LIVE from NYPL: Surviving the White Gaze: Rebecca Carroll with Zoe Kazan

Date and Time
March 1, 2021
Event Details

The cultural critic's new memoir chronicles her struggle to overcome a completely white childhood in order to forge her identity as a Black woman in America.  

Rebecca Carroll grew up the only Black person in her rural New Hampshire town. Adopted at birth by artistic parents who believed in peace, love, and zero population growth, her early childhood was loving and idyllic—and yet she felt a deepening sense of isolation as she grew older. Everything changed when she met her birth mother, a young white woman, who consistently undermined Carroll's sense of her Blackness and self-esteem. Carroll's childhood became harrowing, and her memoir explores the tension between the aching desire for her birth mother's acceptance, the loyalty she feels toward her adoptive parents, and the search for her racial identity.

Joined by actor Zoe Kazan, Carroll discusses her intensely personal examination of racism and racial identity in America today. 

LIVE from NYPL is made possible by the support of Library patrons and friends, as well as by the continuing generosity of Celeste Bartos, Mahnaz Ispahani Bartos and Adam Bartos, and the Margaret and Herman Sokol Public Education Endowment Fund.

Rebecca Carroll is the author of Surviving the White Gaze: A Memoir and several other interview-based books about race and Blackness in America, including the award-winning Sugar in the Raw. She was most recently the host of the podcast Come Through with Rebecca Carroll: 15 Essential Conversations about Race in a Pivotal Year for America, as well as a cultural critic at WNYC and a critic at large for The Los Angeles Times

Zoe Kazan is a film, television and stage actor, playwright and screenwriter, born and raised in Santa Monica, California. Kazan can be seen in the critically acclaimed HBO miniseries The Plot Against America and on Netflix's Clickbait. She was recently seen in HBO's The Deuce. Other television credits include HBO's Olive Kitteridge  (Emmy nominee, Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie), based on the novel by Elizabeth Strout, and Bored to Death. Her film credits include The Big Sick, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, It's ComplicatedExploding Girl (winner of Tribeca Film Festival's Best Actress in a Narrative Film award), the films Wild Life and  Ruby Sparks (Independent Spirit Awards nominee, Best Screenplay), which she co-wrote and co-executive produced with Paul Dano, and many other acclaimed pictures. Kazan has appeared on and off-Broadway in Come Back, Little Sheba, A Behanding in Spokane, The Seagull, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, The Things We Want and Clive, both directed by Ethan Hawke, Angels in America, and 100 Saints You Should Know (Drama Desk and Lucille Lortel nominee,  Outstanding Featured Actress). In 2008, she was named the recipient of the Clarence Derwent Award for Most Promising Actress.  As a playwright, Kazan has had plays produced at The Humana Festival at The Actors' Theatre of Louisville (Absalom, 2009), Manhattan Theatre Club (We Live Here, 2011),  South Coast Repertory Theater (Trudy and Max in Love, 2014), and at Lincoln Center (After The Blast, 2017). She currently resides in New York City.

If you have a NYPL library card—or live in New York state and want to apply for one now—you can borrow Surviving the White Gaze for free with our e-reader app SimplyE. The title is available in accessible formats for community members who do not use standard print. Find out more at: You can also request this book, and more, for pickup at one of our Grab & Go locations

Readers everywhere who wish to purchase copies of Surviving the White Gaze: A Memoir can do so at The New York Public Library Shop. Proceeds benefit the New York Public Library. 

Rebecca Carroll suggests these titles for further reading:
The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears, by Dinaw Mengestu | NYPL Catalog; talking & braille books
Wave, by Sonali Deraniyagala  | NYPL Catalog; digital book
What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker, by Damon Young | NYPL Catalog; digital book
The Yellow House, by Sarah Broom | NYPL Catalog; digital book
Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi | NYPL Catalog

This program will be streamed live on Zoom and simulcast to YouTube. You must register with your email address in order to receive the link to participate. Please check your email shortly before the discussion to receive the link. Captions for this event will be provided. If you miss registration, join us on YouTube to watch at 8 PM ET.

Please send all press inquiries (photo, video, interviews, audio-recording, etc.) at least 24 hours before the day of the program to Sara Beth Joren at

For all other questions and inquiries, please contact


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