Born in Seattle, a city then uniquely free from racial tensions and prejudices, Cayton found the privileged, secure, middle-class position of his well-to-do parents ineffectual against the gradual spread of racism that was sweeping America. His disarmingly honest autobiography is the ever-absorbing record of an intelligent, sensitive, and proud man's attempts to find identity in a confusing and conflicting chaos of black and white, in a nation that, although dedicated to equality, somehow managed to deny this ideal by almost every action.
Although his turbulent life was complicated by the color barrierâoften resulting in reverses and frustrations that have rendered him close to a breakdownâthis alone is not what makes Cayton's book such captivating reading. Wholly lacking in self-pity or special pleading, Horace Cayton has written a personal narrative of unfailing interest on any number of scores, a book that ranks with the best of American autobiographical writing. For it manages to remain highly critical without once resorting to bitterness; to be filled with hope, though not always hopeful; and brims with compassion and bemused and acute insights into a troubled society. It is a telling, almost poetic tribute to the resiliency of black culture.