Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
Real American

Real American

A Memoir

Julie Lythcott-Haims

Henry Holt and Co.

READ AN EXCERPT →

BUY THE BOOK

e-Book

“Courageous, achingly honest."
—Michelle Alexander, New York Times bestselling author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

A compelling, incisive and thoughtful examination of race, origin and what it means to be called an American. Engaging, heartfelt and beautifully written, Lythcott-Haims explores the American spectrum of identity with refreshing courage and compassion.”
—Bryan Stevenson, New York Times bestselling author of Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption

A fearless debut memoir in which beloved and bestselling How to Raise an Adult author Julie Lythcott-Haims pulls no punches in her recollections of growing up a biracial black woman in America.

Bringing a poetic sensibility to her prose to stunning effect, Lythcott-Haims briskly and stirringly evokes her personal battle with the low self-esteem that American racism routinely inflicts on people of color. The only child of a marriage between an African-American father and a white British mother, she shows indelibly how so-called "micro" aggressions in addition to blunt force insults can puncture a person's inner life with a thousand sharp cuts. Real American expresses also, through Lythcott-Haims’s path to self-acceptance, the healing power of community in overcoming the hurtful isolation of being incessantly considered "the other."

The author of the New York Times bestselling anti-helicopter parenting manifesto How to Raise an Adult, Lythcott-Haims has written a different sort of book this time out, but one that will nevertheless resonate with the legions of students, educators and parents to whom she is now well known, by whom she is beloved, and to whom she has always provided wise and necessary counsel about how to embrace and nurture their best selves. Real American is an affecting memoir, an unforgettable cri de coeur, and a clarion call to all of us to live more wisely, generously and fully.

EXCERPT

It Begins Like This

I.

“Where are you from?”

“Here.”

“No, I mean, where are you from from?”

As a child growing up in the seventies and early eighties in New York, Wisconsin, and Northern Virginia,...

Reviews

Praise for Real American

“A bold, impassioned memoir that . . . riveting[ly] and deeply . . . sheds fresh light on race and discrimination in American society.”
Publishers Weekly

“Breaks the silence on what it means to grow up mixed-race in America. Her spare but powerful prose has an emotional rawness that will profoundly resonate with all readers and help many feel a little less alone.”
Heidi W. Durrow, New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Fell from the Sky

“A cathartic and bold truth-telling.”
Danzy Senna, bestselling author of Caucasia and New People

“A powerful, honest book that should be required reading for everyone.”
—Anita Amirrezvani, author of The Blood of Flowers and Equal of the Sun

Real American is beautifully written, heartbreaking, and a real page-turner. I couldn't put this extraordinary memoir down. An essential read for anyone who wishes to understand the conversation about racial injustice.”
—Jean Kwok, New York Times bestselling author of Mambo in Chinatown and Girl in Translation

“To write with such an open heart about race and Blackness takes great courage. To do so in prose that is at once elegant and raw takes great talent.”
—Ayelet Waldman, bestselling author of Bad Mother and of A Really Good Day

Real American is a courageous, achingly honest meditation on what it means to come to consciousness as a mixed race child and adult in a nation where Black lives weren't meant to matter.”
—Michelle Alexander, New York Times bestselling author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

“A true achievement . . . so much more than a personal memoir . . . [Lythcott-Haims] channels the shrewdness of Eula Biss and the compassion of Ta-Nehisi Coates.”
Lee Daniel Kravetz, international bestselling author of Strange Contagion and Supersurvivors

"In a text that resembles a memoir, a prose poem, and an album of verbal snapshots, a writer from a mixed racial background chronicles her journey—and battle—to understand her racial identity . . . Many potent and painful reminders that we have a long, long way to go regarding race and identity."
Kirkus Reviews

“Powerful . . . a memoir that [illuminates] the psychic cost of racism to those who are cast as ‘other.’ The journey of self-healing and the empowerment . . . is a story of triumph from which all of us can learn.”
—Beverly Daniel Tatum, author of Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? and Can We Talk About Race?

“Stands for, and stands up for, Americans who are questioned, confronted, disregarded and unnerved by our citizen country . . . Real American will be one of those books that is passed from hand to hand, with passages marked where readers find strong words that speak truth.”
A.J. Verdelle, author of The Good Negress

“Shows once again, plainly and unforgettably, that if you are Black in America, it does not matter who you are, racism will come knocking. Lythcott-Haims . . . Real American is the story of that insidious harm and of a woman who became alert to the American racism within herself and fought back. Real American is not only an excellent, satisfying read but a book that can help us “stay woke”—as we must—to the sometimes stealthy and always life-threatening danger of racism, so that we all can fight back.”
—Barbara Lee, U.S. Representative and author of Renegade for Peace and Justice: A Memoir of Political and Personal Courage

“A memoir isn’t worth the paper on which it is printed if it is not, first and foremost, brutally honest. Julie Lythcott-Haims’ memoir, Real American, is not only worth the paper on which it is written, it is priceless. Real American is the humorous and heartbreaking story of the coming of age of an American woman born to a Black father and a White mother. Lythcott-Haims writes movingly and courageously of her struggle to figure out to which race she belongs . . . It isn’t easy being biracial in this country; Real American compellingly and honestly tells you why.”
—LaDoris Hazzard Cordell, retired California judge and former Vice Provost at Stanford University

“A poignant, sensitive, and often times painful personal account of growing up as a biracial person in color-conscious, contemporary America. This gem of a book provides compelling stories about how race permeates the American psyche and how it so heavily weighs on people ‘too white to be black and too black to be white.’”
—Albert Camarillo, Professor of American History and founding director of Stanford University’s Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity

“ . . . No punches pulled. The tortuous path of being and becoming and insisting as we each have a right to be a real American.”
—Mary Frances Berry, the Geraldine Segal Professor of American Social Thought, University of Pennsylvania, and former Chairperson United States Commission on Civil Rights

“Lythcott-Haims (How to Raise an Adult) has written a bold, impassioned memoir that explores the emotional and cultural divide imposed by American racism on people of mixed race. Born in 1967 to an African-American father and a white British mother, she was proud that her parents “broke the rules” despite the racial sneers and ridicule she experienced growing up in Palisades, N.Y., and Madison, Wis. However, the steadfast support of her loving mother and of her father, an accomplished physician appointed by President Carter as assistant surgeon general in 1977, couldn’t prepare the insecure, mixed-race teen for navigating a white world (“I don’t think of you as Black. I think of you as normal,” says one high school friend while the two were watching Gone with the Wind). Upon graduating from Stanford University (she would serve as dean of freshmen there years later), Lythcott-Haims married a white Jewish man and gave birth to“quadroon children,” which further complicated her quest for self-understanding. Later, she became empowered through her determination not to let hate define her or the lives of her children. Riveting and deeply felt, Lythcott-Haims’s memoir sheds fresh light on race and discrimination in American society.”
Publishers Weekly

“In this raw, accessible exploration of what it is to be truly American, author Julie Lythcott-Haims offers up her lifelong struggle with racial identity and internalized oppression. Her fascinating family—prominent black American father and resilient white British mother, married in newly-independent West Africa—provides a front row to history, while Julie’s journey—like that of so many Civil Rights babies—reveals the limitations of privilege, from getting an Ivy League degree and professional career, to marrying white and American-dreaming in the suburbs. A fearless invitation to the important conversations black and white America needs to be having.”
—Faith Adiele, author of Meeting Faith and The Nigerian-Nordic Girl’s Guide to Lady Problems

About the author

Julie Lythcott-Haims

Julie Lythcott-Haims, bestselling author of How to Raise an Adult, served as dean of freshmen and undergraduate advising at Stanford University, where she received the Dinkelspiel Award for her contributions to the undergraduate experience. She holds a BA from Stanford, a JD from Harvard Law School, and an MFA in writing from California College of the Arts. She is a member of the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto, and resides in the Bay Area with her husband, their two teenagers, and her mother.

Julie Lythcott-Haims

Kristina Vetter

Julie Lythcott-Haimes' TED Talk