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American Cocktail A Colored Girl in the World by Anita Reynolds
  

American Cocktail A Colored Girl in the World

Synopsis

American Cocktail A Colored Girl in the World by Anita Reynolds

This is the rollicking, never-before-published memoir of a fascinating African American woman with an uncanny knack for being in the right place in the most interesting times. Actress, dancer, model, literary critic, psychologist, and free-spirited provocateur, Anita Reynolds was, as her Parisian friends nicknamed her, an American Cocktail.

Reviews

Reynolds s memoir of her adventures in 1930s Paris and Europe, before World War II drove her back to the United States, was written in the 1970s but was never published. After a brief silent movie career and an uptown/downtown period hobnobbing with Harlem s intelligentsia as well as Greenwich Village s bohemians, the racially mixed author decamped to Europe at just the right time to meet such luminaries as Man Ray, Antonin Artaud, Louise Bryant, and many others. She lived the Left Bank life, with many forays into respectability (or something like it), traveling between the two worlds effortlessly Her lavish descriptions of the clothes she wore, the men she loved, and the places where she dined and danced enchant, and her frank discussion of sex is refreshing. Hutchinson s detailed chapter notes provide invaluable biographical and cultural info This title is essential for those who enjoy reading about the African American expat experience, as well as fans of Paris memoirs.--Liz French Library Journal

Reynolds s story gives us, first, an unvarnished look into the lives of politically active, upper-middle-class African-Americans at the dawn of the Harlem Renaissance. Replete with rich interior portraits and abundant material details, it illuminates the inner life of a young woman who was, in different settings, brown, black, and colored. As an arc, it covers her coming of age in the United States, her clever escape to Paris, her life as a fixture of the Left Bank, and, finally, her forced departure from Europe as the Nazis advanced Judged merely as a piece of history, American Cocktail is a critical missing piece. There is more, though. Describing a life not defined by the color line, it is also written against dominant social conventions, legal categories, and popular formulations. Its emphasis on fun sets it apart--in tone and spirit--from more dystopian, tragic accounts of mixture. American Cocktail reminds us, too, of the lure of the larger world as an escape from the brutal demands of American racism In this moment of racial complexity, we have a new history of racial mixture and a renewed appreciation for the lives of those who (like Reynolds) recognized that resistance to racism didn t just mean organized revolution along the color line. It could also mean an individual rejection of the very terms of the struggle.--Matthew Pratt Guterl Chronicle of Higher Education (04/14/2014) Anita Reynolds was African American but could pass for a variety of backgrounds, and the French called her an American cocktail. This biography highlights her forgotten, extraordinary life, from life as a silent film star with Rudolph Valentino to falling in with the Left Bank intellectuals and artists like Pablo Picasso. Fascinating.--Elisabeth Donnelly Flavorwire (03/24/2014) [Reynolds s] exuberant and inclusive cosmopolitanism is one of the great strengths of this singular memoir If there has long been a scarcity of insight and gossip about friends, acquaintances, and colleagues in most early black life-stories, if one looks in vain for details and private opinions about encounters with the famous and infamous, with household names in politics, the arts, commercial enterprise, and sports, Reynolds all but single handedly makes up for it. Famous names are not simply dropped here and there, they are scattered about like handfuls of confetti, from the first chapter to the last. Reynolds readily shares brusque evaluations and anecdotes about Gertrude Stein, e.e. cummings, Paul Robeson, Salvador Dali, Constantin Brancusi, Tristan Tzara, Jean Patou, and dozens more. She tells about modeling for Coco Chanel and wearing the designer s castoffs; about writing for spicy French journals; and as the war escalated, about being a Red Cross nurse securing safe passage for refugees Reynolds carries the reader along with a lively tale brimming with places, eras, family history, political movements, art, music, literature, and the people who created them, while throughout, Hutchinson provides discreet endnotes with his wonderfully researched and beautifully wrought amplification. Some of the notes are brief nuggets of clarification, while others are elegant miniature essays. All answer questions and expand upon things that Reynolds, in sketching her vivid self-portrait, does not stop to explain. More than endnotes, Hutchinson has crafted a running commentary, available to consult as one wishes, often pulling the reader into a bit of collusion with the editor.--Marilyn Richardson Women s Review of Books (07/01/2014) [This] memoir breezily recount[s] the Zelig-like adventures of a woman who had starred in some of the first black films made in Hollywood, mingled with the Harlem Renaissance elite, been drawn by Man Ray and Matisse in Paris and touched down in Spain during its Civil War, before packing up her Chanel dresses and heading home to a more conventional life as a psychologist... It's a striking addition, scholars say, to the still-small shelf of published memoirs by African-American women of the early 20th century.--Jennifer Schuessler New York Times (02/17/2014) [Reynolds's] exuberant and inclusive cosmopolitanism is one of the great strengths of this singular memoir...If there has long been a scarcity of insight and gossip about friends, acquaintances, and colleagues in most early black life-stories, if one looks in vain for details and private opinions about encounters with the famous and infamous, with household names in politics, the arts, commercial enterprise, and sports, Reynolds all but single handedly makes up for it. Famous names are not simply dropped here and there, they are scattered about like handfuls of confetti, from the first chapter to the last. Reynolds readily shares brusque evaluations and anecdotes about Gertrude Stein, e.e. cummings, Paul Robeson, Salvador Dali, Constantin Brancusi, Tristan Tzara, Jean Patou, and dozens more. She tells about modeling for Coco Chanel and wearing the designer's castoffs; about writing for spicy French journals; and as the war escalated, about being a Red Cross nurse securing safe passage for refugees... Reynolds carries the reader along with a lively tale brimming with places, eras, family history, political movements, art, music, literature, and the people who created them, while throughout, Hutchinson provides discreet endnotes with his wonderfully researched and beautifully wrought amplification. Some of the notes are brief nuggets of clarification, while others are elegant miniature essays. All answer questions and expand upon things that Reynolds, in sketching her vivid self-portrait, does not stop to explain. More than endnotes, Hutchinson has crafted a running commentary, available to consult as one wishes, often pulling the reader into a bit of collusion with the editor.--Marilyn Richardson Women's Review of Books (07/01/2014) [This is] the Zelig-like memoirs of Anita Reynolds, an African-American actress, model and dancer who crossed paths with many writers and cultural figures of the time, such as Booker T. Washington, James Joyce and Larsen herself...American Cocktail is a welcome addition to the sparse collection of twentieth-century memoirs written by African American women.--Douglas Field Times Literary Supplement (06/20/2014) Anita Reynolds was African American but could 'pass
for a variety of backgrounds, and the French called her an

'American cocktail.'
This biography highlights her forgotten, extraordinary life, from life as a silent film star with Rudolph Valentino to falling in with the Left Bank intellectuals and artists like Pablo Picasso. Fascinating

.--Elisabeth Donnelly Flavorwire (03/24/2014) Reynolds's story gives us, first, an unvarnished look into the lives of politically active, upper-middle-class African-Americans at the dawn of the Harlem Renaissance. Replete with rich interior portraits and abundant material details, it illuminates the inner life of a young woman who was, in different settings, brown, black, and colored. As an arc, it covers her coming of age in the United States, her clever escape to Paris, her life as a fixture of the Left Bank, and, finally, her forced departure from Europe as the Nazis advanced...Judged merely as a piece of history, American Cocktail is a critical missing piece. There is more, though. Describing a life not defined by the color line, it is also written against dominant social conventions, legal categories, and popular formulations. Its emphasis on 'fun
sets it apart

--in tone and spirit--from more dystopian, 'tragic
accounts of mixture. American Cocktail reminds us, too, of the lure of the larger world as an escape from the brutal demands of American racism

...In this moment of racial complexity, we have a new history of racial mixture and a renewed appreciation for the lives of those who (like Reynolds) recognized that resistance to racism didn't just mean organized revolution along the color line. It could also mean an individual rejection of the very terms of the struggle.--Matthew Pratt Guterl Chronicle of Higher Education (04/14/2014) Contemporary It girls have nothing on the free spirits of the 1920s, who danced the Charleston, turned cartwheels on the sidewalk, and drank gin blossoms till dawn. (Just imagine if they'd had Instagram.) But few crashed the party with the verve, elegance, and wit of Anita Reynolds, whose impossibly seductive memoir, American Cocktail: A Colored Girl in the World, recently uncovered by a Cornell professor, captures the Jazz Age from her sexually candid, devil-may-care perspective. Reynolds was born into a politically engaged, mixed race family in Los Angeles--Langston Hughes was a cousin; Booker T. Washington was a friend; W. E .B. du Bois a likely first lover--and starred in some of the first films produced by blacks in Hollywood before moving on to New York, where she hobnobbed with Harlem Renaissance elite, and then, absconding with her college tuition, sailed to Paris in 1928. Coining the term 'American cocktail
to describe her

'red, white, and black'
ancestry, Reynolds made a splash amid the Left Bank art scene, attracting the likes of Matisse, who sketched her, and Man Ray, who became a friend and mentor. With a mordant lightness of touch, Reynolds retells her Zelig

-like escapades, from modeling for Chanel to a breakfast with Madame Petain--just before a mad dash to the last boat from Lisbon, panicked refugees and couture dresses in tow, as Nazi panzers closed in on Paris.--Megan O'Grady Vogue online (02/25/2014) Reynolds's memoir of her adventures in 1930s Paris and Europe, before World War II drove her back to the United States, was written in the 1970s but was never published. After a brief silent movie career and an 'uptown/downtown
period hobnobbing with Harlem

's intelligentsia as well as Greenwich Village's bohemians, the racially mixed author decamped to Europe at just the right time to meet such luminaries as Man Ray, Antonin Artaud, Louise Bryant, and many others. She lived the Left Bank life, with many forays into respectability (or something like it), traveling between the two worlds effortlessly... Her lavish descriptions of the clothes she wore, the men she loved, and the places where she dined and danced enchant, and her frank discussion of sex is refreshing. Hutchinson's detailed chapter notes provide invaluable biographical and cultural info... This title is essential for those who enjoy reading about the African American expat experience, as well as fans of Paris memoirs.--Liz French Library Journal

Beautiful, vivacious, stylish, and free-spirited, Reynolds (1901-80) was asked about her 'racially ambiguous appearance'
so often that she came up with

'American cocktail'
to describe her

'red, white, and black'
legacy. A dancer, actor, psychologist, and teacher, Reynolds recorded this archly witty, sexually frank, nonchalantly confident, yet curiously humble memoir in the mid

-1970s, and it is published now for the first time, thanks to its discovery by Cornell professor George Hutchinson. Reynolds jauntily describes her lively, privileged childhood in Chicago and Los Angeles among her extended multiracial family, which included her cousin, Langston Hughes... Dizzying tales of famous artists and writers, escapades and affairs, sojourns in Tangiers and London, and harrowing moments as WWII begins are punctuated by confrontations with prejudice and hate. Kudos to Hutchinson for bringing this independent and intrepid citizen of the world back to shimmer and shine among us, carrying forward her 'guiding passion to try to improve racial relationships, to get people of different nationalities, colors and religions to understand and appreciate each other.'--Donna Seaman Booklist (starred review) (02/01/2014) [Reynolds s] exuberant and inclusive cosmopolitanism is one of the great strengths of this singular memoir If there has long been a scarcity of insight and gossip about friends, acquaintances, and colleagues in most early black life-stories, if one looks in vain for details and private opinions about encounters with the famous and infamous, with household names in politics, the arts, commercial enterprise, and sports, Reynolds all but single handedly makes up for it. Famous names are not simply dropped here and there, they are scattered about like handfuls of confetti, from the first chapter to the last. Reynolds readily shares brusque evaluations and anecdotes about Gertrude Stein, e.e. cummings, Paul Robeson, Salvador Dali, Constantin Brancusi, Tristan Tzara, Jean Patou, and dozens more. She tells about modeling for Coco Chanel and wearing the designer s castoffs; about writing for spicy French journals; and as the war escalated, about being a Red Cross nurse securing safe passage for refugees Reynolds carries the reader along with a lively tale brimming with places, eras, family history, political movements, art, music, literature, and the people who created them, while throughout, Hutchinson provides discreet endnotes with his wonderfully researched and beautifully wrought amplification. Some of the notes are brief nuggets of clarification, while others are elegant miniature essays. All answer questions and expand upon things that Reynolds, in sketching her vivid self-portrait, does not stop to explain. More than endnotes, Hutchinson has crafted a running commentary, available to consult as one wishes, often pulling the reader into a bit of collusion with the editor.--Marilyn Richardson Women s Review of Books (07/01/2014) Reynolds s story gives us, first, an unvarnished look into the lives of politically active, upper-middle-class African-Americans at the dawn of the Harlem Renaissance. Replete with rich interior portraits and abundant material details, it illuminates the inner life of a young woman who was, in different settings, brown, black, and colored. As an arc, it covers her coming of age in the United States, her clever escape to Paris, her life as a fixture of the Left Bank, and, finally, her forced departure from Europe as the Nazis advanced Judged merely as a piece of history, American Cocktail is a critical missing piece. There is more, though. Describing a life not defined by the color line, it is also written against dominant social conventions, legal categories, and popular formulations. Its emphasis on fun sets it apart--in tone and spirit--from more dystopian, tragic accounts of mixture. American Cocktail reminds us, too, of the lure of the larger world as an escape from the brutal demands of American racism In this moment of racial complexity, we have a new history of racial mixture and a renewed appreciation for the lives of those who (like Reynolds) recognized that resistance to racism didn t just mean organized revolution along the color line. It could also mean an individual rejection of the very terms of the struggle.--Matthew Pratt Guterl Chronicle of Higher Education (04/14/2014) Reynolds s memoir of her adventures in 1930s Paris and Europe, before World War II drove her back to the United States, was written in the 1970s but was never published. After a brief silent movie career and an uptown/downtown period hobnobbing with Harlem s intelligentsia as well as Greenwich Village s bohemians, the racially mixed author decamped to Europe at just the right time to meet such luminaries as Man Ray, Antonin Artaud, Louise Bryant, and many others. She lived the Left Bank life, with many forays into respectability (or something like it), traveling between the two worlds effortlessly Her lavish descriptions of the clothes she wore, the men she loved, and the places where she dined and danced enchant, and her frank discussion of sex is refreshing. Hutchinson s detailed chapter notes provide invaluable biographical and cultural info This title is essential for those who enjoy reading about the African American expat experience, as well as fans of Paris memoirs.--Liz French Library Journal

[This is] the Zelig-like memoirs of Anita Reynolds, an African-American actress, model and dancer who crossed paths with many writers and cultural figures of the time, such as Booker T. Washington, James Joyce and Larsen herself American Cocktail is a welcome addition to the sparse collection of twentieth-century memoirs written by African American women.--Douglas Field Times Literary Supplement (06/20/2014)


About the Author

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Book Info

Publication date

7th February 2014

Author

Anita Reynolds

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Publisher

Harvard University Press

Format

Hardback
352 pages

Categories

Memoirs
20th century history: c 1900 to c 2000

ISBN

9780674073050

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