Fall 1991 • Vol. XIII No. 4 NonfictionOctober 1, 1991 |

From the Black Notebooks

INTRODUCTION The following selection of autobiographical prose is taken from The Black Notebooks, which I began writing in 1974 when we became one of the first black families to move into Upper Montclair, New Jersey. I began keeping journals in order to understand my inner responses to living in this environment which some part of me had been taught to think of as ideal: my feelings of depression, shame, anxiety, self-hatred, fear, isolation, as well as my desire for love and intimacy. Part of the complexity of my situation had to do with the fact that I appear to be white. I hoped that writing my feelings down, especially the ones which were the most disturbing, would exorcise their power over me. Though the writing began strictly as a personal document, after several years, I came to think that the work probably had value for others too. Perhaps hidden fears and longings are under the surface of much behavior between blacks and whites, and many people are either unconscious

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Toi Derricotte is the author of The Undertaker’s Daughter (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011) and four earlier collections of poetry, including Tender, winner of the 1998 Paterson Poetry Prize. Her literary memoir, The Black Notebooks (W.W. Norton), received the 1998 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Non-Fiction and was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Her honors include, among many others, the 2012 Paterson Poetry Prize for Sustained Literary Achievement, the 2012 PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry, the Lucille Medwick Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, two Pushcart Prizes and the Distinguished Pioneering of the Arts Award from the United Black Artists. Derricotte is the co-founder of Cave Canem Foundation (with Cornelius Eady), Professor Emerita at the University of Pittsburgh and a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

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