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!
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 Anthology; Meeting Faith: The Thai Forest Journals of a Black Buddhist Nun
Last Friday, before heading out for a Buddhists of Color retreat (more on that later!), I attended opening night of the 8th Annual San Francisco International Women’s Film Festival. The fest opened with “The Education of Auma Obama,” a documentary by mixed, Nigerian-born filmmaker Branwen Okpako about Auma Obama, an impressive scholar-activist who happens to be the Kenyan older sister of our mixed president.
Okay, am I the only mixed girl who didn’t realize that the entire Obama family is mixed? Obama Senior had 3 wives: a young Kenyan girl (Auma’s mother), our President’s mother, and another white American named Ruth who raised their mixed kids in Kenya. Auma herself has a daughter by a white European; one of the Obama brothers lives in China; and I have at least met Maya Soetoro-Ng, the President’s half-Indonesian sister. In comparison, I feel positively pedestrian!
The film incorporates Auma’s own films and home video, including footage of a young Barack and then-fiancee Michelle on their first trip to Kenya, and is structured around the final days leading up to the U.S. presidential election, managing to capture the giddy pride all Africa felt at the prospect of the first black African U.S. president. (A lovely moment is when the family is dancing with cardboard cut-outs of Obama around the grave of his father. Oh, spoiler alert: he wins the election.) Ah, remember how excited we all were, thinking that this was a strike for racial parity, rather than an invitation to public figures to spout their racism in the media with impunity?
Watch African Women in Cinema’s video interview with filmmaker Branwen Okpako.
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?!