Mixed: Multiracial College Students Tell Their Life Stories ed. by Andrew Garrod, Robert Kilkenny, Christina Gomez (review)
Journal of College Student Development
Volume 55, Number 8, November 2014
Jessica C. Harris
Andrew Garrod, Christina Gómez, and Robert Kilkenny, Mixed: Multiracial College Students Tell Their Life Stories (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2013)
Mixed: Multiracial College Students Tell Their Life Stories presents multiracial student essays focusing on growing up and living as a mixed-race individual in a society founded on monoracial understandings of race. The purpose of the book is “to capture the phenomenology of being mixed-race in a compelling way, and in so doing to inspire, engage, and move our readers” (p. xi). The edited book contains 12 narratives written by self-identified multiracial students: six men and six women, either current students or recent graduates of Dartmouth College. For the most part, the multiracial individuals’ narratives included in this book were enrolled in one of several Dartmouth education courses taught by Andrew Garrod, one of the editors of Mixed. Students who were not enrolled in one of Garrod’s courses, but whose narratives are included in the book, were recommended to the editors by other Dartmouth students and faculty. All of the students worked closely with Garrod over a 10-week period, either face to face or via email, to craft the narratives that are presented in this book.
The book begins with a preface that explains the creation of the 12 narratives, and subsequently, the book. The editors explained how the essays were crafted over a great deal of time with Garrod’s help and input. Using a list of thought-provoking questions, which were included in the preface, the 12 student authors were asked to reflect and write on their experiences with race and identity throughout their lifetime. Robert Kilkenny, the second editor, reviewed each essay and offered feedback to Garrod and the multiracial students.
The introduction provides an important context for the 12 narratives. The first half of the introduction turns a critical eye to the social construction of race in America and the implications this has on multiracial individuals. Moreover, the connection between multiraciality and post-racial rhetoric is explored in an attempt to expose the contemporary realities of multiracial Americans. The authors explain that neoconservatives have begun to position multiraciality as an object that symbolizes the end to race and racism. However, the 12 narratives contained in this book suggest that race and racism are indeed present in the lives of multiracial students, refuting the notion that we are living in a post-racial nation.
The second half of the introduction provides an overview of the three different sections into which the book is divided. Additionally, a summary of each of the 12 narratives is offered in this overview. While this roadmap is helpful, individual summaries may have been better placed as an introduction to each respective section. Instead, the reader must continually refer to the introduction to read about the purpose of each of the three sections and the narratives within them.
The first of three sections in Mixed, Who Am I?, contains four first-person narratives from multiracial students. These four narratives focus on the incongruence students encountered between racial self-identification and others’ perceptions of their race. The narratives expose how physical features, such as hair and skin-color, caused non-multiracial individuals to question multiracial students’ racial identities. The four narratives in this section included stories from students who grew up or spent time internationally, relaying the complexities of being both multiracial and multicultural. For instance, one woman grew up in Japan, identified with Japanese heritage and culture, but understood that she did not “look Japanese” in an American context.
In-Betweenness, the second section in Mixed, explores four more multiracial students’ experiences of being mixed-race in a post-racial America. This section exposes the fluidity of race for four multiracial students. For instance, one “Happa”-identified male asserted he could be White, Asian, or somewhere in between. While this liminal space was a positive aspect for this student, other narratives in this section provided an alternate reality, one of being caught between racial identities. Specifically, one Chinese, Indian, and White female student conveyed the complexities of navigating multiple racial heritages and the influence this had on her relationship with her parents. She described privilege that comes with being monoracial and not having to oscillate or navigate between the cultures and races of one’s parents.
The final section…