High Yella

A Modern Family Memoir

High Yella

A Modern Family Memoir

A moving and insightful story about race, identity, and the strength of family ties

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They called him "pale faced or mixed race." They called him "light, bright, almost white." But most of the time his family called him "high yella." Steve Majors was the white passing, youngest son growing up in an all-Black family that struggled with poverty, abuse, and generational trauma. High Yella is the poignant account of how he tried to leave his troubled childhood and family behind to create a new identity, only to discover he ultimately needed to return home to truly find himself. And after he and his husband adopt two Black daughters, he must set them on their own path to finding their place in the world by understanding the importance of where they come from.

In his remarkable and moving memoir, Majors gathers the shards of a broken past to piece together a portrait of a man on an extraordinary journey toward Blackness, queerness, and parenthood. High Yella delivers its hard-won lessons on love, life, and family with exceptional grace.

High Yella speaks to anyone yearning to feel at home in their own skin, who need to know they can belong somewhere inside a less than welcoming society. As Steve Majors eloquently reveals a legacy of racial confusion through his own personal lens, he exposes our limitations and our capacities for love, tolerance, and generosity. His foibles and insight, especially when it comes to his own children, provide us with a substantial dose of hope and inspiration.

—David Tabatsky, author of American Misfit and coauthor of Dear President Obama

Few people on earth can write from the perspective of someone who is black but also white, gay but oft mistaken for straight, Catholic but tied to Judaism . . . with a 'white-picket-fence' present and an improbably complicated past. High Yella is a story that begged to be told, and, what luck, the protagonist of this real-life tale happens to be a masterclass writer. This delicately crafted memoir is a testament to the unquantifiable things that connect family-not cells and DNA, but shared experiences and unconditional love.

—Debbie Bornstein Holinstat, author of Survivors Club

Steve Majors's gripping memoir provides a glimpse into the soul of a tormented man caught in the crossfire of two cruel worlds--one black, one white--as he struggles to find where he truly belongs. With a cast of unforgettably colorful characters, High Yella is a story of great relevance that courageously and delicately sheds light on one of today's most polarizing issues--racial discrimination. A must-read for anyone who endeavors to unconditionally love his fellow man!

—Ray Studevent, author of Black Sheep

Steve Majors's heart-wrenching and honest family memoir never sugarcoats, romanticizes, or dehumanizes. Whether he's tackling growing up poor and Black, family abuse, racial passing, substance misuse, interracial relationships, marriage, or raising adopted kids as a gay dad, Majors tells every part of this singular, moving, and necessary story with clear eyes and care. Just like family, this beautiful, heartbreaking book will find its way into your bones.

—Eman Quotah, author of Bride of the Sea

What are the complex histories that roil under our composed, accomplished surfaces? Steve Majors has brought his to the fore. He's written a gripping, moving, and wrenchingly honest book about his life that I couldn't put down. He was born to write.

—Pia Z. Ehrhardt, author of Famous Fathers & Other Stories and Now We Are Sixty

Steve Majors's memoir, High Yella, is a feast of literary brilliance. As a Black child of the American South, I understand the weight of the title and the struggle of those who bear it. This is why I was so deeply moved by Majors' courage and vulnerability in opening up about his struggle for a definable racial identity. Inside this struggle are the lives of three generations-their stories raw, beautiful, authentic, and unrelentingly poignant. Full of immensely colorful people, signature cultural moments, hysterical colloquial phrases, and some of the best prose I have read in a very long time, High Yella is a gift to society and a book that I will always treasure.

—Jeffrey Blount, author of The Emancipation of Evan Walls

A brave reckoning with multiple issues of identity, class, family, race, and other thorny issues.

—Kirkus Reviews

About the Author/Editor

STEVE MAJORS is a former television news journalist who worked for media organizations such as NBC News and most recently for mission-driven national nonprofits. His essays on race, culture, and identity have been published in the New York Times, Washington Post, and other outlets. Currently he serves as vice president of marketing for a national education nonprofit serving marginalized students. He lives in suburban Maryland with his family.