I Was Expecting a Black Guy by Herb Harris

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive, Passing, Social Justice, Social Science, United States on 2021-08-30 18:30Z by Steven

I Was Expecting a Black Guy by Herb Harris

Hippocampus Magazine: Memorable Creative Nonfiction
2021-01-08

Herb Harris

Peering over wire-rimmed glasses, the Vice President of Clinical Research looked directly at me for the first time since we sat down for the job interview and said, “I was expecting a Black guy.” There was no trace of humor in his comment.

At our greeting there had been a firm handshake, but no smile. Tall, portly, and balding, his presence conveyed gravitas and corporate seniority.

There was a long stretch of silence. I sat on a low uncomfortable couch, trying to maintain an impossible posture that appeared to be both relaxed and engaged. My back was aching from this contradiction, as I struggled to contain my shock at the inappropriate remark.

I had not been asked about race at any point in the application process. There had been no boxes to check, and no personal demographic information was ever requested. Whatever had created this expectation in the Vice President’s mind, he was disappointed. The person before him did not appear to be Black…

Read the entire article here.

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Don’t Let It Get You Down: Essays on Race, Gender, and the Body

Posted in Autobiography, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Social Justice, United States on 2021-08-28 02:34Z by Steven

Don’t Let It Get You Down: Essays on Race, Gender, and the Body

Simon & Schuster
2021-07-13
208 pages
Hardcover ISBN-13: 9781982137267

Savala Nolan, Executive Director
Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice
University of California, Berkeley School of Law

A powerful and provocative collection of essays that offers poignant reflections on living between society’s most charged, politicized, and intractably polar spaces—between black and white, rich and poor, thin and fat.

Savala Nolan knows what it means to live in the in-between. Descended from a Black and Mexican father and a white mother, Nolan’s mixed-race identity is obvious, for better and worse. At her mother’s encouragement, she began her first diet at the age of three and has been both fat and painfully thin throughout her life. She has experienced both the discomfort of generational poverty and the ease of wealth and privilege.

It is these liminal spaces—of race, class, and body type—that the essays in Don’t Let It Get You Down excavate, presenting a clear and nuanced understanding of our society’s most intractable points of tension. The twelve essays that comprise this collection are rich with unforgettable anecdotes and are as humorous and as full of Nolan’s appetites as they are of anxieties. The result is lyrical and magnetic.

In “On Dating White Guys While Me,” Nolan realizes her early romantic pursuits of rich, preppy white guys weren’t about preference, but about self-erasure. In the titular essay “Don’t Let it Get You Down,” we traverse the cyclical richness and sorrow of being Black in America as Black children face police brutality, “large Black females” encounter unique stigma, and Black men carry the weight of other people’s fear. In “Bad Education,” we see how women learn to internalize rage and accept violence in order to participate in our culture. And in “To Wit and Also” we meet Filliss, Grace, and Peggy, the enslaved women owned by Nolan’s white ancestors, reckoning with the knowledge that America’s original sin lives intimately within our present stories. Over and over again, Nolan reminds us that our true identities are often most authentically lived not in the black and white, but in the grey of the in-between.

Perfect for fans of Heavy by Kiese Laymon and Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay, Don’t Let It Get You Down delivers an essential perspective on race, class, bodies, and gender in America today.

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Colin Kaepernick’s new children’s book will explore the beauty of being ‘different’

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive, United States on 2021-08-21 03:27Z by Steven

Colin Kaepernick’s new children’s book will explore the beauty of being ‘different’

The Los Angeles Times
2021-07-15

Donovan X. Ramsey, Staff Writer


Colin Kaepernick, seen in 2019, has written a picture book that will be released next year. (Todd Kirkland / Associated Press)

Colin Kaepernick announced Thursday that he will release “I Color Myself Different,” a children’s book, next year. The athlete-turned-activist’s Kaepernick Publishing company will publish the picture book in partnership with Scholastic as part of a multibook deal.

The story within “I Color Myself Different” is based on a pivotal moment in Kaepernick’s childhood when, during a drawing exercise in kindergarten, a young Kaepernick drew his adopted white family in yellow crayon and then drew himself brown. It was the first time he acknowledged the difference in their appearance, and the small act empowered him to celebrate differences.

“This story is deeply personal to me and inspired by real events in my life,” said Kaepernick in a press release Thursday. “I hope that it honors the courage and bravery of young people everywhere by encouraging them to live life with authenticity and purpose.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Shapeshifting: Discovering the “We” in Mixed-Race Experiences

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Media Archive on 2021-08-18 15:30Z by Steven

Shapeshifting: Discovering the “We” in Mixed-Race Experiences

Yes!
2021-08-09

Anne Liu Kellor
Seattle, Washington


“I am an Asian American woman. I am also mixed race—my father is White and my mother is Chinese. And I have many questions.”
ART BY TRACY MATSUE LOEFFELHOLZ

Sometimes you don’t know what you’ve been longing for your whole life until you experience it. As a mixed-race woman, I never knew how much it would mean for me to finally sit in a room full of other multiracial women until, at age 45, I taught a creative writing class called Shapeshifting: Reading and Writing the Mixed-Race Experience. I was nervous because I’d never attended something like this myself. And yet, sometimes when it becomes clear that you need something that doesn’t already exist, you have to create it yourself.

I once considered myself to be a shy person, afraid to speak in public. However, my close friends knew me differently, and at my core I knew myself differently too. While I remained quiet in high school, college, and beyond, in intimate spaces I could be bold and funny. When I was younger, I used to think that my insecurities came from my youth or my gender. But the older I’ve gotten the more I’ve also come to question how much of my conditioning— to feel quiet, silent, and invisible—has come from my mixed-race heritage?

I am an Asian American woman. I am also mixed race—my father is White and my mother is Chinese. And I have many questions.

What does it feel like to grow up and never see reflections of yourself or your family in the shows you watch or the books you read, or to rarely see yourself in positions of power?..

Read the entire article here.

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Portrait of the Artist as a Black Man

Posted in Articles, Arts, Autobiography, Media Archive, Passing, Social Justice, United States on 2021-08-18 00:25Z by Steven

Portrait of the Artist as a Black Man

Solstice: A Magazine of Diverse Voices
Summer 2021

Herb Harris
Arlington, Virginia

When you turn the corner
And you run into yourself
Then you know that you have turned
All the corners that are left

Langston Hughes

The more I stared at the drawing, the more alien and unrecognizable it became. I had labored over every line, but it was not the person I intended to draw. It began as a self portrait, but a stranger emerged who had been living somewhere within me. He was now crashing through the page.

I am a descendant of slaves and their owners. This contradiction manifests itself in every aspect of my physical appearance. My beige skin is light enough to pass as white. My angular nose and thin lips corroborate this story. My almond-shaped brown eyes are deep-set and give little clue to my identity. My hair might give me away, but its loose brown curls suggest to most people some vaguely white-ish ethnicity rather than an African origin. In general, people take in these details and read the whole as white. When I tell others that I am black, this usually requires a lengthy explanation that stretches back into little-known aspects of the history of slavery. I have to explain to people, who often seem to be hearing it for the first time, that sexual exploitation of slaves was so widespread that most black people in the United States today have some degree of European heritage. They generally imagine some version of a sanitized mythology that involves consensual romance.

“You mean like Sally Hemmings and Thomas Jefferson?”

“No, I mean like rape.”…

Read the entire article here.

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How I Learned to Love Myself as a Black Jew

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Gay & Lesbian, Judaism, Media Archive, Religion, United States on 2021-08-12 00:50Z by Steven

How I Learned to Love Myself as a Black Jew

alma.
2020-06-16

Aviva Davis
Oakland, California

While I am so proud to be a queer Jewish woman of color, it has taken an excruciating amount of work to reach this point.

As a child, I always knew I was Black, but I didn’t know what that meant for me as an individual. I certainly didn’t know how my Blackness intersected with my other identities, including my Jewishness. I didn’t even realize, when one of my friends asked me how I could believe in God but not Jesus, that my religion and my race were informing her question.

Cut to almost 10 years later, and I’m coming out of the closet. I am Black, I am Jewish, I am queer, and on top of all that, I’m a woman, too. Someone once said I decided to play the game of life on “Expert Mode.” I couldn’t help but laugh at such an accurate analogy, because although I am so proud to be a queer Jewish woman of color, it has taken an excruciating amount of work to reach this point and fully love myself…

Read the entire article here.

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‘Spy In The House Of Race’: A Daughter Of Black, Chinese, And Jewish Parents On Belonging Everywhere And Nowhere

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Media Archive, United States on 2021-08-01 22:28Z by Steven

‘Spy In The House Of Race’: A Daughter Of Black, Chinese, And Jewish Parents On Belonging Everywhere And Nowhere

LAist
Southern California Public Radio
Pasadena, California
2021-05-14

Lili Nadja Barsha


Lili Barsha, left, as a child with her parents, Tony and Yen, and younger brother Jake.
(Courtesy of Lili Barsha)

I’m an American of African, Asian, European, and Native descent.

I’ve lived all over the world and have been taken for many things. I describe myself as multi-racial, Mixed in America, blended. I tend to reject the hyphen — I see it as a little plank that walks us off our citizen ship. By us, I mean we people of color other than white. I have too many planks to walk as a Black, white, red, yellow — therefore, tan — American.

I’m nobody’s All-American, a spy in the house of race.

Ethnicity shapes what I eat, what music I listen to, what I read, and who I keep as company. It defines culture, family, history, and aesthetics.

I am the bloom of my ancestors. A vessel filled with genetic memory. That, and memories of otherness. Here are some of them…

Read the entire article here.

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The Wig-Maker

Posted in Autobiography, Books, Canada, Media Archive, Poetry on 2021-07-21 00:47Z by Steven

The Wig-Maker

New Star Books
2021-03-11
128 pages
6×9 inches
Paperback ISBN: 9781554201716

Janet Gallant and Sharon Thesen

A powerful tale of violence, grief, resilience, and transformation, told in the voice of Janet Gallant, transcribed and lineated as a long poem by Sharon Thesen, The Wig-Maker gathers and weaves together themes and incidents that accumulate toward “the moan” of racism, sexual abuse, maternal abandonment, suicide, mental illness, and addiction.

Though the subject-matter ranges from a lengthy first-person account of sufferings both personal and cultural, historic and current, the pulse of the telling ultimately led to healing and reconciliation. Almost by magic — certainly with the assistance of the uncanny — the 18-month long process of Gallant’s telling/Thesen’s listening-writing resulted in Gallant’s discovery of her true genetic, and social, identity. In the early part of her story Janet longs to know the reasons that her mother abandoned the family when Gallant was three years old, leaving four young children with their abusive father. She also wants to know what turned her father into “the monster” he had become. Her mother, Valerie Johnson, is Black and grew up in the Black community of Wildwood, Alberta; her Canadian serviceman father, Tom McCrate, grew up in Irish-Catholic poverty in Nova Scotia. As a biracial child, Janet was unaware until she was eleven years old that her mother was Black; nor did she know until very recently that Tom McCrate was not her biological father.

The twists and turns of the narrative gather a range of topics and incidents; the human hair industry, Black immigration to Alberta and Saskatchewan in the early 1900’s, maternal abandonment, the stresses of military life, adoption search websites, the suicide of Gallant’s teenage brother, the sudden death of her young husband, the stress-disorder of alopecia, and the loneliness of surviving all this but never finding answers. But some important answers have been given and received as a result of Gallant’s research being inspired by the mysteriously healing process of the telling itself.

“The Wig-Maker” is Janet Gallant’s song; her story comes to life in Sharon Thesen’s poem.

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Elizabeth Miki Brina: “The historical and the personal are intertwined.”

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Biography, Interviews, Media Archive, United States on 2021-07-17 00:10Z by Steven

Elizabeth Miki Brina: “The historical and the personal are intertwined.”

Guernica
2021-05-10

Elizabeth Lothian, Digital Director


Photo credit: Thad Lee

The author of Speak, Okinawa talks about learning her family history, writing from guilt, and questioning her father’s values.

Elizabeth Miki Brina’s debut memoir Speak, Okinawa is a nuanced investigation of self, lineage, and inheritance. Born in the 1980s to an Okinawan mother and a white, American, ex-military father, Brina struggled with the duality of her identity. She connected more with her father—the dominant force in her family triad—often in an attempt to fit in with the 99 percent white suburb in which she grew up, and this made her feel distant from her already isolated mother.

It is only years later, after moving out of her parents’ enveloping orbit, that Brina comes to question why she feels so disconnected from her mother and Okinawan ancestry. She then sets out to explore her heritage—half that of the colonized and half that of the colonizer. We take this journey with her as she recounts the history of Okinawa. These chapters, voiced brilliantly in the first person plural “we,” tells the reader of Okinawa’s conquest by China and Japan, the horrors it faced in World War II—nearly a third of its population was killed in one battle alone—and the subsequent US military occupation of the island, which continues to this day.

As Brina learns the history of her maternal lineage, she comes to better understand not just her mother but herself. She is then forced to reckon with the role her father played in dictating her worldview and to try and unknot how America, as both a political entity and a cluster of ideals, has marginalized other ways of being…

Read the entire article here.

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Speak, Okinawa: A Memior

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Books, Monographs, United States on 2021-07-13 21:18Z by Steven

Speak, Okinawa: A Memior

Knopf (an imprint of Penguin Randomhouse)
2021-02-23
304 Pages
5-5/8 x 8-1/4
Hardcover ISBN: 9780525657347
Paperback ISBN: 9781984898463
Ebook ISBN: 9780525657354
Audiobook ISBN: 9780593348925

Elizabeth Miki Brina

A searing, deeply candid memoir about a young woman’s journey to understanding her complicated parents—her mother an Okinawan war bride, her father a Vietnam veteran—and her own, fraught cultural heritage.

Elizabeth’s mother was working as a nightclub hostess on U.S.-occupied Okinawa when she met the American soldier who would become her husband. The language barrier and power imbalance that defined their early relationship followed them to the predominantly white, upstate New York suburb where they moved to raise their only daughter. There, Elizabeth grew up with the trappings of a typical American childhood and adolescence. Yet even though she felt almost no connection to her mother’s distant home, she also felt out of place among her peers.

Decades later, Elizabeth comes to recognize the shame and self-loathing that haunt both her and her mother, and attempts a form of reconciliation, not only to come to terms with the embattled dynamics of her family but also to reckon with the injustices that reverberate throughout the history of Okinawa and its people. Clear-eyed and profoundly humane, Speak, Okinawa is a startling accomplishment—a heartfelt exploration of identity, inheritance, forgiveness, and what it means to be an American.

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