Almost Brown, A Memoir

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Books, Canada, Monographs, United Kingdom, United States on 2023-06-09 02:16Z by Steven

Almost Brown, A Memoir

Crown (an imprint of Penguin Random House)
240 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 9780593443019
Ebook ISBN: 9780593443026
Audiobook ISBN: 9780593740880

Charlotte Gill

An award-winning writer retraces her dysfunctional, biracial, globe-trotting family’s journey as she reckons with ethnicity and belonging, diversity and race, and the complexities of life within a multicultural household.

Charlotte Gill’s father is Indian. Her mother is English. They meet in 1960s London when the world is not quite ready for interracial love. Their union results in a total meltdown of familial relations, a lot of immigration paperwork, and three children, all in varying shades of tan. Together they set off on a journey from the United Kingdom to Canada to the United States in an elusive pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness—a dream that eventually tears them apart.

Almost Brown is an exploration of diasporic intermingling involving two eccentric parents from worlds apart and their half-brown children as they experience the paradoxes and conundrums of life as it’s lived between race checkboxes. Their intercultural experiment features turbans and tube socks, chana masala and Cherry Coke. Over time, Gill’s parents drift apart because they just aren’t compatible. But as she too finds herself distancing from her father—Why is she embarrassed to walk down the street with him and not her mom?—she doesn’t know if it’s because of his personality or his race. Is this her own unconscious bias favoring one parent over the other in the racial tug-of-war that plagues our society? Almost Brown looks for answers to questions shared by many mixed-race people: What am I? What does it mean to be a person of color when the concept is a societal invention and really only applies halfway if you are half white? Eventually, after years of silence, Gill and her father reclaim a space for forgiveness and love.

In a funny, turbulent, and ultimately heartwarming story, Gill examines the brilliant messiness of ancestry, “diversity,” and the idea of “race,” a historical concept that still informs our beliefs about ethnicity today.

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Jazz à la Creole: French Creole Music and the Birth of Jazz

Posted in Arts, Books, Canada, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2022-11-27 06:11Z by Steven

Jazz à la Creole: French Creole Music and the Birth of Jazz

University Press of Mississippi
November 2022
248 pages
1 table; 29 b&w figures; 20 musical examples
Hardcover ISBN: 9781496842404
Paperback ISBN: 9781496842428

Caroline Vézina
Montréal, Quebec, Canada

The first scholarly volume dedicated to French Creole music and its contribution to the development of jazz in New Orleans

During the formative years of jazz (1890–1917), the Creoles of Color—as they were then called—played a significant role in the development of jazz as teachers, bandleaders, instrumentalists, singers, and composers. Indeed, music penetrated all aspects of the life of this tight-knit community, proud of its French heritage and language. They played and/or sang classical, military, and dance music as well as popular songs and cantiques that incorporated African, European, and Caribbean elements decades before early jazz appeared. In Jazz à la Creole: French Creole Music and the Birth of Jazz, the author describes the music played by the Afro-Creole community since the arrival of enslaved Africans in La Louisiane, then a French colony, at the beginning of the eighteenth century, emphasizing the many cultural exchanges that led to the development of jazz.

Caroline Vézina has compiled and analyzed a broad scope of primary sources found in diverse locations from New Orleans to Quebec City, Washington, DC, New York City, and Chicago. Two previously unpublished interviews add valuable insider knowledge about the music on French plantations and the danses Créoles held in Congo Square after the Civil War. Musical and textual analyses of cantiques provide new information about the process of their appropriation by the Creole Catholics as the French counterpart of the Negro spirituals. Finally, a closer look at their musical practices indicates that the Creoles sang and improvised music and/or lyrics of Creole songs, and that some were part of their professional repertoire. As such, they belong to the Black American and the Franco-American folk music traditions that reflect the rich cultural heritage of Louisiana.

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Ruby Red Skies, A Novel

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Books, Canada, Media Archive, Novels on 2022-11-27 03:06Z by Steven

Ruby Red Skies, A Novel

Roseway Publishing (an imprint of Fernwood Publishing)
October 2022
272 pages
8.5 x 5.5 in
Paperback ISBN: 9781773635606

Taslim Burkowicz

Ruby used to be a fiery, sexy, musical genius. But when she got pregnant as a teenager in the 90s, her life took a turn into banality. Now a middle-aged Indo-Canadian woman, she feels unseen and unheard by her white husband and struggles to communicate with her mixed-race daughter. When she discovers her husband cheating, she embarks on a quest to unearth exciting secrets from her past. To find what she needs, she drives straight into B.C.’s raging wildfires, accompanied only by the fantastical stories her mother used to tell about their ancient Moghul ancestry — a dancer named Rubina who lived in the concubine quarters of the great Red Fort. This book is at once historical fiction and political romance, deftly navigating themes of mixed-race relationships, climate change, motherhood, body shame, death and the passage of time.

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Doubts Over Indigenous Identity in Academia Spark ‘Pretendian’ Claims

Posted in Articles, Campus Life, Canada, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Passing on 2022-10-31 21:09Z by Steven

Doubts Over Indigenous Identity in Academia Spark ‘Pretendian’ Claims

The New York Times

Vjosa Isai

Indigenous chiefs in traditional regalia during a powwow in July, where Pope Francis apologized for the Catholic Church’s role in abuse in the residential school system. Ian Willms for The New York Times

Some Canadian universities now require additional proof to back up Indigenous heritage, replacing self-declaration policies.

Since announcing discoveries of evidence last year that hundreds of Indigenous children were likely buried in unmarked graves at church-run residential school sites, Indigenous groups in Canada have captured more national attention.

So, too, has a growing group of Canadian public figures, mostly within academia, who have been accused of falsely claiming to be Indigenous.

Earlier this week, an investigation published by Canada’s national broadcaster, the C.B.C., found that the claims to Cree ancestry of a prominent scholar and former judge, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, did not align with historical records and interviews…

Read the entire article here.

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Métis Rising: Living Our Present Through the Power of Our Past

Posted in Anthologies, Books, Canada, Economics, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science on 2022-05-09 14:24Z by Steven

Métis Rising: Living Our Present Through the Power of Our Past

University of British Columbia Press
280 pages
6 x 9
3 b&w illus., 2 maps, 8 charts, 3 tables
Hardcover ISBN: 9780774880749

Yvonne Boyer and Larry Chartrand

Métis Rising draws on a remarkable cross-section of perspectives to tell the histories, stories, and dreams of people from varied backgrounds, demonstrating that there is no single Métis experience – only a common sense of belonging and a commitment to justice.

The contributors to this unique collection, most of whom are Métis themselves, examine often-neglected aspects of Métis existence in Canada. They trace a turbulent course, illustrating how Métis leaders were born out of the need to address abhorrent social and economic disparities following the Métis–Canadian war of 1885. They talk about the long and arduous journey to rebuild the Métis nation from a once marginalized and defeated people; their accounts ranging from personal reflections on identity to tales of advocacy against poverty and poor housing. And they address the indictment of the jurisdictional gap whereby neither federal nor provincial governments would accept governance responsibility towards Métis people.

Métis Rising is an extraordinary work that exemplifies how contemporary Métis identity has been forged by social, economic, and political concerns into a force to be reckoned with.

A must-read not only for scholars and students of Métis and Indigenous studies but for lawyers, policymakers, and all Canadians who wish a broader understanding of this country’s colonial past.

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Our Unspoken Discomfort with Interracial Relationships

Posted in Articles, Canada, History, Media Archive, Slavery, Social Science on 2022-05-07 22:17Z by Steven

Our Unspoken Discomfort with Interracial Relationships

The Walrus

Charmaine A. Nelson, Professor of Art History and a Tier I Canada Research Chair in Transatlantic Black Diasporic Art and Community Engagement
Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD University), Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Illustration by Stephanie Singleton

Canada’s history of slavery has had a profound impact on how we view cross-racial couples

ON A SATURDAY MORNING in April 2018, Tayana Jacques, a Black woman, and Brian Mann, her white boyfriend, were walking together in Montreal’s trendy Plateau-Mont-Royal neighbourhood when police stopped and questioned them over what the two officers called “making excessive noise.” Jacques and Mann were later fined $444 each. The charges were particularly suspicious since this was not a Saturday-night encounter—not a time when people would have been carousing drunkenly home from a nightclub. In fact, the couple had been on their way to get coffee. According to media reports, Jacques says she was restrained and handcuffed after she turned to walk away from the confrontation. She was also questioned without cause about drug use while Mann, who protested, was allegedly kicked in the knee, punched in the face, and pepper-sprayed. By the end of the encounter, two more police cruisers had arrived.

Mann and Jacques have said in media interviews that they were violently mistreated by Montreal police not because of what they were doing but because of who they were: a white man and a Black woman in an obviously romantic relationship. (The Montreal Police Service has declined to comment on the case.) The couple’s story may seem unimportant—an outlier in an otherwise racially harmonious society—but the apparent overreach of the Montreal Police Service, particularly within our current context of global Black Lives Matter protests, is cause for grave concern.

Following the incident, Fo Niemi, executive director of the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRAAR), issued a statement saying the alleged police mistreatment of Jacques and Mann is part of a pattern of police misbehaviour, especially involving Black citizens. (The City of Montreal is now facing a class-action lawsuit for racial profiling brought by the Black Coalition of Quebec on behalf of people who were unjustly arrested by police.) Last October, a report commissioned by the Montreal Police Service confirmed that its officers are far more likely to stop Black, Indigenous, or Arab people than they are white people. This past July, the police service introduced a policy meant to reduce the risk of profiling; among other provisions, the new policy requires officers to complete paperwork clearly stating their reasons for conducting street checks.

But Jacques and Mann’s violent encounter caught my attention because their experience points to an unsettling reality that extends beyond police discrimination: Canadians have a bigger problem with race, and specifically with cross-racial couples, than many would like to admit. As a professor of art history specializing in transatlantic slavery, I find our society’s unspoken discomfort painfully ironic. I study a period when the nonconsensual sexual pairing of white men and Black women, and the sight of their mixed-race children, was entrenched across the Americas; when Black women were routinely dehumanized; and when consensual cross-racial couples—like Jacques and Mann—were considered threatening to colonial hierarchies. That history has been all but erased from our national memory. And it’s had a chronic, undeniable influence on how we perceive cross-racial relationships today.

Relationships between people of different races, ethnic origins, religions, languages, and birthplaces are still relatively rare. In the 2011 national household census, 360,045 couples, or about 5 percent of all unions, identified as being mixed. When the figure was first released, in 2014, media coverage framed it as a sign of social progress: the percentage was double that of twenty years prior. Yet, for a nation that claims to celebrate its racial diversity and inclusiveness, living together in a multicultural society seems not to have resulted in the deepest levels of profound social connection signalled by intimate unions…

Read the entire article here.

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I’m Biracial, But Rejected My Blackness For Years. Here’s Why I Stopped Passing For White.

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Canada, Media Archive, Passing on 2022-03-29 18:32Z by Steven

I’m Biracial, But Rejected My Blackness For Years. Here’s Why I Stopped Passing For White.

The Huffington Post

Eleanor Beaton, Guest Writer

The author (left) with her mother. PHOTO COURTESY OF ELEANOR BEATON

“Unknowingly, I started to reject all of the parts of myself that were Black.”

The school bus screeched to a halt. My mother, a Black Fijian woman who proudly embraced her natural ’fro, was waiting for me at the bus stop.

“Bye, n***a,” another kid said loudly, as I got up from my seat.

As an adult, due to my mixed heritage, many people describe me as “white-appearing” or racially ambiguous. But in Nova Scotia in the 1980s — with my tanned skin and thick curly hair in a sea of whiteness — I was reminded on a daily basis that I was different. I was an other. No matter how hard I tried, I would never blend in.

I asked my white father to fetch me from the bus stop going forward…

Read the entire article here.

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A Canadian’s Perspective On The American Multiracial Experience

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Campus Life, Canada, Media Archive, United States on 2022-03-11 03:40Z by Steven

A Canadian’s Perspective On The American Multiracial Experience

The Oberlin Review
Oberlin, Ohio

Zach Bayfield

Before coming to Oberlin [College], my racial identity was something I rarely reflected on. My mother is a fifth-generation Canadian with entirely European ancestry. My father was born in Jamaica to an English father and a Jamaican mother. The Afro-Caribbean side of my ancestry was discussed comfortably in my family, and I felt no pressure to identify with one race over the other. Regardless of who I surrounded myself with or what activities I was engaging in, I felt like my identity was understood.

When I first came to Oberlin, my identity suddenly became more contentious. I remember my freshman year, I was eating lunch in Stevenson Dining Hall when one of my Black teammates asked me, “What are you?” I explained my genealogy in an abbreviated version of the previous paragraph, and his response was, “So you’re Black, right?” I was confused and taken aback by this statement. How could I identify as Black when I’ve never experienced racism directly? Why do I have to identify as a particular race? Why can’t I just be me?…

Read the entire article here.

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Half ‘Asian’/Half ‘Arab’: Reconciling with my Palestinianness

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Canada, Media Archive on 2022-02-26 17:18Z by Steven

Half ‘Asian’/Half ‘Arab’: Reconciling with my Palestinianness


Sarah Barzak

“Oh, your dad’s Palestinian? I have so much respect for you now!” said the Arab girl who sat in front of me in Arabic school.

Disgusted. Small. was how I felt.

She sat in front of me every Saturday and only acknowledged my existence on the last day of Arabic school.

We were 17. Which, frankly, was too old to behave this way under my tiger mom’s standards.
Kurang ajar, I thought. Who raised you?

These interactions didn’t stop in my teens. While working at Baba’s convenience store, an Amtu came in and made small talk as we completed the transaction.

“Oh, you know, the man who works here is Palestinian,” she said.

“Yes, I know. He’s my dad,” I responded calmly, “My mother is Malay”…

Read the entire article here.

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Netflix’s ‘Passing’ could have been me

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Canada, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, Passing on 2022-02-14 00:56Z by Steven

Netflix’s ‘Passing’ could have been me

My Imperfect Life

Asha Swann
Toronto, Canada

(Image credit: Netflix)

Anchored by Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga, ‘Passing‘ on Netflix tells the story of racial passing back in 1920s New York. But it’s more relevant, and personal, than ever

In the film Passing on Netflix, two mixed-race women in 1920s America struggle to find their place when society can’t put them in the right box. It’s not an uncommon pain—talk to any mixed-race person and odds are they’ll be able to tell you at least a dozen horror stories about their identity being misunderstood, fetishized, or stereotyped.

In the Netflix film, the women, Irene (played by Tessa Thompson) and Clare (Ruth Negga), are two sides of the same coin. Both light-skinned, Irene “passes” as white accidentally, whereas Clare “passes” on purpose to gain social status. What follows is an incredibly complex story about what it means to be somebody when the world sees you as something else.

When my dad would pick me up from third grade, kids would always ask if I’m adopted. There’s no way that Black man could be my dad, not when I’m so pale. After my parents split up and I went to live with my white mother and her parents in the suburbs, kids were ready to call me a liar when I would talk about being mixed. Though I never chose to pass—ask any mixed person and they’ll show you that genetics are messy and don’t give you much of a choice…

Read the entire article here.

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