Monday, November 28, 2005

Beyond FICTION: ONE SISTER'S SONG by Karen DeGroot Carter

Self-promotion does not appeal to me, but when your first novel receives a glowing review on a site like POD-dy Mouth, you want to let the world know. I am not biracial, but I wrote about a biracial woman and her struggles to find her place in her world in One Sister’s Song. I explored subtle forms of contemporary prejudice against people of mixed-race heritage throughout my novel, as well as single parenting, grief recovery, and the Underground Railroad. Writing this book, having it published, discussing it with book clubs, reading positive reviews of my all adds up to wonder, pure and simple. Call this post shameless self-promotion; I prefer to call it a thank-you note to everyone, including the anonymous host of POD-dy Mouth, who’s read my book and encouraged me to keep writing. What a way to start the week.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Beyond FORTITUDE: Maria P.P. Root

I’ve come across the name Maria P.P. Root many times over the past few years, and am glad I finally took the time to read more about this prolific researcher, writer, and activist. Maria P.P. Root, Ph.D., describes herself as “an independent scholar and clinical psychologist.” She lives and works in Seattle as “a trainer, educator, and public speaker on the topics of multiracial families, multiracial identity, cultural competence, trauma, work place harassment, and disordered eating.”

Root’s impressive collection of published works includes four multiracial titles, most recently the Multiracial Child Resource Book, which she helped edit for the MAVIN Foundation; and Love’s Revolution: Interracial Marriage. Her 1992 book, Racially Mixed People in America, effectively brought the discussion of mixed-race issues to the attention of a wider audience. In that book, Root first published her popular “Bill of Rights for Racially Mixed People.” She’s followed this now with a “Multiracial Oath of Social Responsibility.”

For remarkable insights into what life is like for a person of mixed-race heritage (or to see that indeed you are not alone if you struggle every day to overcome the ignorance of others), read Root’s “50 Experiences of Racially Mixed People.” This brief article makes it clear that prejudice remains based on painful assumptions. Maria P.P. Root continues the patient work of dismantling, brick by brick, the many barriers constructed of such assumptions as she travels and speaks, writes and edits, and counsels us all on the way to a more understanding, more tolerant world.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Beyond FEASTS: Spread the Love

Now that you’ve enjoyed your holiday feast with all the fixin’s, how about spreading the love to those less fortunate? Support on-going hurricane relief efforts by purchasing a copy of the Stories of Strength anthology. See my full review here on

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Beyond FORUMS: Intermix: Where Mixed-Race Matters

London-based Intermix not only highlights resources for the mixed-race community, it provides current, lively forums on topics ranging from Adoption and Parenting to Arts & Entertainment and Negative Media Watch. In the Around the World forum, click on “It’s not just a UK thing” and you’re directed to a page with a bold subhead: “Welcome to the Intermix forums, where mixed-race matters.” Read on, and you’ll hear from people with vastly different backgrounds who share one thing in common: they’ve experienced racism in various forms, in various places.

One member notes: “Sites like (Intermix) highlight the wrongs that are being done whilst giving us all somewhere to feel wanted and safe.” Americans of mixed-race heritage might be surprised to learn racism isn’t confined to nations like ours with tumultuous race-relations histories. Countries known for their homogeneity apparently host their own brand of prejudice that directly affects visitors or new residents who don’t quite fit in. Perhaps by participating in forums such as those hosted by Intermix, Americans of mixed-race heritage can contribute to the conversation, too, and help increase understandings on both sides of the pond.

Other areas of this comprehensive site highlight mixed-race books, celebrities, events, film, art, icons, music, news, parenting resources, and poetry. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Beyond FEATURES: Reading, Writing, and Racism

Prejudice is in the local news again here in Denver. A student government leader and member of the Black Student Alliance at the University of Colorado (CU) at Boulder received an anonymous, abusive e-mail last week that not only insulted her but threatened her life if she ever opted to run for student government again. Denver Post columnist Diane Carman refused to let the story fade with the week’s headlines. Her Friday column, “Standing Up Forces Racists to Back Down,” included a distressing list of recent racially-motivated incidents:

“We seem to be in the throes of a resurgence of racial, ethnic and sexual harassment in Colorado and across the country,” Carman lamented. “At CU, participants in the annual Big 12 Conference on Black Student Government in February were greeted with racist graffiti and racial epithets yelled from dormitory windows. Then in June, Andrew Sterling, an African-American student, had his jaw broken by a guy who allegedly jumped out of a passing van, called him names and beat him up.

“In March, a 13-year-old boy harassed a black student at Ken Caryl Middle School with racial slurs. Racial slurs were hurled at Battle Mountain High School football players during a game with Steamboat Springs last year. Insults were directed at black college students on a field trip to Cortez by people who waved a Confederate flag from their car and swerved maniacally as if trying to hit them. And on and on.”

Carman noted that “the problem of increasingly virulent hate speech was a common theme at the recent conference of the National Association of Universities and Colleges.”

“Blame it on a nation divided,” she said, “on the convenience and anonymity of the Internet, the unbridled hostility fostered on talk radio, and the shameless, covert smear campaigns that are revered as genius in modern politics. Take your pick. It’s all of those things and more.”

Yet some people insist racism is a thing of the past. At the rate we’re going, I doubt it ever will be.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Beyond FUN: Alaafia Kids

Meet Jeanne Yacoubou, her husband, Malik, and their three children Amira, Latif, and Jamil. Malik and Jeanne met in Benin, Africa, when Jeanne worked there as a Peace Corps volunteer. They now live in Baltimore, where Jeanne founded Alaafia Kids “as a way to raise awareness of the experiences of different kinds of Americans and design products with them in mind.”

Jeanne Yacoubou’s inspiration to create her company was sparked by yet another playground instance of discrimination among children. When her daughter was three, other children refused to play with her. Jeanne spoke with an African-American mom whose child had suffered a similar experience. “So I thought I needed to act,” the teacher with multiple masters degrees states simply. “I did a little research and discovered some incredible statistics: 1 out of every 25 marriages in the United States alone is mixed! 7.2 million Americans indicated on the 2000 census that they were ‘mixed.’” Yacoubou adds that “a major goal of Alaafia Kids is to raise awareness and acceptance of interracial people (namely, children), in American society.”

Check out Alaafia Kids not only for handmade dolls, African clothes for children, and educational products, but for a unique collection of thoughtful reviews on interracial and multicultural titles for children and adults. Not only does Yacoubou cheer, “Viva, multiculturalism!”—Alaafia Kids celebrates it.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Beyond FACTS: Black Looks Blog

It’s tempting for those of us so far from the riots in France to turn away and choose to ignore them and all their complexities. If you’re concerned about the true causes of these riots and their potential ramifications, check out Black Looks for a comprehensive break-down of the events that led up to the riots and the prejudice and humiliation so many people in Europe continue to endure because of their race or class or family history. Sobering for a Monday morning, critical for complete understanding.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Beyond FAREWELL: Veteran's Day Salute

Common Sense blogger Ken Grandlund offers a poignant and important reminder for Veteran’s Day.


It’s been more than two months since Hurricane Katrina struck, yet people continue to come up with incredible ways to support on-going relief efforts. Jenna Glatzer, executive editor at, spearheaded a remarkable project to publish a book that celebrates the human spirit and donate proceeds to relief efforts. Thanks to the help of writers in the AbsoluteWrite community and beyond and with support from print-on-demand publisher Lulu, Stories of Strength: An Anthology for Disaster Relief blossomed from the root of one woman’s idea into a 300+-page collection of pure inspiration and is now for sale. But wait! There’s more! Go to the Stories of Strength website to see how much this project has already earned for disaster relief. Then add on a percentage for what Lulu might have made off Glatzer’s brainchild, because it’s donating all its profits to disaster relief, too. THEN, buy a copy and feel good about the purchase. Maybe buy two or three. Talk about a holiday gift with a story behind it. Many stories, actually.

For a review of what the people of New Orleans endured in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and how our government failed to help, check out the Think Progress blog’s Katrina Timeline. Then consider how many lost their homes, how many lost loved ones, how many lost everything they ever had. Buying a book is the least each of us can do.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Beyond FOUNDATIONS: Swirl: A Mixed Community

Swirl, Inc. has come a long way as a meeting place and advocacy group for people of mixed heritage. Founder Jen Chau returned home to New York City after graduating from Wellesley in 1999, grew frustrated by the lack of organizations designed to support and bring together New Yorkers of mixed heritage, and by early 2000 had established her own non-profit. Today, Swirl boasts three dynamic chapters: SwirlNewYork, SwirlBoston, and SwirlBayArea.

According to the Swirl, Inc. site, each of these chapters offers local members two to six monthly events such as dine-outs, book clubs, film screenings, discussions and panels, museum outings, family events, volunteer activities, and advocacy opportunities. Swirl listservs (one’s just for teens) boast more than 1,000 members from across the country and around the world. That feature alone makes Swirl a top resource for people of diverse backgrounds. Nothing makes one feel less alone than chatting with a thousand or so friends. Swirl members do not connect because they share ties to a single nationality or ethnic group. It’s their collective shared experiences as people of mixed heritage that unify and strengthen the entire, incredibly diverse, Swirl community.

Monday, November 07, 2005


I just sent along an e-mail to a high-school teacher in rural Arkansas who is concerned about a student of mixed-race heritage and is looking for resources for him. I suggested the MAVIN site, for starters, as well as the book What Are You? Voices of Mixed-Race Young People by journalist Pearl Fuyo Gaskins. I just dug out my copy and found my favorite back-cover quote. It’s from 15-year-old Derek Salmond:

“People often ask me the question ‘So what are you anyway?’ I say, ‘I’m a human being. Why? What are you?’”

Derek is featured on page 21. His essay “I’m a Little Bit of Everything” includes a pet peeve of his: that most people “automatically assume that my parents must be split up because (theirs is) an interracial marriage. They have this idea that biracial children don’t live with both of their parents at the same time.”

This book effectively dismantles many, many such myths thanks to Gaskins’ interviews with 80 young people of mixed-race heritage. Originally published in 1999, her book captures the realities of daily life for millions—yes, millions—of people of mixed-race heritage in this country and holds them up for others, perhaps even a lonely high-school student in rural Arkansas, to view and consider.

Saturday, November 05, 2005


After I read Black, White, Just Right! to my six-year-old, Lauren, I wasn’t entirely sure what she thought about it. She’d been quiet and still throughout the brief look at a biracial family from the fun-loving point of view of a girl just about her age. When I asked whether or not she’d liked the book, Lauren answered (in classic first-grade fashion!): “I didn’t like it, I LOVED it!”

I’d seen this title on various lists of books for children of mixed-race heritage over the past few years. Published in 1993, it was clearly written with the goal of helping children of mixed-race parentage understand the special place they occupy in their families. The first-person narrator of this book, who never reveals her name, cheerfully runs through the various ways in which her parents differ, and how she fits very happily in the middle of those differences:

“Mama’s face is chestnut brown. Her dark brown eyes bright as bees. Papa’s face turns pink in the sun; his blue eyes squinch up when he smiles. My face? I look like both of them—a little dark, a little light. Mama and Papa say, ‘Just right!’”

Colorful illustrations by Irene Trivas bring the words of author Marguerite Davol to life in a spunky, feel-good read. Davol’s photo of herself with her two “just-right” grandchildren gives young readers an additional glimpse at a diverse family that just might reflect their own. The cover glimpse of a little girl smiling at herself in a mirror sets the tone of positive self-esteem and self-image that permeates this little gem of a book.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Beyond FEATURES: ColorLines Magazine

ColorLines magazine is a testament to the potential of mass media to 1) raise awareness of critical issues faced by various Americans, 2) promote activism, and 3) demand accountability. In one current article, “Don’t Forget about Us: Young People in the Social Security Fight,” contributor Andrea Batista Schlesinger serves as an informed, capable representative of college-age Americans, the group that will be the first to face a truly uncertain future if Social Security is dismantled.

“Some think that we’re unlikely to mobilize significant numbers of young people around Social Security,” Schlesinger writes. “They say that the issue is a non-starter for those who think of retirement as an abstraction. I learned how faulty this assumption was in the late 1990s, when I ran a campaign to engage college students in a conversation about the program’s future. We visited campuses all across the country, including Hawaii, Florida, Appalachia and the Bronx, speaking with thousands of students. We found a population that knew dangerously little about Social Security butwas hungry to know more.

“We need to tap into the hopes of young Americans and not just their fears. We need to put this conversation in context. And the context is the reality of their lives.

“We need to be asking young people, what has the market done for you lately?

“People are entering adulthood burdened with enormous debt. For the nearly two-thirds of college students with student loans, they owe $19,000 on average. Plus, the typical college student leaves school with another $3,000 on the cards, with interest rates climbing as fast as they can.

“Despite our best efforts, this is our economic reality and our economic future, and it’s not going to change until we start talking about it.”

ColorLines does not sell fluff to their readers, even young readers, in return for high-end advertising. A project of the Applied Research Center, this publication is driven instead by a mission; its editors and contributors are anxious to effect change in a world in which so many people continue to be short-changed. We’re talking far beyond features here, and it’s a much-needed approach.