Saturday, May 12, 2007


Or should I say, Finally Reviewed. Other reading assignments for a neighborhood book club and for Junior Great Books (a program at my kids’ school) forced me to read Mixed in pieces over the past few months. A story here, a story there, but when I finally had a chance to plow through the majority of it, I found it well worth the effort. I’ve already discussed Rebecca Walker’s stunning introduction to this book. Before diving into the intro, however, I’d read Mixed editor Chandra Prasad’s foreward and then jumped to her short story, “Wayward,” and I was hooked. Only then did I read the introduction, and I’m very glad I did.

Rebecca Walker not only encouraged me to read on, she challenged me to read beyond the words of this unique anthology and try, however feebly, to glimpse the realities of the lives of so many people of mixed-race or cross-cultural heritage. While Rebecca Walker warns the picture may not always be pretty, the diversity of the works that grace the pages of Mixed ensure every reader will carry away multiple vivid, complex insights into the worlds its writers inhabit and explore in their work. One or two stories seemed (to me, anyway) to wallow in blatant bitterness or experimentation. Luckily, the other gems collected here far outshine those exceptions.

Among my favorites, Ruth Ozeki’s “The Anthropologists’ Kids” (“There used to be this joke at Yale, that in order to get tenure in the Anthropology Department you had to have an Oriental wife.”) and Lucinda Roy’s “Effigies (“Although he was biracial…, Sam had inherited barely a trace of Africa in his countenance. But his hair told a different story.”) follow each other right out of the gate. Peter Ho Davies’ rollicking and bittersweet “Minotaur” (“The horns of a dilemma? My horns are my dilemma.”) is then followed by Emily Raboteau’s classic “Mrs. Turner’s Lawn Jockeys” (“Our dad is in four places at once, and it’s giving him a headache…. He’s thinking about who he used to be, who he is, who people think he is, and who he wants me to become.”). That’s four phenomenal stories, all in a row.

And there are many more. Interested in what it’s like for a young Indian-American woman to cope? Read Carmit Delman’s “Footnote.” Curious to learn about a Palestinian-American girl suddenly moved from New York City to Wyoming, where her name is changed and she’s told never to again speak her father’s language? Try Diana Abu-Jaber’s “My Elizabeth.” The potential and possibilities of the mixed experience are limitless, really. Luckily, this anthology effectively explores a significant sample. I found Kien Nguyen’s “The Lost Sparrow” (and his author notes) most powerful. I’ll never forget his description of the mixed-race Vietnamese “children of the dust.”

“What’s vital about Mixed,” Chandra Prasad notes, “is its timeliness and its ability to welcome all readers into its fold. The literature here is by and about multiracial persons, but the feelings it evokes are universal.” I’d add that Mixed is also vital because it not only explores the mixed-race experience, it explodes so many common misconceptions that still impact—and in many cases threaten—its evolution.

Mixed: An Anthology of Short Fiction on the Multiracial Experience belongs on high school reading lists. While students in diverse school districts will find solace as they read about others who share the concerns that impact them or their friends, students in homogenous districts will be challenged to consider obstacles faced by such a wide variety of Americans of mixed-race or cross-cultural descent. I truly believe Mixed is just the beginning.


Blogger Patry Francis said...

Have you read Peter Ho Davies new novel, The Welsh Girl? He is FABULOUS. Sounds like a great anthology.

9:39 PM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

It is great, Patry! Thanks for the note on The Welsh Girl. The bookstore is on my list of errands today (oh darn!); I'll be sure to check it out.

5:50 AM  

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