Interview with upcoming CultureFest Performer Laura Kina

Posted in Articles, Arts, Asian Diaspora, Interviews, Media Archive, United States on 2014-03-11 22:09Z by Steven

Interview with upcoming CultureFest Performer Laura Kina

Multiracial Network Blog

To start us off, we have an interview from our CultureFest performer Laura Kina! As can also be found on her website ( Laura is an artist and scholar who focuses “on the fluidity of cultural difference and the slipperiness of identity”. With subjects ranging from Asian American history to mixed race representation, her work blends autobiography with artwork, breaking down stories and putting them back together. Come see her perform “Hapa Yonsei Uchinanchu” her “talk story” about her Okinawan family history in Hawaii and her multiracial identity while showing images of her recent oil paintings and much more! Check her out at CultureFest on Sunday March 30 from 6-9pm in the Convention Center, as part of CelebrACPA immediately after the opening ceremony.

  1. Where and how do you get your inspiration for your art?
  2. Do you have a favorite piece of art you’ve created? Why?

[I’m going to answer both questions at once below]

My artwork usually starts out with an autobiographical impulse and series of questions and then develops as I gather source materials and do field research. For example, in my current exhibition Blue Hawaiʻi, which is on view through March 27, 2014 at the University of Memphis Fogelman Galleries of Contemporary Art, I initially traveled to Hawaiʻi in 2009 to look at community and family photos and interview elders in my dad’s Pi’ihonua sugarcane plantation community on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi as well as other Nisei (2nd generation) and Sansei (3rd generation) from nearby plantations. I grew up in a small Norwegian town called Poulsbo, WA and aside from my dad and my grandma Kina, I was pretty cut off from this part of my heritage. We’d go back as tourists and grew up eating Spam Musubi but I wanted to learn about the real Hawaiʻi and what it means to be Uchinanchu (Okinawan)…

…4. What was the process of creating, organizing, and implementing the Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference?

I went to this 2008 leadership retreat with my DePaul colleague Camilla Fojas. She had just published her co-edited book Mixed Race Hollywood (NYU Press, 2008) with Mary Beltrán and I was beginning to teach a class called “Mixed Race Art and Identity.” We were doing a workshop activity where you put post-it notes up on a wall with where you see yourself in five years in the multiracial movement and what you want to work on. After everyone had their dreams on the wall, we moved out post-it notes around to align with each other. It was out of this activity and other theater and drawing activities that Camilla Fojas, and Wei Ming Dariotis from San Francisco State University, and I had the very practical idea to work towards legitimizing multiracial studies in an academic context. Our hope was to found an association for critical mixed race studies. We used the word “critical” from “critical race” theory to point towards systems of racialization and used the “mixed race” (with no hyphen) from what was being used at the time (as opposed to “multiracial”) to define the movement. The no hyphen comes from us ditching hyphenated identities in Asian America. I know this is confusing when “mixed-race” is used as a compound modifier! We sat down and hammered out a definition, which we are still using today for Critical Mixed Race Studies:

Critical Mixed Race Studies is the transracial, transdisciplinary, and transnational critical analysis of the institutionalization of social, cultural, and political orders based on dominant conceptions of race. CMRS emphasizes the mutability of race and the porosity of racial boundaries in order to critique processes of racialization and social stratification based on race. CMRS addresses local and global systemic injustices rooted in systems of racialization.

But before we could found an association we figured we should start small by organizing a conference. We sent out a call for papers in 2009 and by the time the inaugural conference “Emerging Paradigms in Critical Mixed Race Studies” took shape in November 2010 we had over 200 paper submissions and 430 people attended. What was unique about this first conference is that it wasn’t a student conference, as most large-scale meetings on multiraciality had been up to this point. It was an academic conference but it also recognized the movements community roots and included arts and community programming and it drew national and international participation. For our subsequent 2012 conference “What is Critical Mixed Race Studies?”, which over 450 people attended, we sought to keep this core spirit but wished to professionalize the process to ensure peer review but to also create a sustainable process for the conference can keep going. Camilla Fojas worked with an external panel of reviewers to select the papers and I partnered with Mixed Roots Stories to organize arts programming. We are doing this again for the Nov 13-15, 2014 conference “Global Mixed Race.”

To read in detail about the history of multiracial studies in the U.S. and the founding of Critical Mixed Race Studies, please read the inaugural issue of the Journal of Critical Mixed Race Studies article “Emerging Paradigms in Critical Mixed Race Studies” by G. Reginald Daniel, Laura Kina, Wei Ming Dariotis, and Camilla Fojas…

Read the entire interview here.

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Dream of the Water Children: Memory and Mourning in the Black Pacific

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Biography, Books, Forthcoming Media, Monographs on 2014-03-08 23:55Z by Steven

Dream of the Water Children: Memory and Mourning in the Black Pacific

2Leaf Press
October 2014
300 pages
Paperback ISBN-13: 978-1-940939-28-5
ePub ISBN-13: 978-1-940939-29-2

Fredrick D. Kakinami Cloyd

Dream of the Water Children, at once a haunting collective memory and a genre-bending critical account of dominance and survival, interweaves intimate multi-family details with global politics spanning generations and continents. Fredrick D. Kakinami Cloyd’s debut work defies categorization as histories and families are intimately connected through sociological ghosts alive in the present. It is a one-of-a-kind ‘non-fiction’ inter-disciplinary evocation that will appeal to not only those interested in Black and Asian relations and mixed-race Amerasian histories, but also a wide general audience including those interested in Asian, Asian-American, Nikkei, African-American, and mixed-race identities as well as multicultural literature, history and post-colonial memoir. Those focused on academic studies such as women and gender studies, ethnic and critical mixed-race studies, social justice curriculum, political histories, memory, feminism, and militarization, etc. will appreciate the profound questions for thought that rise up from the pages. Cloyd’s book not only challenges readers to explore technologies of violence, identity, difference, and our responsibilities to the world, it will also move readers through emotional depths.

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Betwixt, Between and Beyond: Racial formation and “mixed race” identities in New Zealand and Singapore

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Dissertations, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Oceania, Social Science on 2014-03-08 06:13Z by Steven

Betwixt, Between and Beyond: Racial formation and “mixed race” identities in New Zealand and Singapore

National University of Singapore
345 pages

Zarine Lia Rocha


“Mixed race” identities are increasingly important for academics and policy makers around the world. In many multicultural societies, individuals of mixed ancestry are identifying outside of traditional racial categories, posing a challenge to systems of racial classification, and to sociological understandings of race. Singapore and New Zealand illustrate the complex relationship between state categorization and individual identities. Both countries are diverse, with high rates of intermarriage, and a legacy of colonial racial organization. However, New Zealand’s emphasis on voluntary, fluid ethnic identity and Singapore’s fixed four-race framework provide key points of contrast. Each represents the opposite end of the spectrum in addressing “mixed race”: multiple ethnic options have been recognized in New Zealand for several decades, while symbolic recognition is now being implemented in Singapore.

This research explores histories of racial formation in New Zealand and Singapore, focusing on narratives of racial formation. The project examines two simultaneous processes: how individuals of mixed heritage negotiate identities within a racially structured framework, and why—how racial classification has affected this over time. Using a narrative lens, state-level narratives of racial formation are juxtaposed with individual narratives of identity. “Mixedness” is then approached from a different angle, moving away from classifications of identity, towards a characterization of narratives of reinforcement, accommodation, transcendence and subversion.

Drawing on a series of 40 interviews, this research found similarities and differences across the two contexts. In Singapore, against a racialized framework with significant material consequences, top-down changes sought to symbolically acknowledge mixedness, without upsetting the multiracial balance. In New Zealand, state efforts to remove “race” from public discourse allow ethnicity to be understood more flexibly, yet this has not always translated easily to everyday life. For individuals in Singapore, narratives were shaped by a racialized background, as they located themselves within pervasive racial structures. In New Zealand, stories were positioned against a dual narrative of fluidity and racialization, reflected in narratives that embraced ambiguity while referring back to racialized categories.

The four narrative characterizations illustrated the diversity of stories within each context, yet highlighted certain patterns. Narratives of transcendence were present in both countries, illustrating how historical racialization can be rejected. Narratives of accommodation were more common in New Zealand, as the dissonance between public and private understandings of mixedness was less stark. Narratives of reinforcement were more frequently seen in Singapore, mirroring colonial/post-colonial projects of racial formation in which personal stories were located. Narratives of subversion were present in both countries, but were more common in New Zealand, where subversion required less conscious effort.

Overall, this research drew out how identity can diverge from official classification, as individuals worked to navigate difference at an everyday level. State acknowledgements of mixedness served to highlight the continued dissonance between fluid identities and fixed racial categories, as well as the unique balance of racialized choice and constraint in Singapore and in New Zealand. Personal narratives revealed the creative ways in which people crossed boundaries, and the everyday negotiations between classification, heritage, and experience in living mixed identities.

Read the entire dissertation here.

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The Racial Pecking Order in British Theatre and TV

Posted in Articles, Arts, Asian Diaspora, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2014-03-06 04:44Z by Steven

The Racial Pecking Order in British Theatre and TV

Media Diversified: Tackling the lack of diversity in UK media and the ubiquity of whiteness

Daniel York

I’ve been reading a book recently by the American sociologist David T. Wellman with the frankly terrifying title Portraits Of White Racism. I say terrifying because it conjures all kinds of images of Aryan skinhead fascists with big boots and arm-bands. I find myself hiding the lurid green cover of the book so people won’t see it when I’m reading it on the tube.

In fact the book isn’t about skinhead fascists at all. Rather its premise is to refute the popular notion that all “racism” is born of ignorant prejudice. Instead Wellman’s subject is

culturally sanctioned strategies for defending social advantage based on race”.

Of course the very word “racism” is now so incendiary it actually seems to have become worse to call someone a racist than actually be one. But leaving aside Wellman’s terminology there is something clearly and fundamentally unequal in UK society and particularly in the industry I work in, that of screen and stage, something that black British actor and playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah recently referred to as “structural inequality” .

The book (written in the 1970’s) features quotes  along the lines of

“I’m not opposed to mixed busing ; I’m opposed to the time it takes” and “I can understand militancy but it’s self-defeating”. My industry is full of these kind of rationalisations:-

Yes, there should be more opportunities for actors/writers of colour. But it won’t happen overnight(Why ever not?)

“There should be more roles for actors of colour. But we need the writers from those communities to write roles for minority ethnic actors” (Well, a) You could commission some and b) Do we have to be from a separate and foreign “community”?)

We definitely need to put more training initiatives in place”

(In other word we’re going to continue side-lining you now whilst we tick our boxes running workshops for people with no experience thereby diminishing your experience and expertise)…

…Ethnic roles are often very clichedly “ethnic” and badly written. They are also cast with a completely different criteria by people who are literally picking exotic flowers for their garden. The number of times I’ve been told “they didn’t think you looked Chinese enough” (I’m of mixed descent) is simply too often to be arbitrary. My agent was once told “we specifically do NOT want any Eurasians”. On the other side of the coin, I’ve seen casting breakdowns calling for African-Caribbean actors requesting they not be “too dark”. In addition we’re often expected to be de facto cultural “experts”, to speak a range of languages and have all manner of physical “skills” at our disposal…

Read he entire article here.

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Featured Writer: Daniel York

Posted in Articles, Arts, Asian Diaspora, Interviews, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2014-03-06 04:30Z by Steven

Featured Writer: Daniel York

Banana Writers​: Where Asian writers get unpeeled

P. P. Wong

Daniel York is a successful scriptwriter, director and actor who is passionate about championing equal rights for creative East Asians.

Born of mixed Chinese and English parentage, the talented British writer was selected as part of the Royal Court’s Unheard Voices initiative for emerging East Asian writers. As a result of this, he was invited on to the Royal Court Studio writers group. His short play Song Of Four Seasons (四季歌) featured recently in Tamasha Theatre’s Music & Migration Scratch Night and his other full length play Fake Chinaman In Rehab was given a rehearsed reading by 3rd Kulture Kids in New York City.

As an actor, his feature films include Rogue Trader, starring Ewan McGregorThe Beach (directed by Danny Boyle) opposite Leonardo Di Caprio and the action film Doom starring The Rock.

Theatre work in London includes Mu-lan’s award winning production of Porcelain at the Royal Court and Forinbras opposite Alan Rickman’s Hamlet at the Riverside Studios. He has won the prestigious Singaporean Life! Theatre Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Pangdemonium’s production of Dealer’s Choice and Freud’s Last Session.

Daniel is currently starring with Katie Leung (Harry Potter) in the play The World of Extreme Happiness.

He is also challenging racist stereotypes of Chinese people through his hilarious play The Fu Manchu Complex.

In an exclusive interview with BW Daniel took time out of his busy schedule to share his wisdom about scriptwriting and what it really takes to get a play to the stage…

You have worked in the British arts industry for over fifteen years. Would you like to share your experiences as an East Asian artist?

I could actually write a book on this subject (maybe I should!).

When I first left drama school  I was immensely lucky as there was a theatre company called Mu-lan who put on gritty, edgy work that completely challenged stereotypes and was absolutely prepared to risk being controversial (in a good way). I was in plays like Porcelain (about a gay Chinese man who murders his boyfriend in a Bethnal Green toilet) which transferred and sold out at the Royal Court, Take Away (about a Chinese take away family in Hainault, Essex facing the winds of change) and, later on, Sun Is Shining (about a dysfunctional relationship between a mixed-race City trader and an alcoholic artist) which transferred off-Broadway New York.

Despite (or perhaps because of) this, Mu-lan lost its funding and there was literally no high-quality theatre work with challenging roles for East Asian actors. Without that you’re left with the mainstream and the mainstream industry in the UK has a real problem with East Asians.

They don’t know how to write for them and they often don’t know how to cast them. The only roles on TV are ridiculously stereotypical but even worse nearly always ridiculously bland. Plus it’s difficult to land those roles if you’re a mixed race male. If you can’t do TV it’s hard to do theatre. I’ve found a bit of joy in classical theatre but even now, with the CV I’ve got, I generally won’t be considered for Shakespeare or whatever. One theatre director who wanted to cast me in the lead in a play was met with the argument “but he’s Chinese!” from the theatre boss.

Generally with all acting you have to be able to portray a cliché successfully before you can move on. The most successful theatre actor of this generation is arguably Simon Russell Beale. I can remember seeing him early in his career play three camp, portly fops in Restoration comedies at Stratford. Literally the same role three times. But he was so good at it he became successful and then was able to break out.

But if all you can get seen for are take-away owners and waiters and you don’t look Chinese enough you’ve had it…

Read the entire interview here.

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‘Chinese, on the Inside’

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Family/Parenting, Gay & Lesbian, Media Archive, United States, Videos on 2014-03-05 01:44Z by Steven

‘Chinese, on the Inside’

The New York Times

Liz Mak, writer and multimedia producer
Oakland, California

Catie and Kimberly were adopted from China by a couple from Maine, who attempt to pass on a culture they’ve never known firsthand.

About a decade ago, Barbara Cough adopted two girls from China, Kimberly and Catie. Barbara and her partner, Marilyn Thomas, are raising the children in Portland, Me. I filmed the family last year when the girls (who are not biological sisters) were ages 9 and 11.

More than 80,000 girls have been adopted from China by Americans since 1991. In recent years, China has made adoptions by same-sex couples, already difficult, nearly impossible.

But at the time the girls were adopted, in 2003 and 2004, Barbara and Marilyn felt that adopting girls from China afforded them more protections as parents than domestic adoptions would have, given the complex rules around birth parents’ rights in America.

For Barbara, it was also a way to reconnect with her own history: her great-grandfather Daniel Cough was the first Chinese man in Maine to become a naturalized citizen of the United States. Though Barbara’s generation is only one-eighth Chinese, the family members proudly identify with their cultural heritage…

Read the opinion piece and watch the video here.

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Malaysians of mixed parentage back deleting ‘race’ in official paperwork

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Census/Demographics, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy on 2014-02-26 16:47Z by Steven

Malaysians of mixed parentage back deleting ‘race’ in official paperwork

The Malay Mail Online
Petaling Jaya, Malaysia

Ushar Daniele

PETALING JAYA, Feb 24 — The proposal to remove the race column in all paperwork in the country has been received positively.

he Malay Mail yesterday spoke to people on the street and with one voice, they agreed with the suggestion made by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Tan Sri Joseph Kurup after the National Unity Consultative Council’s meeting.

Engineer Shawn Sreedharan, 25, who is a mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian, said he had to ask his father whenever he had to fill in his race in a form.

“My father tells me to choose whichever I want but what defines my race is that I am a product of my father, so I would like to follow my father’s bloodline.

“Socially, I can be seen as Malay or Chinese but both works for me as ticking a box on a piece of paper does not define who I am.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Becoming Yellow: A Short History of Racial Thinking by Michael Keevak (review) [Spickard]

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive on 2014-02-26 16:36Z by Steven

Becoming Yellow: A Short History of Racial Thinking by Michael Keevak (review)

China Review International
Volume 19, Number 1, 2012
pages 103-105
DOI: 10.1353/cri.2012.0023

Paul Spickard, Professor of History
University of California, Santa Barbara

Michael Keevak, Becoming Yellow: A Short History of Racial Thinking (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011). 248 pages.

Becoming Yellow is a smart, erudite, intriguing, quirky, delightful, and ultimately unsatisfying book. Michael Keevak sets out to trace how, from the sixteenth century to the nineteenth, the skin color of East Asians changed from white to yellow in the minds of Europeans and how all East Asians came to be viewed as members of a single Mongolian race. His larger purpose may be to comment on the broader history of European racial thinking and, perhaps, to displace whiteness and blackness from the core of that story, although he never quite articulates that intent.

Keevak traces the ideas of some familiar racial thinkers: Linneaus, Blumenbach, Buffon, Cuvier, Broca, Gobineau, and Davenport. He also gives us a taste of the ideas of a lot of writers whose racial ideas have remained hidden to all but the most diligent scholars—people such as Giovanni da Empoli, Duarte Barbosa, Juan González de Mendoza, Karl Gützlaff, François Bernier, Johann Christian Polykarp Erxleben, G. S. Mellin, James Cowles Prichard, Carl Gustav Carus, and dozens of others.

The main outlines of Keevak’s book are clear. Becoming Yellow begins with an introduction that gestures toward several topics that will be treated later in the book. There follows a chapter on how the skin and character of East Asians were perceived by European scholars and missionaries in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. These are followed by an account of how Linnaeus, Blumenbach, and their eighteenth-century contemporaries arrived at yellow as the color that would stand for East Asians, and how they decided that Mongolians were the core people in East Asia. Then follows a chapter on the rise of anthropometry in the nineteenth century and the measurement of so-called Mongolians’ skull shapes, skin color, and the like. The next chapter focuses on the fascination of nineteenth-century Western medicine with Asian bodies—the so-called Mongolian eyefold, the Mongolian spot, Mongolism, and so on. The final chapter is a hodge-podge that briefly describes the turn-of-the-century Western political movement fed by fear of invasion by a “yellow peril.” It outlines the very different responses of Chinese and Japanese writers to Western ideas about Asian skin color and attempts to sum them up.

Keevak has a curious manner of pursing an argument. Despite the fairly clear overall arc of the book, each chapter is quite muddled internally. Keevak tends, early in each chapter, to refer, without explanation or context, to key ideas that he has not introduced (but, it turns out, may develop later). This approach suggests that the reader and author had already discussed the issue, so he does not have to establish or articulate its significance. The narrative in each chapter whirls around its subject, feinting here and there, rather than proceeding in a linear fashion. Keevak offers lots of esoteric details, all dutifully footnoted. He presents them by way of illustrating points, rather than as proof that his points are true. Even so, his knowledge is impressive. Then, when he comes to the major assertions in each chapter’s argument, there are no notes at all, and everything proceeds at the level of naked assertion. It is as if Keevak is displaying all his minute and intricate learning early on, so that we will believe him later, when he makes, unsupported, the key parts of his argument.

Nonetheless, many of his ideas are arresting, even if unsupported. To take just one example, Keevak concludes that “yellow began as a way of emphasizing Chinese proximity to Europeans . . . but . . . over time it had become redeployed as a term of complexional distance” (p. 34). This assertion might be true, though Keevak does not really demonstrate it, much less prove it.

Despite the shortcomings of his approach, each chapter is, nonetheless, quite delightful if one can let go of the need for linear arguments undergirded by solid supporting evidence. Keevak is so learned about odd esoterica that the reader can sit back and just enjoy the details. In each chapter Keevak presents a lovely collection—a bit like John Soane’s house on Lincoln Inn’s Fields in London—of overstuffed rooms of ephemera, all jumbled together, each of interest individually…

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Being Mixed in Today’s America

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Media Archive, United States on 2014-02-23 23:46Z by Steven

Being Mixed in Today’s America

Diverse: Issues in Higher Education

Jonathan Ng
California State University, San Bernardino

For me, being mixed ethnicity has been a multiple-way street ― like a giant intersection. I am Black, White and Chinese; however, based on my skin color, most people classify me as Black. I look racially ambiguous, so people like to ask me what I am. When I tell them that I am Black and White, they think, “Oh, that’s kind of what I guessed.” But then when I finish and say that I am Chinese, it absolutely blows their minds. They respond “How?” or “No you are not!”

It is strange to think that people actually deny me of my own heritage like I am wrong, but when I tell them that my last name is Chinese (Ng), they accept it and say, “Oh so that’s where your last name comes from. I thought it was different.” Here’s something I found to be interesting, though. When I tell people that I am Black, White and Chinese, they understand that I am mixed; however, the only thing they care about is the Black and Chinese part. I think they selectively hear Black and Chinese because it seems the most interesting to them. I often get asked questions like, “What part of you is Chinese?” I have to explain my family history to just about everybody I meet. When I tell them that my family has been mixed since my great-grandparents on one side and my grandparents on my other side, they are absolutely shocked. Yes, I have a family of rebels.

This has become a daily routine for me ― let’s say weekly routine, because, yes, it has become that common for me to explain my heritage to people I meet. I don’t really mind it as much because I try to put myself in their shoes and understand how hard it is to grasp that my family has been mixed for so many generations back…

Read the entire article here.

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“Alien Citizen: An Earth Odyssey” Performance by Elizabeth Liang

Posted in Arts, Asian Diaspora, Live Events, Media Archive, United States on 2014-02-21 07:53Z by Steven

“Alien Citizen: An Earth Odyssey” Performance by Elizabeth Liang

Arts at MIT
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Eastman Laboratories (Building 6)
2014-02-21, 18:00-20:30 EST (Local Time)

Written and Performed by Elizabeth Liang

Who are you when you’re from everywhere and nowhere? Alien Citizen: An Earth Odyssey is a funny and poignant one-woman show about growing up as a dual citizen of mixed heritage in Central America, North Africa, the Middle East, and New England.

Elizabeth Liang, like President Obama, is a Third Culture Kid or a TCK. Third Culture Kids are the children of international business people, global educators, diplomats, missionaries, and the military-anyone whose family has relocated overseas because of a job placement. Liang weaves humorous stories about growing up as an Alien Citizen abroad with American commercial jingles providing her soundtrack through language confusion, first love, culture shock, Clark Gable, and sandstorms…Our protagonist deals with the decisions every global nomad has to make repeatedly: to adapt or to simply cope; to build a bridge or to just tolerate. From being a Guatemalan-American teen in North Africa to attending a women’s college in the USA, Alien Citizen reflects her experience that neither one was necessarily easier than the other. She realizes that girls across the world are growing into womanhood in environments that can be hostile to females (including the USA). How does a young girl cope as a border/culture/language/religion straddler in country after country that feels “other” to her when she is the “other” Where is the line between respecting others and betraying yourself?

For more information, click here.

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