Patricia and Simogne Hudson talk about their experiences being a biracial family. The interview was recorded at the Heidi W. Durrow Everybody Reads lecture at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland, on March 6th, 2012.
Because my father was a professional and wealthy, I grew up with privilege and status. I was usually the first or only or one of few blacks in my situation. For the most part, race has a more general, social impact on my life rather than specific and personal. I did not experience much discrimination although it certainly is always in the background and too often something one/I wonders about.
Culturally my influence is mixed from the Anglo/colonial background of my Trinidad and Tobago based family origins, which were decidedly bourgeois, but also struggling, to my own personal identification with our American Musical Heritage of Jazz and Blues based on African musical tradition.
I think that class and place are as or more influential than race. I grew up in New York City in a sophisticated, cosmopolitan family. I am educated, well read, broadly experienced and psychoanalyzed. I had many disappointments in my family, despite my privileged status. These factors have influenced my identity as much or more than the social construct of race.
“I think Heidi Durrow’s mom said it best: We are persons first.”
Probably the best way to understand what that means to read literature and think broadly. Unfortunately, so many are ingnorant and complacent.
My ethnicity as an Indian American has been heavily influential on my life. Born and raised in the United States, I have always felt American, immersed in the culture and lifestyle. At the same time, my Indian roots have always grounded me. Visiting India has strengthened my self awareness and humility, as I am constantly reminded of my simple village roots; and to know that my parents came here to the United States, my father from a small undeveloped village, to become successful Americans has shaped my own mentality. I identify as an Indian American, not someone torn between two worlds, but rather someone who has benefited heavily from these two backgrounds to make me the person that I am today.
When I was younger, I was sometimes ashamed to be Indian. I felt that the culture wasn’t cool or normal, at least compared to that of my Caucasian friends. In fifth grade one day, a girl in my class was talking about her invisible friend. She was pretending to introduce her to another girl, and turning to me, she said, “You can’t see her because you have brown skin”…another time, I went into a second grade class to say hi to my friend’s sister. When I approached her to give her a hug, a boy ran up and said to her, “Don’t touch her because she had brown skin!”
Though these were simply comments by little kids, I couldn’t help but feel hurt. I didn’t want to be different; I wanted to be just like everyone else. I slowly became self conscious, believing that people, especially boys, didn’t like me because of the color of my skin.
I didn’t realize then what I have come to realize; that I am so lucky to have two different cultural backgrounds, both beautiful and rich in their own ways. That being Indian is a valuable part of who I am, and it is in no way out of the ordinary; there are over a billion people of my ethnicity in India alone, literally, so I am in no way the odd one out. I love Indian culture today: the food, music, movies, dance, attire, traditions, and I embrace any chance I get to return to my mother homeland.
As our community talks about the novel, this site is a chance to see the themes from the story through the lens of community members.
Do you have a story that relates to the book? Share your experience and help continue the conversation about The Girl Who Fell from the Sky.
Because I’m half Arab and half Irish, new acquaintances frequently comment on my appearance— specifically, the fact that I don’t “look Arab” to them. I used to feel offended, frustrated, and confused by this— it seemed that people were accusing me of being some sort of imposter. Since I’ve written about my father’s Jordanian heritage in a few of my books, it seemed there was some perception that one must “look the part” in order to write about the experience. It was tiresome.
“…it seemed that people were accusing me of being some sort of imposter.”
I think race is essentially a social construct, based on fleeting and highly personal and subjective impressions. We made it up! Sure, there’s a color spectrum of skin pigments, but especially when you look at places like the Arab world, you see an infinity of skin tones and shades between black and white and you realize the categories simply don’t hold up. Sadly, people still tend to make assumptions based on ideas about race, and all sorts of people are victimized and controlled by these notions. I wish only to be free of assumptions based on appearances— I hope that someday all of us can be.
Bianca Espinoza shares her experiences growing up in mostly white Lake Oswego. The interview was recorded at the Heidi W. Durrow Everybody Reads lecture at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland, on March 6th, 2012.
Camillo Marquez shares his insight into meaning of racial identity. The interview was recorded at the Heidi W. Durrow Everybody Reads lecture at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland, on March 6th, 2012.
I was adopted, and I’m not 100% sure that I am African American or Chinese. My biological mother was Irish/German and I have met her side of my family but no one seems to know who my biological father could be. I went into foster care at four months and was later adopted just before I turned two. At the time, it was thought that black babies should be placed with black families. My foster family (now adopted family) is all white and I was raised in a 98% white town. I did not actually realize that my skin color made me different until I was in the 5th or 6th grade when I met someone who was darker than me. After that I went through this long journey of figuring out who I was, not just as an adopted daughter but as the 7th child and only kid in the family with a great tan all year.
I started to explore my ‘blackness’ after college, around age 24. I had to read about being black from books. The whole thing confused me. It affected me because I felt so distant from my ‘adopted’ family for so long. I really did not feel like I fit with them or anyone for that matter.
“I had to read about being black from books.”
I still do not know if I am truly black or Chinese but I know that I identify with being white…with a fantastic tan! Not long after reading about the meaning of ‘African American’ I met my biological half brother and my biological mother’s side of the family. I learned a lot about my past, at least on that side, and it helped me understand who I am as a person. I also met my partner who helped me become comfortable with the person I have always been. Now, I am just me, and I’m good with that.