When I Was White by Sarah Valentine

When I Was White

The stunning and provocative coming-of-age memoir about Sarah Valentine's childhood as a white girl in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, and her discovery that her father was a black man. At the age of 27, Sarah Valentine discovered that she was not, in fact, the white girl she had always believed herself to be. She learned the truth of her paternity: that her father was a black man. And she learned the truth about her own identity: mixed race.And so Sa...

Details When I Was White

TitleWhen I Was White
Release DateAug 6th, 2019
PublisherSt. Martin's Press
GenreAutobiography, Memoir, Nonfiction, Race, Biography

Reviews When I Was White

  • Donna Davis
    Sarah Valentine was raised to believe that she was white, and that her dark complexion is the product of her Greek ancestors. But whereas she does have Greek ancestry in her DNA, Sarah is also of African descent. This strange but compelling, searingly honest memoir came to me courtesy of Net Galley and St. Martin’s Press; it will be available to the public tomorrow, August 6, 2019. Valentine is an excellent writer, and she spins us back in time...
  • Taryn Pierson
    What a frustrating book. Right off the bat, you should know Valentine doesn't meet or even conclusively identify her biological father. I know life doesn't always wrap up neatly the way fiction does, but to write this memoir without any kind of closure on the question of her biological father's identity seems...questionable? Although now that I've said that, I'm realizing that if I'm this uncomfortable as a disinterested reader, what must it feel...
  • Melanie
    “When I Was White” is a memoir of a young woman growing up questioning herself, her identity, her family, and her personal experiences related to racialambiguity. I always commend authors for telling and sharing their own personal stories, though it may be emotional and hard for them to do, and I especially welcome and appreciate lessons and insight that their stories provide. I cannot relate personally to what the author has experienced, but...
  • librarianka
    I am sure this will be the talked about memoir of the 2019. When I Was White is an incredibly nuanced, perceptive and deeply thought out account of growing up being denied one's identity. At the age of 27 the author has had her lifelong suspicions confirmed: her biological father had been a black man. This fact has remained a well guarded secret in her family. Having grown up in a white family and passing for white all her life until then Valenti...
  • Jakki
    The writing and editing didn’t really bother me. I’m not that smart. It’s just a mediocre book at best. What everyone seems to be dancing around in their reviews is how the hell didn’t you know you were black!?!? When I realized she was 27!!! before she accepted, knew, realized that she was black, total bullshit. I’m thinking that she was a kid or a teenager when this realization took place. EVERYONE but you and your family questioned y...
  • Susan
    I am giving this book 3 stars. If it weren't a memoir, it would get 2, but I always like to take into consideration why the book was written and the fact that it just plain takes a whole lot of guts to lay your life out there. For that, you get a star. And wow! Ms. Valentine sure has a life to lay out there. Raised as a 100% white woman, at age 27 (yes, 27) she finds out that she is in fact biracial and that her biological father is black, actual...
  • Katie
    Started this memoir with high hopes. Sorry. What should be an unforgettable story fell flat, and, for me, caring never kicked in. Not enough to continue, at any rate.Full Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided to me by St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank the publisher, the author and NetGalley for providing me this opportunity. All opinions expressed herein are my own.
  • Anneke
    Book Review: When I Was WhiteAuthor: Sarah ValentinePublisher: St. Martin’s PressPublication Date: August 6, 2019Review Date: April 18, 2019I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. From the blurb:“The stunning and provocative coming-of-age memoir about Sarah Valentine's childhood as a white girl in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, and her discovery that her father was a black man.At the age of 27, Sarah V...
  • Sarah
    I had a hard time deciding how to rate this book. The author has a fascinating story to tell with important insights into race and identity in America. But this book is in need of a lot of editing. At times the narrative is choppy without enough details to be able to follow the story, but in other places it is overly verbose. I did read an ARC, but they are usually in better shape this close to publication. I'll hold out hope that a good editor g...
  • Theresa
    I was at the library and happened upon this book and of course, the title caught my attention. Ok, so I didn't really care for this book numerous reasons. There was too much back story. It took away from the overall story and because of that, in some areas I sort of checked out and just scanned and flip through it. I thought the author was naive to a fault and I felt that the "lie/secret" made for a weird and dysfunctional family on every level. ...
  • Jennifer M.
    { partner } Thanks so much to NetGalley, the author, and St. Martin's Press for an advanced copy in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are entirely my own. I knew that I was interested in this book early on before publication, because I love getting to learn about different perspectives and read about experiences that I wouldn't necessarily have in my lifetime. This memoir definitely fit the bill in that respect. This was a really intere...
  • Carin
    When Sarah was 27, she learned her father wasn't her father, and that she is biracial.With that premise, who can resist picking up this memoir? Not me! Sarah and her family were always asked if she was black, if she was mixed, if she was adopted, if she was Hispanic. She didn't look like her little brothers. Her skin was darker and her hair was frizzy and unruly. Plus her mom was always weird about things, like confiscating her Bell Biv Devoe tap...
  • Cindy
    When I Was White, by Sarah Valentine, is a provocative memoir of a woman whose life-long suspicions are confirmed when she finds out, at age 27, that she is biracial. The story of how she deals with the emotional upheaval of learning that some of her most basic “truths” were not real, and how she integrates her African-American identity into her being should have been compelling and heart-rendering. It was not. It lacks nuance and context in ...
  • Tonja
    In Sarah Valentine’s Memoir she grows up knowing that’s she doesn’t really look like the white family and friends she is surrounded by. Her race is something that is eluded to, even joked about but never really discussed. When she is in her twenties her mother confirms her fears that her dad is not her biological father and she is indeed bi-racial. Her relationship with her mom is strained as she is not quite sure she believes her story of ...
  • Jennifer Rico
    This book is a memoir about a woman, Sarah Valentine, who thought she was white when she was growing up, but later discovered that her father was a black man, making her biracial.I have so many thoughts about this book that I'm not sure I will be able to get them all down coherently. First of all, it was a great book. I love books that make me think about people of different races. Sometimes it is hard for me to put myself in their thoughts. This...
  • Tara
    I did not enjoy this book. A lot of the material the author included did nothing to further the story (an entire chapter on angsty, pseudo-philosophical rankings with a friend in a diner?), and there were multiple disjointed transitions. Additionally, the fact that the author continued to harangue her mother long after it became clear that she wasn’t going to get what she wanted from her got stale very quickly. You cannot berate someone into un...
  • RuthAnn
    Thank you to St. Martin's Press for my free review copy! This book releases today, August 6, 2019. This memoir is poignant and powerful. The author's revelation that her background is not what she believed is understandably traumatic, and going alongside for the journey is, at times, difficult to read. The most interesting aspects for me were when she interrogated her perspective toward whiteness and blackness, from both sides of the line. The co...
  • Janilyn Kocher
    Valentine explores her childhood and questions that went unanswered for years. As the oldest daughter she was reared to culturally identify as white, but realized she also was African-American. Her biological father is black and when her mother finally admitted that, the author continued to be frustrated as her mother changed the story of her conception or claimed she didn't remember. Valentine explores her cultural roots and struggles with her o...
  • Ciel
    A quick read, especially if you skim to page 149, which I recommend, when she starts the inquiry with her mother. And then skim some more. This is not a new story, so looking for personal gems is the point. I would have wished for a more academic book, as she adds great stated facts about which colleges admitted people of color, when and way. Unfortunately, she has no bibliography or cited readings for anyone interested in looking into this furth...
  • Felicia Holman
    I LOVE this book because: *It represents an extremely relevant/ vivid personal and social catharsis. *The sequencing (linear, w/flashbacks), and the pacing (savvy editing; chapters felt like webisodes), and the tone (part journal entry, part case study; candid & poetic; illuminating & direct). *It's author (Sarah Valentine) is a brilliant and vulnerable Black woman who I'm blessed to know even more deeply, now. In closing, BUY THIS BOOK!
  • Shan
    A 3 star middle of the road rating because while Sarah has an interesting story to tell this book suffers from poor editing. Many parts could have been omitted as they don't relate to the premise of the book and many parts should have been pushed for more introspection as they do relate to the premise of the book. This book is a pretty simple telling of a story rather than a look at race in America through Sarah's unique lens.
  • Sharon G
    A very selfish young woman without much insight.
  • Susannah Champlin
    Compelling and powerful