Anece F. McCloud, an African American woman born in 1937 in rural North Carolina, writes about the disadvantages and prejudice she suffered, and the resulting feelings of low self-esteem that influenced her life and beliefs in her memoir, Seeking Personal Validation: The Life and Times of an African American, Female, Academic.
McCloud’s dark complexion and curly hair contrasted with the more “desirable” soft mellow skin and shiny black hair of many in her community. This resulted, she writes, in feelings of “self-hate.” Not only did she encounter racial prejudice from whites, but also from some family members who practiced a caste system based on skin color and hair textures. She so desperately wanted to change her skin color, that she once bathed in bleach.
Believing that her intelligence could help her overcome her circumstances, McCloud did well in school. She graduated from Bennett College in 1956. Married, with two daughters, she rose through several administrative college positions to become the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s first Minority Student Affairs officer. This work, the author notes, contributed to her evolving self-esteem.
McCloud writes in a relatable tone, reconstructing conversations that lend a sense of intimacy to her chronological narrative. The narrative is honest, personal and often raw. Recollections of discriminatory housing practices, among others, provide insight into social and racial issues the author experienced.
Because of the story’s broad scope, however, it often seems to lack focus and includes specifics such as holiday menus, trip itineraries, and home floorplans that aren’t particularly relevant to her story. Toward the memoir’s end, McCloud’s shift from a chronological format to individual sections describing her work experience, disrupts the narrative’s flow. Additionally, the text includes a smattering of misspellings and grammatical errors.
Many readers may find the level of personal detail an obstacle. Still, the book stands as a courageous assertion of McCloud’s value and worth in an environment of prejudice and internal struggle.
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