The following was originally written as a review, however, we asked Deb to expand on her thoughts to be used as a blog.
Being Biracial is a book that will make people think. It will also pave the way for important and enlightening conversations that might not otherwise take place.
I must admit, the concept of a whole person being half one thing and half another, or one part this to two parts that, has never been part of my thought process, be it a matter of race, religion or nationality. Rather, I’ve always thought of people more as a blend of all those who’ve gone before—parents, grandparents, etc.—along with a dash of something other-worldly or indefinable, creating unique individuals outside and in. To me, a person’s racial makeup, including my own, is one of many aspects that makes someone interesting, special and beautiful, although that’s honestly never been at the forefront of my mind or of many conversations that I’ve had. That is, not until reading Being Biracial.
When I was a teenager and first learned that the dark-skinned woman in the weathered black-and-white photograph was my great-great-grandmother from Egypt, who’d married and had two daughters with a Jewish Russian cantor, my reaction was probably along the lines of, “Oh, cool!” I wasn’t “just” White anymore … although I’d never given that much thought, either. And I suppose that’s because I’d had the luxury of not thinking much about race, being a Caucasian girl who’d grown up in a fairly homogeneous community, racially speaking, never having to deal with being judged for the shade of my skin, the shape of my eyes or the texture of my hair. (Socioeconomic status, fashion and body type were other matters entirely.) Other than a relatively brief exploration of religious identity—ultimately resulting in “none of the above” for me—I’d never sought to belong to any demographic or group much beyond my own family, sports teams, a small number of close friends or a loose community of friendly acquaintances.
Three generations between my Egyptian ancestor and my siblings and me had diluted any inherited African features and, sadly, knowledge of who my great-great-grandmother was or how she even met and married my great-great-grandfather at that time. Perhaps being so far removed from my Black* relative, combined with my physical appearance, is why identifying with a particular race was never a question for me.
As a teen and young adult, I was certainly well aware of the racial prejudice in the world and ever more aware as years passed, yet it was more something I’d hear about and see on the news or read about in books. Despite my disgust at humankind’s propensity for racism and empathy for those who were targets of such attitudes and actions, I was detached from that experience. Even when I lived for several years in a rural area of a certain mid-Atlantic state where the unabashed bigotry was like nothing I’d witnessed before, it wasn’t directed at me or, as far as I was aware, at any of my friends, so it wasn’t something I spent much time considering once the overheard bigoted comment was replaced by another conversation. I’d always had a diverse group of friends with a variety of racial identities, but I’d never really talked to any of them about race.
Reading Being Biracial has changed that. Even before I’d finished reading the book, I found myself broaching the subject of race, not only with people of the same race but also with people of races different than my own and of mixed race too. Having been privileged to learn about the experiences of the diverse individuals who contributed to Being Biracial, I wanted to know more about the experiences of non-white or mixed race people I knew personally. The conversations thus far have been refreshing and eye-opening, and I hope they will continue. This is definitely a book for everyone of any race.
Thank you to Being Biracial for giving me not just the courage to start those conversations but the thought to do so in the first place.
*Defining Egyptians racially and ethnically is a debate that is as old as the Egyptians themselves. Black? Arab? White? Asian? North African? Coptic? Yes, no and everything in between. For purposes of this blog, Deb has chosen to refer to her relative as Black, and we have respected her wishes to do so.
Deb Kingsbury is a writer, author and member of the Search and Rescue (SAR) team in Coconino County, Arizona.
Deb’s author bio on Amazon
Deb’s experiences being a volunteer SAR team member
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