Uit: Black, White, and Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self
“I was born in November 1969, in Jackson, Mississippi, seventeen months after Dr. King was shot. When my mother went into labor my father was in New Orleans arguing a case on behalf of black people who didn’t have streetlights or sewage systems in their neighborhoods. Daddy told the judge that his wife was in labor, turned his case over to co-counsel, and caught the last plane back to Jackson.
When I picture him, I conjure a civil rights Superman flying through a snowstorm in gray polyester pants and a white shirt, a dirty beige suede Wallabee touching down on the curb outside our house in the first black middle-class subdivision in Jackson. He bounds to the door, gallantly gathers up my very pregnant mother who has been waiting, resplendent in her African muumuu, and whisks her to the newly desegregated hospital. For this final leg, he drives a huge, hopelessly American Oldsmobile Toronado.
Mama remembers long lines of waiting black women at this hospital, screaming in the hallways, each encased in her own private hell. Daddy remembers that I was born with my eyes open, that I smiled when I saw him, a look of recognition piercing the air between us like lightning.
And then, on my twenty-fifth birthday, Daddy remembers something I’ve not heard before: A nurse walks into Mama’s room, my birth certificate in hand. At first glance, all of the information seems straightforward enough: mother, father, address, and so on. But next to boxes labeled “Mother’s Race” and “Father’s Race,” which read Negro and Caucasian, there is a curious note tucked into the margin. “Correct?” it says. “Correct?” a faceless questioner wants to know. Is this union, this marriage, and especially this offspring, correct?
A mulatta baby swaddled and held in loving arms, two brown, two white, in the middle of the segregated South. I’m sure the nurses didn’t have many reference points. Let’s see. Black. White. Nigger. Jew. That makes me the tragic mulatta caught between both worlds like the proverbial deer in the headlights. I am Mammy’s near-white little girl who plunges to her death, screaming, “I don’t want to be colored, I don’t want to be like you!” in the film classic Imitation of Life. I’m the one in the Langston Hughes poem with the white daddy and the black mama who doesn’t know where she’ll rest her head when she’s dead: the colored buryin’ ground behind the chapel or the white man’s cemetery behind gates on the hill.”
Rebecca Walker (Jackson, 17 november 1969)
Waar bleef de zwaan?
Zou het al zinken en vergaan,
Waar bleef de zwaan?
Waar bleef de zwaan,
De zwaan, dat vrolijke waterdier,
Nooit zat van kussen?
Geen waatren blussen
’t Lust haar te nestlen op de vloed,
Zij kweekt de gloed,
Zij kweekt de gloed
Met hare vrolijke wederga,
En kipt hare eiers,
en acht geen schreiers,
Noch vreest geen scha.
Vliegende jongen zwemmen mee
Door stroom en zee,
Door stroom en zee.
Zij groeit in ’t levendig element,
En wast de veren,
En vaart spansseren
Tot ’s levens end.
Stervende zingt ze een vrolijk lied
In ’t suikerriet,
In ’t suikerriet.
Zij tart de nijdige dood uit lust
En sterft gerust.
Stervende zoekt haar flauw gezicht
Nog eens het licht,
Nog eens het licht,
De bruidschat van de natuur te leen
Aan elk gegeven,
Om blij te leven:
Zo vaart ze heen.
(OPSCHRIFT VAN BUITEN)
De wereld is een schouwtoneel,
Elk speelt zijn rol en krijgt zijn deel.
Geen kind de schouwburg lastig zij,
Tabakspijp, bierkan, snoeperij,
Noch generlei baldadigheid;
Wie anders doet, wordt uitgeleid.
OP MIJN SCHILDERIJ,
toen Govert Flinck mij uitschilderde in het jaar 1653
Ik sluit vandaag een ring van zesmaal ellef jaren,
en zie mijn hoofd besneeuwd en tel mijn grijze haren
ook zonder glazen oog in deze schilderij.
En nog ontvonkt mijn hart in lust tot poëzij,
terwijl ik Lucifer zijn treurrol leer volspelen
en met de bliksem sla op hemelse tonelen,
ten schrik en spiegel van de staatzucht en de nijd.
Wat is mijn ouderdom? Een rook, een damp, geen tijd.
Joost van den Vondel (17 november 1587 – 5 februari 1679)
Vondel op 66-jarige leeftijd naar het schilderij van Govert Flinck (1653)
Uit: Will This Do? An Autobiography
„If it had been a joke, this undisguised dislike of his children’s company would soon have worn pretty thin. Since it was plainly not a joke, it became a fact of life.
By 1950, my mother and father had six children. So long as we were out of sight and sound, we could do whatever we wanted. In that sense Papa was a permissive, even indulgent parent.
At the age of nine or ten, I announced that I was interested in chemistry and wished to make chemical experiments for Christmas. Papa thought this a capital idea and asked for a list.
It included large quantities of nitric acid and glycerine as I was interested in the commercial production of nitroglycerine as an explosive.
These and other chemicals were acquired for me from London and a room at the back of the house was set aside for my experiments. Not many parents, I believe, would be prepared to give their child bottles of sulphuric, hydrochloric and nitric acid to play with unsupervised.
Some will decide this was a deliberate plot to get rid of me but my parents were equally unconcerned about firearms, which presented a greater threat to everyone else. From my earliest years, I stalked our 40 acres looking for small animals or blasted away at targets around the house.
Similarly, they were unconcerned about school rules and school reports – holding all authority in derision until the threat of expulsion brought the danger that children might be returned home.
Never having liked my father much in childhood or early youth, I enjoyed a distinct cordiality with him as I grew older – perhaps because I was increasingly out of his way.
By the time I married Lady Teresa Onslow in 1961, my parents and younger siblings had lived for five years at Combe Florey – a handsome 18th-century building of impressively large size.
Approached through a 16th-century gatehouse, its grandeur belied the straitened circumstances in which the family had been placed by my father’s extravagant expenditure over the years.
From the large retinue of servants employed at Piers Court, the indoor staff was reduced to our former cowman Giovanni, who waited at table in an azure cardigan and corduroys, and Maria, his wife, who was the cook.
Forced to give up her herd of cows, my mother threw herself instead into market gardening, a change made easier with the help of a villager called Walter Coggan – for some reason she never learned his name and always called him Mr Coggins – who, employed as a gardener, came to talk to her while she laboured in the garden.”
Auberon Waugh (17 november 1939 -16 januari 2001)
“The sound was stabbing, slicing, shivering, like metal scraping against stone. Eragon’s teeth vibrated in sympathy, and he covered his ears with his hands, grimacing as he twisted around, trying to locate the source of the noise. Saphira tossed her head, and even through the din, he heard her whine in distress.
Eragon swept his gaze over the courtyard twice before he noticed a faint puff of dust rising up the wall of the keep from a foot-wide crack that had appeared beneath the blackened, partially destroyed window where Blödhgarm had killed the magician. As the squeal increased in intensity, Eragon risked lifting a hand off one ear to point at the crack.
“Look!” he shouted to Arya, who nodded in acknowledgment. He replaced his hand over his ear.
Without warning or preamble, the sound stopped.
Eragon waited for a moment, then slowly lowered his hands, for once wishing that his hearing was not quite so sensitive.
Just as he did, the crack jerked open wider—spreading until it was several feet across—and raced down the wall of the keep. Like a bolt of lightning, the crack struck and shattered the keystone above the door to the building, showering the floor below with pebble-sized rocks. The whole castle groaned, and from the damaged window to the broken keystone, the front of the keep began to lean outward.
“Run!” Eragon shouted at the Varden, though the men were already scattering to either side of the courtyard, desperate to get out from under the precarious wall. Eragon took a single step forward, every muscle in his body tense as he searched for a glimpse of Roran somewhere in the throng of warriors.”
Christopher Paolini (Los Angeles County, 17 november 1983)
Imagine: Only the dust was at my side,
I had no other companion.
Dust walked me to nursery school,
Ruffled my hair
On the warmest childhood days.
Imagine who was at my side
And all the girls had another.
When winter starts slinging its terrible nets,
When the clouds devour their prey,
Imagine who was at my side
And how much I wanted another.
The pinecones rattled, and for a while
I ached to be alone with the wind.
Many a night I’d dream in a daze
Of a few lone houses moist with love.
Imagine how deprived I was
If the dust was my only companion.
On the khamsin days, I’d sail all the way
To the capital city of the whales.
I was filled with a reckless happiness.
I’d never come back till the day I died,
But when I came back, I was like a raven
Despised by its raven cousins.
I had no companion at all,
Only the dust at my side.
Dahlia Ravikovitch (17 november 1936 – 21 augustus 2005)