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Finding Our Voice

Bryony Sutherland

When the dust began to settle after my first conversation with Sarah about publishing a book about being Biracial, we knew we had a challenge ahead of us. We decided almost immediately that we wanted more voices than our own to be heard, and soon the concept for an anthology of essays was born. Our vision was that we would find as many authors as we could, with as many ethnic mixes and diverse experiences as possible. Men, women, young, old, parents, siblings, grandparents. It was quite a shopping list. Oh, and we wanted our book to be global.

yay-6877616-digitalPanic stations: So how does one go about finding people who are happy to share their personal take on ethnic heritage with the world at large?

As many projects do, it started organically. Word of mouth secured us our first dozen or so contributions, as friends, family and business colleagues either opened up, or introduced us to someone else who might.

This process alone was fascinating. For example, Sarah had always wondered about her friend Heather’s genetic makeup but had respected her privacy too much to ask. The story that emerged—that Heather didn’t even discover her father was Black until she was seven, and lived her life entirely as a White woman—was both surprising and touching, affording Heather the opportunity to consider feelings long since buried and reevaluate her racial identity. Elsewhere Jamie, a Biracial mother, admitted her shocking first reaction to her half-White newborn daughter was that she was somehow “diluted.” And my friend, also named Sarah, detailed the complexities of growing up with a non-identical twin sister who had the blonde hair and fair complexion of their mother, while Sarah herself bore the Indian coloring of their father.

The Internet is a wonderful place, and already these stories stretched across the planet. Yet we were greedy and wanted more. We built a fledgling website, advertised on social media and writing sites, and continued to spread the word. The response was phenomenal.

In Australia we met Mark, a Biracial man from Barbados adopted into a White Australian family, whose words spat venom from an unhappy childhood, and whose artwork—displayed on our back cover and within our book—tells as much about the Biracial experience as any essay ever could. There was Kim, accepted in Australia yet mistaken for a prostitute in her equally native Thailand, and Janek, a frequent victim of being stopped at airports due to his “terrorist” coloring (in truth a mixture of Sri Lankan and Caucasian).

Moving across Europe, we met Souad, a French/Algerian lady who is proud to wear a hijab while walking next to her blue-eyed mother, despite the fact it is illegal in many schools and government buildings. Then there was Lea, a bewildering mix of Caribbean Black, Native American, French, Tunisian and Russian, who has always felt welcome wherever she travels. In Africa, Lezel, from Namibia, warmed us with mellifluous evocations of her life as a Strandloper enduring discrimination against “hotnots,” while Maja, a pale-skinned redhead from Johannesburg whose mother was once accused of “stealing a White baby,” examines her firsthand experiences of apartheid and subsequent depression, acceptance and empowerment. Meanwhile Canadian Søren writes of violence, revealing there is still a very long way to go as a half-Asian, half Scandinavian author. And one contributor, the only one who requested to remain anonymous, explores her feelings of wishing she’d never been born due to her conception being a direct consequence of the Vietnam War.

Sadly space does not permit me to include all our contributors’ backgrounds, but the examples above constitute a healthy cross-section of the essays included in our book, each of which made us feel something. Something new, something profound; something worth sharing.

Collating this book has been a whirlwind fourteen months involving countless late nights on Skype due to “challenging” time differences, planning sessions, interviews, revisions, editing rounds, cups of coffee, glasses of wine—whatever it took to get us through. What was originally a two-girl band has evolved into a team of thirty-plus, including graphic designers, artists, book designers, website designers, video producers and administrators alongside our contributors, each of whom we are proud to call our friend.

With Being Biracial: Where Our Secret Worlds Collide, our aim was always to represent a collective experience. We believe we have achieved this, yet in many ways the discussion is just beginning. If you have a story you’d like to share in a future volume, please get in touch.

We hope you enjoy our book.