“A standout memoir that digs into vital contemporary questions of race and self-image....succeeds spectacularly for three main reasons: the author’s relentlessly investigative thought process, consistent candor, and superb writing style. Almost every page contains at least one sentence so resonant that it bears rereading for its impact....An insightful, indispensable memoir.” -   Kirkus  (starred review)   A reckoning with the way we choose to see and define ourselves,  Self-Portrait in Black and White  is the searching story of one American family’s multigenerational transformation from what is called black to what is assumed to be white. Thomas Chatterton Williams, the son of a “black” father from the segregated South and a “white” mother from the West, spent his whole life believing the dictum that a single drop of “black blood” makes a person black. This was so fundamental to his self-conception that he’d never rigorously reflected on its foundations—but the shock of his experience as the black father of two extremely white-looking children led him to question these long-held convictions.  “It is not that I have come to believe that I am no longer black or that my daughter is white,” Williams writes. “It is that these categories cannot adequately capture either of us.” Beautifully written and bound to upset received opinions on race,  Self-Portrait in Black and White  is an urgent work for our time.

“A standout memoir that digs into vital contemporary questions of race and self-image....succeeds spectacularly for three main reasons: the author’s relentlessly investigative thought process, consistent candor, and superb writing style. Almost every page contains at least one sentence so resonant that it bears rereading for its impact....An insightful, indispensable memoir.”
- Kirkus (starred review)

A reckoning with the way we choose to see and define ourselves, Self-Portrait in Black and White is the searching story of one American family’s multigenerational transformation from what is called black to what is assumed to be white. Thomas Chatterton Williams, the son of a “black” father from the segregated South and a “white” mother from the West, spent his whole life believing the dictum that a single drop of “black blood” makes a person black. This was so fundamental to his self-conception that he’d never rigorously reflected on its foundations—but the shock of his experience as the black father of two extremely white-looking children led him to question these long-held convictions.

“It is not that I have come to believe that I am no longer black or that my daughter is white,” Williams writes. “It is that these categories cannot adequately capture either of us.” Beautifully written and bound to upset received opinions on race, Self-Portrait in Black and White is an urgent work for our time.

“A provocative, intellectual memoir” ( USA Today )—from a remarkable, new literary voice  Growing up, there were three things in life that Thomas Chatterton Williams knew he loved—his parents, literature, and the intoxicating hip-hip culture that surrounded him. For years, he managed to juggle two disparate lifestyles—“keeping it real” in his friends’ eyes and studying for the SATs under his father’s strict tutelage—until it all threatened to spin out of control. Written with remarkable candor and emotional depth,  Losing My Cool portrays the allure and danger of hip-hop culture with the accuracy and authority of a true fan who’s lived through it all—as well as the saving grace of literature and the power of the bond between father and son.   “ A very talented writer…is transformed from a skinny teenager who shoots hoops, gets into bloody brawls and smacks his girlfriend, into a philosophy major and author. The credit goes to his father, a black man who came from a far grimmer background…[Williams] also realizes that he is free in a way his father never was, a revelation that strikes him as ‘both deeply tragic and extremely hopeful.’ So is this book.”— New York Times Book Review

“A provocative, intellectual memoir” (USA Today)—from a remarkable, new literary voice

Growing up, there were three things in life that Thomas Chatterton Williams knew he loved—his parents, literature, and the intoxicating hip-hip culture that surrounded him. For years, he managed to juggle two disparate lifestyles—“keeping it real” in his friends’ eyes and studying for the SATs under his father’s strict tutelage—until it all threatened to spin out of control. Written with remarkable candor and emotional depth, Losing My Coolportrays the allure and danger of hip-hop culture with the accuracy and authority of a true fan who’s lived through it all—as well as the saving grace of literature and the power of the bond between father and son.

A very talented writer…is transformed from a skinny teenager who shoots hoops, gets into bloody brawls and smacks his girlfriend, into a philosophy major and author. The credit goes to his father, a black man who came from a far grimmer background…[Williams] also realizes that he is free in a way his father never was, a revelation that strikes him as ‘both deeply tragic and extremely hopeful.’ So is this book.”—New York Times Book Review