Anatole Broyard  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Anatole Broyard (July 16, 1920October 11, 1990) was an American literary critic for The New York Times. In addition to his reviews and columns, he published several books during his lifetime. His autobiographical works Intoxicated by My Illness and Kafka Was the Rage, A Greenwich Village Memoir were published after his death.

Since his death, Broyard's Louisiana Creole ethnicity has become a subject of much discussion. Anatole was the second of three children; he and his sister Lorraine, two years older, were fair-skinned, while Shirley, two years younger, was not so fair-skinned. They grew up in an extended Creole community in New Orleans. His family moved from New Orleans to New York, where they lived in a working-class and mixed-race community in Brooklyn.

Coming to professional life after World War II, Broyard was reluctant to discuss his history publicly. Because of this, he was sometimes "accused" of being a black man "passing" as white by some who criticized that he did not openly support African-American causes during the Civil Rights Movement or publicly identify himself as black. He had grown up in a Creole culture, however, that had different characteristics than identifying as black in New York. Broyard did discuss his African-American ancestry with a variety of friends, who were well aware of it. That he was part-black was well-known in the literary community of New York from the early 1950s, but it was an environment in which people from a variety of backgrounds remade themselves as members of an artistic milieu.

In 1961, Broyard married Alexandra (Sandy) Nelson, a white woman of Norwegian ancestry, who knew of his background. They had two children, Todd, born in 1964, and Bliss Broyard, born in 1966. (Broyard had previously been married to Aida Sanchez, a black Puerto Rican with whom he had had a daughter Gala, but the couple divorced after Broyard returned from military service in World War II.) The Broyards raised their family in Connecticut.

In 1997, the scholar Henry Louis Gates discussed his view of how Broyard had concealed his African-American ancestry in an essay in his book Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Man, developed from an article in The New Yorker entitled "The Passing of Anatole Broyard." In 2007, Broyard's daughter Bliss published a memoir, One Drop: My Father's Hidden Life -- A Story of Race and Family Secrets, in which she described her journey of learning about family mysteries.

Broyard and the way he dealt with his ethnic background were said to have been the inspiration for the character and situation of Coleman Silk in Philip Roth's acclaimed novel The Human Stain. Roth however states there is no connection as he only learned about Broyard having African-American ancestry from a New Yorker article published months after he started writing the novel.

Broyard's cause of death was prostate cancer, diagnosed in 1989.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Anatole Broyard" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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