two of my favorite things in one

El Ateneo: Library In A Theatre

Buenos Aires, Argentina

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“Everyone of us is losing something precious to us. Lost opportunities, lost possibilities, feelings we can never get back again. That’s part of what it means to be alive. But inside our heads—at least that’s where I imagine it—there’s a little room where we store those memories. A room like the stacks in this library. And to understand the workings of our own heart we have to keep on making new reference cards. We have to dust things off every once in a while, let in fresh air, change the water in the flower vases. In other words, you’ll live forever in your own little private library.”— Haruki Murakami

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curly like me

It’s here!  The answer to our curly-headed prayers.  I’ve been referring people to Teri LaFlesh’s website for over a year now, and am thrilled to be able to point my fellow biracials, parents of mixies, and anyone else with a “wild” mane to her book Curly Like Me.  Teri was kind enough to send me an advanced copy so that I could write a blurb.  Here’s what I wrote…

“With Curly Like Me, Teri LaFlesh has provided us curly heads with THE Bible of hair care for our tightly curled manes.  If you thought your (or your child’s) hair was hard to manage, Teri will prove you wrong.  After suffering through relaxers, jheri curls, texturizing, dreadlocks, weaves, and extensions, Teri stopped fighting against her curls and embarked on a journey to embrace them.  The results are stunning!  Teri discovered a simple, easy to follow technique that produces healthy, happy, beautiful curls freeing us from chemicals, heat, and perpetual ponytails.  She’s layed it out step by step, providing us with the do’s, the don’ts, and even the why’s!  A more thorough hair care manual we could not ask for.  Perhaps even more momentous though is the journey toward self acceptance that lies in the pages of the book.  It seems as though Ms. LaFlesh learned that what happens when we try to make our hair into something that it is not, is a mirror of what happens when we try to make our SELF into something that it is not.  Curly Like Me is also about embracing every aspect of one’s authentic self. That beautiful and unique being that the world will not be able to experience if we waste our energy fighting against it in hopes of conforming to that which we’re told every day on television, in magazines, and in the movies is ‘normal’ and ‘good.’  The struggle against the “real” hair becomes symbolic of the inner struggle against the real self.  Teri says, ‘I treated my curls as if they weren’t good enough in their natural state.  Yet after all I had done to them they, couldn’t be crushed.’  The same can be said of the human spirit.  Thank you, Teri!!”

so, if you’d like your (or your child’s) hair to look like this someday….

…go buy this book!!  You can get it HERE.

the girl who fell from the sky, or one of the best books ever!

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!

no difference between them

Here’s a new book full of beautiful black and white portraits of interracial couples!  The foreward is written by one of my favorite mixed chicks, Heidi Durrow.  The photos are stunning.  Thank you, Robert Kalman, for this wonderful book that will no doubt help us break our subconscious instinct to assume that these people do not belong together.  You can purchase your copy here.

 

libraries

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library with great ceiling paintings

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library at Alder Manor NY

In my opinion, the following is the coolest one.  It’s in a private home.  Specifically, the home of Jay Walker.  Funny name.  Awesome library!

jay walker's libraryNothing quite prepares you for the culture shock of Jay Walker’s library. You exit the austere parlor of his New England home and pass through a hallway into the bibliographic equivalent of a Disney ride. Stuffed with landmark tomes and eye-grabbing historical objects—on the walls, on tables, standing on the floor—the room occupies about 3,600 square feet on three mazelike levels. Is that a Sputnik? (Yes.) Hey, those books appear to be bound in rubies. (They are.) Gee, that chandelier looks like the one in the James Bond flick Die Another Day. (Because it is.) No matter where you turn in this ziggurat, another treasure beckons you—a 1665 Bills of Mortality chronicle of London (you can track plague fatalities by week), the instruction manual for the Saturn V rocket (which launched the Apollo 11 capsule to the moon), a framed napkin from 1943 on which Franklin D. Roosevelt outlined his plan to win World War II. In no time, your mind is stretched like hot taffy.

ff_walker5_fReading Room In the foreground are several early-20th-century volumes with jeweled bindings—gold, rubies, and diamonds—crafted by the legendary firm Sangorski & Sutcliffe. On the table (first row, from left) is a 16th-century book of jousting, a Dickens novel decorated with the author’s portrait, and (open, with Post-it flags) an original copy of the 1493 Nuremberg Chronicle, the first illustrated history book. Second row: the 1535 Coverdale Bible (the first completely translated into modern English), a medieval tome with intricate illustrations of dwarfs, a collection of portraits commissioned at a 17th-century German festival (“Facebook in 1610!”), a tree-bark Indonesian guide to cannibalism, and a Middle Eastern mother goddess icon from around 5000 BC.

ff_walker6_fGadget Lab A brand-new One Laptop per Child XO, far left, sits next to a relatively ancient RadioShack TRS-80 Model 100. In back, a 1911 typewriting machine and a 1909 Kent radio. The large contraption at center is the Nazis’ supposedly unbreakable Enigma code machine. The book to its left is a copy of Johannes Trithemius’ 1518 Polygraphiae, a cryptographic landmark. On the right is an Apple II motherboard signed by Woz. An Edison kinetoscope sits beside an 1890 Edison phonograph (along with three of the wax cylinders it uses for recording). Nearby is a faithful copy of Edison’s lightbulb. The gadget with the tubes is an IBM processor circa 1960. In front of it stands a truly ancient storage device, a Sumerian clay cone used to record surplus grain.

See more of Walker’s library here.

speaking of children’s books

Of course there were no biracial characters for me, and though that would have been GREAT, I could relate to the black or white hero or heroine, so it’s all good. Is that a biracial thing, I wonder?  Anyway, here are some of my personal favorites.  Books I loved from the time I could read til the 8th grade.  I found the covers that I owned or borrowed from the library.  I loved these books so much!  Books were my friends.  I have vivid memories of my dad reading Ramona the Pest to me, and me staying up really late to finish Mrs. Piggle Wiggle in one day, and the moment I first met my (step)sister Shannon and she was sitting on the couch reading Ramona Forever and I knew we’d get along. My heart began pounding every time I came across the book cover that looked like mine. I think I can smell them.  Now I  want to read them again.  I’m sure I’ve forgetten some and will end up doing another post.  Shannon, can you think of anything I forgot?

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tawny scrawny lion

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ramona quimby age 8
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Dicey's song

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more children’s books with biracial characters

I came across reviews of two books for kids ages 8-12 with biracial main characters at TheHappyNappyBookseller.com. Thanks so much Happy Nappy Bookseller!  I wish I’d had these books when I was a kid.

Prince of Fenway Park

Oscar’s parents adopted him when he was a baby and he worries they divorced after realizing he was half black. Being biracial Oscar has a hard time fitting in at school.

“What didn’t help was that just this year it seemed as if the white kids he’d been friends with in elementary school didn’t have much to say to him anymore, and there weren’t many black kids in Hingham Middle. Occasionally a Hispanic kid would ask him something in Spanish assuming he spoke it. He’d just shrug.” (from ARC)

I don’t run across too many biracial characters in middle grade fiction, so I was very happy to discover this about Oscar. While reading I couldn’t help thinking about all the biracial children who may discover this story and be able to relate to Oscar’s feelings.

“There was a code for race, and the tidy letters were all lined up: Black. He’d never seen it written before. There was a spot for it on the MCAS- standardized tests- and Oscar usually left it blank. The previous year he’d lightly marked both white and black and then smudged them on purpose, which seemed the most honest answer he could give.”

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“Her parents were her parents, and she almost never thought about being adopted-except that sometimes, she did.  And they didn’t talk much about the fact that she was biracial and her parents- weren’t.  Her mother had blond hair, even.  Well, greyish blond, but still blond.  It totally didn’t matter, and it was mostly just funny, like when her father got all into celebrating Kwanzaa and everything, and she had to make him promise never to wear kente cloth in front of her friends again.”