Mixed-Race Superheroes

Posted in Anthologies, Books, Communications/Media Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2022-02-24 20:50Z by Steven

Mixed-Race Superheroes

Rutgers University Press
288 pages
24 color images
6 x 9
Paperback ISBN: 9781978814592
Cloth ISBN: 9781978814608
EPUB ISBN: 9781978814615
PDF ISBN: 9781978814639
Kindle ISBN: 9781978814622

Edited by:

Sika A. Dagbovie-Mullins, Associate Professor of English
Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton

Eric L. Berlatsky, Associate Professor of English
Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton

American culture has long represented mixed-race identity in paradoxical terms. On the one hand, it has been associated with weakness, abnormality, impurity, transgression, shame, and various pathologies; however, it can also connote genetic superiority, exceptional beauty, and special potentiality. This ambivalence has found its way into superhero media, which runs the gamut from Ant-Man and the Wasp’s tragic mulatta villain Ghost to the cinematic depiction of Aquaman as a heroic “half-breed.”

The essays in this collection contend with the multitude of ways that racial mixedness has been presented in superhero comics, films, television, and literature. They explore how superhero media positions mixed-race characters within a genre that has historically privileged racial purity and propagated images of white supremacy. The book considers such iconic heroes as Superman, Spider-Man, and The Hulk, alongside such lesser-studied characters as Valkyrie, Dr. Fate, and Steven Universe. Examining both literal and symbolic representations of racial mixing, this study interrogates how we might challenge and rewrite stereotypical narratives about mixed-race identity, both in superhero media and beyond.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction by Sika A. Dagbovie-Mullins and Eric L. Berlatsky
  • Part I Superheroes in Black and White
    • 1. Guess Who’s Coming Home? Mixed Metaphors of Home in Spider-Man’s Comic and Cinematic Homecomings by Sika A. Dagbovie-Mullins
    • 2. The Ride of the Valkyrie Against White Supremacy: Tessa Thompson’s Casting in Thor: Ragnarok by Jasmine Mitchell
    • 3. “Which World Would You Rather Live In?” The Anti-utopian Superheroes of Gary Jackson’s Poetry by Chris Gavaler
    • 4. Flash of Two Races: Incest, Miscegenation, and the Mixed-Race Superhero in The Flash Comics and Television Show by Eric L. Berlatsky
  • Part II Metaphors of/and Mixedness
    • 5. “Let Yourself Just Be Whoever You Are!” Decolonial Hybridity and the Queer Cosmic Future in Steven Universe by Corrine E. Collins
    • 6. The Hulk and Venom: Warring Blood Superheroes by Gregory T. Carter
    • 7. Monsters, Mutants, and Mongrels: The Mixed-Race Hero in Monstress by Chris Koenig-Woodyard
    • 8. Examining Otherness and the Marginal Man in DC’s Superman through Mixed-Race Studies by Kwasu David Tembo
  • Part III Multiethnic Mixedness (or Mixed-Race Intersections)
    • 9. Talented Tensions and Revisions: The Narrative Double Consciousness of Miles Morales by Jorge J. Santos Jr.
    • 10. “They’re Two People in One Body”: Nested Sovereignties and Mixed-Race Mutations in FX’s Legion by Nicholas E. Miller
    • 11. Into to the Spider-Verse and the Commodified (Re)imagining of Afro-Rican Visibility by Isabel Molina-Guzmán
    • 12. Truth, Justice, and the (Ancient) Egyptian Way: DC’s Doctor Fate and the Arab Spring by Adrienne Resha
  • Acknowledgments
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Index
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Finding the Silver Lining: Hair, (Mixed) Race, and Identity Politics in Toni and Slade Morrison’s Little Cloud and Lady Wind

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2013-09-09 04:49Z by Steven

Finding the Silver Lining: Hair, (Mixed) Race, and Identity Politics in Toni and Slade Morrison’s Little Cloud and Lady Wind

The Lion and the Unicorn
Volume 37, Number 2, April 2013
pages 173-187
DOI: 10.1353/uni.2013.0016

Sika A. Dagbovie-Mullins, Associate Professor of English
Florida Atlantic University

we are
black people, we rainclouds
closer to the sun and full of life.

—Marvin Wyche Jr., “We Rainclouds” (1974)

As a little girl I dreamed freely, often on the top step of the back porch—morning, noon, sunset, deep twilight. I loved clouds, I loved red streaks in the sky. I loved the gold worlds I saw in the sky. Gods and little girls, angels and heroes and future lovers labored there, in misty glory or sharp grandeur.

—Gwendolyn Brooks, Report from Part One (1972)

In Happy to Be Nappy (1999), bell hooks describes black girls’ unprocessed hair as “soft like cotton, flower petal billowy soft, full of frizz and fuzz.” In addition to being described as puffy, spongy, kinky, crinkly, wooly or cotton-like, “natural” unprocessed hair is often associated with clouds. “Flower petal billowy soft” immediately evokes the image of lightness but also brings to mind billow clouds, layers of water vapor that create fluffy wave-like patterns in the sky. The trope of black-hair-as-clouds is especially noticeable in descriptions of black hair in twentieth-century African American literature. In Jessie Redmon Fauset’s “Double Trouble” (1923), Angelique shakes her “short, black, rather wiry hair til it misted like a cloud” (32); Fran Ross’s mixed race protagonist in Oreo (1974) is told: “Kinky hair—like that beautiful fuzzy cloud you have—is not really kinky” (49); in Paule Marshall’s Praisesong for the Widow (1983), Avey Johnson’s daughter’s hair “had stood massed like a raincloud about to make good its threat” (13); in Dorothy West’s The Wedding (1995), Clark Cole thinks of his mistress: “There is no beauty like that of a brown skinned woman when she is beautiful: the velvet skin, the dark hair like a cloud” (97); and in John Edgar Wideman’s Hiding Place (1998), Tommy’s hair is described as, “[c]ombed so high it’s a cloud over his head, a bushy cloud making him taller than his brothers” (77). Toni and Slade Morrison’s children’s book Little Cloud and Lady Wind (2010), illustrated by Sean Qualls, focuses on a young female cloud whose image appears as a black or biracial girl; she sports a giant blue Afro (cloud), striking feature and a continuation of the hair/cloud analogy. In fact, some of Morrison’s novels also equate African American hair with clouds. In Tar Baby after Jadine complains about the effect of the island’s foggy weather on her hair, “[s]he pressed her hair down with both palms, but as soon as she removed them her hair sprang back into a rain cloud” (Morrison, Tar Baby 64) and in Love, the narrator, L, describes the transition black hair goes through when wet as she recounts the actions of a woman on the beach: “Her hair, flat when she went in [the water] rose up slowly and took on the shape of the clouds dragging the moon” (Morrison, Love 106). Little Cloud’s hair and her lavender tan skin act as racial signifiers in this children’s book about independence, belonging, and community.

In the beginning of the story, Little Cloud separates from the other clouds, “not wanting to blend into a group and lose her freedom, [but] not wanting to frighten the earth” (Toni and Slade Morrison). A visit from Lady Wind shows Little Cloud that her cloud duties of providing mist and dew are important, teaching her to respect both her individuality and restoring her place in the sky community. The story is reminiscent of Eric Carle’s Little Cloud (1996), which also features a “Little Cloud” that chooses independence: “The clouds pushed upward and away. Little Cloud pushed downward and touched the tops of horses and trees” (Carle). Toni and Slade Morrison’s book seems to signify on this Little Cloud predecessor who does not take a human form (and thus remains a white cloud). On one level, Little Cloud and Lady Wind encourages children to express their individuality while honoring “the whole is far mightier than any single part” (Little Cloud, inside flap). On another level, the story is a subtle treatise on mixed…

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Crossing B(l)ack: Mixed-Race Identity in Modern American Fiction and Culture

Posted in Barack Obama, Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs on 2013-02-07 00:30Z by Steven

Crossing B(l)ack: Mixed-Race Identity in Modern American Fiction and Culture

University of Tennessee Press
150 pages
Cloth ISBN-10: 1572339322; ISBN-13: 978-1572339323

Sika A. Dagbovie-Mullins, Associate Professor of English
Florida Atlantic University

The past two decades have seen a growing influx of biracial discourse in fiction, memoir, and theory, and since the 2008 election of Barack Obama to the presidency, debates over whether America has entered a “post-racial” phase have set the media abuzz. In this penetrating and provocative study, Sika A. Dagbovie-Mullins adds a new dimension to this dialogue as she investigates the ways in which various mixed-race writers and public figures have redefined both “blackness” and “whiteness” by invoking multiple racial identities.

Focusing on several key novels—Nella Larsen’s Quicksand (1928), Lucinda Roy’s Lady Moses (1998), and Danzy Senna’s Caucasia (1998)—as well as memoirs by Obama, James McBride, and Rebecca Walker and the personae of singer Mariah Carey and actress Halle Berry, Dagbovie-Mullins challenges conventional claims about biracial identification with a concept she calls “black-sentient mixed-race identity.” Whereas some multiracial organizations can diminish blackness by, for example, championing the inclusion of multiple-race options on census forms and similar documents, a black-sentient consciousness stresses a perception rooted in blackness—“a connection to a black consciousness,” writes the author, “that does not overdetermine but still plays a large role in one’s racial identification.” By examining the nuances of this concept through close readings of fiction, memoir, and the public images of mixed-race celebrities, Dagbovie-Mullins demonstrates how a “black-sentient mixed-race identity reconciles the widening separation between black/white mixed race and blackness that has been encouraged by contemporary mixed-race politics and popular culture.”

A book that promises to spark new debate and thoughtful reconsiderations of an especially timely topic, Crossing B(l)ack recognizes and investigates assertions of a black-centered mixed-race identity that does not divorce a premodern racial identity from a postmodern racial fluidity.

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