Natasha Alford Talks Coming Of Age Between Two Worlds And Afro Latina Identity In Debut Book ‘American Negra’


Award-winning journalist and digital media executive Natasha S. Alford has spent over a decade highlighting excellence, calling out injustice, and holding our leaders accountable through her thoughtful coverage of race, culture, politics, and other topics. But for all the stories she has written about others, it’s in sharing her own story that we see some of Alford’s most powerful work yet.

In her debut memoir, ‘American Negra’ Alford shares her personal story of growing up between two worlds in a working-class, multi-ethnic family in upstate New York. Born to a Black American father and Puerto Rican mother, Alford lives at the intersection of those identities, with roots extending from upstate New York to Puerto Rico to South Carolina to Florida.

“There are two stories being told in this book: one about the search for identity and belonging, and the other is about the pursuit of the American dream. Those two things are happening simultaneously,” the proud Syracuse, New York native tells ESSENCE. 

Alford, who is Vice President Of Digital Content at TheGrio and a CNN political analyst, says she always knew she would tell her story of going from her small hometown in upstate New York to Harvard University and beyond, emphasizing the theme that she says has always been consistent throughout her life—a quest for knowledge about one’s roots.

As an author, Alford effortlessly blends her personal narrative with larger reflections about race, culture, gender, class, and multi-ethnic identities as we understand them in our society. She brings readers into her journey as she explores her Afro-Latina heritage and the complexities and nuances of Black identity in a relatable way.

“Oftentimes, when we use the word ‘Black’ in the United States, we assume that it only refers to African Americans,” said Alford. “But there are Black people in other countries and cultures. My story puts that into sharper focus,” she says. 

Throughout her memoir, Alford delves into the “messy” parts of her journey because, for her, it was important to tell the story of success along with the many challenges she often faced along the way. “There is a cost and consequence of perfectionism,” she says, noting that she wanted to “unmask all of that.”

Alford not only lets us into her journey of searching for identity and belonging but also the challenges she’s faced in her career, having worked in investment management and as a middle school teacher before pursuing her passion in journalism. She also is candid about her challenges with health and living with chronic illness after being diagnosed with Lupus.

While Alford shares her search for identity and belonging, she also reveals the challenges she has encountered in her career, having worked in investment management and as a middle school teacher before pursuing her passion of journalism. She is also open about her health challenges and living with chronic illness after being diagnosed with Lupus.

‘American Negra’ is an example of how diverse the Black experience is within the larger fabric of American society. The accomplished journalist and new author hopes her transparency around health, work, and identity will inspire others.

“I  believe that when you go into the history of the communities that you come from, and you understand the power that you come from and the talent, beauty, and resilience that you come from, that is powerful. So yes, this  book is a memoir, but it also calls for us to tell more diverse and nuanced histories of our community,” says Alford.


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