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Black & White & Red All Over: The Story of a Friendship

Review

Black & White & Red All Over: The Story of a Friendship



Martha McNeil Hamilton and Warren Brown built a friendship over
more than twenty years of working together at The Washington
Post
. What is remarkable about their story is not that they are
friends in spite of race (Hamilton is white, Brown is black), but
that they have shared a life and death journey.

In November 2001, Hamilton gave Brown one of her kidneys and her
generous act saved his life and made their friendship more than
just a collegial bond. Brown's kidney transplant and how he and
Hamilton came to their decisions is the central story of BLACK
& WHITE & RED ALL OVER. Yet this memoir of their friendship
accomplishes much more.

Both journalists are members of the baby boom generation born in
the Jim Crow South. As they write, "We came to the Post in
the middle of a revolution." In writing about their individual
lives they provide a personal view of segregation, integration,
women's integration into the workforce and even AIDS. Though the
focus is clearly on their growing friendship and the transplant,
these personal vignettes bring the book to life. And as the nation
reconsiders policies such as affirmative action, Hamilton and Brown
make it clear that they got in the door with such considerations
and they stand behind the idea. They are also honest about why
management can sometimes fail in carrying out the idea and
therefore sour others on its promise: "The management [at the
Post] had been so good at discriminating against blacks and
women that at first it had a hard time discriminating amongst
them."

Other tales, like that of Hamilton's post-divorce depression and
Brown's concerns about his son, are more touching than historic.
These moments ease the reading and provide buffers to the more
complex information about kidney disease, renal failure and the
dangerous miracle of organ transplants.

This friendship memoir also raises questions about how we view such
bonds. When does the person you've worked with for years become a
true friend? And as we spend more and more time at work, whether
it's real time or time via email, cell phones and PDA devices, how
do we successfully integrate work and family? For Hamilton and
Brown, work and family have nearly become one, which created a
broad network of support as the two readied for the transplant
surgery.

It's unfortunate that a story about friends of different races
sharing in this way is still extraordinary. Hopefully Hamilton and
Brown are evidence of the existence of more cross-racial and
cross-cultural friendships. Otherwise, what kind of revolution was
it after all?

Reviewed by Bernadette Adams Davis on January 21, 2011

Black & White & Red All Over: The Story of a Friendship
by Martha McNeil Hamilton and Warren Brown

  • Publication Date: November 30, -0001
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs
  • ISBN-10: 1586481568
  • ISBN-13: 9781586481568