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American Book Review author discusses struggle between identities

By Carolina Astrain
Aug. 31, 2015 at 10:36 p.m.
Updated Sept. 1, 2015 at 6 a.m.

Tina Kidder raised her hand from her seat in Alcorn Auditorium and praised the author for his grace under fire.

"You don't have an angry tone at all," Kidder said to the black author. "How did you manage to keep that under?"

Clifford Thompson, a Brooklyn resident and winner of a Whiting Writers' Award for nonfiction in 2013 for his collection titled "Love for Sale and Other Essays," read from his memoir collection Monday at the University of Houston-Victoria.

"The only non-angry Black Americans are dead," Thompson said. "Everybody is angry over what has happened in the past and over what is happening now."

The struggle lies between reconciling the anger and your base values of evaluating others individually, Thompson said. "When you figure out the answer, you tell me."

Thompson read from "Twin of Blackness," and recounted a Passover Seder evening he and his wife attended.

"My wife and I were the only non-Jews present," Thompson said. "I was the only black guest, a scenario I was certainly used to by that point."

Thompson attended Oberlin College, a predominately white campus.

The other guests began singing verses of a Jewish camp song.

"A sadness began to overtake me, not so much because I was excluded from this conversation, but because I couldn't imagine a similar one in which I would be an active participant," Thompson read. "My black friends and I could and sometimes did take nostalgic jaunts in which we laughed over black fads, films and hair products from the 1970s but what was the black equivalent of a Jewish camp song?"

The solution part of that struggle is figuring out who or what broken societal systems a person should direct their anger at, Thompson said.

"I thought his answer was interesting," said Kidder, a Victoria resident and frequent reading series attendee.


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