Anatole Broyard : biography
Anatole Paul Broyard (July 16, 1920 – October 11, 1990) was an American writer, literary critic and editor for The New York Times. In addition to his many reviews and columns, he published short stories, essays and two books during his lifetime. His autobiographical works, Intoxicated by My Illness (1992) and Kafka Was the Rage: A Greenwich Village Memoir (1993), were published after his death.
After his death, Broyard became the center of controversy and discussions related to how he had chosen to live as an adult in New York. A Louisiana Creole of mixed race, he was criticized by some blacks for "passing" as white as an adult and failing to acknowledge his African-American ancestry. Multiracial advocates though have cited Broyard as an example of someone forging their own racial identity long before it was acceptable in mainstream America.
Given Broyard's stature in the literary world and discussions about his life after his death, numerous literary critics, such as Michiko Kakutani, Janet Maslin, Lorrie Moore, Charles Taylor, Touré, and Brent Staples, have made comparisons between the character Coleman Silk in Philip Roth's The Human Stain (2000) and Broyard., New York Times, 7 September 2003, accessed 25 January 2011. Quote: "This was raw meat for Philip Roth, who may have known the outlines of the story even before Henry Louis Gates Jr. told it in detail in The New Yorker in 1996. When Mr. Roth's novel about "passing" – "The Human Stain" – appeared in 2000, the character who jettisons his black family to live as white was strongly reminiscent of Mr. Broyard.", New York Times, 7 May 2000, accessed 20 August 2012. Quote: "In addition to the hypnotic creation of Coleman Silk – whom many readers will feel, correctly or not, to be partly inspired by the late Anatole Broyard – Roth has brought Nathan Zuckerman into old age, continuing what he began in American Pastoral." Quote: "The thrill of gossip become literature hovers over "The Human Stain": There's no way Roth could have tackled this subject without thinking of Anatole Broyard, the late literary critic who passed as white for many years. But Coleman Silk is a singularly conceived and realized character, and his hidden racial past is a trap Roth has laid for his readers..." Some speculated that Roth had been inspired by Broyard's life, and commented on the larger issues of race and identity in American society. However, Roth stated in a 2008 interview that Broyard was not his source of inspiration. He explained that he had only learned about Broyard's black ancestry and choices from Gates' New Yorker article, published months after he had already started writing the novel.
Life and career
Broyard was born in New Orleans into a mixed-race Louisiana Creole family, the son of Paul Anatole Broyard, a carpenter and construction worker, and his wife, Edna Miller, neither of whom finished elementary school. Broyard was descended from pre-Civil War free people of color. The first Broyard in Louisiana was a French colonist in the mid-eighteenth century., interview of Bliss Broyard, News & Notes, National Public Radio, October 2, 2007, accessed 25 January 2011"", New York Times, Oct 12, 1990. Broyard was the second of three children; he and his sister Lorraine, two years older, were light skinned with features that were more European. Their younger sister Shirley, who eventually married the lawyer and civil rights leader Franklin Williams, was darker and showed more of her African ancestry.
When Broyard was a young child, his family joined the Great Migration during the Great Depression, moving from New Orleans to New York City, to go where his father thought there were more work opportunities. They lived in a working-class and racially diverse community in Brooklyn. Having grown up in the French Quarter's Creole community, Broyard felt he had little in common with the blacks of Brooklyn. He saw his parents "pass" as white to get work, as his father found the carpenters' union racially discriminatory. By high school, the younger Broyard had become interested in artistic and cultural life; his sister Shirley said he was unique in the family with these interests.
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