19 Nov / Blended Nation: Portraits and Interviews of Mixed-Race America, photographs and interviews by Mike Tauber, co-produced by Pamela Singh, foreword by Ann Curry, introduction by Rebecca Walker
Stupendous and spectacular come immediately to mind when you look at this book. Not to mention a bit of “oof!” over its hefty size and weight – it’s full of gravitas, after all! Mike Tauber‘s photographs are breathtaking, laid out simply to let the gorgeous open faces stare straight into readers’ eyes, sometimes with gleeful joy, others with uncertain shyness, and others with a startling directness.
“America’s children of mixed race are evidence that love is overcoming even racism, which once seemed insurmountable,” begins the book’s “Foreword” by Today Show‘s Ann Curry whose mother is Japanese, her father white. “‘We come from open minded lovers,’ I like to tell people about my siblings, to maybe get a laugh and ease the feeling that we are different from everyone else.” Curry’s parents were true pioneers: marriage between races did not become legal throughout the U.S. until 1967 (Curry was born in 1956) when Loving vs. Virginia (could that be a more ironic name?) finally lifted all race-based marriage restrictions.
“It’s hip to be multi now,” Rebecca Walker, the activist writer daughter of Alice Walker and a white Jewish father, writes in her introduction. Especially in light of our mixed-race (self-described “mutt”!) President! But she also cautions, “Our power as multiracial people is not in the idea of enlightened racialism – we don’t have all the answers just because we’re mixed – but in our refusal to be co-opted into any racial category or political narrative based on race, even the one marked ‘multiracial.'”
Race has always been problematic: “Even though race was invented and made to seem real by social humans, and even though we now know that race makes little sense on the genetic level, this does not mean that it is not real in other ways,” writes biological anthropologist (and former president of the American Anthropological Association) Alan H. Goodman in his imbedded essay, “How is Race Real?” “Racial practices – simply living in a society that sees races in the old hierarchical fashion – as well as more virulent forms of racism, come together and have enormous and powerful consequence. The individuals who are pictured in this book know all about the power of race and racial classification.”
Indeed, to choose a couple of words – ‘multiracial’ here or ‘hapa’ among the APA community – are labels of convenience that can hardly begin to describe the myriad of backgrounds and experiences: from Creole Korean to Black Okinawan to Sicilian Irish African American to American Indian Irish Swedish to Alaskan Native Pacific Islander to Puerto Rican Iranian to Black Russian Native American to Filipino Finnish, the faces of Blended Nation each offer unique stories.
Tauber and Singh explain in the epilogue that this project grew out of the tragedy of 9/11 when Sikhs were targeted because their turbans and skin color resembled the so-called ‘enemy’ [not unlike the 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent who spent most of World War II behind barbed wire prison camps]. The couple recognized “the issue of race and identity being heavily based on visual cues,” but from there, they began to explore “what happens to the identity of those individuals who are a quarter this, a half that, etc., who don’t visually correspond to any particular group…” That Singh herself is hapa and she and Tauber are parents to two hapa sons provided personal motivation, as well.
Eight years later, Blended Nation is the memorable result. Get it. Savor it. Share it.
Tidbit: The book’s back cover features a face familiar to our Smithsonian audiences: Matt Kelley, founder of MAVIN, the nation’s leading organization that focuses on the hapa experience. We brought Matt and MAVIN’s Generation MIX to the Smithsonian in April 2005 as part of their National Awareness Tour, souped-up RV and all!
Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult, Adult