A Place to be Someone: Growing Up with Charles Gordone
Before playwright Charles Gordone (1925–1995) became a Texan, he became the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, for No Place to Be Somebody, in 1970. His search for a home in the West led him in 1987 to Texas A&M University, where he taught playwriting for the last nine years of his life, and to an influential role in the Cowboy Renaissance of the 1990s. Much as Mary Austin saw the West as a place without gender, Gordone regarded Texas as a place without race, where the need for neighborly connections outweighed discriminatory urges. A Place to Be Someone covers the years prior to this geographical and psychological journey, the childhood and youth that deeply informed Gordone’s pilgrimage. Growing up in Elkhart, Indiana, a “free” northern town, Charles Gordone and his family never fit completely into commonly understood racial categories. Elkhart and the world labeled them “black,” ignoring the rest of their multiracial and multiethnic heritage. Their familial experiences shaped not only their identities but also their perceptions. For Gordone, childhood was the beginning of a lifelong battle against labels, and this memoir shows many of the reasons why. Written by his younger sister Shirley, who recognized that her brother had spent his whole life coming “home” to Texas, this revealing family memoir will be welcomed by Gordone scholars and those in African American drama and literature, American studies, women’s studies, and history and by any reader young or old who seeks to understand the forces and consequences of discrimination and mental and physical abuse. The sole surviving sibling, Shirley Gordon Jackson tells this story with the intimacy and immediacy it demands.
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