April 7, 2011

Incognito by Michael Sidney Fosberg

I'm sure at one time or another we've all wondered about the mysteries of ourselves. A lot of us as children have spun fantasies of alternate beginnings. What if we're really the long-lost child of a foreign queen being raised in secret? Or perhaps we have a twin that was taken, or we were switched at birth? What would it be like to suddenly discover our whole lives have been a lie?

Michael Sidney Fosberg  always knew the father that raised him was not his biological father, but for some reason never thought to ask questions about his "real" father. Yet as he approached 40 and his parents decided to divorce, he came upon a startling truth, an essential truth with a huge impact on the core of his identity. While he had been raised white, in a white family, his long lost father was African-American.

Fosberg was born in the midst of the Civil Rights movement in a segregated city to a White mother and a Black father. They struggled to stay together despite the incredible odds that were against such a couple in such a time, but his mother caved to the pressure. She left her husband and took her infant son to live with her family so her light-skinned son could pass for White and avoid the discrimination he'd inevitably face as a biracial child.

On the face of it, it's easy to say that this revelation shouldn't have effected the way Fosberg saw himself. But he found he had missed out on experiencing a rich culture that he'd always felt inexplicably drawn to, as well as relationships with an assortment of relatives who had loved him and long wondered about his fate.

Fosberg decided to take a road trip around the country, spending time with these relatives and interviewing them to learn more about himself. He also interviewed the parents who had raised him and his White half-siblings to put all the pieces together in an honest and cohesive fashion. Along the way he was often forced to question his own motives: was he being selfish? Narcissistic? Now Fosberg uses his story as a theatrical device to get communities and students talking about race and acceptance.

I received a copy of this book for the purpose of review.

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