I am beyond excited to be participating in the first annual Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference. Fanshen and Heidi proposed a roundtable entitled “Exploring the Mixed Experience in New Media” moderated by historian/scholar Greg Carter and presented by Mixed Chicks Chat hosts and Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival founders/producers Fanshen Cox and Heidi Durrow, Tiffany Jones (Mulatto Diaries) and Steven Riley (mixedracestudies.org). It was accepted! Thank you Fanshen and Heidi! I can’t wait!
Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference
“Emerging Paradigms in Critical Mixed Race Studies,” the first annual Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference, will be held at DePaul University in Chicago on November 5-6, 2010.
The CMRS conference brings together scholars from a variety of disciplines nationwide. Recognizing that the diverse disciplines that have nurtured Mixed Race Studies have reached a watershed moment, the 2010 CMRS conference is devoted to the general theme “Emerging Paradigms in Critical Mixed Race Studies.”
Critical Mixed Race Studies (CMRS) 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.
This is exactly how I felt while reading Heidi Durrow’s debut novel The Girl Who Fell From the Sky (available today yesterday wherever books are sold). Except that I do know her, and I thank God that she’s not dead because I need more from this author/friend of mine. Heidi has written one of the best books I have ever had the pleasure of reading, biracial subject matter or not. Truly beautiful, profound, poignant. All that good stuff and more! I read (more like devoured) TGWFFTS during an extremely difficult time in my life. I felt as though the book was saving me. And reminding me of all the good things I have to offer. And that no matter what hardships and tragedies we may go through in life, the story goes on- there’s another chapter to be lived.
Though the book is not entirely about being black and white, there are many beautiful passages that honestly touch upon the heart of that matter. I often find myself lamenting the fact that this biracial identity is so misunderstood out in the world at large. The Girl Who Fell From the Sky offers much insight. I sincerely hope that it is widely read. We all need this book. Whether we know it or not.
A few of my favorite “themes” of the novel:
Loss of self, becoming the “new girl”, becoming “black”, forsaking white. Making deals with the self. Deals which become layers covering over the authentic self. The self that the biracial kid loses when they feel pressured to be just one thing. Then eventually you long to be just one thing because no matter how hard you pretend to be whatever it is they want you to be, you can never totally convince yourself that you are exclusively that one thing. Because you aren’t. But most people seem completely incapable of understanding that, of allowing that. So we find ourselves feeling alone and lonely in groups of people.
One of my favorite quotes from the book is, “I think what a family is shouldn’t be so hard to see. It should be the one thing people know just by looking at you.” Unfortunately, we’ve been trained to recognize families as homogeneous groups. Seeing interracial couples is still jarring for many. Mentally pairing a mother with a child that “does not look like” her can be a major stretch of the imagination. But it is not an imagined thing for many. It is a reality. And for whatever reason that people who don’t have to deal with this don’t seem to understand, we need our families to be recognized.
I could go on and on. I have pages of notes. But I hope this is enough to pique your interest and motivate you to buy (and read!) The Girl Who Fell From the Sky. I’d love to hear what you think!
I wish I had been able to get this up sooner, but I needed a couple of days to process all of the magnificence that was the Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival. It was kind of magical. I think I’d been waiting 32 years 7 months and 10 days to get to a place where everyone was like me and, without questions or explanations, understood who I am. Not just half of who I am.
I arrived a little late and, after a warm welcome from Fanshen and Heidi, my mom and I rushed in to catch some screenings that were already in progress. I really enjoyed Kim Noonan’s Running Dragon and Mike Peden’s What are you? A Dialogue on Mixed Race. I missed Maija DiGiorgio’s excerpt from Hollywood Outlaw, but so enjoyed her q&a session and her live performance the following evening. Such talent! You can watch the whole movie on youtube at hollywoodoutlawmovie. I did. Brilliant!
Next were readings. After moving pieces by Tameko Beyer and an especially great essay by Susan Ito, Jennifer Lisa Vest had the audience in tears with her beautiful poetry. Here is a sample of her work not taken from the festival…
Finally, Danzy Senna read from her new memoir Where Did You Sleep Last Night? OMG, Danzy Senna! If you read my “biracial books” post, you know I love her for Caucasia. The reading was hilarious and meeting her was great! I bought the book and can’t wait to read it.
That night was the Loving Day Celebration honoring the 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in the Loving v. Virginia case that legalized interracial marriage nationwide. It was so fun! Meeting so many of the wonderful people I’ve connected with online in the last year was more gratifying than I had imagined it would be. Having my mom and my (step)sister Megan there was icing on the cake. There actually was cake. It was good! To be continued…
It’s official! Mulatto Diaries: The Movie will be screened this summer at the Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival! I’m so excited! It’ll be shown Saturday June 13th at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles. Go to www.mxroots.org for more details! If you can, make a tax deductible donation while you’re there. Then book a flight and come to L.A. to see my movie. Please.