Full interview: Joseph Boyden on his heritage

Posted in Articles, Audio, Autobiography, Biography, Canada, Interviews, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Passing on 2017-01-15 21:41Z by Steven

Full interview: Joseph Boyden on his heritage

CBC Radio

Jesse Kinos-Goodin

Author Joseph Boyden addresses the recent controversy surrounding his Indigenous ancestral claims. (Penguin)

“A small part of me is Indigenous, but it’s a big part of who I am.”

Is Joseph Boyden really Indigenous?

It’s a question a lot of people have been asking, and one the author himself addressed in an exclusive interview Wednesday with CBC Radio’s Candy Palmater.

“Absolutely,” Boyden said. “I’m a white kid from Willowdale (Ontario) with native roots — a small part of me is Indigenous, but it’s a big part of who I am.”

It was Boyden’s first interview since the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) released an investigation last month that called into question his Indigenous heritage and sparked a major controversy. The Giller Prize-winning author of Through Black Spruce is known for writing about Indigenous culture and communities in his novels, which also include Three Day Road and The Orenda. Boyden also has become a familiar voice when it comes to speaking on Indigenous issues in Canada

Read the entire article here. Listen to the interview (00:32:32) here.

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Soccer Led Me To Embrace Every Part Of My Multiracial Heritage

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Canada, Media Archive on 2017-01-10 21:23Z by Steven

Soccer Led Me To Embrace Every Part Of My Multiracial Heritage

The Huffington Post

Geneva Abdul, Publicist & Writer
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Born from the marrying of British and Trinidadian cultures, I defined my cultural identity through soccer when I decided to play for Trinidad and Tobago at the age of 14.

Growing up, my parents had never imposed their cultures on me — my cultural identity had always felt like a decision between Canadian, Trinidadian and British. It wasn’t until I had recently retired my soccer cleats when I’d realized I had never had to make the choice, that I could be all three.

As a woman I oscillate between essence and existence. As a woman of colour I participate in a more complex rigmarole of types. The quotidian experience of being asked “what’s your background” or being told “you’re pretty for a brown girl” and “I didn’t know brown girls were athletic” served as a set of ongoing reminders that constantly interpolated my cultural identity…

Read the entire article here.

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Elizabeth Anionwu’s Memoir: Mixed Blessings From A Cambridge Union Exceeds All Superlatives

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2016-12-29 01:57Z by Steven

Elizabeth Anionwu’s Memoir: Mixed Blessings From A Cambridge Union Exceeds All Superlatives

The Huffington Post

Claudia Tomlinson, Author, campaigner, entrepreneur
London, England

Emeritus Professor Elizabeth Anionwu: Photograph by Barney Newman

Elizabeth Anionwu is a diminutive woman of colossal talent in everything she has turned her hand to, and to top off a high achieving career, her memoir has now outed her as a wonderful author.

She was born in 1947, from the relationship between her father, a Nigerian student, and her mother Mary, a Classics student whose family came from County Wexford and County Down, in Ireland, to settle in Liverpool.

Their romance blossomed at Cambridge University, at a time of discrimination against both black and Irish people in England.

Born into a strong Catholic family on her mother’s side, Elizabeth’s arrival, to unmarried parents, was a shock to her mother’s family threatening to bring great shame to the family…

Read the entire review here.

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Fatherless and Abandoned, Vietnamese-Americans Search for Their Families

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Media Archive, United States on 2016-12-26 21:17Z by Steven

Fatherless and Abandoned, Vietnamese-Americans Search for Their Families

Voice of America
Learning English

Hai Do

Moki, Tan and Jannies were babies at the close of the American war in Vietnam in the 1970s. Their mothers were Vietnamese. Their fathers were American soldiers. In one way or another, they were all abandoned.

Now, the search for their birth families has brought them together. Here are their stories…

Read the entire article here.

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BEST OF 2016: Fractionalized — Stories of Biracial Joy, Pain, Struggle and Triumph

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2016-12-26 20:24Z by Steven

BEST OF 2016: Fractionalized — Stories of Biracial Joy, Pain, Struggle and Triumph

Madison 365
Madison, Wisconsin

Mia Sato
University of Wisconsin, Madison



One-half-this and one-quarter-that. Biracial, mixed-race, “two or more races.” In a world obsessed with labels, the pressure to claim oneself as part of a racial group is an inescapable reality for a small but growing population. We are confronted by it with questions like, “What are you?” which we can instantly recognize as a question pointing to heritage. Census forms or surveys ask us to check a box identifying our ethnicity; on rare occasions we’re offered “Multiracial” but we frequently settle for “Other.” People identifying as mixed race may feel connected to all of their backgrounds, only one or some of them, or to none; race is complex enough as it is, but once two or more categories come into play, even more questions are raised.

What is clear is that people who carry a mixed race identity do not experience their race in the same way, even if they share the same racial mix. Location, social interaction, family attitudes about race and environments all inform how they think, feel and speak about being mixed race. Even more, an individual’s own interpretation of their multicultural background may shift and change with time; it is a process of discovery, affirmation, questioning and rejection.

Below, five individuals share their own journey of a mixed-race identity. No story is the same, but all lead to one reality that is obvious: they are hardly a fraction of a race. They are full, whole, complete, and here are their stories, in all their diverse glory…

Read the entire article here.

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On Optimism and Despair

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Europe, Media Archive, Papers/Presentations on 2016-12-22 02:28Z by Steven

On Optimism and Despair

The New York Review of Books

Zadie Smith

A talk given in Berlin on November 10 on receiving the 2016 Welt Literature Prize.

First I would like to acknowledge the absurdity of my position. Accepting a literary prize is perhaps always a little absurd, but in times like these not only the recipient but also the giver feels some sheepishness about the enterprise. But here we are. President Trump rises in the west, a united Europe drops below the horizon on the other side of the ocean—but here we still are, giving a literary prize, receiving one. So many more important things were rendered absurd by the events of November 8 that I hesitate to include my own writing in the list, and only mention it now because the most frequent question I’m asked about my work these days seems to me to have some bearing on the situation at hand.

The question is: “In your earlier novels you sounded so optimistic, but now your books are tinged with despair. Is this fair to say?” It is a question usually posed in a tone of sly eagerness—you will recognize this tone if you’ve ever heard a child ask permission to do something she has in fact already done…

…I realize as I write this that I have strayed some way from the happiness that should rightly attend accepting a literary prize. I am very happy to accept this great honor—please don’t mistake me. I am more than happy—I am amazed. When I started to write I never imagined that anyone outside of my neighborhood would read these books, never mind outside of England, never mind “on the continent,” as my father liked to call it. I remember how stunned I was to embark on my very first European book tour, to Germany, with my father, who had last been here in 1945, as a young soldier in the reconstruction. It was a trip filled, for him, with nostalgia: he had loved a German girl, back in 1945, and one of his great regrets, he admitted to me on that trip, was not marrying her and instead coming home, to England, and marrying first one woman and then another, my mother.

We made a funny pair on that tour, I’m sure: a young black girl and her elderly white father, clutching our guidebooks and seeking those spots in Berlin that my father had visited almost fifty years earlier. It is from him that I have inherited both my optimism and my despair, for he had been among the liberators at Belsen and therefore seen the worst this world has to offer, but had, from there, gone forward, with a sufficiently open heart and mind, striding into one failed marriage and then another, marrying both times across various lines of class, color, and temperament, and yet still found in life reasons to be cheerful, reasons even for joy.

He was, I realize now, one of the least ideological people I ever met: everything that happened to him he took as a particular case, unable or unwilling to generalize from it. He lost his livelihood but did not lose faith in his country. The education system failed him but he still revered it and placed all his hopes for his children in it. His relations with women were mostly disastrous but he did not hate women. In his mind he did not marry a black girl, he married “Yvonne,” and he did not have an experimental set of mixed-race children, he had me and my brother Ben and my brother Luke.

How rare such people are! I am not so naive even now as to believe we have enough of them at any one time in history to form a decent and tolerant society. But neither will I ever deny their existence or the possibility of lives like his. He was a member of the white working class, a man often afflicted by despair who still managed to retain a core optimism. Perhaps in a different time under different cultural influences living in a different society he would have become one of the rabid old angry white men of whom the present left is so afeared. As it was, born in 1925 and dying in 2006, he saw his children benefit from the civilized postwar protections of free education and free health care, and felt he had many reasons to be grateful…

Read the entire talk here.

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Avoiding the One-Drop Rule

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Census/Demographics, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United States on 2016-12-20 23:31Z by Steven

Avoiding the One-Drop Rule

The Harvard Advocate
Fall 2016

Eli Lee

This past January, I attended a concert at Philadelphia’s First Unitarian Church. The audience in the church’s dimly lit basement was tattooed, bedecked in social justice slogans and, like most punk show crowds, predominantly white. Two hours into the show, a local hardcore band with both white and Black members took the stage. As they launched into their blistering set, I followed my instinct and, bobbing to the rhythm, started to work my way forward through the crowd. By the time the band had finished playing their first song, I had made significant progress toward the stage. That’s when the band’s lead singer leaned into the mic and yelled: “It’s fuckin’ 2016! BROWN PEOPLE TO THE FRONT!”

As the drummer counted in the next song of the set, I began to experience a minor identity crisis. I am a person of mixed Jewish and Vietnamese heritage, and my skin is several shades darker than that of the average Anglo- American. Indeed, even during the dimmest days of winter, my complexion never brightens beyond an even tan. But at that moment, I asked myself: am I brown or not? And if not, then what was I doing pushing myself towards the front of the crowd? I didn’t know the answer to the rst question—or maybe I couldn’t decide—and so I found myself frozen, rooted to my spot, unable to even pogo.

That confusion—that sense of misplacedness and strangeness in the face of a racial binary—is nothing new in America. Since anti-miscegenation laws were ruled unconstitutional in 1967, the population of multiracial Americans has grown to represent nearly seven percent of the country. Today, multiracial America is expanding at a rate three times as fast as the country’s population at large…

Read the entire article here.

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How Kathleen Collins’s Daughter Kept Her Late Mother’s Career Alive

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Biography, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2016-12-12 19:10Z by Steven

How Kathleen Collins’s Daughter Kept Her Late Mother’s Career Alive


Nina Lorez Collins

Nina Collins in a Karen Walker dress.
Photographed by Ryan Pfluger, Vogue, September 2016

A struggling filmmaker whose life was cut short by illness, Kathleen Collins has a soaring career since her daughter reopened her archive.

Ten years ago, in the middle of an ugly divorce, the most banal of realizations came upon me: In order to find a path out of the mess I’d made, I needed to wrestle with the history that had shaped me. My mother, the late African-American writer, filmmaker, and activist Kathleen Collins, died of breast cancer in 1988 at age 46, when I was still a teenager, leaving me to care for my younger brother. Our parents had split when we were toddlers, and we had been raised by a single, black artist mother, vibrant yet frequently depressed, and unwavering in her commitment to her work. She had kept her illness a secret until two weeks before she died.

In those first few weeks after we buried her, I filled an old steamer trunk with every scrap of paper I could find among my mother’s things: copies of her many plays, short stories, screenplays, journals, letters; and VHS tapes of her two films, The Cruz Brothers and Miss Malloy and Losing Ground, neither of which had been released theatrically. Along with her work and personal correspondence, there were photographs of her ancestors dating back to 1700s New Jersey farmland, snapshots of her singing with Freedom Riders in Albany, Georgia, in 1962, and a handful of high-quality artistic images of her taken by my father when they were still in love. Over the next two decades, that heavy trunk moved with me everywhere I lived. It was a coffee table in my first studio, spent some time at the foot of my bed in my 20s, and eventually, when I had a house, was relegated to my basement. I often wanted to look inside, and a few times I made tentative forays, but the sight of my mother’s familiar scrawl on the pages made me feel shaky. It was simply, for a very long time, too sad for me to hear her voice again…

…Eighteen years later, on a still midsummer day, I turned to the trunk in earnest. I was upstate, in the home I’d made for myself and my four children in the wake of my divorce. Surrounded by optimistic colors, I lifted the handle in hope of understanding so many things. Reaching inside, I pulled out yellowed reams of paper, some handwritten, others typed. There were short stories I never knew existed, about growing up black bourgeoise in Jersey City; others that fictionalized the intense civil rights work she did with SNCC in her 20s (she worked on voter registration and speechwriting). I found accounts of her difficult relationships with men, from my white father to the playwrights, actors, and writers who followed. I discovered plays and screenplays about the loss of her own mother—my grandmother died when my mother was five months old—and her stern father. After years of being afraid to delve in, I now couldn’t stop reading. The stories were like a portal to her inner life, the themes and characters both strange and familiar, in that way that everything about our parents somehow already exists within us…

Read the entire article here.

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What I Found in Standing Rock

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2016-12-12 00:03Z by Steven

What I Found in Standing Rock

The Players’ Tribune

Bronson Koenig, Guard
Wisconsin Badgers

Photos by Alexandra Hootnick/The Players’ Tribune

Near the edge of the Standing Rock camp in North Dakota, about 50 yards from a tributary of the Missouri River, there’s a basketball hoop. It’s one of those worn-out outdoor hoops that leans forward a little bit, almost as if the wind had bent it.

In September, I drove from my home state of Wisconsin to the Standing Rock reservation, land of the Hunkpapa Sioux. I got in after dark so I didn’t see the layout of the whole camp until the sun rose the next morning. When I unzipped my tent, I saw a valley full of Native people — thousands of people camping out in tents, RVs and teepees — from over 300 tribes. There were license plates from almost every state.

They’d come to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline, an underground oil pipeline being constructed less than a half mile from the reservation. The tribe says the pipeline will plow through ancient burial grounds and could poison the reservation’s water supply, as well as the water supply of millions of people downriver.

In the morning air I smelled burning sage, the plant used during Native American spiritual ceremonies. A woman walked by with a shirt that read THIS IS OUR LAND, and a couple of kids on horses trotted past. Someone was giving directions to a communal kitchen and generators were humming nearby. I saw some flags flying upside down, the signal for distress. I could hear Sioux singers and the unmistakable thumping of drums. It sounded like a battle cry…

…I’m one of about 60 Native American students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, a school with more than 30,000 undergrads, and one of only about 40 Native American Division I men’s college basketball players in the country. I’m not too surprised that almost no one at school knew much about the Ho-Chunk tribe. My whole life, I’ve had friends and classmates ask me the most basic questions about my heritage. Did I wear feathers? Do my parents run a casino? One high school classmate even admitted that he didn’t think Indian reservations still existed. Before I got to college, I had rarely ever heard a mention of Native American history in school — all I remember from 11th grade is some reading about Native American agriculture and a couple of paragraphs in a history book on the Trail of Tears, the forced march on which all those people died in the winter of 1838…

Read the entire article here.

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When Looks Deceive: Being Biracial in Poland

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Europe, Media Archive on 2016-12-11 21:21Z by Steven

When Looks Deceive: Being Biracial in Poland


Julia Kitlinski-hong
San Francisco, California

It was a late December evening and my mom had just arrived in Krakow, where I had been studying for the past three months. We were making our way from my apartment to where she was staying in the nearby city center.

As we approached the Main Square, a group of rowdy young men approached us.

It happened in a brief second, but their words were unmistakably clear.


It lingered in the shadows of the street long after they disappeared down the road…

Read the entire article here.

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