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July 10, 1994|CHARLES SOLOMON

VOLUNTEER SLAVERY: My Authentic Negro Experience by Jill Nelson (Penguin: $9.95; 244 pp.). Nelson joined the Washington Post in 1986, but soon discovered that the predominantly white male staff expected African-American journalists to be more than writers: "Not only must we function as reporters, but we are also ambassadors from that colored catchall, Black America, explaining and justifying not only ourselves but also the mythical, monolithic 'black community.' " At the same time, Nelson was also searching for an "authentic" African-American experience, rejecting her upper-middle-class background as brummagem. Her sardonic account of a quest for journalistic and ethnic integrity displays the grace and resilience she drew from a difficult life.

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