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Raceless: In Search of Family, Identity, and the Truth About Where I Belong

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From The Guardian’s Georgina Lawton, a moving examination of how racial identity is constructed—through the author’s own journey grappling with secrets and stereotypes, having been raised by white parents with no explanation as to why she looked black. Raised in sleepy English suburbia, Georgina Lawton was no stranger to homogeneity. Her parents were white; her friends were From The Guardian’s Georgina Lawton, a moving examination of how racial identity is constructed—through the author’s own journey grappling with secrets and stereotypes, having been raised by white parents with no explanation as to why she looked black. Raised in sleepy English suburbia, Georgina Lawton was no stranger to homogeneity. Her parents were white; her friends were white; there was no reason for her to think she was any different. But over time her brown skin and dark, kinky hair frequently made her a target of prejudice. In Georgina’s insistently color-blind household, with no acknowledgement of her difference or access to black culture, she lacked the coordinates to make sense of who she was. It was only after her father’s death that Georgina began to unravel the truth about her parentage—and the racial identity that she had been denied. She fled from England and the turmoil of her home-life to live in black communities around the globe—the US, the UK, Nicaragua, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, South Africa, and Morocco—and to explore her identity and what it meant to live in and navigate the world as a black woman. She spoke with psychologists, sociologists, experts in genetic testing, and other individuals whose experiences of racial identity have been fraught or questioned in the hopes of understanding how, exactly, we identify ourselves. Raceless is an exploration of a fundamental question: what constitutes our sense of self? Drawing on her personal experiences and the stories of others, Lawton grapples with difficult questions about love, shame, grief, and prejudice, and reveals the nuanced and emotional journey of forming one’s identity.


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From The Guardian’s Georgina Lawton, a moving examination of how racial identity is constructed—through the author’s own journey grappling with secrets and stereotypes, having been raised by white parents with no explanation as to why she looked black. Raised in sleepy English suburbia, Georgina Lawton was no stranger to homogeneity. Her parents were white; her friends were From The Guardian’s Georgina Lawton, a moving examination of how racial identity is constructed—through the author’s own journey grappling with secrets and stereotypes, having been raised by white parents with no explanation as to why she looked black. Raised in sleepy English suburbia, Georgina Lawton was no stranger to homogeneity. Her parents were white; her friends were white; there was no reason for her to think she was any different. But over time her brown skin and dark, kinky hair frequently made her a target of prejudice. In Georgina’s insistently color-blind household, with no acknowledgement of her difference or access to black culture, she lacked the coordinates to make sense of who she was. It was only after her father’s death that Georgina began to unravel the truth about her parentage—and the racial identity that she had been denied. She fled from England and the turmoil of her home-life to live in black communities around the globe—the US, the UK, Nicaragua, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, South Africa, and Morocco—and to explore her identity and what it meant to live in and navigate the world as a black woman. She spoke with psychologists, sociologists, experts in genetic testing, and other individuals whose experiences of racial identity have been fraught or questioned in the hopes of understanding how, exactly, we identify ourselves. Raceless is an exploration of a fundamental question: what constitutes our sense of self? Drawing on her personal experiences and the stories of others, Lawton grapples with difficult questions about love, shame, grief, and prejudice, and reveals the nuanced and emotional journey of forming one’s identity.

30 review for Raceless: In Search of Family, Identity, and the Truth About Where I Belong

  1. 4 out of 5

    Georgina Lawton

    is it bad to rate your own book? anyway I have. and I think it's very good :) is it bad to rate your own book? anyway I have. and I think it's very good :)

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader

    I have so many thoughts, and I won’t do this powerful book justice, but I want you all to read it. Georgina Lawton is raised in a white family and never told why she has dark skin. Growing up in suburban England, her racial identity formation is denied of her. As an adult, Georgina travels the world living in Black communities and interviews psychologists and sociologists to uncover truths and understanding. Raceless is a fascinating, engaging, and emotional story, and one we should be reading and I have so many thoughts, and I won’t do this powerful book justice, but I want you all to read it. Georgina Lawton is raised in a white family and never told why she has dark skin. Growing up in suburban England, her racial identity formation is denied of her. As an adult, Georgina travels the world living in Black communities and interviews psychologists and sociologists to uncover truths and understanding. Raceless is a fascinating, engaging, and emotional story, and one we should be reading and talking about. I recommend it to all readers! I received a gifted copy. Many of my reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com and instagram: www.instagram.com/tarheelreader

  3. 5 out of 5

    Bree Hill

    Seriously one of the best books centering ‘Identity’ that I’ve read in a long time. Georgina grew up surrounded by love and she knows that but she also grew up with two white parents and eventually a white brother and was very aware that she didn’t look like them. When she tried talking about it, it was always a subject change or dismissed. This book is about secrets and judgment and choosing not to have discussions. All the while, you have a black child who is confused as she navigates the worl Seriously one of the best books centering ‘Identity’ that I’ve read in a long time. Georgina grew up surrounded by love and she knows that but she also grew up with two white parents and eventually a white brother and was very aware that she didn’t look like them. When she tried talking about it, it was always a subject change or dismissed. This book is about secrets and judgment and choosing not to have discussions. All the while, you have a black child who is confused as she navigates the world. It’s about Georgina throwing caution to the wind and going out into the world and surrounding herself with people who look like her after years of English suburbia. It’s about finally having this discussions. It’s about hundreds of dollars for DNA testing. It’s about piecing together who you are, finally having some answers. So good!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Never Without a Book

    WOW! This book stressssssed me, Georgina, I am so so sorry you had to go through life fighting to figure out who you are. I mean her mom......Bro! ....smh full review coming later.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Charles Shires

    Georgina’s search for her identity highlights what most of us take for granted - our undisputed sense of self and where we come from. Her journey is inspiring and you can’t help but feel attached to her progression from her teenage years to the present day. Whilst many of us may not be able to directly relate to the circumstances in which she grew up in, it is hard not to be energised by her vigour and perseverance, and in doing so be influenced to overcome challenges we may be facing in our own Georgina’s search for her identity highlights what most of us take for granted - our undisputed sense of self and where we come from. Her journey is inspiring and you can’t help but feel attached to her progression from her teenage years to the present day. Whilst many of us may not be able to directly relate to the circumstances in which she grew up in, it is hard not to be energised by her vigour and perseverance, and in doing so be influenced to overcome challenges we may be facing in our own lives. Her dad seems like he was a true gentleman and a credit to the person Georgina has become today, and she has a close knit group of friends with a bond like no other. We could all do with our very own Aisling and Emilia in our lives! Lastly, I’d just like to say how much I would like to have been a fly on the wall for that confrontation in Balham - would have made for blockbuster viewing. A solid 5 stars from me!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jendella

    A sincerely moving memoir that also interrogates the limitations (and ridiculousness) of the ways we talk about race and identity and the concept of “colourblindness” that Britain can often pride itself on. I was completely hooked by Georgina’s writing, her openness and the ease with which she weaves analysis and research alongside the surreality of her personal journey (which she still makes immensely relatable). I know it’s early but it feels like one of the best non-fiction books I’ll read th A sincerely moving memoir that also interrogates the limitations (and ridiculousness) of the ways we talk about race and identity and the concept of “colourblindness” that Britain can often pride itself on. I was completely hooked by Georgina’s writing, her openness and the ease with which she weaves analysis and research alongside the surreality of her personal journey (which she still makes immensely relatable). I know it’s early but it feels like one of the best non-fiction books I’ll read this year!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Carly Findlay

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Raceless is one of those books that I didn’t want to put down, but I also didn’t want it to end. I was engrossed. A memoir by British woman. Georgina Lawton, Raceless is about the identity crisis of being born Black into a white family. Georgina was raised white. Her blackness was never discussed - and it wasn’t until after her father died of cancer that she probed her racial history. Georgina’s mother’s affair was never addressed until after her father’s death. Her father never questioned it, her Raceless is one of those books that I didn’t want to put down, but I also didn’t want it to end. I was engrossed. A memoir by British woman. Georgina Lawton, Raceless is about the identity crisis of being born Black into a white family. Georgina was raised white. Her blackness was never discussed - and it wasn’t until after her father died of cancer that she probed her racial history. Georgina’s mother’s affair was never addressed until after her father’s death. Her father never questioned it, her mother never explained it, and her wider family never provoked the topic. Through counseling, she finally interrogated her mother - which revealed a great sense of shame and catholic guilt. The book has a great insight into Black women’s hair, as well as the Vietnamese wig industry. It also explores the way ancestry websites take advantage of minority groups. It was also alarming to read just how many children are kept from knowing about their racial identity - and also the impacts it has on them. And the concept of micro aggressions was outlined so well. I also related to the book a little. My mum is black and my dad is white. But I have a rare severe skin condition called ichthyosis - which makes my skin red. I look more like others with ichthyosis than I do my parents. I was raised in Australia, with some contact with my mum’s South African friends, but mostly exposed to white people. Georgina wrote that she was “slightly overwhelmed to say the least, and very wary of appropriating an identity that was not mine to have.” - and I wrote about this very thing in both Say Hello and Growing Up African in Australia. It’s only recently I’ve explored my race, because my skin condition took a lot of space in my mind. Georgina wrote of Chrissie who had vitiligo, and so his skin colour changed due to the skin condition, and he questioned his identity a lot. I found myself nodding along when reading much of the book. Georgina wrote a lot about her mother’s shame - and the impact it had on her. She wrote that some British people have the tendency to avoid addressing difference - and I thought back to some of the ways I’ve been made to feel shame because my difference has not been addressed - due to people not seeing colour. Raceless is a really important read - especially for people who are mixed raced, and for everyone else actively working on anti racism. It’s beautiful, vulnerable, truthful writing. I want to read everything Georgina has written. I listened to the audiobook and she narrated it beautifully.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Zahrah Surooprajally

    I would recommend this book to everyone. In the era of the personal essay, it’s hard to make a mark. To be able to convey your impetus to tell your story can feel forced or too similar to the corpus of work out there, or too cliched. Which is what makes Raceless such a special book. The debut memoir takes us on a journey of a young girl from Sutton who, constantly receiving comments from strangers abroad, and inappropriate remarks from other adults, finds it difficult to believe her parents’ repe I would recommend this book to everyone. In the era of the personal essay, it’s hard to make a mark. To be able to convey your impetus to tell your story can feel forced or too similar to the corpus of work out there, or too cliched. Which is what makes Raceless such a special book. The debut memoir takes us on a journey of a young girl from Sutton who, constantly receiving comments from strangers abroad, and inappropriate remarks from other adults, finds it difficult to believe her parents’ repeated reasoning for the colour of her skin. Lawton entwines her own experiences of grief with search for identity, against a backdrop of the entire world. She delves into her own mental health and her journey through counselling. She also combines experiences of other countries with her own growing knowledge of the nuances of race. Her own story is peppered with stories of similitude, and an accessible commentary on race theory. Every chapter opens with a relevant quote of Lawton’s own choosing, my favourite, the start of chapter 5, a Bell Hooks quote which starts with “It was love’s absence that let me know how much love mattered.” The search for belonging, though harrowing at times, (there is an instant where a school friend scratches her arm in attempt to be more light-skinned), is emboldened by the loss of her father. Lawton shows the heartbreak and anguish felt by her family at the prospect of not having their father throughout the important moments of her life. What perhaps is the most heartfelt, is how she shows stoic and strong and accepting her father was until the end, through their conversations, “this is my lot”, and the actions he took to make sure they were taken care of. Lawton skilfully and tactfully navigates her own relationship with her parents, including her ever-strengthening relationship between her and her mother. She interrogates her own beliefs and explores how far our parents’ conditioning can affect us far later into life. What perhaps may be the most poignant message of the book is that it isn’t her parents’ strengths (there are many) that allows her to grow and flourish, it is rather through the understanding of their complexity, and discovery that flaws do not negate unconditional love. Lawton teaches us that growth around systemic issues like race, is anything but comfortable. But through shedding our conditioning, stepping out into the world and questioning it all – it is the most ‘transformative, educational’ thing you will ever do.

  9. 5 out of 5

    VL

    A fascinating search for identity.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Monica

    This is a book written fiercely, scorchingly, with evident painful honesty. It is extremely well written and thought provoking, particularly for this Caucasian reader, as hopefully it will also be read by others of all races: Caucasian, black, Asian, etc. The story tells of what ignoring the reality of having a mixed- race child raised in a white family leads to: a sense of alienation and unique and painful differentness on the part of the child, particularly as members of her white family contin This is a book written fiercely, scorchingly, with evident painful honesty. It is extremely well written and thought provoking, particularly for this Caucasian reader, as hopefully it will also be read by others of all races: Caucasian, black, Asian, etc. The story tells of what ignoring the reality of having a mixed- race child raised in a white family leads to: a sense of alienation and unique and painful differentness on the part of the child, particularly as members of her white family continue to ignore her half black parentage, insisting she is white, doing so throughout her childhood, and beyond. As this child transitions to early adulthood, she struggles with agonizing emotions. However, she intrepidly seeks to find the truth about her parentage, and explores what it means to be black in a white society. She also learns to own her uniqueness as she embraces her blackness after great adversity stemming from ongoing denial in her family of origin. She travels to countries where she is not exceptional for being brown, reveling in this, and finally learning how to take care of her hair (important in many ways to blacks, which is fully illuminated in the book), while also condemning racism horrifically continuing, even to the point of deprecating black hair worn naturally rather than having been chemically straightened, thus demonstrating how all disparaging and encompassing is the way whites have—for centuries—treated blacks: as if to erase them in their singleness. (And racism continues unabated in countries where being white is normative.) Georgina (“George”), the protagonist, confronts her “mum” determined to learn the truth of her parentage. She is eventually told (by her mum who is much ashamed of how George came to be conceived) of the circumstances of her birth. Over years of contentious psychotherapy between George and her mum, they both reach some resolution, and thus to feel more certain of their ongoing love of each other. During early adulthood, George loses her dad to cancer. He was not her biological father, but consistently treated her as if he were. (Both parents treated her well in childhood, loving her greatly.) She continues to idolize him throughout her narration in the book; perhaps she will one day reach a more realistic (complete with all his foibles) view of him.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    This book is very eye opening. It is a must read for any racially integrated family, especially with children. As one who looks on as an outsider of these families, it makes you rethink your thoughts and beliefs as you realize the trials and tribulations people go through when they are a mixed race. This author expresses her journey so well that others can relate and hopefully start their own if needed.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Gayle Fleming

    First of all, Georgina Lawton is an absolutely brilliant writer. Just brilliant! Her gift of language and fitting words into descriptive and poignant storytelling is a gift that I must give praise to before even discussing the book. I came across her book while reading a review of Surviving the White Gaze by Rebecca Carroll, which I truly enjoyed and was passionately absorbed by. Both of these writers are bi-racial. Both of these women were raised in by white parents who in large part pretended t First of all, Georgina Lawton is an absolutely brilliant writer. Just brilliant! Her gift of language and fitting words into descriptive and poignant storytelling is a gift that I must give praise to before even discussing the book. I came across her book while reading a review of Surviving the White Gaze by Rebecca Carroll, which I truly enjoyed and was passionately absorbed by. Both of these writers are bi-racial. Both of these women were raised in by white parents who in large part pretended their black heritage was of non-existent. But there the stories diverge. Rebecca Carrol was raised in the US in New Hampshire by parents who didn't deny her bi-racial heritage, but who pretended they didn't see color. Georgina was raised in England by parents who pretended to be her biological parents even though it was evident to everyone around them that this was unlikely. Georgina's life pointed out the difference between the US and Britain when it comes to race. Yes, racism does exist and is pervasive in the United Kingdom. But it is still very different. Georgina was raised to believe she was white even though it was clear to everyone in both her mother and father's family and friends that she wasn't. It just wasn't spoken about. She was accepted and loved and her color and the texture of her hair were ignored. Racism in Britain is decidedly more understated, shall we say, than the United States. Georgina's white English father adored her. But around the time that as a young woman and University student she began to press for answers about the obvious differences between her and her parents and brother, her father was diagnosed with a terminal cancer. She was reluctant to pressure her father and add to the family burden and grief by pressing him on the issue of her real parentage. Once her father died her mother clammed up and refused any knowledge about or understanding of why Georgina was brown skinned and had super curly/kinky hair. Thus, Georgina, in her early twenties set out on a journey to make sense of herself after a DNA test confirmed that the father who had loved and raised her was not her biological father. The book is a journey of finding herself as a young woman, coming to terms with her racial heritage and healing her relationship with a mother who loves her deeply but is reluctant to discuss the painful issue of her Black child's heritage. Georgina is not just a gifted writer, she is also extremely learned and well read for a young woman not yet thirty years old. I listened to the audio book, but she refers so frequently to black writers and thinkers that I am going to purchase the print version so that I can access her references and quotes. She is an amazing and strong voice for young people and is most undoubtedly a voice to be reckoned with in the future. I will be following her career and journey.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jess Witkins

    Raceless is an exceptional memoir full of research as well as deep self awareness that can only have come from the very hard work the author writes about in her journey. With a premise that, at first, seems so shocking - a mixed-race daughter raised in a white family and told she was white up through her 20s (despite years of race-based questions and experiences from the world around her) discovers her father is not her biological father and that she is, in fact, half Black - the reader learns t Raceless is an exceptional memoir full of research as well as deep self awareness that can only have come from the very hard work the author writes about in her journey. With a premise that, at first, seems so shocking - a mixed-race daughter raised in a white family and told she was white up through her 20s (despite years of race-based questions and experiences from the world around her) discovers her father is not her biological father and that she is, in fact, half Black - the reader learns that this kind of family secret is more common than we think. Georgina Lawton battles both grief and an identity crisis after DNA test results reveal she is mixed-race, half white, half Black. I can only imagine the kind of unraveling such a denial of one's own identity and lived experience would feel like for over 20 years, but Lawton has certainly shared her vulnerability, her hard won lessons, and her pursuit to undo her own implicit biases and begin to construct and reshape an identity that is of her full self. In her pursuit of this, she includes a wealth of research about racially driven social structures, microaggressions, genealogy for the African diaspora, pros and cons of DNA testing, and numerous other stories of people who've lived similar experiences. There is much to be appreciated and learned in Lawton's book, but what really captured me as an American reader (Lawton lives in England) was the concept of 'sankofa,' a West African term that roughly translates to "we must go back to our roots in order to move forward.' It is an African concept that understands claiming your past in a way that Western culture hasn't yet achieved and Lawton uses it like a call for white folks, like her own mother and other families where such secrets were kept, to reconcile their history, their privilege and bias in order not to carry it forward time and time again where people of color are the ones suffering mentally and physically because of it. It is a kind of atonement. Such an incredible book. I thank the author for writing it. And thank you to NetGalley for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Raceless is Georgina Lawton’s memoir of growing up in England with white parents and being raised as if she were also white, even though she’s clearly not. She’s the result of her mother’s one-night stand with a Black man. When Georgina was born, the midwife, looking at her brown skin, instantly provided a cover story – her dark hair and skin were the result of a “throwback gene” somewhere in her ancestry. Everyone seemed to buy into this story, including Georgina’s mother’s husband. He never ev Raceless is Georgina Lawton’s memoir of growing up in England with white parents and being raised as if she were also white, even though she’s clearly not. She’s the result of her mother’s one-night stand with a Black man. When Georgina was born, the midwife, looking at her brown skin, instantly provided a cover story – her dark hair and skin were the result of a “throwback gene” somewhere in her ancestry. Everyone seemed to buy into this story, including Georgina’s mother’s husband. He never even hinted at the fact that Georgina wasn’t his biological daughter while he was alive. Georgina believed she was white growing up because that’s what her parents told her. However, most of the outside world treated her as if she were Black, leaving her confused. She loved her father too much to ask many questions while he was still alive. After he died, she took a DNA test and had to face the reality that he was not her biological father. In fact, she was almost half Nigerian. Raceless chronicles her journey traveling the world to find her true identity and learn to navigate the world as a Black woman. I could not stop thinking about this book after I read it. My daughter is Black (my husband and I are white) and I cannot fathom raising her as anything other than a Black child. One of my constant worries is that I’m not doing enough to help her embrace her Blackness and live in the world as a Black woman when she grows up. Georgina’s situation is baffling to me. I feel for her so much. I wish she could have talked to her father before he died but I understand why she didn’t. She didn’t want to taint their relationship in any way. I’m curious if he really bought the throwback gene theory or if he knew he wasn’t her father and decided that keeping the family together and harmonious was more important than confronting his wife about her infidelity. Georgina has great insight into racial identity. Her book is well-researched but she writes with a conversational tone that made it a pleasure to read. Hers is a real-life example of why colorblindness is detrimental to everyone. Highly recommended.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Shana

    This book is well-balanced between the author's personal experience and tidbits of knowledge around the many and varied faces of racism. I had read a book with a similar premise recently, so I was curious to see how similar/different this one would be. Georgina Lawton was raised in a white family in a largely white community in England. Her appearance stuck out in those surroundings, but her parents never directly spoke to her about it. After her beloved father's death, she decides to use DNA te This book is well-balanced between the author's personal experience and tidbits of knowledge around the many and varied faces of racism. I had read a book with a similar premise recently, so I was curious to see how similar/different this one would be. Georgina Lawton was raised in a white family in a largely white community in England. Her appearance stuck out in those surroundings, but her parents never directly spoke to her about it. After her beloved father's death, she decides to use DNA testing to get the answers about her racial/ethnic background that were long denied to her. She learns that she has Nigerian ancestry and shares what it was like for her to have to uncover parts of her own identity in this way. The emotional impact was huge, and Lawton doesn't shy away from describing the feelings of betrayal and anger, and alongside them, a confusing sense of guilt that she should be grateful for the loving parents she had growing up. Although she never has the chance to reconcile all of this with her father, she does pursue both personal and family therapy which allows her to fully consider her identity while also working to repair the rift that was created through this huge lie of omission. Just as in the other memoir I read where the author was similarly biracial (Black/white) raised in a white family without knowledge of their Black side, I was struck by the deeply entrenched anti-Blackness at the root of these deceptions. The tremendous amount of gaslighting that takes place to pull off such a thing is staggering, and I'm glad that Lawton has a strong support system to continue to rely on. As a biracial person (Asian/white) who was largely raised by my white parent, I can't help but wonder what it would have been like to grow up having been prevented from all the available information regarding my identity. Like Lawton, I imagine I would have felt a bit like an imposter as I tried to learn in adulthood what others have since birth. And yet the experience of living in one's own skin doesn't change. Raceless left me with so many thoughts.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Louisa Donovan

    Georgina Lawton's memoir of developing her racial identity alternates between heartbreaking and heart-warming. Although pretending a dark skinned, curly headed child has the same parentage as her fair skinned, freckled brother and received equal DNA shares from her Irish mother and white British father seems far-fetched, that is exactly what the author had been told all her life. Two events that occur almost simultaneously shape this memoir; Georgina's father dying after a struggle with cancer a Georgina Lawton's memoir of developing her racial identity alternates between heartbreaking and heart-warming. Although pretending a dark skinned, curly headed child has the same parentage as her fair skinned, freckled brother and received equal DNA shares from her Irish mother and white British father seems far-fetched, that is exactly what the author had been told all her life. Two events that occur almost simultaneously shape this memoir; Georgina's father dying after a struggle with cancer and her discovery through DNA testing that she is not her beloved father's biological daughter. Either of these is life changing; the double whammy is devastating. The DNA test suggests that Georgina's father is of Nigerian heritage, so she begins to delve into what blackness looks like socially and physically in places as varied as Vietnam, Nicaragua, Brazil, New York, and London while earning her living as a blogger. Georgina's mother originally refuses to talk about her reasons for ignoring her daughter's paternity, but eventually agrees to participate in therapy that gets rather gritty at times. G's network of friends provide her with emotional support, and although nobody know her exact paternity, she develops her racial identity as a black woman raised in a white extended family that never acknowledged her differences because her parents shut off conversation on that topic when she was a baby. Raceless opened my eyes to the importance of sharing all of a child's biological and cultural background so that she can become a confident, self aware adult who knows what to expect from society. Little children with different hair texture, body type, and appearance from their family deserve to be validated as different because social norms are initially experienced based on how we look. All of us need to look at race, acknowledge differences, and move toward informed understanding of one another.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Bookworm

    I had read Lawton's original essay in the Guardian UK newspaper and was curious about how it would read as a book, what she would add, what she would say. It just so happened I had this book out as a library loan not long after Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, had a well-publicized interview where she talked about racism, mental health, etc. Markle's story is not quite like Lawton's, but it seemed like this would be a timely and interesting read. For those who don't know, Lawton grew up not I had read Lawton's original essay in the Guardian UK newspaper and was curious about how it would read as a book, what she would add, what she would say. It just so happened I had this book out as a library loan not long after Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, had a well-publicized interview where she talked about racism, mental health, etc. Markle's story is not quite like Lawton's, but it seemed like this would be a timely and interesting read. For those who don't know, Lawton grew up not initially realizing she was any different from those around her until as she grew up she faced racism in the outside world while her family remained curiously silent as to why Lawton didn't quite look like her parents. After her father's death Lawton begins to unravel the mystery of her parentage and how and why her parents and extended family chose to remain silent about it--about both her biological father as well as the difficult conversations about being "different" and the specific issues of racism, misogynoir and other uncomfortable topics. Her story ranges far both in physical terms as well as being difficult emotionally. It takes a while for Lawton to get the answers from her mom, while trying to navigate the world being who she is and finding others who also have similar experiences and stories. I have to agree with the negative reviews. I thought it was more of a memoir, but it's a mix of that, social commentary, political observations, etc. Ultimately, I think the original essay was probably enough for me as a casual reader and it wasn't really necessary to read more as a book. Another reader, especially one with experiences similar to Lawton's, might find this more interesting. As mentioned, a library borrow but I think it's also skippable if you've read her essay.

  18. 4 out of 5

    readswithrosa

    “𝙱𝚎𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛𝚜𝚎𝚕𝚏 𝚒𝚜 𝚎𝚊𝚜𝚒𝚎𝚛 𝚘𝚗𝚌𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚏𝚛𝚎𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛𝚜𝚎𝚕𝚏 𝚏𝚛𝚘𝚖 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚋𝚊𝚐𝚐𝚊𝚐𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝚘𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛 𝚙𝚎𝚘𝚙𝚕𝚎’𝚜 𝚎𝚡𝚙𝚎𝚌𝚝𝚊𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗𝚜, 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚗 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚕𝚘𝚘𝚔 𝚒𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚖𝚒𝚛𝚛𝚘𝚛 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚊𝚌𝚌𝚎𝚙𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚙𝚎𝚛𝚜𝚘𝚗 𝚜𝚝𝚊𝚛𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚋𝚊𝚌𝚔 𝚊𝚝 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚒𝚜 𝚊 𝚌𝚞𝚕𝚖𝚒𝚗𝚊𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗 𝚘𝚏 𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚛𝚢𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚊𝚕𝚠𝚊𝚢𝚜 𝚠𝚊𝚗𝚝𝚎𝚍 𝚝𝚘 𝚋𝚎.” - 𝙶𝚎𝚘𝚛𝚐𝚒𝚗𝚊 𝙻𝚊𝚠𝚝𝚘𝚗 - - - - - - - She grew up in a largely white neighborhood, was raised by white parents, she had white friends, but no one ever explained why she looked black. In this remarkable debut novel, Georgina Lawton reveals the nuanced and emotional journey “𝙱𝚎𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛𝚜𝚎𝚕𝚏 𝚒𝚜 𝚎𝚊𝚜𝚒𝚎𝚛 𝚘𝚗𝚌𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚏𝚛𝚎𝚎 𝚢𝚘𝚞𝚛𝚜𝚎𝚕𝚏 𝚏𝚛𝚘𝚖 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚋𝚊𝚐𝚐𝚊𝚐𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝚘𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛 𝚙𝚎𝚘𝚙𝚕𝚎’𝚜 𝚎𝚡𝚙𝚎𝚌𝚝𝚊𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗𝚜, 𝚠𝚑𝚎𝚗 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚕𝚘𝚘𝚔 𝚒𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚖𝚒𝚛𝚛𝚘𝚛 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚊𝚌𝚌𝚎𝚙𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚙𝚎𝚛𝚜𝚘𝚗 𝚜𝚝𝚊𝚛𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚋𝚊𝚌𝚔 𝚊𝚝 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚒𝚜 𝚊 𝚌𝚞𝚕𝚖𝚒𝚗𝚊𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗 𝚘𝚏 𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚛𝚢𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚑𝚊𝚟𝚎 𝚊𝚕𝚠𝚊𝚢𝚜 𝚠𝚊𝚗𝚝𝚎𝚍 𝚝𝚘 𝚋𝚎.” - 𝙶𝚎𝚘𝚛𝚐𝚒𝚗𝚊 𝙻𝚊𝚠𝚝𝚘𝚗 - - - - - - - She grew up in a largely white neighborhood, was raised by white parents, she had white friends, but no one ever explained why she looked black. In this remarkable debut novel, Georgina Lawton reveals the nuanced and emotional journey of forming one’s identity. Even though her parents insisted her darker skin was the product of a ‘throwback gene’, the result of a DNA test forces her to confront her blackness. It’s a journey filled with eye-opening and positive self discoveries, as well as racial anxieties and the mental anguish of having to conceal + suppress a part of who she was. Moreover, despite her close relationship with her father, one that was filled with love and acceptance, we learn of how ‘getting to the truth of how and why she had ‘passed’ as white, was like uncovering a family conspiracy in which everyone had been asked to play a part’. I loved that she travelled abroad to experience life in various black communities, whilst exploring her identity and what it means to navigate the world as a black woman. Listening to this book had me thinking about intersectional identities, transracial identity, who gets to pass as white, the importance of de-centering and deconstructing whiteness and white supremacy, and the ongoing call to action to identify and dismantle structures that have helped normalize the erasure of minority groups and silence their voices. Sense of self is so important, even more so the multiple layers that make up your identity and make you uniquely ‘you’. There’s loads to unpack in this memoir! #RecommendedListen 🌺✌🏽

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nnenna

    Thank you to the publisher for giving me a free copy of this book! All opinions are my own. This was such a fascinating story about race and identity. As the author described what it was like to grow up in a household where her race was never discussed or acknowledged, I was often thinking how very, very difficult that must have been. I enjoyed the descriptions of her travels as she sought to immerse herself in Black culture in other countries. I also appreciated that she discussed the effects th Thank you to the publisher for giving me a free copy of this book! All opinions are my own. This was such a fascinating story about race and identity. As the author described what it was like to grow up in a household where her race was never discussed or acknowledged, I was often thinking how very, very difficult that must have been. I enjoyed the descriptions of her travels as she sought to immerse herself in Black culture in other countries. I also appreciated that she discussed the effects this huge family secret had on her mental health and how she turned to therapy for help during a period. And the stories of other people that she connected with over the years who had somewhat similar experiences to hers blew my mind as well. I did struggle a little with the writing, mostly because I felt the tone was somewhat disjointed. It seemed to shift between a more formal and perhaps educational tone, and then there were times where the tone felt more casual, like she was talking to a friend. I preferred the more casual tone, but really I would have liked the overall writing style to be a bit more cohesive. I definitely felt for the author as I was reading her story. Just imagine losing your father and then learning the truth about your identity at the same time! Ooof, it sounds extremely overwhelming and life shattering and I appreciated her willingness to share her experience with us. This was such an interesting book, and I also enjoyed getting a perspective from someone who is Black and British, as I feel like I’m often reading about race from an American perspective.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Molly Koeneman

    "Raceless" was a breathless read. Lawton shares intimate details about her family and the way she was raised, and her honesty is striking. I especially enjoyed her travel writing and the way she explained and dealt the issues concerning her family and her identity while very clearly rooting the reader in her locations--Nicaragua, England, Vietnam, etc. By feeling myself in these foreign places with her I also felt more strongly rooted in her narrative and her feelings. On a personal note, "Racel "Raceless" was a breathless read. Lawton shares intimate details about her family and the way she was raised, and her honesty is striking. I especially enjoyed her travel writing and the way she explained and dealt the issues concerning her family and her identity while very clearly rooting the reader in her locations--Nicaragua, England, Vietnam, etc. By feeling myself in these foreign places with her I also felt more strongly rooted in her narrative and her feelings. On a personal note, "Raceless" focuses on the prevailing narrative of need to know their birth parents and/or their heritage. This idea of "knowing where you've come from so you know where you're going" is a widely excepted trope in pop culture. I'm having a reverse crisis of family that I couldn't help line up against Lawton story for comparison. I grew up in a family that told me how close of a family we were, how good we were, how supportive we were. I've recently set up from boundaries for my mental health and the distance from my close family is giving me perspective. I recognize some of my family's tropes as gaslighting narratives that did more to restricted more than supported me to develope as an individual. While Lawton and others feel a need to unearth their biological background to affirm their identity, I feel the need to create distance with my biological family to affirm mine. There is no judgment in this statement; just revealing a note of interest.

  21. 5 out of 5

    pugs

    "are you sure your mom didn't sleep with the mailman" is one of the hackneyed jokes lawton received growing up, everyone seemed to know she was biracial, but nobody ever brought the subject up in a serious nature, especially her family. 'raceless' is a riveting memoir where i have to remind myself--this is somebody's real life. lawton has such a good sense of timing and where to make shifts in her story, a constant unfolding, finding identity, acceptance, the lack of family confrontation over th "are you sure your mom didn't sleep with the mailman" is one of the hackneyed jokes lawton received growing up, everyone seemed to know she was biracial, but nobody ever brought the subject up in a serious nature, especially her family. 'raceless' is a riveting memoir where i have to remind myself--this is somebody's real life. lawton has such a good sense of timing and where to make shifts in her story, a constant unfolding, finding identity, acceptance, the lack of family confrontation over the years keeps building tension, i was always looking for an answer to a question, giving way to more questions. it's a lot to handle. the inclusion of elements of irish culture/history--sexist policy, racist social stigmas, irish catholic guilt--only adds to the frustration, and shame. oh yeah, then there are all the statistics on race, ethnicity, adoption, all relating to biracial childhood (and even some psychology and debunking of racist pseudoscience) woven in masterfully in relation to the story she's telling. also, world traveling and how darkness of skin is treated country by country, being seen as an outsider in one place and a local thousands of miles away. dang this book was really good. [i'd also like to mention i read this due to rebecca carroll mentioning it (her book 'surviving the white gaze' is also excellent, if you like 'raceless' or vice versa, read that too)] edit: i have to add, 5 stars for the clash mention alone! hell yeah

  22. 5 out of 5

    Amina Makele

    RATING: Four and a half stars. This book is compelling and intelligent. You’re pulled into Georgina’s story while contemplating what race really means. Through her life experiences and interviews with others who experienced similar upbringings (e.g. black children adopted by white families), you’re forced to wonder why and how we ascribe racial characteristics to people. This book asks the tough questions. If you grow up being told you’re white, at what stage does the world tell you you’re not ( RATING: Four and a half stars. This book is compelling and intelligent. You’re pulled into Georgina’s story while contemplating what race really means. Through her life experiences and interviews with others who experienced similar upbringings (e.g. black children adopted by white families), you’re forced to wonder why and how we ascribe racial characteristics to people. This book asks the tough questions. If you grow up being told you’re white, at what stage does the world tell you you’re not (and why)? And what does this even mean – when technically you’re an equal mix of both, why are you forced to identify with the minority race? Oh God, there’s so much to unpack and I can’t do it justice. All I can tell you is to read this book. OVERALL: This book is an important contribution to conversations about anti-racism and what race really means. Georgina’s experience is not unique – as you see in the book – but it is somewhat of a vacuum for us to test our racial preconceptions. As she travels the globe and sees different reactions to her blackness (while she herself is attempting to claim it), we can better understand the nuances of racial identity. I understood this book, I felt this book, and I’d urge you to order a copy. This book was kindly gifted to me by the publisher (Little Brown) in exchange for an honest review.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Maria

    Raceless ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Georgina, raised by white parents with no explanation as to why she looked black and no acknowledgement of her difference or access to black culture, reflects on her lack of identity, and her loss of knowing who she was in this memoir that is out today. “Race didn’t care about my family lore, or my parents’ inability to discuss our differences. Race was dodged in its desperate burnout of me; it could not be ignored, it was inescapable.” I read a lot of memoirs, but very few have i Raceless ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Georgina, raised by white parents with no explanation as to why she looked black and no acknowledgement of her difference or access to black culture, reflects on her lack of identity, and her loss of knowing who she was in this memoir that is out today. “Race didn’t care about my family lore, or my parents’ inability to discuss our differences. Race was dodged in its desperate burnout of me; it could not be ignored, it was inescapable.” I read a lot of memoirs, but very few have impacted me as much as Raceless did. Raceless tackles many topics, including identity, race, family love, grief, and so much more. Not only does the reader learn about Georgina Lawton, were taken on a whirlwind journey of learning about DNA testing, mixed-race, and how others can be impacted by this happening. I absolutely loved reading about her unraveling the truth about her parentage, but also her travels later in life, as she visits black communities around the globe to explore her identity. The combination of research and her personal journey, made this a fascinating read. Her story was very raw, and she held nothing back. Thank you to @harperperennial for this #gifted copy in exchange for an honest review. #OliveInfluencer {image description: the cover of Raceless is shown on a shelf of all nonfiction books.}

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Haider

    I won a paperback copy of this one in an instagram giveaway hosted by a fellow reader. Georgina Lawton was raised in the UK by two white parents. They never acknowledged race or how Georgina was apparently mixed race. They insisted she was her daughter and she had some throwback genetics that made darker hair show up from way back ancestors. After her father's death, Georgina finally got her mother to reveal that her birth father was not the man who raised her but didn't give her much in the way I won a paperback copy of this one in an instagram giveaway hosted by a fellow reader. Georgina Lawton was raised in the UK by two white parents. They never acknowledged race or how Georgina was apparently mixed race. They insisted she was her daughter and she had some throwback genetics that made darker hair show up from way back ancestors. After her father's death, Georgina finally got her mother to reveal that her birth father was not the man who raised her but didn't give her much in the way of additional info. Raceless was a fascinating and personal exploration or race, identity and the secrets that some families keep. Georgina shares her inner turmoil growing up being the "other" in an otherwise Caucasian environment, whether it was her home or school. She went on the submit DNA via sites like Ancestory.com to try to figure out her heritage and find relatives. She wrote articles on the topic from the Guardian and had people reach out to her with similar stories. This book makes the case that a child's true racial identity be acknowledged while raising them. What to listen to while reading... Heard it All Before by Sunshine Anderson Brand New Me by Alicia Keys What Do you Mean? by Skepta Pink + White by Frank Ocean Formation by Beyonce Bank Head by Kelela Cranes in the Sky by Solange New Apartment by Ari Lennox

  25. 4 out of 5

    Erik Mohn

    As soon as I heard about Georgina Lawton’s debut, Raceless, I knew I had to read it. I ordered it with great anticipation and was not disappointed, at all. Georgina entered the world shrouded in a secret that had the potential to destroy her family. As a transracial adoptee, I know all too well what it feels like to come into this world on unsettled ground and live with the psychological baggage. Georgina writes with passion, humanity, and soulful maturity. She offers a perspective on race, fami As soon as I heard about Georgina Lawton’s debut, Raceless, I knew I had to read it. I ordered it with great anticipation and was not disappointed, at all. Georgina entered the world shrouded in a secret that had the potential to destroy her family. As a transracial adoptee, I know all too well what it feels like to come into this world on unsettled ground and live with the psychological baggage. Georgina writes with passion, humanity, and soulful maturity. She offers a perspective on race, family, and identity that can only be delivered by someone who has lived through a deep unraveling, questioned her existence on a cellular level, and done the work of reclaiming and rebuilding herself piece by piece. Georgina does an incredible job of detailing the deepest moments of her own personal journey while offering historical and cultural context. Regardless of who you are, reading Raceless will open your eyes to the nuanced experiences of those whose identities are forged on the fault lines of the racial divide. The silencing. The questioning. The yearning. The healing. As Georgina has proven, sometimes it takes traveling all over the world, breaking and rebuilding personal ties, and facing all your fears to find a home within yourself. Above all, it's just a good story.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Barnaby Haszard

    I -- mediocre white cishet bloke -- have always wondered at Black lives raised by white families as a curiosity, my concept of their experience devoid of any sense of the identity headfuck their skin colour brings on them. Until now. Lawton confesses all her family's shortcomings and all her personal struggles, as she apparently has for many years online, and offers an eye-opening insight into what it's actually like to be that person who everyone is surprised came out Black. She also canvasses I -- mediocre white cishet bloke -- have always wondered at Black lives raised by white families as a curiosity, my concept of their experience devoid of any sense of the identity headfuck their skin colour brings on them. Until now. Lawton confesses all her family's shortcomings and all her personal struggles, as she apparently has for many years online, and offers an eye-opening insight into what it's actually like to be that person who everyone is surprised came out Black. She also canvasses various other experiences at the fuzzy border of Black and white experience, such as lighter-skinned focus passing as white and lives that revolve around the global hair trade. Once upon a time, I hoped I would get together with a woman with different skin colour from my own and raise multiracial children, thinking they'd have genetic advantages; how naive and privileged that perspective was. (Never mind that I settled down with someone just as white as me and produced blonde-haired, blue-eyed kids, as I was probably always going to.) This book is further evidence, if it was needed -- and personally speaking, it always will be -- that the Black experience is underpinned by centuries and centuries of complex trauma.

  27. 5 out of 5

    smalltownbookmom

    This is the second REALLY fascinating memoir written by a biracial woman who was raised by white parents and the implications this upbringing had on their identity growing up. In Raceless Georgina was always told her brown skin was a result of a throwback gene, when in reality her white Irish mother had an affair with a Black man and never acknowledged it, even after she gave birth to a brown skinned daughter. I can’t imagine the emotional trauma of growing up having your racial identity go not This is the second REALLY fascinating memoir written by a biracial woman who was raised by white parents and the implications this upbringing had on their identity growing up. In Raceless Georgina was always told her brown skin was a result of a throwback gene, when in reality her white Irish mother had an affair with a Black man and never acknowledged it, even after she gave birth to a brown skinned daughter. I can’t imagine the emotional trauma of growing up having your racial identity go not only unacknowledged but blatantly denied. It is not until her father dies that Georgina has the courage to take a DNA test and get conclusive proof of her Nigerian ancestry. Even with the test results her mother refuses to discuss her parentage and it takes a lot of therapy for mother and daughter to reach a place of healing. Really well written memoir, with a lot of theoretical research and first hand interviews from other transracial people. Highly recommend this thought-provoking and heartfelt memoir dealing with racial identity and belonging, especially for fans of Rebecca Carroll’s Surviving the white gaze.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Stefanie

    I’m sitting here with my thoughts, allowing the words of this eye-opening memoir to wash over me. This was a powerful read, a book that left an imprint on my heart that I truly didn’t expect. Georgina pens her story within these pages, a journey to discovering her true self after growing up in a white family in a white-washed world that tried to erase her blackness, tried to strip her of an entire part of herself that was too shameful to discuss. This book opened my eyes to so many things. Georgin I’m sitting here with my thoughts, allowing the words of this eye-opening memoir to wash over me. This was a powerful read, a book that left an imprint on my heart that I truly didn’t expect. Georgina pens her story within these pages, a journey to discovering her true self after growing up in a white family in a white-washed world that tried to erase her blackness, tried to strip her of an entire part of herself that was too shameful to discuss. This book opened my eyes to so many things. Georgina’s writing flowed as smooth as silk as I devoured each page and took her pain, her struggle, and her joy upon my own heart as her powerful words hit me hard. I highly recommend picking up this memoir and reading Georgina’s story. I learned so much and have had my eyes, ears, and heart opened to even more as I navigate and explore how best to be an ally to my Black friends and family. Georgina’s story is heart-wrenchingly powerful. Please go read it! TW: Death of a Parent, Grief, Cancer, Racism, Microagressions, Identity Struggles. *I received a gifted copy of this book from the publisher for my honest review.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    Thank you to Harper Perennial for a gifted copy of this book! Raceless is a memoir about Georgina and her life growing up in a white family with dark skin and an insufficient explanation. She knows she is different but her family constantly leads her to believe she is also white. We travel with her on a journey of confusion, standing out, feeling gaslighted, facing stigma, yet working towards finding out where she fits amongst it all and making amends with her loved ones. The way the memoir is writ Thank you to Harper Perennial for a gifted copy of this book! Raceless is a memoir about Georgina and her life growing up in a white family with dark skin and an insufficient explanation. She knows she is different but her family constantly leads her to believe she is also white. We travel with her on a journey of confusion, standing out, feeling gaslighted, facing stigma, yet working towards finding out where she fits amongst it all and making amends with her loved ones. The way the memoir is written is wonderful. It is a quick read sprinkled with interactions with so many other people who grew up in a similar situation. It is her story, but also her journey finding similar stories. She also has research mentioned throughout, but without making it feel like you’re reading a research paper. I learned a lot from this book. Georgina travels the world so we get a look at the hair trade system in Vietnam, a movement in the Dominican Republic to embrace natural hair, ‘passing’ as a native in various cities/countries, and more than I had ever expected. Really enjoyed this.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Zibby Owens

    I have to say, the opening scene was suspenseful and felt like I was watching a movie. In "Raceless," the author talks about being biracial in an all-white family, with no explanation as to why she looked black. The author had fantastic parents and wonderful childhood, but her race was never addressed. This book is about the author's journey to find out who she is and how she grapples with secrets and stereotypes in being biracial. After her beloved father’s death, Georgina began to unravel the I have to say, the opening scene was suspenseful and felt like I was watching a movie. In "Raceless," the author talks about being biracial in an all-white family, with no explanation as to why she looked black. The author had fantastic parents and wonderful childhood, but her race was never addressed. This book is about the author's journey to find out who she is and how she grapples with secrets and stereotypes in being biracial. After her beloved father’s death, Georgina began to unravel the truth about her parentage—and her racial identity that had been ignored in her family. This book investigates that age-old question around "nature versus nurture" and about whether where we come from does or does not matter. This fantastic book was fascinating on so many levels and was really a love story to her dad. To listen to my interview with the author, go to my podcast at: https://zibbyowens.com/transcript/geo...

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