Two months before he died of cancer, renowned literary critic Anatole Broyard called his grown son and daughter to his side, intending to reveal a secret he had kept all their lives and most of his own: he was black. But even as he lay dying, the truth was too difficult for him to share, and it was his wife who told Bliss that her WASPy, privileged Connecticut childhood had come at a price. Ever since his own parents, New Orleans Creoles, had moved to Brooklyn and began to “pass” in order to get work, Anatole had learned to conceal his racial identity. As he grew older and entered the ranks of the New York literary elite, he maintained the façade. Now his daughter Bliss tries to make sense of his choices and the impact of this revelation on her own life. She searches out the family she never knew in New York and New Orleans, and considers the profound consequences of racial identity. With unsparing candor and nuanced insight, Broyard chronicles her evolution from sheltered WASP to a woman of mixed race ancestry.
Bliss Broyard’s fathers are charismatic, seductive, brilliant men who loom large in the world, and larger at home. Their daughters, hungry for attention and connection, veer wildly between naiveté and cool indifference. In this powerful collection, Broyard’s unsentimental prose captures the passages of daughters as they grow into young women: their struggles with identity, desire, and familial roles. From the early lessons girls absorb through their fathers-their first audience-to the equivocal attachments of marriage to the emotions of love and mourning, the characters in My Father, Dancing chronicle the never-ending dance between fathers and their daughters, and the many awakenings of girls and women.