Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cool, Like Jade

Hey, Hip Hapa Homeez! Welcome back. We are now 1,000 strong and growing daily. Although these numbers speak well for us, they’re especially gratifying as a reflection of the many folks in our group who don’t consider themselves to be mixed-race, but support our agenda anyway. Without them, we biracials, blendies, FGM’s, hapas, MGM’s, mixies, mulattos, multiracials, and transracial adoptees would have a much harder road to navigate—like driving through a strange city without GPS. Can I get a shout-out to all of our Hip Hapa Homeez in da houze?!?

Believe it or not, I met this week’s featured Hip Hapa Homee through Twitter. When I visited Jade Keller’s blog, I was blown away by her stunning photography, her comical discussions about food, and her intense interest in literature. That’s Jade in the photo to the left and below.

Take a peek at her links, and then check out the Q&A that follows:

Tasting Grace:



Q: What’s a nice multiracial girl like you doing with such an eclectic blog?

A: My blog is an extension of my love for writing and for sharing ideas with others. It’s a collection of my thoughts, dreams, desires, worries, and fears…all the things I’m thinking about. I find the written word is my favorite mode of communication. I recently discovered just how much I love writing as I’ve just finished writing my first novel and, through this website, I can keep the words flowing. I love that I can put my thoughts out there, and find others thinking about the same things. Even though we may have vastly different perspectives, it makes me feel we have things to share anyway.

Q: What are your parents’ ethnic backgrounds, how did they meet, and why were you born in Mississippi?

A: My mother was born and raised in Thailand. My father comes from a Norwegian family, but was raised in South Africa. They both emigrated to the U.S. to pursue higher education, and they met at UC Santa Barbara while my dad worked on his PhD and my mom worked on her master’s degree. Unfortunately, times were tough in those days and the only job my father could get after finishing his doctorate was at the University of Mississippi. So they moved there, and that is where I was born. But since my mother was an Asian woman, she could not get a decent job there. They would call her in for interviews and as soon as she walked in the door, they would take one look at her and tell her the position was already filled. If they did interview her, they would express doubt that she could effectively manage an office of men despite her credentials. My parents eventually decided they would be better off on welfare in California than staying any longer in Mississippi. Thankfully, once arriving in California, the job prospects turned around for the better for both my parents.

Q: Does your novel, Fatima in Corinth, involve any multiracial characters?

A: Fatima in Corinth does in fact involve a multiracial character. Fatima is the daughter of a woman from Persia (the ancient Indus region) and a traveling merchant father from ancient Syria. Her mother had died at childbirth, leaving Fatima and her father to travel the world alone together, selling wares and goods. The story opens with Fatima and her father sailing to ancient Greece (or Hellas). When they arrive in Corinth, thieves murder her father and she is taken in as a slave girl. She befriends young, heroic Aeneas, and the two share their ideas on religion, honor, duty and love. But the shrewd, calculating Istran, consumed by jealousy, tries everything to keep Fatima in her rightful place. As she tries to navigate the delicate balance of forging her own identity and freedom in a foreign culture, Fatima is caught in a power struggle, threatening her very survival. In the end, she must choose between surrender and being true to herself, regardless of the cost. It’s a novel about choosing between fitting in and being true to yourself; it’s about choosing between family and friends, between honoring the past and making your own place in the world.

Q: You’re a grad student majoring in Political Science. How do you see race playing a role in politics, particularly now that there is a biracial president?

A: Our country has a very bloody and marred past when it comes to race relations--slavery of African Americans, sending Japanese Americans to internment camps, continued denigration of Hispanic immigrants, anti-Arab sentiments especially post 9-11, the list continues. Even people we now consider white (for example, Irish and Italian people) were once considered non-white and were cast out because of it. We have a very strong history of seeking to exclude others--ironic for a nation of immigrants. While, in a way, we made many important leaps forward through the civil rights movement in trying to promote legal equality, race remains a very strong barrier against equality and unity in this nation. And I think things have gotten…I don’t want to say harder…but perhaps less straightforward, or more complex for race relations since the civil rights movement (the same is true for women’s rights). People have become complacent. They think the race issue has been “dealt with already”. They don’t see that racism now rears its ugly head in much more subtle ways, much more insidious ways that are harder to counter because they are masked. For example, Obama’s opponents hate him for his policies, yes, and they can hide behind that. But the opposition has acquired a manic tinge to it, hovering ever so close to extremism and violence, that times now are downright scary. I think his biracial background fuels this extreme hate – that, and certain members of the news media actively persecuting him and inciting such rage. You can see it on the attacks regarding the legitimacy of his citizenship, the repeated rumors/lies about him being Muslim, and the way the opposition keeps likening his name to Osama bin Laden. They’ve stopped caring whether our country succeeds so long as they can help make sure he fails. This country would be very different indeed if we were not so consumed by issues of race.

Q: You’re also an artist and photographer who is passionate about Burning Man. How do you meld your mixed-race experiences with your love for creativity?

A: I would say my mixed-race experiences actually drive my creative efforts. I think most of what I try to explore, learn, and say come from the fact that I have such a multi-faceted background and from growing up where I could understand the perspective of those around me, but still feel totally separate from it. It gave me a sense of what it means to be different, even to the point of alienation – and yet to find those universal truths that bind us all. I don’t mean to say I have any answers at all; merely that this is what I try to explore and express in my writing. It’s interesting you mention Burning Man as the prelude to this question, because Burning Man celebrates precisely this: our unique and beautiful individuality coalescing towards a higher expression of humanity.

Q: You take some great photos for your blog. Are you a professional photographer?

A: No, I was an art major in college (specializing in painting), but that’s the extent of my artistic endeavors. I use the photos to add interest to my blog and to play around with words juxtaposed against imagery. But I’ve never been formally trained as a photographer or anything. It’s my husband who is the professional. So if I need any tips, I just ask him.

Q: You love to blog about food, and Thai food has become hugely popular in the U.S. Any idea why?

A: I’m probably biased in this, considering that I grew up with Thai food. In my house, spaghetti was pretty exotic, while stir-fries and curries were the usual fare. I think Thai food has such a lure because it combines so many different flavors: salty, sweet, sour, spicy, etc. Many other ethnic foods tend to focus on very similar combinations of flavors, but Thai food has a lot of variety. Plus really good Thai food relies on super fresh ingredients, allowing for healthy choices, and it is totally customizable for different diets, so it makes it easier for vegans or others on special diets to still have yummy options.

Q: You’ve said your mother didn’t make a concerted effort to teach you the Thai language, but did she raise as if you were Thai?

A: I’m not sure my mom consciously raised me as if I were Thai, but there are definite values and perspectives that we both share that I would say are more Thai than American. For example, deference towards elders and towards authority runs quite strong in me. For the longest time, I could never argue with my parents because it was such a sign of disrespect. To this day I find it difficult to argue with others, especially if they are angry and yelling and talking over one another. I much prefer to discuss things calmly and coolly, with each person waiting their turn to speak; and so I tend to also keep my anger and temper buried much deeper under the surface when it does get provoked. Food is also deeply important to me. I place great importance in family (and friends) collecting together around the dinner table and sharing food and conversation together every night. I view the making and preparation of food as an art in itself, and the sharing of food as a deeply soulful experience. I also have a habit of taking off my shoes when I enter the home, and I believe smiles and an accepting attitude towards others will go a long way towards soothing tensions.

Thank you for those cool words, cool lady Jade.

The big news this week was the story of a Justice of Peace in Louisiana who refused to marry an interracial couple based on, get this, his certainty that their mixed-race offspring wouldn’t be accepted by either side. Now, how this justice is so sure about that is really moot since what he did was illegal. Still, it’s interesting to note that there are still folks out there who believe they can make decisions for others based merely on their own opinions.

If you want to read the article, go to the Hip Hapa Homeez group page on Facebook. While you’re there, join the Watermelon Sushi Fan page where we post updates about our film. Remember, we still have Hapa*Teez t-shirts for you and if you make a purchase, let us know so we spell your name right in the rear crawl credits. And, don’t forget to tweet us on Twitter. You may just end up being our next featured Hip Hapa Homee.

Until we meet again, I cooly remain…

Your Hip Hapa,



Kaleena said...

Great interview. Jade Keller is a very lovely person and its fun to see her on here.

Yayoi Lena Winfrey said...

Mahalo nui loa, Kaleena, for your comments!

Your Hip Hapa,