying a black man, his black community judging her and her sacrifice of her life as a "white" This book was interesting to me from so many angles - Black and White interactions in the US, 1960's history, genealogy. It is an honest and personal story written by Dolores, the child of a mixed race (black, white) marriage from the 1960's prior to when mixed race marriage was illegal. It looks at the personal ramifications experience by Delores and her family from almost every angle: A white woman marrying a black man, his black community judging her and her sacrifice of her life as a "white" woman. Their mixed race children who had to determine where they fit, "who they were" in a world that most saw them as black, some saw the lighter skinned children as "white", the children themselves who saw themselves in mixed ways without an identity that was typically accepted except in mixed race families like their own and very isolated socially because of that. It portrays their life, not just as a set of facts, but with nuances that others, white or black, might not really understand or "see". Delores who had been inspired by "Roots" to find out who her people were, and where she cam from, found an entire side of her family tree totally unknown to her. When she realized that all of her mother's white relatives had never been a part of her life, she wanted to find out about that part of her family history, about what that made her and who she was. Her mother, who had long ago left her family, told Delores to "tell them I'm dead" if they asked about her. A truly engrossing, heartfelt story.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mary Rae

    I loved this book because E. Dolores Johnson has a unique perspective on race. With powerfully written scenes, she tells how her black father and white mother ran away to secretly marry in a time when race-mixing was punishable by imprisonment and even lynching. Through out “Say I’m Dead” Johnson educates and enlightens the reader by vividly portraying racially formative experiences as a girl in the 1950s, a Howard and then Harvard University student, and a professional who watched from her wind I loved this book because E. Dolores Johnson has a unique perspective on race. With powerfully written scenes, she tells how her black father and white mother ran away to secretly marry in a time when race-mixing was punishable by imprisonment and even lynching. Through out “Say I’m Dead” Johnson educates and enlightens the reader by vividly portraying racially formative experiences as a girl in the 1950s, a Howard and then Harvard University student, and a professional who watched from her window as a cross burned on her front lawn. Not one to be victimized, Johnson bought a gun and learned how to use it. I saw what life was like during the latter half of the 20th century for a smart, ambitious mixed-race woman hell-bent on achieving both personal and professional goals. But Johnson’s story goes deeper. She confides honest and complicated feelings about being raised black with a white mother, and the life-changing events that unfolded when she discovered ancestry she didn’t know existed. I came away from “Say I’m Dead” with a better understanding of the disparities mixed-race people in America have lived with, and sadly continue to experience. Yet the end gives us hope, finishing with the affection and healing that can take place if given the opportunity.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Hedy Jackson

    Black or white, young or old—-this book is worth reading for everyone. Through a very personal lens we see the life of a mixed-race family and how it is impacted by this country’s racial codes. In E. Dolores Johnson’s Say I'm Dead, her black father and white mother are forced to flee racist Indiana to live freely as a married couple, yet we learn that the white man who raped her black great-grandmother faced no consequences. We see how their decision impacted their lives and how each family membe Black or white, young or old—-this book is worth reading for everyone. Through a very personal lens we see the life of a mixed-race family and how it is impacted by this country’s racial codes. In E. Dolores Johnson’s Say I'm Dead, her black father and white mother are forced to flee racist Indiana to live freely as a married couple, yet we learn that the white man who raped her black great-grandmother faced no consequences. We see how their decision impacted their lives and how each family member dealt with the racial attitudes they encountered, both within the black community where they lived and the larger white world they had to live in to survive. What happens when you don’t fit neatly into either world? What strategies must you develop to maintain your sense of self and personal worth? The author takes us on this journey in a down-to-earth, accessible way in what often reads like a detective story because she doesn’t know what’s around the next corner. This is ultimately a story of her personal courage to discover and confront her own history. It is a story of personal victory and growth in a country that is often blind to the hurts it inflicts daily in large and small ways.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Doris Smith

    When Dolores Johnson got interested in genealogy, she concentrated on her father's family. She was an interracial child with a black father and white mother. She had grown up with her father's mother and knew relatives on her father's side, but did not know anything about her mother's family. When she told her mother she wanted to find out about her side of the family, Delores and her brothers were amazed at the story her parents told them about having to flee Indiana if they wanted to get marri When Dolores Johnson got interested in genealogy, she concentrated on her father's family. She was an interracial child with a black father and white mother. She had grown up with her father's mother and knew relatives on her father's side, but did not know anything about her mother's family. When she told her mother she wanted to find out about her side of the family, Delores and her brothers were amazed at the story her parents told them about having to flee Indiana if they wanted to get married. They went to Buffalo, New York and married there, but it meant that her mother had to leave home and never be in contact with her family again. At first, Delores' mother did not want her to explore her white roots. Delores herself was fearful because of the way she had always been treated by white people. When she did make contact with a relative in Indiana, she was surprised by their reaction.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kristen Paulson-Nguyen

    An urge to find her "white family" and explore her identity leads Johnson on a quest and kicks off her powerful and moving memoir. Through her story I learned about the history of anti-miscegenation laws in the U.S. In fact, Johnson's parents paved the way for my marriage to a Vietnamese-American. My daughter, like Johnson's grandson, is growing up in a different world, a world, however, in which we still have much to do to dismantle systemic racism. The sad fact is that the harassment Johnson's An urge to find her "white family" and explore her identity leads Johnson on a quest and kicks off her powerful and moving memoir. Through her story I learned about the history of anti-miscegenation laws in the U.S. In fact, Johnson's parents paved the way for my marriage to a Vietnamese-American. My daughter, like Johnson's grandson, is growing up in a different world, a world, however, in which we still have much to do to dismantle systemic racism. The sad fact is that the harassment Johnson's family faces in one scene, in which the police pulls over the family in their car, hasn't changed. I admired Johnson's courage to face herself and her family's secrets. The love that fills the pages—between husbands and wives, sisters and brothers, mothers and daughters—gave me hope that despite America's ingrained racism and white supremacy, we'll find a better way forward.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Fern

    An engaging and eye-opening memoir! Dolores Johnson tells a story of growing up in a multiracial family, asserting her right to achieve professional success, and searching for the wholeness of her identity in the complex and changing world of race. I loved the way Johnson wove together the details of her life, moving back and forth through a chronology of personal experiences and reflections on the lives of family members. The memoir is enriched by its value as an historical document of merit on An engaging and eye-opening memoir! Dolores Johnson tells a story of growing up in a multiracial family, asserting her right to achieve professional success, and searching for the wholeness of her identity in the complex and changing world of race. I loved the way Johnson wove together the details of her life, moving back and forth through a chronology of personal experiences and reflections on the lives of family members. The memoir is enriched by its value as an historical document of merit on its own. There is much to be learned from Johnson's story about the history of racism and racial thinking and the shifts over time in ideas about interracial relationships and families. As a white woman of similar age as the author, I learned a lot from this memoir that led me to reflect on my own experiences and challenges which never had the overlay of race. Johnson's prose is well crafted, and she handles narration and dialogue with an engaging style. As a college professor, I have taught a course on cultural memoir a number of times. Johnson's book would be an excellent source in classes dealing with race that are taught in English, history, and sociology departments.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia Livingston

    I just finished reading Say I'm Dead: a Family Memoir of Race, Secrets, and Love for the second time because it's that good. When was the last time you did that? With her distinctive American voice telling the story, Dolores Johnson is a witness to our nation's history, and a seeker after the truth about much that even now we'd like to keep unacknowledged. Told through a deeply complex family's experience over many generations, her personal story is one of inherited pain and confusion, yet it's I just finished reading Say I'm Dead: a Family Memoir of Race, Secrets, and Love for the second time because it's that good. When was the last time you did that? With her distinctive American voice telling the story, Dolores Johnson is a witness to our nation's history, and a seeker after the truth about much that even now we'd like to keep unacknowledged. Told through a deeply complex family's experience over many generations, her personal story is one of inherited pain and confusion, yet it's ultimately rooted in a legacy of honesty and the loving courage of her forebears. Don't be surprised if you too find yourself inside it. (Other reviewers have provided a fine synopsis above--no need to do so in this review).

  23. 5 out of 5

    Bskaught

    A Powerful and Compelling Memoir Reviewed January 19, 2021 Say I'm Dead had me at page one and I didn't stop until I finished the book. Insightful and compelling, the author takes us on the touching, painful, heart-wrenching, joyful and loving journey of multiple generations of her inter-racial family . We come to understand the powerful forces that shaped their choices, created their life directions and the impact of these decisions as they reverberate across time. This is the best book I have r A Powerful and Compelling Memoir Reviewed January 19, 2021 Say I'm Dead had me at page one and I didn't stop until I finished the book. Insightful and compelling, the author takes us on the touching, painful, heart-wrenching, joyful and loving journey of multiple generations of her inter-racial family . We come to understand the powerful forces that shaped their choices, created their life directions and the impact of these decisions as they reverberate across time. This is the best book I have read this year...full of insights about strong women and the power we all have to connect with each other and grow in understanding. Thank you Dolores..can't wait to read your next book!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mike Sinert

    Say I’m Dead is a heart-wrenching story of civil rights, personal identity, and human compassion. Written by first-time author E. Dolores Johnson, the memoir reads like the work of an experienced writer, with deeply crafted scenes, and a narrative that pulls readers in from the start. Set in the heat of the civil rights era, the story unravels slowly, taking readers along on the writer’s journey to discover not only her own true self, but also as she uncovers the secrets that tore her family apa Say I’m Dead is a heart-wrenching story of civil rights, personal identity, and human compassion. Written by first-time author E. Dolores Johnson, the memoir reads like the work of an experienced writer, with deeply crafted scenes, and a narrative that pulls readers in from the start. Set in the heat of the civil rights era, the story unravels slowly, taking readers along on the writer’s journey to discover not only her own true self, but also as she uncovers the secrets that tore her family apart. A compelling and remarkable read. Highly recommended.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ftkinard

    This was an excellent read: great story line - entertaining and informative. I heard the author read an excerpt and discuss her book before it was available. It piqued my interest, and I was totally sold on the subject before I started the book. I was able to see my own inherent, judgmental views on interracial marriage and mixed race children. The author was able to examine some difficult and necessary truths without casting eternal judgment on the cast of characters. Refreshingly honest and ten This was an excellent read: great story line - entertaining and informative. I heard the author read an excerpt and discuss her book before it was available. It piqued my interest, and I was totally sold on the subject before I started the book. I was able to see my own inherent, judgmental views on interracial marriage and mixed race children. The author was able to examine some difficult and necessary truths without casting eternal judgment on the cast of characters. Refreshingly honest and tenderly sweet without being too sappy. Thanks Mrs. Johnson for sharing your story.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Janet M.

    What a great memoir! I am looking forward to hearing the author speak later this month! She manages to explain in a very engaging, readable manner, the difficulties of being biracial, of being in a biracial marriage and many other difficult family topics. This book had me glued to my seat for hours. What a family story she tells... with great love and understanding. I feel enriched for having read her family story .

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sebastian Stuart

    This is a wonderful, thoughtful, provocative read. It simply couldn't be more timely on the issue of race. It's also a timeless story of love in a dark era. Johnson is a terrific writer with an incredible story to tell. I can't recommend this book too highly. I was entertained, maddened and inspired. This is a wonderful, thoughtful, provocative read. It simply couldn't be more timely on the issue of race. It's also a timeless story of love in a dark era. Johnson is a terrific writer with an incredible story to tell. I can't recommend this book too highly. I was entertained, maddened and inspired.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Carroll Sandel

    This is a fascinating, well-written memoir about growing up mixed race in the late forties, fifties and Dolores Johnson's experiences as she delves into both the white and Black families of her parents. Johnson faces horrific racism in countless ways, yet finds acceptance in the most important place when she least expects it. Told in gripping detail, this is an important book for these times. This is a fascinating, well-written memoir about growing up mixed race in the late forties, fifties and Dolores Johnson's experiences as she delves into both the white and Black families of her parents. Johnson faces horrific racism in countless ways, yet finds acceptance in the most important place when she least expects it. Told in gripping detail, this is an important book for these times.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Courtney Halverson

    This was a very eye opening memoir to read. To think that interracial marriage was not just looked down upon but illegal is mind blowing to me. It really shows how a decision you make early in your life can have a big impact on your children and future generations. I had a hard time putting this one down.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    E.Dolores Johnson helps us view racial assumptions and inaccuracies from the inside out. There is a thread of mystery throughout the book that leaves you wanting to know more and more about her Mom AND her Dad. I am left wanting to know so much more about her parents and brothers from each of their perspectives in the context of the times they were coming up. Hoping for a sequel. Thank you Dolores for inviting us in.

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