Tag Archives: biracial

On being born biracial in Spokane & the Dolezal discourse

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I was born in a Home for Unwed Mothers in Spokane, Washington. Among the 50 white and 10 black girls, my white (Nordic-American) mother, pregnant by my black (Nigerian) father, was the only one who straddled both worlds. (Ironically, at the time she was reading Black Like Me, journalist John Howard Griffin’s account of medically darkening his skin and masquerading as black.) As soon as she could walk, the Home encouraged her to take me and go. Her outspokenness, plus her decision to keep me, at a time when unwed white girls were being shamed into surrendering their babies for adoption, challenged Home policy.

Young Holly & Faith sepia I’ve been to Spokane only once since then, a decade ago, on book tour. Mum accompanied me, and trip highlights included finding the Home where I was born and being trailed through town by skinheads in a rust (or bullet) -ridden car. (So essentially I’ve been chased from my birthplace twice.) A few years before, a white family friend and his black college roommate had been hospitalized after being chased and beaten with baseball bats for Friday night sport.

Based on our minimal interaction, Spokane has always represented whiteness to me. As someone quipped on Twitter this week, Spokane is so white that even the president of the local NAACP is white. (Thank God for the Dolezal jokes on BlackTwitter, because despite having been a diversity trainer in a past life, I no longer have what it takes to try to discuss race with whitefolks who aren’t my mum.) I’m currently on a writing retreat, trying to finish a book about my Afro-Viking family, and none too happy that once again my birthplace is the center of racial chaos. No, as I told my Nigerian husband this morning, I don’t want to talk about it. But I appreciate what some of my friends are saying (and the heat they’re taking for saying it):

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 10.52.42 AM In Black Like Who? Rachel Dolezal’s Harmful MasqueradeTamara Winfrey Harris, the author of “The Sisters Are Alright: Changing the Broken Narrative of Black Women in America,” says everything so you don’t have to.

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 10.55.38 AM In Transracial Lives Matter: Rachel Dolezal and the Privilege of Racial Manipulation, my friend and sister-biracial-born-in-a-home-then-raised-in-Washington-State, Lisa Marie Rollins (author/performer of the solo show, Ungrateful Daughter: One Black Girls Story of being Adopted into a White family… that aren’t Celebrities”) breaks down “transracial” and the “ownership model” of adoption.

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 10.47.28 AM For an expert academic take on the history of racial fluidity, my former student Daniel J. Sharfstein, author of “The Invisible Line: A Secret History of Race in America” explains that Rachel Dolezal’s ‘Passing’ Isn’t So Unusual.

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 11.04.18 AM My friend and sister-Pacific-Northwest-raised-Afro-Viking Heidi W. Durrow (author of “The Girl Who Fell From the Sky” and co-founder of Mixed/Remixed Fest) explains what it really means to look white and identify as black (authentically) in Identity, Race or Otherwise, Is Your Lived Experience.

I Got the Part – To Play Me!

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I’m so excited to get into the studio and start recording for powerhouse Audible, home of the largest selection of digital audiobooks! I’ll be playing the part of…me.

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Yes, by sending in clips of Tavis Smiley interviewing me on his show and me interviewing Chimamanda Adichie for the L.A. Public Library’s amazing ALOUD series, I successfully auditioned to read my own memoir, the best-title-ever Shebook, THE NIGERIAN NORDIC GIRL’S GUIDE TO LADY PROBLEMS.

F&C On-Stage ALOUD Tavis Smiley

Sorry to @thandienewton and all the other lovely biracial African actresses I dreamed would play me!

half-of-a-yellow-sun-thandie SheBooks Watch and Wait cover

Africa + Southeast Asia + Serendipity = Tonight’s Bay Area Generations Reading + Chapbook

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This is a rather sweet Grotto – VONA – CCA tale. This evening my friend, Burmese poet Maw Shein Win, is guest curating the Bay Area Generations reading, which pairs 2 “intergenerational” writers together. When I joined the famed San Francisco Writers Grotto, I was excited to see a Burmese name on the membership list and resolved to hunt her down. Imagine my surprise to discover that her mother was the first Burmese bhikkhuni, and her surprise to discover that I had been Thailand’s first black Buddhist nun!

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Meanwhile, I had also met my friend Audrey Esquivel in a workshop for mixed-race Buddhists of color at the East Bay Meditation Center and discovered that we share a rather unique combination of cultural influences. Get this – she’s African American and Anglo Burmese, and her blog is called Chutney & Chitlins. I learned that she too was writing a memoir about her international family set within the tumultuous context of global history, and as soon as I heard her parents’ amazing story, I resolved to do everything I could to make sure it was told.

Audrey took her first ever writing creative class with me – my Your Personal Odyssey: Explore & Tell Your Story with Faith Adiele at The Grotto. I later arranged for her to meet my friend, award-winning writer Canyon Sam who’s writing about Burma, and Maw, who in turn introduced her to the Bay Area Burmese writing community. Last summer, I encouraged Audrey to apply to the VONA/Voices: Summer Workshop for Writers of Color, where I’ve taught for the past 7 years, and she was able to study with a Stacyann Chinn, a Black Asian immigrant woman memoirist.

Since then Audrey and I have become part of a writing group comprised of mixed-race Buddhist women of color (only in the Bay Area, my friends say!), and she was just accepted to study with me in the MFA Program in Writing at California College of the Arts! So how fitting that tonight Audrey and I will be reading together at Bay Area Generations, curated by Maw! Get this – the suggested donation gets you a chapbook of the evening’s readings, including 2 stories about our black dads!

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Monday, April 20, 7:00 PM Doors Open, 7:30 Reading Starts

Bay Area Generations Reading in the beautiful library of the Berkeley City Club (see photos), 2315 Durant Avenue. Maw Shein Win is the guest curator for the evening and our fabulous readers include: Faith Adiele + Audrey Esquivel, Erica Goss + Amanda Williamsen, Ivan Arguelles + D.S. Black, Alexandra Kostoulas + Yvonne Campbell, Lynne Knight + Heather Bourbeau, Jon Sindell + Kristina Ten and Jack and Adelle Foley + Amos White. Organized by Charles Kruger and Sandra Wassilie.

More Faith-based Initiatives – with friends!

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Wednesday March 18 – Reading/Interview

Along with longtime gal pal (and one of my first publishers!) Elaine Lee, author of Go Girl: The Black Women’s Book of Travel & Adventure, I’ll be reading for Our Voices, Our Stories: A Literary Reading Series Featuring Women of Color. I will then be interviewed on my e-book, The Nigerian Nordic Girl’s Guide to Lady Problems, by former student, gal pal and Our Voices founder Lisa Gray. 7:00-9:00PM, Mercury Café (behold its cuteness below), 201 Octavia St, San Francisco. Free and open to the public.

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Thursday March 19 – Film Screenings/Discussion

Seattle-based gal pal, activist and award-winning filmmaker Eliaichi Kimaro and I will be screening and discussing our documentary films in a special program called Documenting the Diaspora: A Tanzanian-Korean-American & An Afro-Viking Go Home. 6:30-9:00PM, Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD), 685 Mission St., San Francisco. The event is part of Third Thursdays, which means that both the (fabulous, newly-renovated) museum and films are free!

Earlier in the day, we’ll be co-presenting Filming Your Story: A Tanzanian-Korean Activist & Afro-Viking Writer Go Home at my workplace (FilmingYourStory flyer), 12:00-3:00 PM, California College of the Arts, Building B3, 5212 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94618.

Friday March 20 – Film Screenings/Discussion

The next morning we’ll be screening the films for Mixed Roots: Mixed-Race Women Explore Their African Roots (Mixed Roots FLYER) in discussion with gal pal, writing partner and English Department Co-chair Jackie Graves. 10:00AM-12:00PM, Laney College, Odell Johnson Performing Arts Center, 900 Fallon Street, Oakland. The event, part of Women’s HERstory Month, is free and open to the public.

An afternoon event at Mills College TBA.

Whats your story

The Films

A LOT LIKE YOU (55 min and 82 min versions) During her first trip to Tanzania, Tanzanian-Korean-American Eliaichi Kimaro’s conversations with her aunts and uncles of the Chagga tribe address education, politics, social structure, tradition, history, marriage and rape. It is through the subject of sexual assault that Kimaro connects with her aunts and later with her parents, as together they unearth painful conversations to find some shared space to heal.

MY JOURNEY HOME (35 min) Born to and raised by a Nordic-American mother in the rural Pacific Northwest, Nigerian-Nordic-American Faith Adiele travels to Nigeria to meet her father and siblings for the first time. This film provides a layered, artful view of the intersections of multiracial identity formation, African decolonization, and Civil Right Era America.

Both films will be available for purchase at all events.

My first e-book part of Shebook’s soft launch

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Shebooks is an exciting new e-book publisher of great stories by women, for women. The focus is long-form journalism, short memoir, and short fiction by some of the best writers in the US and beyond, both well known and yet to be discovered.

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As part of their soft launch, my true story, The Nigerian-Nordic Girl’s Guide to Lady Problems, a witty look at culture and healthcare, is currently available on Amazon. The cover art by Alicia Buelow is gorgeous, and those of you familiar with Nigerian signage will recognize the title. Do a search for “shebooks” to find other titles by writers like Hope EdelmanSuzanne Paola, Marion Winik and shebooks Editorial Director Laura Fraser.

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Soon you’ll be able to subscribe to Shebooks and receive new stories on the web, on e-readers like Kindle and nook, and on Shebook’s own e-reading app. Each is between the length of a magazine article and a book—long enough to immerse yourself for a plane ride, or a good read before bed.

NOTE TO WRITERS: Shebooks has partnered with Good Housekeeping to sponsor a memoir about mothers contest!

2012 Mixed Roots Film & Literary Fest this weekend!

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This weekend I will be appearing with my people at the 2012 Mixed Roots Film & Literary Fest in L.A.! Look for me on Sunday 12:30 – 1:30 PM. The readings will be held in the Tateuchi Democracy Forum at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM), 369 East 1st Street, in downtown Los Angeles

Be there, or be mono-ethnic!

Multiculti Anthology Release this Friday!

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I was recently asked to blurb The Chalk Circle: Intercultural Prizewinning Essays, a new anthology that’s already racking up awards and sales records. One of my previous VONA students is in it, and the Introduction is by VONA faculty member David Mura. A great teaching tool!

The launch party is this Friday (May 4) in San Francisco at Books Inc. in Opera Plaza, 601 Van Ness Avenue, at 7 PM.  The book’s release arrives just in time for the annual World Day for Cultural Diversity Dialogue and Development on May 21st, as proclaimed by the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Editor Tara L. Masih will open the program, and authors will sign books after the reading. Refreshments will be served.

The Chalk Circle has already garnered several accolades:

  • Featured title, NewPages’ “New & Noteworthy Books” list
  • Winner, 2012 Skipping Stones Honor Award in the Multicultural/International category
  • Featured title, Amazon’s “Hot New Releases” list

 

 

 

Tara L. Masih has assembled a stunning collection. Disregard the textbook-sounding title and gaze upon the mosaic-like cover. The range of cultural diversity and personal complexity packed into this slim, beautiful volume is staggering and far outstrips any other collection out there. These now-American writers and travelers experience the intercultural encounter at home, overseas, within their own communities, families, and selves. The voices range from adult journalists and Peace Corps volunteers to the children of Nazis and refugees. For some, like Third Culture Kids and the children of survivors, their histories and true identities are hidden, and it is through engaging with food and spirituality, photographs and music, family stories and private letters, global and personal history, that they are able to recover and share the nuances of life on our globalizing planet. Each story is a polished, multi-faceted gem of unprecedented color and clarity, which together form a glittering necklace that redefines what it is to be intercultural—that is, human—in the world today. This is a book I will be teaching and recommending to friends and strangers again and again.

–Faith Adiele, Coming of Age Around the World: A Multicultural AnthologyMeeting Faith: The Thai Forest Journals of a Black Buddhist Nun

A Lot Like You

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Talk about a coincidink! This documentary film by a Seattle-based woman with a Tanzanian father and Korean mother was playing at the San Francisco Asian American Film Festival last week. So I loaded up about 10 Africans and their friends and checked it out. They kept leaning over and telling me, “This ‘A Lot Like You’ is a lot like you!” Indeed, with filmmaker Eliaichi Kimaro‘s situating of her parents within African independence movements, it felt like a longer a version of My Journey Home. Perhaps even some of the same B&W Civil Rights footage appears.

But hers has an added surprise twist of domestic abuse. I was gratified that the African men in our group thought the film was fantastic. And they also noted that her parents were together – still – and make a lovely presence on screen. I’ve never seen my parents together. My favorite artistic bit happens around 0:26-0:28, where the filmmaker’s further mixed daughter staggers out of the grandparents’ traditional thatched hut, into a sunlight doorway, and disappears.

Afterwards, I introduced myself to Kimaro and told her my hope – that we could be a double feature at the Mixed Roots Fest this summer in Los Angeles. Wouldn’t that be cool?!