|My mini, multi-racial family and our Japanese dog :)|
I have to give big props to Heidi for poignantly writing from the perspective of a mixed race girl. I don't know that I have ever read a fiction book with a biracial character. Everything I've read about being multiracial has been sociological studies.
Rachel, the book's main character, is half black and half Danish, growing up in the Pacific Northwest after a terrible family tragedy. Rachel tries to find her place among her peers and immediately feels like she doesn't belong with other African Americans, nor is she completely accepted by her white peers.
Growing up in two worlds but never quite belonging in any one of them is very true to my own experience (yet I had about three worlds to choose from). I am a quarter black, a quarter Japanese, white and one-sixteenth Hawaiian. But in all honestly I have always loathed telling others I'm part Hawaiian. I'm not ashamed, nor do I have anything against Hawaiians, but so many people would latch on to that little bit of me and deny the fact that my pigment has more to do with being African American.
I can't tell you how many times I've heard, "Oh but you don't look black" or even worse "You don't act black." I've heard, "Wow you've really taken after your Hawaiian side." I have so many stories I could tell, but let's stop for a minute. How much influence does one-sixteenth really have on my appearance? I look like a short version of my mom who is black and Japanese. And that is why I deny being Hawaiian.
My cousins, I'm sure have all had different experiences, based on the way the gene pool has been distributed in my family. We're all mixed with varying quantities of the same ethnicities. Some appear to be only African American, others could even pass for being only Caucasian. How we all appear has influenced the groups we most identify with and least identify with.
My boyfriend is half white and half Mexican, born in Chihuahua, Mexico, yet most people are shocked to find this out due to his light skin and hazel eyes. While he doesn't deny being Mexican, he identifies more with being white. And even though him and I are both multiracial, I have had more jarring experiences with ignorant assholes based on my darker pigment.
I've been accused of "acting white" (by both black and white people) as Rachel is in the book, and yet I find that I identify more with being black and Japanese. Maybe it's because I'm very close to my biracial mother. Who knows? Insert sociological study here.
Boyfriend and I were having a good discussion about this over dinner one night. He thought it was neat that there was a book written from this perspective, and brought up the point that it was only in 1967 (when both of our parents were around 10 years old) when interracial marriages were even deemed legal in the U.S., based on a Supreme Court decision. Being multiracial has only begun to gain more awareness and acceptance within our own generation.
Of course there were interracial marriages and mixed children before. But you had to identify with being one or the other. My own mother's birth certificate identifies her as "Negroid", even though she is also half Japanese. Not to mention, it is completely politically incorrect to identify somebody that way. We've come a ways from the 50s. It wasn't until my own post-high school experiences that I even began seeing options to check "more than one race" rather than the "other" box or "choose one."
The bottom line is, you can be many within one. I am proud of my ethnicity and heritage, and I am proud to see more people celebrating being mixed.
*Fun fact: my second language is Spanish. I only know a handful of phrases Japanese, and I can count to ten. Expect the unexpected.