Georgina Lawton was born to a white mother and father and had a white brother. She grew up nestled in the love of her white extended family—English on her father’s side, Irish on her mother’s. Growing up in a predominantly white borough of London, she attended majority-white private schools and became close friends with her white classmates. And yet, as we learn in the first pages of Lawton’s eloquent memoir, Raceless: In Search of Family, Identity and the Truth About Where I Belong, Lawton is not white. She is biracial, born nine months after her mother’s one-night stand with a Nigerian man. Clinging to the myth of a “throwback gene” from survivors of the Spanish Armada on the west coast of Ireland, her parents fiercely insisted that their daughter, despite all outward appearances, was white. When Lawton discovered the lie at the heart of her identity, her shock and sense of betrayal were nearly enough to break her.
Raceless is the personal narrative of Lawton’s struggle to create a new sense of self. It’s a thoughtful and far-reaching investigation of the importance of racial identity, covering a wide variety of issues including identity theft, the perils and pluses of DNA analysis, how beauty standards are used to repress women of color and the soul-destroying effects of microaggressions. Lawton writes about her journey with passion, erudition and more than a touch of sass. Most of all, she writes with searing honesty—about herself, her family and our society.
Ultimately Lawton’s story is one of reconciliation and redemption, which can only ever be achieved with truthfulness, and of the limitations of love. Her father lavished his love on her from the day she was born until he died from cancer, but his love also allowed her family’s deception to flourish. In this new chapter of her life, Lawton’s fearless quest for the truth enables her to forgive her mother and rebuild their love.
Beautifully and movingly written, Raceless is an important book about the cost of deception and the value of identity.
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Discover more great memoirs this Memoir March.