Secret Daughter is my first book. It is my contribution to the multitude of stories that define the African-American experience. I've been a television producer for a long time, and I've covered everything from the riots to Haiti to welfare reform and gangsta culture. One thing I've learned is that the black experience is an AMERICAN experience, as well. I hope that, on a larger level, this book is about transformation.
I've been a documentary television producer for twenty years. Ten years ago, I did an Emmy-winning documentary called "Secret Daughter" which aired on PBS' FRONTLINE. It told the story of a little girl whose father was a black entertainer and whose white mother was an aspiring actress. The couple parted soon after the little girl was born, and when the child grew too dark for the mother to pass her off as "white", she left her to be raised by a black family in Atlantic City, New Jersey. For the rest of her life, the child was shuttled between her "Aunt Peggy and Uncle Paul" in Atlantic City; and to Los Angeles, where her mother lived with her new stepfather, an actor who starred in a comedy series. When the child visited her biological mother and stepfather, she was introduced as their adopted daughter.
Most people found it an unbelievable story. I didn't, for the simple fact that the story is my own.
After the documentary aired I received hundreds of letters, many asking how I felt about the upbringing I had received. My memoir, "Secret Daughter" is my attempt to describe those feelings. It is a book about the pain of being denied and the burden of carrying a secret. The strength of a strong black family and vibrant black community kept me sane, but for years the secret I carried undermined me professionally and personally, even as I graduated from Harvard, became a producer/correspondent for PBS' NewsHour, and a a staff producer for FRONTLINE.
Now the secret is out, and I'm ready to begin the next chapter of my life.
'June Cross (2006)
Daughter: A Mixed-Race Daughter and the Mother
Who Gave Her Away
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Format: Hardcover, 320pp
Pub. Date: May 2006
Publisher: Viking Penguin
A powerful memoir about the complicated but ultimately loving relationship between a black daughter and her white mother
Secret Daughter is a deftly drawn and
moving portrait of a childhood spent in two very different worlds: one white,
one black. In 1957, when June Cross was four years old, she was sent by her
white mother to live with a black family in Atlantic City. Her mother, Norma,
had left June's abusive father, a comic in the well-known black vaudeville duo
Stump and Stumpy, and gave June up when it became clear that her dark-skinned,
kinky-haired child could no longer "pass." Within her adopted family, June
struggled with her identity as the black radicalism of the times collided head
on with her family's more traditional ideals. Summer vacations were spent with
her mother, now in Hollywood and married to F Troop TV actor Larry Storch. For
many years, Norma, afraid that Larry's career would suffer if anyone discovered
the truth about her illegitimate daughter, told friends and reporters that June
was adopted. Secret Daughter, which grew out of Cross's Emmy Award-winning
documentary, traces this thorny story with poignancy and skill. It is both a
vivid snapshot of race relations in America and an inspiring journey of
understanding between a mother and daughter.