Being Biracial: Where Our Secret Worlds Collide by Sarah Ratliff and Bryony Sutherland – A Review

About a year ago I responded to a job listing.  It called for essays from people from biracial and multiracial backgrounds.  I thought: ‘Okay, I fit the description.  I can do that.’  Little did I know how significant this project would become.

In my essay entitled The Process of Killing Preconceived Ideas About Who We Are I discuss what it meant for me to grow up and be part of a biracial background.  I submitted my story and waited a few months to hear more news on its publication.  In September 2015, I received the eBook version of the anthology, which featured essays by mixed people from all around the world.

It took me a couple of days to read the entire book.  I found it difficult to put down.  It was enriching to read other people’s stories, as well as enlightening to know that there are people who go through similar experiences resulting from very different environments.

The book made me think about something else that I had only vaguely considered before – parenthood.  It includes essays by the parents of biracial children.  I developed a new sense of gratitude towards my parents and all the considerations they had to make whilst raising me and my sister.  Sometimes I forget that my child will also be a mix of two races and will be a part of my husband’s cultural background in addition to my mix of cultural influences.  I forget because I grew up in a mixed home and I am accustomed to it, therefore those lines have been blurred and it no longer matters.  My husband and I don’t see colour lines, we see each other. This book reminded me that our story, like those of many others, is nevertheless unique.  I am proud of the differences.

My Rating

I’m giving this book five stars.  That’s not because I took part in it, nor only because the essays are well written (which in itself is deserving of the rating), but also because of the significance of this publication.  This book has arrived at a time in which so many people are at conflict because of their differences and offers the realization that so much beauty can be created from embracing, instead of challenging, those differences.  It also gives hope and unity to those of us who are different and may have felt alone.  The media tends to highlight the differences, yet behind the scenes, the world is changing.  People are more open and accepting than ever before and as a result the mixed race, a race which is not defined by a single identity, is the fastest growing race, foreshadowing an era in which ‘being different’ will have become the norm.

The World Is Changing so Read About It

If you’re interested in the topic of multiracialism or just in increasing your understanding of people, this is a great book to add to your reading list.  Being Biracial: Where Our Secret Worlds Collide is available as a paperback or Kindle eBook from Amazon.

Visit the Being Biracial website for more information or follow the initiative’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

Below are my highlights from the book.

‘Susceptible and sensitive to what others think, say and feel about us and the actions they take against us, our experiences make us stronger, more resilient and after a point, impervious and more resolute in our missions.’ (Introduction: Sarah’s Story)

‘[W]e can’t unlearn what we know. We can’t pretend history didn’t happen. We can learn to live in the world we live in, but we can’t simply live with blinders on.’ (Sarah Ratliff, Criminal Mistakes)

‘I can hear them talking, “She is so different,” and it makes me want to scream, “Why are you so complacent with your status quo? It should be unsettling!”’ (Lezel Nel, Two Cultures Pull at My Heartstrings)

‘It’s still incredible to me how, in the span of several decades, a group of people could rise from a reviled to fetishized status.’ (Søren Kaneda, You Are Not the Colour of Your Skin)

‘Life is trying to tell you something. It’s not that your sense of disorientation isn’t real, it’s that you’re one of the few people with your eyes held open. The circumstances of your birth have forced you to ask yourself a question that few others ever will: are you the colour of your skin?’ (Søren Kaneda, You Are Not the Colour of Your Skin)

‘If your identity is contingent upon your membership to a group, you are subjugating your individuality to the conformity of the masses.’ (Søren Kaneda, You Are Not the Colour of Your Skin)

‘If you’re going to bleed for something, bleed for an idea. Bleed for the people you love. What really defines a human being is the sum total of the choices they have freely made.’ (Søren Kaneda, You Are Not the Colour of Your Skin)

‘Critical thought is currency, with all information now subject to higher levels of scrutiny than ever before.’ (Janek O’Toole, On Being Everyone and No One)

‘Race is not a level playing field. A child of mixed race is a thing of the future and not one of the present. Until such time as race does not matter, those who are responsible for raising mixed children must balance their cultural education and protection so that they are afforded the same sense of identity and belonging AND the same opportunities as those of the dominant culture.’ (Mark White, Nigger Nigger Pull the Trigger: One More View From the Periphery of the Master Race)

‘How will your children be treated outside the home? Where will they live? Where will they go to school? How will your extended families treat an addition that is neither one thing nor the other? What language will you speak in the home? How will you protect your children and provide them with an environment that fosters a secure sense of place?’ (Mark White, Nigger Nigger Pull the Trigger: One More View From the Periphery of the Master Race)

‘[F]or nearly a quarter of a century I have lived proudly and peacefully with my husband. Our three children are secure in their skins. They know they are loved, they know they are accepted and they know that they are two things, not one. And that is special and to be celebrated.’ (Bryony Sutherland, Mixed Up?)

Maja Dezulovic

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