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Don't Call Me African-American    by Donna Conger order for
Don't Call Me African-American
by Donna Conger
Order:  USA  Can
PublishAmerica, 2003 (2003)
* * *   Reviewed by Melissa Parcel

I started Don't Call Me African-American expecting a book filled with rants about color issues. What I found was a beautifully written, insightful autobiography. Starting with her experiences as a young child, the author lays everything about her life on the table for the reader to ponder. Her openness about the things she has undergone allows us to learn and grow too.

Donna Conger's life has not followed an easy path. There have been heartaches and frustration, along with great joy. Each chapter begins with a poem she wrote to express emotions during a particular time period. Intertwined throughout the narrative is a thoughtful look at how her experiences as a black woman shaped the person she is today. 'I understand and love myself as a black woman. I am at last comfortable in my dark brown skin because I have the answers I need, to be who I want to be.'

A product of a weak father who died at an early age and a controlling mother, the author set out to find her own destiny. She attempted to control her fate and that of a man who was to become her first husband. He struggled with his homosexuality, while she thought that she could change him into something more mainstream and normal. She goes through a great deal of transformation over the years to come, to the point of a new marriage and a new outlook on life.

All through her life, the author also struggled to fit into a world not quite ready for her 'color blindness.' She had difficulty integrating herself with both whites and blacks. 'I would rather put up with the racism and ignorance of whites than the condemnation of blacks who did not think I was living up to their standards of blackness.' Her bluntness draws in all readers, no matter their skin color, because she calls things as she sees them rather than trying to be politically correct. 'When white people stop believing that blacks are to be feared and hated, and when black people stop believing that whites are to be blamed and persecuted, then we will get somewhere. We will start to really understand each other. We will help each other.'

Don't Call Me African-American is a short book (under 100 pages) packed with wit, wisdom, and love. The author's loving, transparent personality shines through her narrative, which allowed me to feel like I was her close friend, curled up with her on the couch, chatting about life. This is a gem of a book!

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