In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World by Rachel Doležal, Part Five

Book: In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World

Authors: Rachel Doležal and Storms Reback

Comments: We are nearing in on the end of my obsessive look into Rachel Doležal’s book. Just one more installment after this and it will be a short entry (comparatively, don’t laugh). I realize this may look a bit unseemly or even unhinged to any newcomers to this site but this happens to me from time to time. I get obsessed with a topic – anthropodermic bibliopegy, an obscure child murder in Germany, among others – and I gnaw at it like a dog with a bone until I reach the marrow. I’ll have a new obsession in a few months and will tl;dr the hell of it when it comes.

So two more remaining. If you haven’t read Part One, Part Two, Part Three or Part Four, and you find Rachel Doležal interesting enough to invest that kind of time reading an obsessive’s interpretation of her book, be sure to check them out.

Part Five is going to look into how it is Rachel tends to view dislike for her through the lens of racism or sexism rather than engaging in a hard, long look at herself, her behaviors and how she may be the sole person responsible for her many failures in life.  Rachel developed her love for black culture before her personality was solidly settled.  But now, as an adult who engaged in a race hoax and was publicly shamed, it seems odd that she refuses to examine herself and see if maybe, just maybe, the dislike people had for her when she was still trying to pass as black stemmed from a reaction to Rachel rather than a reaction to her race-appearance or sex.  This section will also look at how it is even as Rachel adores all that is black and acknowledges her status as a “transBlack,” she also seems to not really know who or what she is.  As you read how she discusses these issues, in places it’s hard to pin down what she really thinks about her genuine race while readers are able to see clearly how she is still informed greatly by her whiteness.

In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World by Rachel Doležal, Part Two

Book: In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World

Authors: Rachel Doležal and Storms Reback

Comments:  Now begins part two of my look at Rachel Doležal’s memoir.  You can read Part One here.  There will be at least two more installments.

As I read Rachel’s memoir, I highlighted a lot of statements that at the time seemed to convey an idea of sincerity or at the very least attempted to explain earnestly why Rachel Doležal genuinely believes she is transBlack, a black woman born into a white body.  Rereading those highlights was a wholly different experience than reading them the first time.  Isolating some of her statements, reading them alone and with direct focus, transformed the experience of reading this book for me.

Rachel Doležal, when you look closely at her words, is telling you who she is and what she believes, and what she is telling you is at odds with the message she really wants to convey.  Rachel wants to paint a picture of herself as a victim, a hero for black people and the civil rights struggle, an honest, hardworking mother who feels such kinship with black people that she worked herself to the bone to promote black issues, a white woman by birth who genuinely believes she is black. Yet as I read many of the passages I highlighted, I began to feel that sort of stomach tingle that told me I was being lied to.  Several times I felt outright second-hand embarrassment at some of the things Rachel said.  As I culled and reread the highlighted passages, once I sifted out the information about her childhood and her family, the information began to fall into various categories, many of which overlap, but hopefully my logic will make sense as you read.  Since I’m no longer following a timeline as events unfolded, instead dividing Rachel’s interesting and very bizarre life into categories that describe her behavior, I will try to be clear as to timing and will be sure that I set up explanations for the context of quotes when needed.  If anyone ever needs clarification, let me know.

It was hard to know where to begin given the variety of categories I ended up with (“Rachel Sees Blacks As an Exotic Other,” “Rachel Is a Self-Impressed Asshole,” “Rachel Doležal Will Never Get It,” among several others).  I decided to just dive into the murky water with the longest category and get it out of the way because for the most part I see Rachel Doležal as a sad clown, a ridiculous human being who has ruined her life and the life of her family due to her delusions and pathological need to be at the center of attention. But there is a very dark side to what she did.  Today’s discussion is focusing on the more malignant, criminal side of what Rachel has done.

In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World by Rachel Doležal, Part One

Book: In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World

Authors: Rachel Doležal and Storms Reback

Type of Book: Memoir, political biography, fraud, race issues

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: I mark up books as I read them so I can discuss them and seldom does my opinion of a book or its subject change when I review those notes. My first read-through of this book I had a certain amount of sympathy for Doležal but when I went back over my notes I felt my sympathy fading. It’s almost like I experienced the ruse via her book – I saw what she wanted me to see initially but when I looked at specific statements by themselves a completely different picture emerged.

Less analytically, this book is odd because it’s written by a woman who claims she is “transBlack” and became a national disgrace for her efforts.

Availability:

Comments: When I learned Rachel Doležal had written a book I knew I was going to have to read it and discuss it in depth.  Because she’s rather topical at the moment, I worry discussing her will attract readers who are unaccustomed to the nature of this site.  I’m a person who writes, using far too many words, about things I find interesting and those things are often odd.  This site is mostly devoid of any political agenda, though I’m sort of a liberal, and I am looking at Rachel in terms of what she wrote in this book.  All political and social reactions I have to Rachel in this article are fueled by the text of her book, though I will use outside sources to bolster some of my own assertions.

Rachel Doležal has been all over the news again recently and I’ve done my best to avoid reading too much about her – even when an author or person I discuss here is currently in the headlines, I still prefer to analyze their work without a lot of outside influence. I’ve stayed away from her television appearances and have especially stayed away from The Stranger article about her (the buzz around it is killing me but I will remain strong until I’ve got this series finished).  I’m at my best when I’m not influenced by other people’s opinions. This is going to be another one of those articles I’m known for – going deep into a text while everyone stands back and tells me, “I don’t even know why you’re giving her this much attention, that’s what she wants!” Yeah I know but this is what I do – I pay lots of attention to things other people may think unworthy of such focus. .  Only my discussion on Anders Behring Breivik, the Utoya shooter, is longer than what I have written about Rachel Doležal.  I have no idea what that may mean other than that I find her very interesting.

So I read the book closely and I tried to research as much as I could about some of her more controversial claims.  At times verification was impossible and given that this is a book written by a serial liar and fantasist it’s hard to put much faith in anything Rachel says about her life.  I had to make what may seem like arbitrary decisions about what I choose to believe is true and what is more self-serving deceit.

It’s hard to make such decisions at times because I don’t think Rachel Doležal is wicked or evil in a calculated way. She’s just a self-centered, delusional, holier-than-thou, condescending woman who took her shtick way too far and refuses to back down, rethink, regroup, and move on.

There are several reasons why I initially had such intense sympathy for Rachel and part of that sympathy was fueled by distaste for many people who have gone after Rachel on social media. I was particularly interested in the transexual communities’ responses to Rachel and was shocked by the amount of paranoia some transfolk felt toward Rachel as well as some of their violent rhetoric. I was also ultimately concerned about the outright hypocrisy I found – it took less than ten minutes on Google to find out without any shadow of a doubt that one of the shrillest voices yelling online about Rachel belonged to a white man who was himself assuming a false identity. So ridiculous and egregious is his ruse that I wanted to out him but decided against it because I find doxing distasteful and because, like Rachel, he is so unpleasant as a whole that he is self-quarantining. If he ever shows up in public trying to affect social justice while wearing his disguise I may reconsider but for now I’m not interested in poking him with an e-stick.

Rachel is no different than any other liar or fantasist. People who wear a mask and engage in personality fraud on this scale have two interesting issues at play, and initially they may seem contradictory: self-loathing and a sense of superiority. Such people feel they are the smartest and most competent person in the room yet lack the ability to persuade others of their superior skills and knowledge. They can’t endure the ego blow that comes from criticism and do anything they can to avoid it.  If persuading others they are correct and avoiding criticism can be mitigated by lying about their pasts or creating a persona that to some degree shelters them from criticism, that’s what they do. But as they talk about themselves they always reveal their true selves. This book is chock full of the real Rachel Doležal and, like other serial fantasists discussed on this site, she has no idea what she’s revealed about herself, so focused was she on perpetuating the notion of herself as a blameless victim.

This book was such a bad idea. Even with a co-author, Rachel Doležal shares so much negative information about herself, information she doesn’t seem to understand is negative. I’ll show you exactly what I mean, using plenty of quotes from the book, occasionally linking to information online that helps gives perspective to the stories Rachel told about herself and others.

But before we begin, a quiz. Which of these two white girls born in the seventies is Rachel Doležal?
A: The girl on the left
B: The girl on the right
C: Trick question, one of these girls is clearly a black child!
D: All of this makes me very uncomfortable.

The correct answer is B, but “Shut up, Becky!” would also be an acceptable answer.

TL;DR

That is the online acronym that suits this site best: TL;DR – too long; didn’t read.

With this in mind, that is the title of the upcoming compendium of the best of Odd Things Considered that Nine Banded Books is publishing.  Chip Smith is pulling the best entries from the sites that became OTC and will be releasing what I suspect will be a massive doorstop of a book sometime in June.

It’s early days but I’ll share more as everything comes together.  I hope to have some new content in the book so that loyal readers here will have something new to read if they decide to shell out their hard-earned dollars and buy my book.

If this book didn’t have my name on it, I would buy it for the cover.  The cover would be my price of admission.  Seriously.  This is the best cover in the history of books, don’t deny it.  The cats, books and I come courtesy of Josh Latta, and Kevin Slaughter designed the layout.  It’s humbling to know that people I respect so much and whose work has delighted me worked/are working on this book.

Imagine five more cats in this drawing and this is pretty much a photo-realistic portrayal of life at Chez Oddthings.

So, just sharing some good news.  More book discussions around the bend, plus a couple of film/book combos I want to tackle, involving Bob Flanagan and Ron Athey.  Good times!

The Strange Case of Tristan Bruebach and Manfred Seel

I first learned about Tristan Bruebach on Reddit’s Unresolved Mysteries about two years ago.  The case of the thirteen year old boy brutally murdered in a water tunnel that ran under a roadway was so outrageous and upsetting that it surprised me that it had not filtered out to English-speaking true crime buffs.  Tristan’s murder had elements that initially reminded me of The Family murders in Australia, but I’d never seen all the elements of Tristan Bruebach’s murder anywhere else.  It was a crime that to me was very much sui generis, and later analysis from German investigators echoed my opinion.  Nowhere on Earth have we seen another murder like Tristan’s.

I don’t have a lot of time for Reddit these days but I go back from time to time and I somehow managed to visit Unresolved Mysteries on the same day last year when someone posted that the police had a suspect in the murder of Tristan Bruebach.  Eager to learn the motives behind the murder, I read up on the suspect – Manfred Seel – and was initially very skeptical.  The investigation into Manfred Seel itself seemed odd to me.  Seel is accused of murdering two female coworkers in the 1970s, two female prostitutes in the 1990s, another female prostitute in the 2000s, and school boy Tristan in 1998.  It was hard to see how this one man could be linked to murders of two women he worked with, then have 20 years of inactivity followed by two murders of prostitutes, with a gap of several years until he killed Tristan.  The time frame is problematic, and the killings involved vastly different victim pools.

As mentioned already, Tristan’s murder was very unusual.  More on that later but it can be said that it’s not unexpected that a killer who preys on female coworkers is a different killer than a man who selects prostitutes as victims, and both killers would be different than a person who kills pre-pubescent boys.  As I began reading about Manfred Seel I found myself surprised because the more I read, the more I could understand how it is that the German police reached the conclusions they did.  I am unsure if I wholly buy that Seel murdered Tristan, but the authorities make a compelling case and I hope eventually more information comes to light.

Originally I thought I was going to be writing about how stupid I found the accusations pinning Seel as Tristan’s killer but after spending a couple of months scouring the Internet, whether or not I think Seel is responsible for Tristan’s murder is irrelevant.  Even if Seel is not Tristan’s killer, the fact is that now both names are linked together – it’s hard to discuss Tristan without discussing Seel.  It’s even harder for me to discuss Seel without discussing Tristan.  Tristan’s case is bizarre and what happened to him, and later his family, is tragic.  His case was marred with misinformation about his life, salacious rumors that were, irritatingly, repeated by the German press without a lick of proof, and even brought up in the Reddit thread about Tristan.  Seel’s story is similarly strange, with unexpected behaviors, foul deeds and even fouler implications.

Obtaining all this information was difficult because so much of it is in the German language.  In the end, I was pretty impressed at how much Google Translate has improved over the years, but it’s daunting for English-speakers who are just casually interested in the case to tackle all those news articles and to sort the good from the bad, to find articles that have fresh news and aren’t just a retelling of older information, updated with a bit of new information tacked on at the end.  Since I spent so long sorting and reading, I decided to write about Tristan Bruebach and Manfred Seel, source cite as much as I could, and share the links I found to news stories that were helpful and brought understanding to both stories.  Maybe this can serve as a small clearinghouse of information about the case for English-speaking readers.  In this article I’ve included citation numbers correlating to the source that I got specific information from, and when you scroll down to these sources, I’ve included the English Google Translation for each article originally in German.

Under the cut I will discuss Tristan, Seel, Seel’s other victims and interesting information German profilers and investigators used to track down victims who were killed over 40 years ago.  Please know that much of the information under the cut is disturbing.  Extreme sexual deviancy, child murder, dismemberment, rape, potential cannibalism and possible necrophilia show up in telling Tristan’s and Seel’s stories.  If any of this bothers you, don’t read any further.

Communication Breakdown

Life in the not-too-distant-future has hiccuped. A Facebook message attempting to follow up on an e-mail message I never replied to showed that many e-mails sent to anita@oddthingsconsidered.com got hung up in transit and were languishing on my hosting site’s e-mail server. Electronic purgatory.

I am notoriously slow in replying to messages, and am awfully neurotic about talking to people in general, but I do reply, in the fullness of time. The fullness of time should not take months, however, unless you want to talk to me on the phone and I promise none of you want to talk to me on the phone. I don’t even talk to Mr. OTC on the phone. But e-mails I can generally steel myself up to deal with in a few weeks, max. I had around a hundred e-mails that I replied to over the last 12 hours or so. Though I had noticed most of my e-mails had dried up on OTC, I didn’t think much about it because I do spend a significant amount of time not really plugged into reality. I can’t imagine too many people wouldn’t notice all the e-mail streams to their website had completely dried up but there you go. I know I play up my neurosis, avoidance and absent-mindedness as a form of schtick, but in schtick there is truth sometimes.

There is a chance that some of the messages were lost permanently. If you sent me a message over the last few months and I did not reply today or yesterday, please resend it. Resend it to anitadalton@gmail.com for now. Even though I think everything has been taken care of, I am still not entirely convinced.

Sorry for the inconvenience!

ETA: Just received another 60-some-odd additional messages. It’s very early Monday morning, or some call it the middle of the night, so I’ll respond to those in a few hours. I think this has something to do with switching from IROB to OTC but I will admit this is a level of suck I had not expected. I am so sorry to everyone who sent me messages and got no reply.

Valencia by James Nulick

Book: Valencia*

Author: James Nulick

Type of Book: Non-fiction, memoir (sort of)

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: It’s written in a style one does not commonly see in memoirs, a style that demands that you read the book twice in order to really understand the whole of it. The truly odd part is that I don’t think you will mind reading it twice in a row.

Availability: Published by Nine Banded Books in 2014, you can get a copy here:

Or you can get a copy directly from the publisher.

Comments: It’s hard to write an American memoir in the year of our Lord, 2016. Modernity has caused most of us to live unremarkable lives. No more surviving small pox or famine. Not a lot of terrain to discover that doesn’t already have several Taco Bell locations within a fifty-mile radius. No invaders from foreign lands, no wars on American soil. No duels, few remaining sexy hippie cults waiting to indoctrinate the young and innocent, and even those who have fled to large cities in order to carve out an interesting career in the arts while living with lots of interesting people in a bohemian slum are more likely to micro-blog about binge watching some fucking show about women having lots of implausible sex in a prison than their latest attempt at creating a mural or a novel or an interesting sculpture. The bulk of lives these day are completely unremarkable but sometimes reading about unremarkable lives can be interesting, if the life in question rings true to the reader, offering muffled catharsis for the quiet depression that is so much a part of modern ennui.

Don’t get me wrong – suburbia has a lot to recommend it but it doesn’t lend itself well to the creation of great memoirs unless we have something really and truly nasty lurking behind the scenes, and those things happen to us rather than being experiences we seek out. Good modern memoirists need at least one crazy or alcoholic parent, one unsettling example of sexual abuse, a slowly developing drug addiction, and maybe, if such a writer is lucky, one of his family members will commit a terrible crime or get killed in the course of a terrible crime and then he’ll be rolling in the life experiences that make up the modern memoir.

But even if one has these qualifiers, so do many others. If one is going to write a memoir about a prosaic life, even one with requisite misery, one needs to be a very good writer because otherwise the readers will be tempted to say, “Shitty parents, stranger touched me, drugs during college, terrible job, why am I reading this when I can clearly write my own memoir because everyone in the benighted Generation X more or less lived the same fucking life.”

Nulick takes his cues from all three categories: he’s lived a life that seems all too common to most Americans; he has catastrophic life experiences that make for interesting reading and a certain prurient rubbernecking; and he is a very good writer, profoundly good at times. We recognize Nulick’s life as our own in some respects, we are appalled at some of the things that happen to Nulick, and we are drawn in and held in by his unique and near-poetic style.

I mentioned this before in an entry closing out 2015, but it bears repeating. The way that Nulick writes reminds me of conversations one has with an old friend. You know this person well, but you haven’t spoken in a while. Your friend mentions an incident or a person in the course of telling a story, thinking that you know all about that incident or person. You don’t know, but you don’t interrupt because your friend is on a roll and you feel certain that in a moment you can either interject and ask a question or your friend will throw you enough clues in the conversation that you can piece it together. Sometimes you realize the information isn’t important enough to interrupt, because the point of the story isn’t about that person or place – it was just mentioned as an aside in the course of a larger topic.

This is how Nulick writes. Sometimes he mentions a name before we know who that person is. The first time this happened I wondered if I had overlooked the person as I read and I almost backtracked in order to find the original mention that I was sure I had missed. It can be a bit odd if you begin reading this book unaware that Nulick writes this way, treating you like an old friend listening to a long conversation about his life, but once you are knowledgeable about this method of story-telling, it feels completely normal, almost comfortable. You feel like you are being drawn into Nulick’s story in a manner that implies that he considers you a trusted friend, and that’s an unusual feeling when reading a memoir. I’ve often felt some commonality with memoirists as I read their works but this takes that feeling of knowing an author in a direction I can’t recall ever having read before. You may want to read this book through once and then read it again a week or so later. That second read cements that feeling of being a friend because you now feel like an insider to Nulick’s story.

That sense of commonality takes you only so far, though. I find it interesting how many books about Gen-X men have come across my radar lately and how I respond to them. In Ann Sterzinger’s NVSQVAM, the protagonist Lester is utterly lost and a complete asshole, but as I mention in my discussion, he’s our asshole, my generation’s asshole. It’s hard to hate your brother even when he’s a prick. It’s irrational to hate a child you may have created but Baby Boomers despair of me and mine, and for some reason we all seem to be poking Millennials with a stick as if we didn’t fucking make the world they were born into, like we didn’t raise them or mold them into the people they are now. Yet Nulick, in as much as this memoir accurately reflects his real life, at times inspired in me the same nose-pinching desire I felt toward Sterzinger’s Lester. I just wanted to smack him as he artistically destroyed his life, almost as if he was modeling his destruction on those who came before him and set the example for the lost, dissolute, addicted writer.

Checking in!

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

I am at work on a discussion that is proving exhausting, but is strangely therapeutic given recent events in my life. I hope to have the discussion finished by the beginning of next week. At the risk of spoiling my upcoming review, Every Cradle Is a Grave: Rethinking the Ethics of Birth and Suicide by Sarah Perry is a book you need to get and read.  This book is a paradigm changer, and an important book for those of us who live in Western countries where it is difficult to discuss death intelligently, let alone suicide, let alone why suicide can ultimately be an act of great self-awareness.

I also received the latest Biblio-Curiosa edition, the excellent weird book/author ‘zine by Chris Mikul.  This issue focuses on children’s books and I can’t wait to read it.  Interestingly, I am also currently reading Mikul’s book on weird folk, The Eccentropedia: The Most Unusual People Who Have Ever Lived. The Eccentropedia caused me to start researching Eloise Bosquet, Baroness Wagner, a somewhat foul woman who brought a ton of drama and murder to the Galapagos Island chain, which then led to watching The Galapagos Affair on Netflix.

Adding to delays is that my book shift this year is taking longer than usual. At the beginning of each new calendar year, I make small changes to the ways my books are shelved, mainly because toward the end of the year Mr Oddbooks and I accumulate hundreds of new books, through gifts and Christmas shopping. These shifts entail emptying all shelves in order to clean them and then cleaning each book. I don’t know how many books we have because often books can get shelved before I document them, but I think we’re clocking in around 4,000 minimum. Given how easily distracted I have been, it’s taking me far longer to complete this task than anticipated.

I’ve also noticed that Pseudo Occult Media posted a few new entries in 2013. It looked like the site had been abandoned since 2010 so I hadn’t checked on it in a while, so these new entries were a pleasant surprise. I’ve referenced the site here before because even if one dismisses the notion that the Monarch Project has infested every tier of entertainment worldwide, the research that goes into the entries is something to behold. If you like people going on at length, which seems likely if you are reading here, Pseudo Occult Media will be right up your alley.  If nothing else, the author of the site shows how little originality there is in visual media. Once you read this site you’ll become annoyed at how often you see checkerboards, butterflies, Alice in Wonderland themes, faces half-occluded by hair or in mirrors, and broken mirrors in music videos, model spreads, movies and television.

Hopefully I will see you all early next week. Feel free to use the comments here to let me know what you’re reading/watching/listening to/avoiding.

Hibernation

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

I think by now all readers here know I am subject to periods of cyclical depression and torpor wherein this site goes silent. I’ve been struggling this year with various issues that have made it hard to concentrate but one of those issues is clearing up (passing a website I ran on to another person) and the fog is lifting. Perhaps it is a sign that my depressions aren’t as terrible as those others face because, lately, when they happen, I don’t really feel hopeless because I remember that wonderful feeling that comes when the depression fades. It feels like Spring. It feels like a small rebirth, a shedding of old, psychic skin. I just have to hold on until my brain chemistry relents.

As a result of my current Spring-time zeal, I have some discussions of interesting books in queue, among them books by Chris Mikul, Dennis Cooper, Peter Sotos, Bradley R. Smith, David Paulides, Alissa Nutting, Hollister Koop, Gabrielle Wittkop, Andy Nowicki, Karen Russell and Michel Faber. (edited because I borked Alissa Nutting first go around, and then edited again because I messed up Bradley R. Smith’s name because the suck is strong with me this entry…)

I’m currently dealing with a minor obsession with mutualism and have been struggling through Kropotkin, which I don’t really recommend to anyone who doesn’t have intractable insomnia. I’ve also found myself spending way too much time reading Brandon Darby’s Twitter feed and his articles over on Breitbart’s site and wondering exactly how much the human sphincter can stretch. I’m not linking to them because I also cannot recommend reading them to anyone except those who really like the taste of vomit in the backs of their mouths. So Google with caution.

What have you guys been reading, investigating, or doing. Share it all, no detail too small. See you Tuesday-ish.

Song of my week, and god bless Laura Jane Grace!

2013: The Year I Mostly Lost

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

I can’t even think about doing all the end of year stuff that everyone who writes about books engages in come around mid-December. Because of Houdini’s Revenge and that site I launched looking into that way-weird woman who scams everyone online, I barely even read this year. Like I am embarrassed by the paltry number of books I managed to finish. It’s pretty shameful.

I intend to remedy this because I miss being able to read. All the research into the weird woman is wearing me down. I really miss this site. I will work on my other sites, to be sure, but IROB has always been my first love and I hate that I have neglected her so.

But I have no idea when business as usual will resume. I am typing this entry at 4:00 in the morning in the dark as my mother sleeps in her hospital bed. Some people could work in this situation, but I can’t. I’m popping acid reducer pills and thinking about re-reading the Harry Potter books because my brain is too tired for much else.

But life settles down. It always does. So I will be back when I can be back. Just keep me in your readers or bookmark me or whatever. I will be back, hopefully soon.