“It’s possible”: the interracial family dynamic in speculative fiction

As a child, one of the most magical musicals ever for me was Roger’s and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. No, not the 1965 version. The 1997 version. The one that was soundly attacked for its “unrealistic” depiction of family. Ha. Let me say that again: “unrealistic” depiction of family. In a fantasy story. Where a magical fairy waves her wand to turn a pumpkin into a coach.

If you have any doubt that the negative reviews were race-based, take a look at the IMDB page reviews. Many of the reviewers say something along these lines: “There’s no way a white dad and a black mom would produce an Asian son.” If there is one thing I need to emphasize with this blog on writing speculative fiction and race, it’s this: you do not know everything. There are so many diverse family units out there, of every color. There are SO many nontraditional families in this country. This is not unrealistic.

It’s also not “political correctness” to include a mixed family in your novel/movie/short story/whatever. It’s real life–just maybe not yours. My dad was light skinned and my mom was dark skinned. When I was out with my dad, people did not always “get” that we were family. Same with my mom. So, you can understand why seeing a movie with interracial families would resonate with me. I don’t read the casting decisions as a yes, race doesn’t matter there is only one race the Human Race statement. I read it as a yes, race matters, but let’s represent some real family dynamics that are more complex than what we’re accustomed to seeing in musicals. If you don’t “get” it, that isn’t the fault of the cast and crew, just as it isn’t my fault people didn’t “get” my family dynamic.

So many fantasy stories depict one race or another race. But what this says to me, as an interracial person, is that there is still a stigma about being biracial. Also, that it is not acceptable to come from a blended or adopted family. We need more subversive fantasy and sci-fi (and musicals!) because it sends a message. It says, “Look, you are not weird if you are Asian and your parents are black, or you are white and your parents are black, or every single one of you happens to be a different color. None of that is weird if there is love in your house.”

I’m fortunate my kids get to grow up with that version of Cinderella in their heads. They’re growing up with the 2014 version of Annie, too. I want them to see race, not deny it. To see blended family. To appreciate the complexities of the real world, even in fantasy stories. To find characters and family dynamics they can resonate with and find a place in.

It’s not political correctness that drives me to introduce them to these stories. I only want them to know, based on my experiences and many, many others, that it’s possible (and no, I don’t mean in a flouncy fairy-tale sort of way).

Being biracial and writing fantasy

They always tell you to write what you know. Even in fantasy, you can add parts of yourself to the world and the characters. But this is very confusing advice for a biracial person. What happens when you aren’t totally convinced that what you know is the “authentic” experience? How can I say I’m one race when I have had the privilege of another? How can I identify as one culture when even those in that culture recognize me as an outsider? Below is my very lovely and routine internal dialogue:

Hey, you! Why don’t you do something meaningful with your life and write a science fiction novel about an Indian person for once?

The problem is, even though I have East Indian origins, I’ve never lived there and don’t have much connection to East Indian culture.

Fine, write a novel about a Guyanese Indian, you lazy schlub!

Well, I’m more Guyanese, but again I never lived there and don’t have cultural experiences from that country to draw from. Also, rude.

Okay, so why don’t you write a novel about a Guyanese Indian-American perspective?

Because my dad is white and I was raised in a predominantly white environment so I don’t really have an authentic voice in this, either. Sorry.

Just write a damned book about white people then.

But…I’m not that, either.

And on and on it goes, running in circles through starts and stops, research processes, scenes I hope ring true but can never be certain about. Admitting this makes me feel very vulnerable. I feel like I have to make tough choices all the time, in both writing and normal life, and it is scrutinized by both sides of me, and it never quite passes muster.

Blackish is one of my favorite comedy shows of all time, and Rainbow’s character is one of the best representations of all the clashes–good mother, bad mother; put together woman, unstable woman; white, black; selfish, selfless.

In this scene, she reflects on the identity crisis of growing up biracial. And I realized as I watched this moment, that this confusion is my voice. That the complexities of racial identity, for me, are what I know. That I don’t have any easy answers, and I can’t really say “I am this” or “I am that” but I can say “I am me and this is my story.”

Blog tour and Giveaway!

Today, April 24th through May 1st, I’ll be on a blog tour with interviews, guest blogs, and spotlights. Here’s where you can find me and more information on Slither during those days. And don’t forget to sign up for the giveaway, which will be announced sometime next week. You could win a dragon charm or a copy of the book for free!

Sign up here for the giveaway: a Rafflecopter giveaway

April 24 Guest Blog
Fang-tastic Books

 

April 24 Spotlight
The Silver Dagger Scriptorium

 

April 24 Spotlight
Illuminite Caliginosus

 

April 25 Spotlight
Butterfly-o-Meter Books

 

April 25 Spotlight
Booklove

 

April 25 Spotlight
Lisa’s World of Books

 

April 26 Interview
The Book Junkie Reads . . . 

 

April 26 Spotlight
fuonlyknew

 

April 26 Spotlight
Whiskey With My Book

 

April 26 Spotlight
Books,Dreams,Life

 

April 27 Guest Blog
I Smell Sheep

 

April 27 Spotlight
Readsalot

 

April 27 Spotlight
Sapphyria’s Book Reviews

 

April 28 Guest Blog
Full Moon Bites

 

April 28 Interview
Deal Sharing Aunt

 

April 28 Spotlight
T’s Stuff

 

May 1 Review
The Broke Book Bank

 

May 1 Spotlight
For Love of Books4

 

May 1 Interview
Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer

 

May 1 Interview
Supernatural Central