The Hybridity Revolution

The Hybridity Revolution

Canadian Literature: A Quarterly of Criticism and Review

Michelle La Flamme

Adebe DeRango-Adem (Editor) and Andrea Thompson (Editor), Other Tongues: Mixed Race Women Speak Out.

Societies that pride themselves on an imagined monoracial norm have rare glimpses into the multi-racial experience. The contemporary literary phenomenon some refer to as the “boom in bi-racial biography” (Spickard) has offered nuanced reflections on the ontological impact of this liminal hybrid position. At their thematic core, most bi-racial and multiracial narratives demonstrate the complexity of this form of embodiment and the semiotics of a body continually affected, and constructed, by the racialized gaze. Several thematic issues are repeated in both Carol Camper’s seminal anthology, Miscegenation Blues: Voices of Mixed Race Women (1994), and the more recent Other Tongue: Mixed Race Women Speak Out (2010). The writing in both anthologies is a bold testament to the pervasiveness of multiraciality and ultimately counters many social scientific conclusions. The interest in such anthologies is also in keeping with the rise in autobiography and critical race theories. In both fields there is a consistent tendency to privilege personal accounts of the mixed race experience and, as Camper claims in her preface, the importance of “speaking for ourselves” as “experts on our own lives.”

The women writers in Other Tongues outline moments of interpellation, the power of the racialized gaze, and the stages of their shifting notions of self based on multiply-coded bodies that challenge monoracial definitions of identity. The work accounts for various individual experiences of “passing” and the complexities of a body that is repeatedly read for signs of authenticity. These writers contest the notion of a “post-racial” world in that these poems, memoirs, short stories, and art work continually reference the fact that visual identifiers of race are understood within “always already” historical and cultural conditions that lead to the racialization of the body despite the individual’s efforts (or best intentions) to defy these norms. The editors of Other Tongues suggest that it offers unique perspectives on the “changing racial landscape that [has] occurred over the last decade” in order to offer a “snapshot of the North American terrain of questions about race, mixed-race, racial identity, and how mixed-race women in North American identify in the twenty-first century” in a time that is marked by “the inauguration of the first mixed-race Black president in North America.” However, the anthology is more personal than critical, privileges women’s voices, and fails to represent the range of mixedness in North America. Given that the themes and content echo Camper’s 1994 anthology, the uniqueness of this collection is perhaps overstated…

Read the entire review here.

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