February 4, 2021

Rebecca Carroll

Harvard Book Store's virtual event series welcomes acclaimed writer and cultural critic REBECCA CARROLL—author of Sugar In the Raw: Voices of Young Black Girls in America—for a discussion of her latest memoir, Surviving the White Gaze. She will be joined in conversation by award-winning independent film producer CHRISTINE VACHON. 


Rebecca Carroll grew up the only black person in her rural New Hampshire town. Adopted at birth by artistic parents who believed in peace, love, and zero population growth, her early childhood was loving and idyllic—and yet she couldn’t articulate the deep sense of isolation she increasingly felt as she grew older.

Everything changed when she met her birth mother, a young white woman, who consistently undermined Carroll’s sense of her blackness and self-esteem. Carroll’s childhood became harrowing, and her memoir explores the tension between the aching desire for her birth mother’s acceptance, the loyalty she feels toward her adoptive parents, and the search for her racial identity. As an adult, Carroll forged a path from city to city, struggling along the way with difficult boyfriends, depression, eating disorders, and excessive drinking. Ultimately, through the support of her chosen black family, she was able to heal.

Intimate and illuminating, Surviving the White Gaze is a timely examination of racism and racial identity in America today, and an extraordinarily moving portrait of resilience.

About Author(s)

Christine Vachon is an Independent Spirit Award and Gotham Award winner who co-founded indie powerhouse Killer Films with partner Pamela Koffler in 1995. Over the past two decades they have produced over 100 films, including some of the most celebrated American indie features: CarolFar from HeavenStill AliceBoys Don’t Cry, One Hour Photo, Kids, and many others. In television, Vachon executive-produced the Emmy and Golden Globe-awarded miniseries Mildred Pierce for HBO as well as Z: The Beginning of Everything for Amazon Studios. Upcoming releases include Janicza Bravo's Zola to be distributed by A24, and PRIDE, six-part documentary series produced with Refinery 29 for FX.

Rebecca Carroll has been the host of the podcast Come Through with Rebecca Carroll, a cultural critic at WNYC, and a critic at large for the Los Angeles Times. Her personal essays, cultural commentary, profiles, and opinion pieces have appeared in The Atlantic, the New York TimesThe GuardianEssenceNew York magazineEbony, and Esquire, among other publications. She is the author of several interview-based books about race and blackness in America, including the award-winning Sugar in the Raw.