Belle-mère Means Mother-in-Law: Managing Loss and Love Across a Jagged Color Line

Sometimes my essays are as much person reflection as they are commentary. Here, in a tribute to my mother-in-law, I think out loud about race and language as I’ve encountered it while living in France. The occasion was Mother’s Day. Here’s an excerpt:

I labored to explain who I was and from where I came. I slowly unpacked my family past, peeling back layers that showed how mine was hardly the first generation to cross lines of culture and more. Those essential chapters, such as the history of slavery and African American culture in the United States, Mimi had never encountered up close. Add to that my parents’ mixed-race union and me, their ambiguous looking child, and there was a lot to talk about. Perhaps I lingered here because on such topics my vocabulary was best. I am a historian of race and slavery and so these words came more easily than most.

[Read more here.]

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