Say I'm Dead : A Family Memoir of Race, Secrets, and Love
by Johnson, E. Dolores

1 Code Switch
2 Dress Box
3 Lonely Only
4 My Whole Self
5 Details
6 A Train Ride
7 Black Girl
8 I Am Somebody
9 Searching
10 Deep South
11 A Lingering Smoky Odor
12 Too Through
13 Just Listen
14 The Visit
15 Indiana Chronicles
16 The Guard Tower
17 Shift
18 Europe
19 Belonging Everywhere
20 Flow On
21 Leaning into Brown
Questions for Discussion225

Say I&;m Dead is the true story of family secrets, separation, courage, and trans-formation through five generations of interracial relationships. Fearful of prison time&;or lynching&;for violating Indiana&;s antimiscegenation laws in the 1940s, E. Dolores Johnson&;s black father and white mother fled Indianapolis to secretly marry in Buffalo, New York. 

When Johnson was born, social norms and her government-issued birth certificate said she was Negro, nullifying her mother&;s white blood in her identity. Later, as a Harvard-educated business executive feeling too far from her black roots, she searched her father&;s black genealogy. But in the process, Johnson suddenly realized that her mother&;s whole white family was&;and always had been&;missing. When she began to pry, her mother&;s 36-year-old secret spilled out. Her mother had simply vanished from Indiana, evading an FBI and police search that had ended with the conclusion that she had been the victim of foul play.

E. Dolores Johnson&;s writing focuses on the evolution of attitudes on interracial relationships through American history, with an eye to the accelerating browning of America&;s future. She has written for Narratively, Buffalo News, Lunch Ticket, The Writer of Color Anthology: Boundaries and Borders and Pangyrus, among others. Johnson has consulted on diversity for universities, major corporations, and nonprofits and has served as a panelist for the Harvard Faculty Seminar on Inter-racialism.

*Starred Review* In the spring of 1943, Ella Lewis fled her white Catholic family in Indianapolis to marry Henry Jackson, who was African American. Recognizing the ingrained racism in a state with an active KKK and laws against "miscegenation," Ella decided the only way to protect her white family and the Black man she loved was to disappear, allowing her parents and sister to believe she had died. The ramifications of this decision are explored by Johnson, her daughter, who chronicles her parents' bittersweet love story and her own experiences with racism as she learns to accept her biracial heritage. Johnson powerfully describes the racial tension in mid-twentieth-century Indiana, where the slightest deviation from customary segregation could unleash unspeakable violence against Black men; and the terrifying experience of attempting to integrate a white community in 1970s Baton Rouge, where Johnson's colleagues tell blatantly racist jokes, and police treat a cross-burning with lackadaisical indifference. While Johnson sympathizes with her mother's decision to leave home, she candidly addresses the heartwrenching grief and despair Ella caused her family, especially her father who died mourning for his lost, "wonderful girl." Yet as Johnson makes clear to her mother, "It's America's disgrace, not yours, that you had to run and hide." Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

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