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Bureau of Missing PersonsWriting the Secret Lives of Fathers$
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Roger J. Porter

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780801449871

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801449871.001.0001

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Breaking the Silence

Breaking the Silence

Chapter:
(p.174) Chapter 5 Breaking the Silence
Source:
Bureau of Missing Persons
Author(s):

Roger J. Porter

Publisher:
Cornell University Press
DOI:10.7591/cornell/9780801449871.003.0006

This chapter examines two autobiographies in which the writers show how their fathers kept them from knowing the truth of their identities: Essie Mae Washington-Williams's Dear Senator and Bliss Broyard's One Drop: My Father's Hidden Life—A Story of Race and Family Secrets. In Dear Senator, Washington-Williams, the black daughter of Senator Strom Thurmond, the white supremacist South Carolinian, learns that her father was a distinguished white man. In One Drop, Broyard assumed she and her father were white until, as he was dying, she learned that he was a closeted light-skinned black man with Haitian Creole ancestry. In each of these texts about racial secrets and secrecy, the writer tracks the process of exposing the cover-up and the duplicity. This chapter explores the nature of the parental deception and how each daughter responded to her discovery and embarked on an act of self-revision; how each reconceived of her father in light of her new racial identity; and how each woman shapes her story as a journey of exploration, confrontation, and accommodation.

Keywords:   autobiographies, fathers, Essie Mae Washington-Williams, Dear Senator, Bliss Broyard, One Drop, Strom Thurmond, secrets and secrecy, racial identity, race

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