Identity Is At The Heart Of Brash, Essential ‘Mulattos’

Identity Is At The Heart Of Brash, Essential ‘Mulattos’

National Public Radio

Michael Schaub, Book Critic

Williams, Tom, Among The Wild Mulattos and Other Tales (Huntsville, Texas: Texas Review Press, 2015)

“Odder than two-headed calves, stranger than, Uri Geller who could bend spoons with his mind.” That’s how the narrator of “Who Among Us Knows the Route to Heaven?” — one of the stories in Tom Williams’ collection Among the Wild Mulattos and Other Tales — describes himself and his brother, growing up in the suburbs of Ohio in the early 1970s.

What sets them apart is their heritage. Their father is black and their mother is white, and they’re not allowed to forget it. The narrator’s white schoolmates admire his athleticism, but, he recalls, “when I brought to lunch fried chicken or napped in history, they chuckled quietly and nodded at each other in affirmation that their parents and the TV were right about black folk.” As for his black friends: “[I]f I professed an admiration, say, for the music of Supertramp … they aimed at me the barbs their parents had taught them: ‘Tom’ and ‘Traitor.’ ”

For many Americans, the experience of being multiracial in a society obsessed with neat, arbitrary categories is a no-win situation. That’s not just because of the prejudice they face, whether it comes in the form of unvarnished racism or willful ignorance. It also has a lot to do with a society that urges them to integrate, but slaps them down any time they dare express their identity in a way that seems right to them…

Read the entire book review here.

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