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Beyond the White NegroEmpathy and Anti-Racist Reading$
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Kimberly Chabot Davis

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780252038433

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252038433.001.0001

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Oprah, Book Clubs, and the Promise and Limitations of Empathy

Oprah, Book Clubs, and the Promise and Limitations of Empathy

(p.79) 2 Oprah, Book Clubs, and the Promise and Limitations of Empathy
Beyond the White Negro

Kimberly Chabot Davis

University of Illinois Press

This chapter draws distinctions among the reading strategies of white readers in order to shed light on the failures and the political promise of cross-racial empathy. It focuses largely on middle-class white women as they encounter black-authored fiction within book-club settings. In contrast to much of the scholarship on cross-racial sympathy that replicates a monolithic view of whiteness, the chapter emphasizes how multiple identities of gender, class, age, ethnicity, education, and political affiliation work to complicate “white” modes of reading. Given the larger argument that empathy is a key ingredient in the development of anti-racist white identities, this chapter is structured to distinguish among different deployments of empathy and their political consequences.

Keywords:   reading strategies, white readers, middle-class women, white women, black author, book clubs, white modes of reading, cross-racial empathy, reception study

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