Miscegenation Blues: Voices of Mixed Race Women


390 pages
Contains Photos
ISBN 0-920813-95-X
DDC C810.8'09287




Edited by Carol Camper
Reviewed by Nanette Morton

Nanette Morton teaches English at McMaster University.


Miscegenation Blues is a collection of stories, poems, photographs,
conversations, and autobiographical sketches by more than 40 mixed-race
women. The book focuses on the difficulty of establishing an identity in
a world that alternately silences, denies, and exoticizes mixed-race
women. Society demands that one either be black or white, Native or
non-Native, Asian or European. Those who are not are faced from all
sides with a response that is a peculiar mixture of fascination,
hostility and denial. The repeated “What are you?” symbolizes
society’s obsession with placement.

In “Mixed Race Women’s Group—Dialogue One,” Lisa
Valencia-Svensson comments, “I get mistaken for Native North American,
South American, Chinese, Japanese, South East Asian, South Asian, a
mixture from the Caribbean, Italian and Jewish.” For some, identity is
shrouded in secrecy. Carol Camper’s foster parents revealed that her
birth mother was black only after persistent questioning. For Joanne
Arnott, there is the realization that there is “something missing
here, something huge, present and unnamed.” What is known is often
problematized; some contributors recall being deemed “too light” or
“too dark” by one parent or another.

Part and parcel of these experiences is exoticization and
objectification. Men are attracted to the myth of the exotic, erotic
half-breed. Carol Camper writes of middle-class white women who seek to
conceive black children in an attempt to obtain the perfect genetic
object—appropriating through this relationship the right to speak for
black women. One anonymous contributor writes of her white academic
mother, who denies the validity of her daughter’s experience even as
she appropriates it. The multiplicity of angry, satirical, loving, and
sorrowing voices heard in this volume represents a valuable attempt to
establish identity in the face of silence and misrecognition.


“Miscegenation Blues: Voices of Mixed Race Women,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 27, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/1577.