Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Mixed-Race Perspective

Yesterday's New York Times article "Pushing Boundaries, Mixed-Race Artists Gain Notice" brings up some interesting points about the acceptance of multiracial perspectives.

One of the featured artists is novelist Heidi Durrow whose book The Girl Who Fell from the Sky was rejected several times because editors thought "readers couldn’t relate to a protagonist who was part black and part Danish." Her best-selling success suggests otherwise.

Art has always been a place where individuals pool the various facets of their unique perspectives into a source of creative fuel. While readers always have to have a point of access, it is very short-sighted to think that they have to share the exact same identity in order to relate to a protagonist or the content of a novel.

The NYT article cites Stanford English professor Michele Elam on the shifting attitudes toward multiracial people:
The national images of racially mixed people have dramatically changed just within the last few years, from ‘mulattoes’ as psychically divided, racially impure outcasts to being hip new millennials who attractively embody the resolution of America’s race problem
Elam goes on to explain that both of these characterizations are "wrongheaded and reductive." They're wrong-headed and reductive because works of art should not be made accessible by the "hip-ness" of their  biracial and multiracial creators, but by the richness of voices and perspective that draw us to any great work of art.

As a recent blog post on Yes We're Together reminded me, difference is created by a lot more than racial identity. As the author reflects on the differences that interracial couples face, she remarks that "The reality is that in any marriage, you have two people--who if even from of the same race--are from two completely different worlds, and this makes me think that in a way, every marriage is (kinda) interracial."

Durrow's book is also featured on NPR's Summer Blend Book Club, a reading club that features works by mixed race writers. Durrow's work is joined by You Are Free: Stories by Danzy Senna, The Latte Rebellion by Sarah Jamila Stevenson, Take One Candle Light a Room: A novel by Susan Straight, and Pym: A Novel by Mat Johnson.

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