New People – Book Review

Book Review

New People by Danzy Senna

New People

New People is about a multiracial woman named Maria. These are some of the terms she uses for multiracial people:

Miscellaneous People

Mulatto (her favorite word, which means little mule) and Mulatta

Multiracial

Biracial

The “N” Word

Odd, twisted girls

Racially nebulous

Quadroon

Negro

Born again black people

Butterscotch

Mestizo Abandoner

Mixed

“Everything” and

my least favorite, “Mutt.”

She also says things like, “Being black and looking white was enough of a freak show” and “He was embracing his black identity.” Apparently, biracial people can absolutely not embrace their white identity. So passing for black is fine; passing for white is not.

 

It’s as if the author, Danzy Senna, had plugged biracial into every thesaurus she could find and then used the words over and over ad nauseam. Maria measures everything and everyone by race and wouldn’t you know she is engaged to a biracial man, but falls for a black poet. I suppose that’s the premise of the book. By the way, the term New People was not invented by Senna. It was also a magazine that was started in the 1980s by Yvette Walker-Hollis.

 

I realize that a lot of readers think this book is quite funny. A review in Essence magazine thinks it’s hysterical. There is that. I also watched a new “comedy” on Netflix last week with a biracial character. Many “jokes” were made at his expense because he was biracial. His mother repeats several times that she hopes for “butterscotch babies.” Why is it suddenly OK to make jokes about the multiracial community?

 

When I read fiction, I ask myself about a quarter into the book if I care about the characters. In New People, I knew by page 14 that I didn’t care what happened to these people. I re-check half way through and with this book, things only got worse. Other reviewers of Danzy Senna’s works do not share my opinion. She and her book are being heavily promoted and praised. She is clearly the biracial darling of the moment. I read most books about multiracial people because of my work with Project RACE and the multiracial community. I can honestly say no person I have ever met—multiracial or otherwise—is preoccupied 100 percent of the time with race, like Maria. They are usually the people who scream, “There is no such thing as race because it’s a social construct,” but they are the same people who give you an entire host of words about the multiracial community. You may want to think about that for a moment.

 

To be fair, if you are looking for a book that presents an entire population as screwed up, also with no scientific basis, New People should fit into your life perfectly.

 

Susan Graham

 

Famous Friday

Ginger McKnight-Chavers

Giinger 2

 

Ginger McKnight-Chavers is a multiracial woman who writes about multiracial topics and characters. Her debut novel, In the Heart of Texas, was  released in October of 2015 and is the winner of the 2016 USA Best Book Award for African American Fiction.

In the Heart of Texas is reviewed as “a wry, humorous commentary on the complexities of race, class, relationships, politics, popular culture, and celebrity in our current society.”  Ginger also currently blogs for the Huffington Post and The TexPatch.

Ginger 1

Ginger is a graduate of Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service and Harvard Law School.  She grew up in Dallas, Texas but currently lives in New York, with her husband, daughter, and dog, which she describes as “an overweight West Highland White Terrier”. Before living her dream of becoming a full-time writer, she spent 20 years as a corporate and arts/entertainment lawyer.

Here is a plot summary of her award-winning novel:

“Pitched as “a poor man’s Halle Berry,” forty-one-year-old soap star Jo Randolph, has successfully avoided waiting tables since she left Midland, Texas at eighteen. But then, in the span of twenty-four hours, Jo manages to lose her job, burn her bridges in Hollywood, and accidentally burn down her lover/director’s beach house—after which she is shipped home to Texas by her agent to stay out of sight while she sorts out her situation.

The more Jo reluctantly reconnects with her Texas “roots” and the family and friends she left behind, the more she regains touch with herself as an artist and with what is meaningful in life beyond the limelight. The summer of 2007 is cathartic for Jo, whose career and lifestyle have allowed her to live like a child for forty years, but who now must transition to making grown-up decisions and taking on adult responsibilities.”

Ginger said that the book’s success  “has helped me create a platform and gain the confidence to finally call myself an “author” instead of a “recovering lawyer.”

She is currently working on her second novel, titled Oak Cliff, which will focus on female friendship set in the rapidly gentrifying Dallas neighborhood where she was raised.  She recently published an article about Beyonce on Essence.com and is hoping   to meet “Queen Bey” someday.

She is also helping her elderly mother, Dr. Mamie McKnight, write a memoir and family history. Her mother is a longtime educator and historian who is in the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame.

– Karson Baldwin, Project RACE kids president

BOOK REVIEW: The Kitchen House

written by Kathleen Grissom

Publisher: Touchstone

385 Pages
The-Kitchen-House
       
         Take everything you think you know about plantations in Virginia before the Civil War, slavery, color hierarchy, masters, mistresses, children, racial codes, and open your mind to a new and different story. Lavinia McCarten is seven-yearsold when she is orphaned during passage from Ireland making her way to America. Lavinia McCarten is white and becomes an indentured servant at the kitchen house of the grand tobacco plantation. She is to live with the other slaves, black and mulatto, under the watchful eyes of Belle—the illegitimate slave daughter of the master.
        Lavinia must spend her most formative years trying to make sense of liveand relationships between the Kitchen house and the very different kind of hierarchy in the Big house. Lives get sorted and sordid between the residents of both homes.
        Secrets unfold and discoveries are made. Growing into womanhood, Lavinia finds herself wanting to stay with her coloredfamily, but others have plans for to marry within her race as a white woman.
        The Kitchen House will surprise and shock; you will feel open, raemotions as well as the reserved and perhaps better contained survivareactions of all of the well-drawn characters in this finely-written story that will never quite leave you.
     – Reviewed by Susan Graham

New Book Review!

Nurturing Grandchildren: Black, White & In-between

Book Review Nurturing

It’s a brand new year, and I am more excited than ever to become a grandmother for the very first time! Being new to the grandparenting gig, I’m both excited and nervous at the same time. My grandson is scheduled to arrive via stork on March 4th, and I’m spending time reading up on the joys and challenges of having a grandchild, and a bicultural one to boot.

When our esteemed founder, Susan Graham, suggested I read and review the book Nurturing Grandchildren: Black, White & In-between, I was only too happy to comply. The author, Jean Moule, is a true expert in the area. A professor with a doctorate, she currently teaches at Oregon State University. I read in the book that her most popular class is “Racial and Cultural Harmony.” Perfect! Making her insights even more perfect (is that possible?) is the fact that she is a black woman married to a white man, and has three children and six grandchildren who are multiracial.

I enjoyed the format she chose for her book. Each chapter is divided into four sections: Ms. Moule’s original watercolor artwork, a letter from a person she knows well, columns she wrote for a multicultural magazine, and excerpts from her academic work on biracial children and families. It works very well to speak to all readers, black, white & in-between.

Within the book is a great history lesson of race relations she experienced over her own lifetime. She describes her childhood and young adult life experiences, as well as those of her own biracial children. She mentions the positive census form changes, which fits in nicely with the Project Race mission, including being committed to the appropriate inclusion of multiracial people on any forms that require racial identification.

The book addresses very well the decisions and explorations of racial identity that a multicultural person faces during childhood and beyond. Information based on personal experiences as well as professional study is provided. But the thing I liked best about the book is that it could be about nurturing any child, regardless of color. Her opinion is that every child who is encouraged, loved and free to make choices without judgment is most often going to thrive and will eventually create a perfect and unique identity . Ms. Moule’s descriptions of her nurturing presence as a parent and grandparent, the family’s wonderful cousins camp and together time, and professional explanations about cultural differences makes this a great read.

Finally, I liked the fact that she provided additional reading resources about being multiracial. I plan to continue to read up so that I, too, can be a nurturing grandmother.

Patti Barry
Project Race Grandparents

http://www.amazon.com/Nurturing-Grandchildren-Black-White–between/dp/1517758521

BOOK REVIEW

BOOK REVIEW

horse book front cover 

 

Every so often, I fall in love with a book. It’s a long time between books that I love. One has landed in my inbox to read online and I have a copy on my desk. The book is The Magnificent Land of the Multi-Colored Horses.

The book is written by Ken Barry and illustrated by Patti Barry—two very talented people! They are expecting their first multiracial grandchild. The story is about a lovely land that was the home to beautiful horses of all different colors. They got along and all was well. Then the horses suddenly began to “hang out” only with horses whose colors were the same as theirs. Things got pretty tense between the different groups. You will have to read the book to see what happens!

The Magnificent Land of the Multi-Colored Horses is targeted for preschool through fourth grade children, but I think this story should be in every home and library. It’s for every age. The writing is clear, yet the descriptions of the horses are absolutely lovely. The illustrations are simple, yet they are precisely what they need to be, loving and adorable, and yes, still for every age.

You can get The Magnificent Land of the Multi-Colored Horses on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0692541543. We also carry them at the Project RACE online store at: www.projectrace.com/store, where your contribution will benefit Project RACE, so that we can afford to carry out our mission statement and offer wonderful books to you like The Magnificent Land of the Multi-Colored Horses.

By Susan Graham

 

 

 

John Doe Review

Book Review

I received a copy of John Doe v. the Publisher Xemon, which did not interest me in the least until I saw the subtitle: The Supreme Court Case Establishing a Legal Multiracial Identity. Wow! I had no idea there had been such a case. There wasn’t. It was a factious case that would have made the author, Liam Martin, and any lawyer giddy to take on. It’s a legal fight that many legal advocates for a multiracial classification have been waiting for, for a very, very long time. But you can’t just make up a defamed plaintiff and waltz into the Supreme Court. If only it were that easy.

It reminds me of a public argument that took place on a Facebook page recently. Someone suggested that someone just start an organization to get a multiracial classification, go talk to the friendly folks in the Census Bureau and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and voila! Done! Hmmm…not so fast. It takes money, commitment, strategy, and brains to build an organization. As for the money part, you have to wrangle with the IRS for quite a while so that you can get a non-profit status so that people will be motivated to give you money so they can tax deduct it. If you are lucky, that takes less than a year. The part about getting OMB and our equally buddy-buddy folks at the Census Bureau to give you the time of day is just laughable. Anyway, what do these people think Project RACE, AMEA, MASC, MAVIN, the hapa organizations, and countless others have tried to do. By the way, we’re still doing it at Project RACE while the others have dissolved or headed for the hills.

Yes, we’re still waiting for the perfect case to come to us. I’m not an attorney, but I think I have a pretty good idea what to look for. A really good possibility came to us in the 1990s in Florida when a young girl was told by the elementary school principal at her new school that she could not put “multiracial” on her enrollment form. We have the principal saying that on video tape and adding that the child “looks white,” so that’s what she had to be on the paperwork. A Project RACE member happened to be a practicing attorney in Florida and he took the case on pro bono. This was not a class action suit; it was brought by an individual. The court threw it out because they said there was not enough harm to the child to let it continue to be heard by the legal system. The psychological damage it did to the child who had been raised from birth as a multiracial person, was just not enough. There are legal terms for all of it.

Still, I get what Martin means and found his legal arguments well thought-out and compelling, but I’m not an attorney. I disagree with him on a point or two, but I think we are in the same ballpark, lobbying that multiracial ball across the net, or hoop, base, whatever.

I like Liam Martin’s writing. However, his book gets sidetracked often, which made me want to grab him and bring him back around. The “Rebuttal to Eleanor Holmes-Norton” chapter is brilliant. I was in the room when she made her ridiculous arguments against a multiracial community; it made me mad then and it does now. It needed to be brought up and I thank Liam Martin for doing that and laying out his rebuttal.

Where we part ways in this 25 year old story is when he brings the multiracial organizations into the mix (no pun intended). He says that the multiracial movement of the 1990s “failed to defend ‘mixed-race’ and ‘multiracial’….” Really? NOT Project RACE, which is still fighting for appropriate language. We “got it” then and we get it now. Martin does a disservice by lumping all the different organizations together. AMEA, for example, wanted to get the love, sanction, and admiration of the NAACP. Project RACE’s stand was that the NAACP had no business demanding the one-drop rule for all multiracials. The hapas wanted everyone to be called hapa, and that was not going to happen. Throwing Project RACE into the pit with all the other groups is akin to throwing us under the bus, and yeah, it’s a huge mistake.

Martin spends a lot of time and space on “A Buddhist Repudiation of the one-drop rule.” It really only serves to add religion into the already complex trio of race, ethnicity, and culture.

Whether you’re interested in legal or racial issues, I recommend John Doe v. the Publisher Xemon, especially for the crowd that is so dearly holding on to the one-drop rule.

Susan Graham

Birthday Noodles

Book Review: Mei-Mei’s Lucky Birthday Noodles

 meimei3

 

I wondered as I read this children’s book, if a book can be described as “delicious.” Mei-Mei’s Lucky Birthday Noodles really is delicious! The book is subtitled, “A Loving Story of Adoption, Chinese Culture and a Special Birthday Treat” because it’s all of those things and so much more.

 

Mei-Mei is Chinese and is adopted by an American family. We learn that Chinese traditional birthday celebration includes long noodles, for a long happy life. With Mei-Mei, her birthday and adoption anniversary happen at the same time. What a celebration!

 

Author Shan-Shan Chen walks us through the cooking process. The biggest surprise is at the end of the book, with the complete recipe for Lucky Birthday Noodles that are simple enough for an older child to cook or a younger one with adult supervision. This truly is a story cookbook.

 

The illustrations by Heidi Goodman will make you smile. She beautifully depicts Mei-Mei and her friends as the interracial society we have become. I would like to see more of her multiracial friends in the pictures, but anyone can appreciate spending time in Mei-Mei’s interracial world.

 

Mei-Mei’s Lucky Birthday Noodles should be at the top of every family’s holiday gift list. Trust me, it’s a delicious read!

 

Susan Graham

for Project RACE

Book Review

 

 

MyAmazingDayCoverS

 

If you’re lucky, every so often you come across a book that takes your breath away. My Amazing Day is that kind of book. It truly is “a celebration of wonder & gratitude” written by Karin Fisher-Golton, with photographs by Lori A. Cheung, but the real star is Lily, the multiracial (White, Asian) adorable little girl in the photos. Just when you think she can’t get any cuter, you turn the page and she does! We love that there is no mention of race; it’s just a wonderful story about a little girl and how she is thanks everything in her world over the course of a day. Definitely get this for your 0-3 year old, and buy a copy for everyone else in your family!  See more at OurAmazingDays.com (more…)

Oh, Oh, Baby Boy!

 

Oh, Oh, Baby Boy! by Janine Macbeth

Book Review

By Susan Graham

 

 

Janine Macbeth has produced a stunning book, both in content and design. The book celebrates both being multiracial and fatherhood. The book takes readers through the life of a multiracial boy and his father, from birth through childhood, becoming an adult and finally, having a multiracial child of his own. It sends important messages about involved parenting and the joy of living in a multiracial world.

This book is a work of art that belongs in every household. Oh, Oh, Baby Boy! is for the ages 2 to 5 group, but I think it could be introduced as a picture book before that and certainly after, as it illustrates such positive ideals as being “strong and kind” and running and playing for the sheer joy of it.

Do not wait for Fathers’ Day to buy this truly inspiring book. Get it for Children’s Day, which is every day when you can teach so many positive messages at one time to your family. Oh, Oh, Baby Boy is a must have for every home collection of superb children’s books.