Associate 2023-24

David Wright



Wright imageFor Professor Wright, the American story is about “mixedness”—about the ways in which people of various backgrounds and beliefs have come together, oftentimes despite themselves, to make up our racial stew. This view emerges, in part, from personal experience. When he was 16, his mother, a Jew who had survived the Nazi occupation of France then immigrated to the US, the GI bride of an African American soldier, confided that his “real father,” as she called him, was not the man he’d always known as “Dad.” He was, it turned out, her first love, who also happened to be the grandson of Béhanzin, the last of the slave-trading kings of Dahomey.

Professor Wright told this story in a personal essay, “Mixeded,” which appeared in The New Yorker last summer. This and another essay he published in the magazine, “Lone Star,” will form the foundation of the book-length memoir, also called Mixeded. He will be delving into personal archives including more than 300 letters that his maternal grandmother and his mother exchanged between 1955 and 1988, several interviews with his father (five hours of which are video-recorded), and copies of audiotapes (25-30 hours) that his father conducted with his own father—the son of Béhanzin—before his death in 1989. Mixeded will investigate placelessness and belonging, and the communities that the dispossessed create.