How to read

Here is a good article on The Great Gatsby, the movie.

Here is a fact from it that I did not know: “an ethnic-American man like Gatsby (born Gatz) would not have been considered “white.” Gatsby is German. I knew Norwegians, Swedes and Finns were ambiguously white, almost as ambiguously so as the southern Europeans, but I did not know Germans were nonwhite like the Irish.

This explains why my father is not white. He has some British descent, his grandmother was a Beecher (you know, Henry Ward Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe), but otherwise he is German and Russian with touches of Jewish and French. From what I have been able to gather his parents were not trying to whiten (or did not expect to “pass”).

It also explains why my maternal grandmother, half German and half British and then marrying my all British grandfather, was constantly guarding against any activity that might seem ethnic. And it means I am a saltatrás, a step back, because I am less white in these terms than my mother or my grandmother or her English grandmother for that matter.

I could not publish my article on Gloria Anzaldúa in Signs because they said white people should never criticize anything people of color write, as our criticism would surely stem from unconscious racism or at least appear to do so. They assumed I was white based on my name. This is how I know peer review is not blind.


2 thoughts on “How to read

  1. Yes. So many young people face exclusion. It’s a sorting out process, because there are too many desires facing too few opportunities. In Seattle, where I just was, now flooded with aspiring young people, the lines were long at every theater showing this film.

    As an old person who read GG long ago and have no intention of reading it again, since the message is all too familiar to me, and as someone who has become allergic to the bombast of most films, unlikely to see the latest iteration of the novel, I try to understand that each generation has to learn things anew and in its own way. That is about as generous as I’m able to be on the topic.

    One phenomenon in Seattle that is striking to me are the numbers of Asian women with white husbands and boyfriends, including some friends of ours. I”m not clear as to what this is about. It’s something that few people are willing to discuss, that everyone notices. I never mention this except to my husband and now here, to you. I wonder how this affects Asian men, in particular. Does this make them feel shut out? Very hot-button issue, for sure. Of course this is a non-issue in Hawaii, since about half the couples I know are Asian/Caucasian, but as often as not the man is Asian. Race dynamics are quite different on the Mainland. But I am wandering off the point.

    Like you I’ve abandoned all attempts at keeping my thoughts to myself! So I think I’ll paste this into my blog.

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