Surviving the White Gaze

Rebecca Carroll grew up the only black person in her rural New Hampshire town. Adopted at birth by artistic parents who believed in peace, love, and zero population growth, her early childhood was loving and idyllic—and yet she couldn’t articulate the deep sense of isolation she increasingly felt as she grew older. 

Everything changed when she met her birth mother, a young white woman, who consistently undermined Carroll’s sense of her blackness and self-esteem. Carroll’s childhood became harrowing, and her memoir explores the tension between the aching desire for her birth mother’s acceptance, the loyalty she feels toward her adoptive parents, and the search for her racial identity. As an adult, Carroll forged a path from city to city, struggling along the way with difficult boyfriends, depression, eating disorders, and excessive drinking. Ultimately, through the support of her chosen black family, she was able to heal. 

Intimate and illuminating, Surviving the White Gaze is a timely examination of racism and racial identity in America today, and an extraordinarily moving portrait of resilience.

Rebecca Carroll has been the host of the podcast Come Through with Rebecca Carroll, a cultural critic at WNYC, and a critic at large for the Los Angeles Times. Her personal essays, cultural commentary, profiles, and opinion pieces have appeared in The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Guardian, Essence, New York magazine, Ebony, and Esquire, among other publications. She is the author of several interview-based books about race and blackness in America, including the award-winning Sugar in the Raw.


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