Blended Families

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, United States on 2015-09-09 19:47Z by Steven

Blended Families

Mixed Roots Stories
2015-09-02

Tru Leverette, Associate Professor of English
University of North Florida, Jacksonville, Florida

What does it mean to call a family blended? The term still refers to families formed after divorce and remarriage—step-parents and step-children and step-siblings pieced together in new patterns. The term can also encompass families that are interracial; in these families, blending takes on additional permutations that certainly have puzzled some throughout history.

Like other interracial families, those that are also blended through remarriage contend with external assumptions and judgments—the confused looks and questioning glances, the “ah-ha” moments or oblivious denial. When I was married to my daughter’s father—who, like me, has both a black and a white parent—I slipped into the ease of relative inconspicuousness for the first time in my life…

Read the entire article here.

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Mixed Race Stereotypes in South African and American Literature by Diana Adesola Mafe (review)

Posted in Africa, Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, South Africa, United States on 2015-05-26 01:30Z by Steven

Mixed Race Stereotypes in South African and American Literature by Diana Adesola Mafe (review)

Research in African Literatures
Volume 46, Number 2, Summer 2015
pages 166-168

Tru Leverette, Associate Professor of English
University of North Florida, Jacksonville, Florida

Mafe, Diana Adesola, Mixed Race Stereotypes in South African and American Literature: Coloring Outside the (Black and White) Lines (New York, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013)

In her recently published study, Diana Adesola Mafe explores the literary trope of the tragic mulatto through a comparative analysis of American and South African novels. Her work is both useful and timely, filling a gap in the literary study of colouredness and the transnational study of mixed race literature. Through this transnational lens, Mafe argues that the advent of the “age of Obama” and the renewed celebration of race mixture in the United States coincide with South Africa’s post-apartheid efforts to imagine itself as a Rainbow Nation. This celebration in both nations, however, overlooks important historical realities that are often explored through the literary figure of the tragic mulatto. Acknowledging that mulattos have often been “called upon to embody historic national moments” (1), Mafe asserts “a reading of South African fictions alongside American counterparts reveals the ongoing relevance of the tragic mulatto, which functions not only as a dated cliché and cautionary tale but also as a radical embodiment of possibility and a vehicle for social critique” (2). Indeed, Mafe illustrates through her analysis that the tragic mulatto has long functioned as a trope through which American and South African writers have critiqued race, identity, national belonging, and state-sanctioned racism.

Mafe begins her study with the introduction “Tainted Blood: The ‘Tragic Mulatto’ Tradition,” wherein she introduces the celebration of mixture within the contemporary sociopolitical contexts of the United States and South Africa. She also begins to address the tragic mulatto as a historical type. Acknowledging that, in the United States, the tragic mulatto trope developed as an abolitionist tool, Mafe briefly explores its origins in antebellum and postbellum literature. Additionally, she presents a justification for her comparative study, arguing “the tragic mulatto is a provocative keystone for analyzing these American and South African texts, which might otherwise have little else in common. When read alongside each other, these fictions expose mutual histories of stigmatization and marginalization for the mulatto figure” (14).

In chapter one, “God’s Stepchildren: The ‘Tragedy of Being a Halfbreed’ in South African Literature,” Mafe offers a history of miscegenation in South Africa and the United States, allowing her to trace the origins of the coloured and mulatto populations, respectively, in each nation. Having delineated this history, Mafe then turns her attention to the use of colouredness in South African fiction, which, she asserts, was not offered in-depth characterization until the twentieth century: “This development is inextricable from the emergence of colouredness as a ‘new’ social identity, mounting national interest in race categorization, and a literary shift from exploring Anglo-Boer relations to exploring black-white relations” (34). Through analyses of Sarah Gertrude Millin’s eugenicist novel God’s Step-Children and Peter Abrahams’s The Path of Thunder, Mafe establishes the literary origins and original uses of the tragic mulatto trope in South African literature. Throughout, she draws parallels with and highlights divergences from the use of the trope in American literature, in particular Nella Larsen’s Quicksand and Passing and James Weldon Johnson’s Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man.

In her next chapter, “‘An Unlovely Woman’: Bessie Head’s Mulatta (Re) Vision,” Mafe turns her analysis to the life and work of South African writer Bessie Head, specifically her novel A Question of Power, arguing “this text is a startling conceptualization of the mulatta that parallels but also challenges the efforts of earlier American writers” (59). Mafe explores the stereotype of the beautiful tragic mulatta and Head’s inversion of it through the presentation of an ugly protagonist, simultaneously exploring the novel’s ironic use of madness and its presentation of female sexuality. Since depictions of the tragic mulatta typically position her between the demands of white female respectability and the stereotype of black female passion, Head’s protagonist “destabilizes the exotic and erotic iconography of the mulatta, which is remarkably consistent in the American tradition” (63).

Turning from the tragic mulatta, in chapter three Mafe analyzes presentations of the mulatto man’s sexuality, again torn between “‘white’ propriety and ‘black’ passion” (86) and his filial relationship to his white father. In “‘A Little Yellow Bastard Boy’: Arthur Nortje’s Mulatto Manhood,” Mafe reads the father-son dynamic in…

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Skin

Posted in Articles, Family/Parenting, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United States on 2015-01-28 17:18Z by Steven

Skin

Mixed Roots Stories
2015-01-26

Tru Leverette, Associate Professor of English
University of North Florida, Jacksonville, Florida

“I wish I had white skin,” my three year-old daughter said, swinging breezily at the park.

Gulp. “Why do you say that, Sweetheart?” I asked, outwardly calm but inwardly exclaiming, Shit! What do I do with this?

“Because all of the friends at school have white skin.” Very matter-of-factly.

***

I think about race a lot, both professionally and personally, and perhaps more than the average person. I work as a professor teaching race-related literature classes and grew up as a “brown-skinned white girl,” as France Winddance Twine has called mixed race girls raised in white households and predominantly white communities. I remember as a preschooler myself in the 1970s telling my teacher that I wished I had long, blonde hair (and presumably pale skin) and, though I’m embarrassed to admit this deep-seated desire I held at the time, pastel underwear. So I wasn’t entirely surprised that my daughter, the beautifully brown-skinned child of her mixed race father and I, would develop feelings similar to those I’d had as a child, given the predominantly white school she attended.

But so soon? And how did she internalize the idea that dark skin is undesirable when she hasn’t been a TV watcher and has been celebrated with Doc McStuffins and brown baby dolls?…

Read the entire article here.

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Traveling Identities: Mixed Race Quests and Fran Ross’s “Oreo”

Posted in Articles, Media Archive on 2011-01-19 05:07Z by Steven

Traveling Identities: Mixed Race Quests and Fran Ross’s “Oreo”

African American Review
Volume 40, Number 1 (Spring 2006)

Tru Leverette
University of North Florida, Jacksonville

The Frontier: Where Two Come Together

Traveling to my grandmother’s funeral during my first marriage, my white husband and I walked down the narrow plane aisle toward our seats. In front of me was a black woman who stopped the line when she reached her row and asked the white man in the aisle to excuse her as she settled herself into the window seat. As she seated herself, the man looked at me and asked, “Are you two together?” I said no and proceeded past him and his bewildered look.

My husband scoffed, loudly enough for the man to hear, “That was an interesting assumption, huh?”

“Yeah,” I replied. “But you know that happens to me all the time.”

And, indeed, it does. People readily assume I “belong” with any other people of color in the vicinity, and rarely, if ever, do they assume that I “belong” with my husband. Reflecting on the incident now, I wonder how effectively I could have articulated my sense of place if I’d answered the man’s question affirmatively, though unexpectedly: “Yes, I am two together.”

Because I see myself as both black and white, I, like many other persons born to parents of different races, sometimes think of myself as moving in the space that unites the two, as traveling from one shore to another given certain contexts, and other times as sailing the river that forms the meridian between two shores. Such metaphors of movement, travel, and cruising are not uncommon in explorations of mixed race identity; in fact, the metaphor of border-crosser has been taken up readily and used to suggest a mobility and  indeterminacy that may not be as easily accessible as the metaphor suggests. Mixed race identity often has been considered a “frontier” in race relations, if I can extend the travel metaphor into the realm of quest. (1) Thus, the anecdote with which I began this essay fittingly exemplifies the role of movement, travel, and quest in explorations and definitions of mixed race identity. Alternatively, the anecdote may invoke Denise Riley’s suggestion that identity “is more accurately conceived as a state which fluctuates for the individual” (6). The notion that various components of identity come into the foreground and recede  in differing situations may be more useful in interrogating the workings of identity than that of the border crosser. We may imagine individuals traveling with identities whose components are variously enacted or shelved without imagining that these individuals are completely liberated from the constraints of identity, as if their ability to cross borders were a ticket into every desirable community and a ticket out of every undesirable situation.

These introductory comments regarding travel and quest are important to the following discussion of Oreo, the recently republished novel by Fran Ross. This novel explores the possibilities within mixed race identity as it attempts to assert a utopian sense of racial harmony and wholeness and to grapple with the theoretical and philosophical questions of mixed race and gender. Its metaphors of traveler and quester concur with discourses of mixed race that  theorize such individuals in terms of the past—as outcasts who seek an acknowledgement and understanding of their origins—and in terms of the future—as pioneers whose existence may foster the racial harmony of utopian visions. In keeping with other discourses of mixed race identity, the novel prioritizes questions of history and origins as well as future possibilities for imagining race. Within Oreo, the personal utopia sought also connects to the longing for a national utopia that would rectify the racial discord of the period in which it was written—during the Black Nationalist Movement of the 1970s. Originally published in 1974, Ross’s novel was not well received since it both literally and figuratively plays with the ideologies of race and gender that were being debated at the time. One January 1975 review describes the novel as “experimental, intelligent, and even funny in places. The dialogue, however, is a strange mixture of Uncle Remus and Lenny Bruce, and quite often unintelligible” (Salassi 146). This initial review offers a striking contrast to one following the novel’s reprinting in 2000, when it is heralded as “a true twenty-first century novel.” According to this review, the novel’s “wit is global, hybrid and uproarious; its meditation on language is simultaneously irreverent, appropriative and serious” (Foreman and Stein-Evers 36). This latter review, however, problematically champions “the goodness of ambiguity which leads everywhere,” asserting that “the triumphant  chameleon [Oreo] goes unnoticed wherever it chooses.” Such claims of liberty and unobstructed movement display precisely the dangerous assumption inherent in notions of the border crosser as they are often articulated. Oreo by no means suggests that the dualities of identity make it possible for one to escape the realities and constraints of racism, sexism, and oppression. Rather, the novel suggests that dualities allow one to play (both literally and figuratively) with the structures of identity, allow one to manipulate boundaries and seek agency in arenas where these structures might seem rigid and inaccessible, respectively…

Read the entire article here.

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Other Tongues: Mixed-Race Women Speak Out

Posted in Anthologies, Books, Canada, Gay & Lesbian, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Poetry, United States, Women on 2010-12-29 22:00Z by Steven

Other Tongues: Mixed-Race Women Speak Out

Inanna Publications
November 2010
250 pages
ISBN-10: 1926708148
ISBN-13: 978-1-926708-14-0

Edited by

Adebe De Rango-Adem (Adebe D. A.)

Andrea Thompson

This anthology of poetry, spoken word, fiction, creative non-fiction, spoken word texts, as well as black and white artwork and photography, explores the question of how mixed-race women in North America identify in the twenty-first century. Contributions engage, document, and/or explore the experiences of being mixed-race, by placing interraciality as the center, rather than periphery, of analysis. The anthology also serves as a place to learn about the social experiences, attitudes, and feelings of others, and what racial identity has come to mean today.

Adebe De Rango-Adem recently completed a research writing fellowship at the Applied Research Center in New York, where she wrote for ColorLines, America’s primary magazine on race politics. She has served as Assistant Editor for the literary journal Existere, and is a founding member of s.t.e.p.u.p.—a poetry collective dedicated to helping young writers develop their spoken word skills. Her poetry has been featured in journals such as Canadian Woman Studies, The Claremont Review, Canadian Literature, and cv2. She won the Toronto Poetry Competition in 2005 to become Toronto’s first Junior Poet Laureate, and is the author of a chapbook entitled Sea Change (2007). Her debut poetry collection, Ex Nihilo, will be published in early 2010.

Andrea Thompson is a performance poet who has been featured on film, radio, and television, with her work published in magazines and anthologies across Canada. Her debut collection, Eating the Seed (2000), has been featured on reading lists at the University of Toronto and the Ontario College of Art and Design, and her spoken word CD, One, was nominated for a Canadian Urban Music Award in 2005. A pioneer of slam poetry in Canada, Thompson has also hosted Heart of a Poet on Bravo tv, CiTr Radio’s spoken word show, Hearsay. In 2008, she toured her Spoken Word/Play Mating Rituals of the Urban Cougar across the country, and in 2009 was the Poet of Honour at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word.

Table of Contents (Thanks to Nicole Asong Nfonoyim)

  • Acknowledgements
  • Preface –Carol Camper
  • Introduction – Adebe DeRango-Adem and Andrea Thompson1
  • RULES/ROLES
    • Enigma – Andrea Thompson
    • Blond- Natasha Trethewey
    • Mixed- Sandra Kasturi
    • pick one – Chistine Sy and Aja
    • My Sista, Mi Hermana – Phoenix Rising
    • little half-black-breed – Tasha Beeds
    • “White Mask” – Jordan Clarke
    • “Nothing is just black or white” – Jordan Clarke
    • Roll Call – Kirya Traber
    • What Am I? – Marijane Castillo
    • Casting Call: Looking for White Girls and Latinas – D.Cole Ossandon
    • Conversations of Confrontation – Natasha Morris
    • “why i don’t say i’m white”- Alexis Kienlen
    • “Confession #8” – Mica Lee Anders
    • “Other Female” – Mica Lee Anders
    • “MMA and MLA” – Mica Lee Anders
    • The Pieces/Peace(is) in Me – monica rosas
    • Generation Gap (Hawaiian Style) – ku’ualoha ho’omanawanui
    • The Incident that Never Happened – Ann Phillips
    • In the Dark – Anajli Enjeti-Sydow
    • ananse vs. anasi (2007) – Rea McNamara
    • Contamination-  Amber Jamilla Musser
    • A Mixed Journey From the Outside In – Liberty Hultberg
    • What Are You? – Kali Fajardo-Anstine
    • One Being Brown – Tru Leverette
    • One for Everyday of the Week – Michelle Lopez Mulllins
    • Savage Stasis – Gena Chang-Campbell
    • The Half-Breed’s Guide to Answering the Question – M. C. Shumaker
    • My Definition – Kay’la Fraser
    • Pop Quiz – Erin Kobayashi
  • ROOTS/ROUTES
    • Melanomial – Sonnet L’Abbe
    • half-breed – Jonina Kirton
    • “Inca/Jew” – Margo Rivera-Weiss
    • Open Letter – Adebe DeRango Adem
    • Prism Woman – Adebe DeRango-Adem
    • Southern Gothic – Natasha Trethewey
    • The Drinking Gourd- Miranda Martini
    • Reflection – Jonina Kirton
    • “Untitled” White Sequence – Cassie Mulheron
    • “Untitled” Black Sequence – Cassie Mulheron
    • Mapping Identities – Gail Prasad
    • Whose Child Are You? – Amy Pimentel
    • From the Tree – Lisa Marie Rollins
    • My sister’s hair – ku’ualoha ho’omanawanui
    • I, too, hear the dreams – Peta Gaye-Nash
    • Learning to Love Me – Michelle Jean-Paul
    • A Conversation among Friends – Nicole Salter
    • The Combination of the Two – Rachel Afi Quinn
    • “Loving Series: Elena Rubin” – Laura Kina
    • On the Train – Naomi Angel
    • Coloured – Sheila Addiscott
    • Of Two Worlds – Christina Brobby
    • What is my Culture? – Karen Hill
    • mo’oku’auhau (Genealogy) – ku’ualoha ho’omanawanui
    • Siouxjewgermanscotblack [cultural software instructions] – Robin M. Chandler
    • “Loving Series: Shoshanna Weinberger” – Laura Kina
    • A Hairy Situation – Saedhlinn B. Stweart-Laing
    • “Pot Vida” – Margo Rivera-Weiss
    • Songs Feet Can Get – Rage Hezekiah
    • Opposite of Fence – Lisa Marie Rollins
    • Applique – Lisa Marie Rollins
    • Blanqueamiento – Adebe DeRango-Adem
    • The Land – Farideh de Bossett
    • Native Speaker: Daring to Name Ourselves – Nicole Asong Nfonoyim
  • REVELATIONS
    • Colour Lesson I – Adebe DeRango-Adem
    • Concealed Things – Adebe DeRango-Adem
    • Serendipity – Priscila Uppal
    • “Ultramarine” – Margo Rivera-Weiss
    • before i was this – Katherena Vermette
    • Firebelly – Andrea Thompson
    • From Chopsticks to Meatloaf and Back Again – Jasmine Moy
    • My Power – Sonnet L’Abbe
    • Whitewashed – Kathryn McMillan
    • Actually, I’m Black – Marcelite Failla
    • “Self” – Lisa Walker
    • Grey (A Bi-racial Poem) – Sonya Littlejohn
    • Nubia’s Dream – Mica Valdez
    • both sides – Jonina Kirton
    • Mulatto Nation – Marika Schwandt
    • Colour Lesson II – Adebe DeRango-Adem
    • racially queer femme – Kimberly Dree Hudson
    • mypeople – Ruha Benjamin
    • My Life in Pieces – Jennifer Adese
    • Burden of Proof: From Colon-Eyes to Kaleidoscope – Angela Dosalmas
    • Recipe for mixing – Tomie Hahn
    • Metamorphosis – Gena Chang-Campbell
    • The Land Knows – Shandra Spears Bombay
    • Land in Place: Mapping the Grandmother – Joanne Arnott
    • “I am the leaf, you are the leaf” – Lisa Walker
    • Language and the Ethics of Mixed Race – Debra Thompson
    • Hybrid Identity and Writing of Presence – Jackie Wang
  • Contributors Notes
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Speaking Up: Mixed Race Identity in Black Communities

Posted in Articles, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science on 2009-06-20 04:16Z by Steven

Speaking Up: Mixed Race Identity in Black Communities

Journal of Black Studies
Volume 39, Number 3 (January 2009)
pages 434-445
DOI: 10.1177/0021934706297875

Tru Leverette
University of North Florida, Jacksonville

Within Black communities, individuals of mixed Black/White parentage have faced diverse reactions, ranging from elevation to scorn. These reactions have often been based on the oppressions of history, the injustices of the present, and the hopes for a radically different future. This article traces the common historical responses, both positive and negative, within Black communities to mixed race identities, thereby elucidating contemporary reactions to race mixture within Black communities. In so doing, it argues that an historical understanding of these reactions as well as a recognition of the positions mixed race individuals occupy can challenge assumptions about race, difference, identity, and community—fostering new ground on which individuals can stand for common causes within heterogeneous communities.

Read or purchase the article here.

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