Being Biracial:Where Our Secret Worlds Collide by Sarah Ratliff and Byrony Sutherland

I know, I know.

Two nonfiction book reviews in one week. I must be losing it right? Honestly I read these book a couple of weeks back, and not close together but I am just now reviewing them.

Why did I choose this book? Am I biracial? No. Then why in the world am I reading a book about it, if it doesn’t pertain to me?

My answer is this: Why wouldn’t I read it? Honestly as recently as maybe five to seven years ago, I probably wouldn’t have read this book. And not because I don’t read much non-fiction. Because at that time, I really didn’t think a book like this would apply to me, or that I would learn anything from it.

Yes. You heard me. I was a foolish girl, and small minded. I am not racist by any means. I have several friends that are from different ethnicities. I just haven’t educated myself on the subjects of race and prejudice as much as I should. Oh yes, I know that prejudice exists and its still a problem today. I live in a southern state. I just chose to do what so many other people do and shake my head and say “Its sad that people still think that way,’ but never did anything about it or educated myself further.

Okay back to why I chose to read this. I was actually asked by a friend and colleague to read it. And I don’t exactly say no to this person ūüėČ Just kidding. What this person doesn’t know is that I actually wanted to read it as soon as the idea of the book was announced. Because I am curious. Because I am NOT the small minded person I used to be. Because I love to read, and while I do a lot of pleasure reading, at the same time I have hit a point in my life where I want to read things that will help me learn. That will open my eyes and my mind and educate me.

Being Biracial: Where Our Secret Worlds Collide is that kind of book.

Before I even read the first page, I had already started thinking. How many people do I actually know that are mixed race, or are parents to a mixed race child? The answer to that is: several. I have friends that are either mixed race or have mixed race children. My kids are friends with kids that are mixed race. I have a cousin whose mom is white, and her dad is black. Furthermore, she is married to a¬†Hispanic man¬†and has two children with him, so her kids are Hispanic, Black and White. But what I really thought about was not who I knew, or how many people I knew that were mixed race. What really got me thinking was the fact that I have never really stopped to think about how they feel. How they cope. What issues that have/might have as a result of being mixed race themselves or raising a mixed race child. How I, being pretty much your standard white girl, will not ever know or understand what it’s like to not feel like I fit in because of my racial background. Of course everyone at some point in their lives has felt they don’t belong or fit in somewhere, and I have, but it was never because of my race.

What is Being Biracial: Where Our Secret Worlds Collide about?

Being Biracial: Where Our Secret Worlds Collide is an anthology, or a collection rather, of essays written by people who are either biracial, multiracial, or parents to children of such, or those in interracial relationships. Sarah Ratliff and Byrony Sutherland co-authored this book, and collected essays from several others who vary in age, sex and race. They tell their stories, and what it means to them to be biracial today. Some tell what it was like growing up, as opposed to how it is now. Or is there much difference? Race is still, after all these years, a subject that is mishandled so many times. All you have to do is pick up a newspaper, or log into Google or msn.com. At least one headline daily will contain a story of someone who was mistreated because of his or her race.

My Thoughts

So what exactly does “being biracial” mean? Does it mean you’re half one thing and half another? Or that you’re more one than the other? Or none of the above? The answer is found in this book. However, its not a cut and dried, straightforward answer. If that’s what you’re looking for, you won’t find in this book. And you probably won’t ever find that kind of answer. Because the truth is, being biracial is interpreted in many ways.

The most common thing I have heard, in reading some of the essays and from people that I know, is that a lot of people who are mixed race have a hard time feeling like they blend into a particular race, when they aren’t fully that race. For instance, a biracial child who has one black parent and one white parent, may not feel as if they fully identify as white, since they are also black, and vice versa.

The way I feel about it is they are both. They are not just black or just white, but a combination¬†and they should go with whatever feels comfortable to them. Sadly, a lot of people don’t think the way I do, and that’s where prejudice kicks in. My heart broke reading some of these essays, reading how some of these people were treated. Especially the story of a white mother who has¬†biracial sons, and one of her sons was told as a baby that he couldn’t play on playground equipment with other children because he was “black.”

As I read this book, I tried to pinpoint an essay as my favorite. I would read and read, and think I had my favorite picked out. Then I’d read another one, and THAT one would be my favorite. By the time I finished reading, I had come to the conclusion that picking a favorite would be impossible. They all spoke to me on some level. Yes, some more than others, but they were all touching. And not because they’re just words on paper. These are real people like you and me sharing their feelings, their emotions, glimpses of their souls.

Both author’s essays were great. One reason being that their backgrounds and experiences are so different. They are pretty much on both ends of the spectrum. Byrony has for the most part, had a positive experience being in an interracial marriage and having biracial children. Sarah is biracial, and grew up with a lot of prejudice, especially in her own family.

Two others that really stood out were “Just a Typical Teenager” and “Nigger, Nigger Pull The Trigger.” The first was exactly as it sounds. It was the essay of a teenager who is mixed race and how she feels that she is “just a typical teenager.” It was refreshing to read an essay from a child’s point of view, and even better still a positive one. But sadly, especially here in the United States. not all biracial teenagers and kids feel that way. So I hope that this sweet child does not encounter prejudice and ugliness as she grows older. Chances are in this evil world, she will. So I hope that she has the strength to persevere it. Maybe she will go back and read this essay and remember how happy and carefree she was as a teenager.

The latter essay was the complete opposite. It was dark, deep and definitely one of the most touching and thought provoking essays out of the book. It was written by a man who is Barbadian and White, but adopted as a young infant and raised by a white family. He felt he was raised to be white, but treated as black. So his message was geared towards those in interracial relationships who don’t already have children. To make them think and realize what kind of world that they would be bringing their child, especially one of mixed race, up in.

I am so glad that I read this. It has opened up my mind on the topic of race even more than it was before, and I plan to read other books on this subject in the near future.

If you are biracial, in an interracial relationship, or raising biracial children, you should definitely read this book. If you aren’t, you should definitely read this book. Perhaps it will give you a better understanding of someone you know. It will make you think, that’s for sure.

 

 

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