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Mind Openers: Black Talk, Blue Thoughts


By Meg Sullivan

Published Oct 1, 2011 12:00 PM


As a budding "black journalista," Erin Aubry Kaplan '83, M.F.A. '87 couldn't believe her luck when the Los Angeles Times asked her to cover South Central Los Angeles after the 1992 riots.

"I saw the battle lines drawn, not so much between positive and negative portrayals of black folks, but between complete and incomplete," recalls the Inglewood native. The approach paid off, eventually landing her a columnist slot at the city's largest alternative newspaper, the LA Weekly. From 1997 to 2005, Kaplan delighted readers with her intensely personal takes on post-civil rights America.

Erin Aubry Kaplan on black L.A.

Author and journalist Erin Aubry Kaplan discusses the post-civil rights generation of African Americans in Los Angeles.

From UCLA YouTube channel.

Take "The Butt," which explores a black woman's relationship with her most distinctive, um, asset. "The butt is stubborn, immutable — it can't be hot-combed or straightened or bleached into submission," she writes. "It does not assimilate; it never took a slave name."

Kaplan's singular voice sings again in a new collection of highlights from her reporting career, Black Talk, Blue Thoughts, and Walking the Color Line: Dispatches from a Black Journalista. Next month, UCLA's Library Associates hosts a reading by the author in the Charles E. Young Research Library.

Always unflinching, Kaplan discusses her own battle with depression and misgivings about motherhood. She describes how she came to marry a white man accused of racism. And in one essay, she even prods the African-American community's ultimate sore spot: disappointment in Barack Obama's presidency. The book is dedicated to Kaplan's father, Larry Aubry '59, a longtime activist and columnist for the African-American newspaper, the Los Angeles Sentinel.

Black Talk, Blue Thoughts, and Walking the Color Line: Dispatches from a Black Journalista. Oct. 18, 4-6 p.m. Free. For more information or to RSVP, visit For more information on other readings, visit



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