From the author of Make Your Home Among Strangers, essays on being an “accidental” American—an incisive look at the edges of identity for a woman of color in a society centered on whiteness
In this sharp and candid collection of essays, critically acclaimed writer and first-generation American Jennine Capó Crucet explores the condition of finding herself a stranger in the country where she was born. Raised in Miami and the daughter of Cuban refugees, Crucet examines the political and personal contours of American identity and the physical places where those contours find themselves smashed: be it a rodeo town in Nebraska, a university campus in upstate New York, or Disney World in Florida. Crucet illuminates how she came to see her exclusion from aspects of the theoretical American Dream, despite her family’s attempts to fit in with white American culture—beginning with their ill-fated plan to name her after the winner of the Miss America pageant.
In prose that is both fearless and slyly humorous, My Time Among the Whites examines the sometimes hopeful, sometimes deeply flawed ways in which many Americans have learned to adapt, exist, and—in the face of all signals saying otherwise—perhaps even thrive in a country that never imagined them here.
In this conversational and often comic memoir-in-essays, Cuban American novelist Crucet (Make Your Home Among Strangers) examines entitlement and dislocation in a white world. In 1999, Crucet and her family drove from Miami to Cornell University (she was the first in her family to attend college), ignorant of the "extra long twin sheets, mesh laundry bags" she would need for her dorm but eager for an education that "would plug me into a kind of access and privilege I didn't yet have a name for." In "Say I Do," she writes of her immersion into a white world that had her "marrying a gringo" she met in college at 23; she describes their Cuban wedding at "a parrot-infested jungle island theme park in Miami Beach" as "edutainment for the white guests." Crucet writes in "Going Cowboy" of leaving Florida in 2015 to teach at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, and of staying at a working cowboy ranch "to see the real Nebraska." Shaken by the owner's rant "about Mexicans getting passes into the United States," she acknowledges that her "light skin and the privileges it affords" let her pass as white, admitting, "I was helping him perpetuate his ignorance by choosing instead to ensure my own safety." An excellent prose stylist, Crucet easily immerses readers in her narrative.