A Bit About Bernestine
I began my professional life as a lawyer in Boston after graduating first from the University of Florida College of Law and then from Harvard Law School.
I earned an LL.M. (Master of Laws) from Harvard 12 years before Michelle and 15 before Barack graduated from there. I'm thrilled to claim them as part of my personal legacy because I was one of the Black law students who helped pave the way for them.
After practicing law more than a dozen years, the last three in Dallas, I left law to run an engineering company in Chicago.
If you've ever been to a baseball game at U.S. Cellular Field, you can thank my engineers that it didn't collapse when everyone jumped up and down at the same time. Before the name change, the design/build project was simply known as "New Comiskey Park."
Having been a writer since I first learned how to write, I finally decided to go public when I applied for a residency at The MacDowell Colony.
The MacDowell Colony, founded in 1907, is the oldest artists colony in the US. Its mission is "to nurture the arts by offering creative individuals of the highest talent an inspiring environment in which they can produce enduring works of the imagination. The sole criterion for acceptance to The MacDowell Colony is artistic excellence."
In the summer of 1997 at Macdowell, I had my own fully-furnished cottage. It was the same one that had been previously occupied by Claude Brown ("Manchild in the Promised Land") and Audre Lorde ("Zami," "Sister Outsider," etc.).
Every day during my month-long stay, I worked in leafy, bird-chirping solitude.
Every day my lunch showed up in a straw basket left on my front porch by an angel who didn't even bother me by knocking.
I believe this is how every society should treat every writer brave enough to call herself a writer. Jes sayin.
Before I left Macdowell, I re-carved Audre and Claude's names in the cottage's wooden guest log right before I added mine.
When Race Becomes Real: Black and White Writers Confront Their Personal Histories was my first book.
Published in 2002 by Lawrence Hill Books, an imprint of Chicago Review Press (CRP), When Race Becomes Real won awards, honors, and widespread acclaim. I created an entire website devoted to it which you can link to below.
Jerome Pohlen, the project manager at CRP for When Race Becomes Real, shepherded our book from beginning to its flawless conclusion. A stellar soul and an angel to work with, he's also a kick-ass writer in his own right. (No worries. Below are links to him in both his roles.)
In 2004 Chicago Review Press released When Race Becomes Real in paperback.
In 2008 Karl Kageff, Editor-in-Chief for Southern Illinois University Press (SIUP), republished When Race Becomes Real. Although the SIUP edition has a different cover, every word of the book's stellar original content is still there.
Of course, we think very highly of Kageff and SIUP.
Over the next decade, I finished Before Barack: My Life Among White Folks, the heart-stopping, jaw-dropping, awesome 6-volume memoir series that brought you here.
I have been extremely fortunate to have had Gary Reaves, my husband of 27 years, who has never been anything less than totally supportive, level-headed and encouraging. These are invaluable traits in the partner of a writer as writers are by definition mercurial and a little bit crazy.
In the law, we call phenomena like Gary "sui generis"--one of a kind. Absolutely.
Right up there with Gary and Jerome is Ben Camardi, my literary agent at Harold Matson Co. From the first read and right up until now, Ben has been supremely supportive, always cheering me on. He didn't even dump me when I decided to give away all the books in this memoir series.
So now Before Barack is waiting to go viral. It's a great read and every book is FREE.
You can read each book in chronological order even though that's not the order in which I wrote them.
You can also read them in no particular order. Why? Because I wrote each book not only to stand on its own, but also to be read as a piece of a whole.
I strongly advise, however, that you do not attempt reading the books upside down or, for that matter, inside out. Unless, of course, you roll like that and you're fully aware of the danger.
Muchisimas gracias for dropping by.