Tuesday, July 31, 2012

HAPA Summer Reading With Lise Funderburg

HAPA Summer, Hip Hapa Homeez! Whether you’re beaching, picnicking or sunning and funning, Your Hip Hapa wishes you good times beyond your wildest dreams. And, while you’re basking in the season’s pleasures, check out our ‘hot fun in the summer time’ suggestions.

One idea is to watch the latest slideshow promo of our documentary War Brides of Japan that we’re busy working on now. With award-winning filmmaker Jessica Chen Drammeh (http://anomalythefilm.com/) as our Consulting Producer, we’re destined to succeed.

To stay updated with our project, just 'like' the War Brides of Japan fan page on Facebook. And, in case you missed it, here’s the original 30-second spot, one of three finalists in the Snipler Competition sponsored by FilmBreak.

Or, for better resolution, watch it on OneNewMedia:

author Lise Funderburg
If your preference is for summertime reading, one of my favorite books about the mixed race experience is Black, White, Other: Biracial Americans Talk About Race and Identity by Lise Funderburg. Coincidentally, Lise is our featured Hip Hapa Homee this month. Here’s her website: http://www.lisefunderburg.com

Q: Lise, how did your parents meet?

A: My parents, Marjorie Lievense Funderburg (white) and George Funderburg (black), met in a Quaker Housing cooperative in Philadelphia in the 1950s. She was there for the cheap rent and the ideology. He was there for the cheap rent.

Q: How did you grow up?

A: My two sisters and I were raised a few blocks from that housing co-op, in an unusually mixed neighborhood called Powelton Village. I think it was a perverse experience to grow up there, in the sense that it didn't represent the majority of communities I found when I went out into the world as an adult. The best kind of perverse, that is.

Q: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

A: I have to say it happened to me rather than me planning and plotting it from an early age, like so many of the writers I admire have done. It was simply something I was good at, and over the years and through various types of jobs, I just kept inclining in that direction. Finally, I found myself at age 30 wanting to commit more firmly to a worklife direction, and this was it. My commitment was a serious one, and I work hard at the craft, trying vigilantly to better my skills every time I put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard).

Q: In my opinion, Black, White, Other...is the definitive book about being mixed in America. No one before had captured the mixed person's story the way you did for me. What motivated you to tackle this subject?

A: Thanks (blushing)! The book started out as a radio documentary, a master's thesis for Columbia Journalism School. It was a reaction against the historical pathologizing and stereotyping of the mixed race experience. Basically, I wanted to complicate the national discussion about race by giving voice to the many ways in which this (seemingly monolithic) group of people experienced it...on both the personal and public levels. 

Q: On the other hand, your book Pig Candy: Taking My Father South, Taking My Father Home--A Memoir is a very personal account of your family. How difficult was it writing that book compared to collecting stories for Black, White, Other...?

A: Black, White, Other...was a collection of oral histories, so that work was dominated by listening and interviewing, then careful, careful editing. Oral histories are no joke, which is to say, it's no small thing to be entrusted with someone's personal stories, and even in the editing of a single word or punctuation mark, you have to act out of great respect and with tremendous sensitivity for preserving his/her voice and point of view. My own writing was limited to the essays that opened each chapter, and the task of each essay was to set the context for the subject at hand. I tried putting more personal material into those essays, but I kept finding they overwhelmed the oral histories. I believe that had something to do with their being associated with the authority of the book's narrator versus being in any way more spectacular. So I cut them out.

Pig Candy, on the other hand, was both harder and easier for the fact that I didn't have to listen to anyone but myself in choosing its content. You're freer, but you're also limitless.

I did much more reporting for Pig Candy, whether it was interviewing my dad and his contemporaries, stone fruit experts, maritime historians, farmers, old school chums, etc. I also had to choose, constantly, what I was willing to share versus what experiences or emotions were too private or too undigested. The writer Phillip Lopate says that when we're writing first-person nonfiction, we are creating our narrative selves through a process of subtraction, and indeed, the Lise in Pig Candy is the Lise “I” think the reader needs to know in order to understand what's going on. That said, it's about economy versus subterfuge, and the parts of me that seemed important were fully and honestly disclosed to the absolute best of my ability. I also worked hard to be as honest about my father as possible.

young Lise with her dad
One thing that's interesting to me about feedback on the book is that while most people seem to get the multilayered personality of my father and our relationship, some have super-strong and fairly two-dimensional takes on him. What pleasantly surprises me is that I don't feel offended or hurt by that, partly because I recognized with Black, White, Other...that once you put your book out in the world, it becomes many books, the property of each of its readers, and your take is only one, no more or less authoritative than theirs. I also feel like I did my absolute best to render the truths that I know, and my faith in that is deeply satisfying.

Q: Please explain why you're an advocate for the humane treatment of Thai elephants.

A: Most humans find these giant land mammals intriguing, and I had the opportunity to learn about them years ago when I was asked to write about a Tennessee refuge for (the now defunct) Hallmark Magazine. Fast forward to last year, when I had the opportunity to pitch an adventure travel story for MORE magazine. I suggested going to a highly unusual elephant park in Thailand, where I'd be allowed to interact with the animals in ways that were strictly forbidden in Tennessee. I have to admit that in addition to my curiosity and desire to be in physical proximity to the elephants, I also wanted to be in physical proximity to a 95% Buddhist culture, Thai textiles and Thai food. All of it was fantastic; none of it disappointed.

Q: Any plans for future books?

A: I'm finishing up an eBook version of Black, White, Other...with some updated content and a celebrity guest foreword, due to come out in fall 2012. Also, I'm looking for ways to write more about my dad's hometown in rural Georgia, which I came to love after working on Pig Candy. Stay tuned!

Well, Hip Hapa Homeez. Summers are sweet, but short, and all too soon we’ll be back to gloomy, doomy winter days. Until then, get yourself a Hapa Teez t-shirt to remind yourself of HAPA-ier times in the sun. And, you can support the Watermelon Sushi film while earning a rear crawl credit on it. You can also 'like' our Hapa Teez Facebook page and join our Hip Hapa Homeez group where we discuss being multiethnic, interracially involved, transracially adopted or crossing cultures—no matter what the season.

HAPA Summer!

Your Hip Hapa,

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

From Tragedy To Triumph: Tiffany Rae Reid

Bing! Bang! Boom! Hip Hapa Homeez! Your Hip Hapa hopes you’re enjoying the celebration of America’s birthday today. Surely, you’ve heard the recent news about mixed-race babies being the fastest growing segment of our population. That’s amazing considering that until 1967 and the landmark Loving v. Virginia case, marrying across colors lines was illegal in 16 states. Now, some 45 years later, a proliferation of multiethnic children sends the message that separation by culture, race or skin color matters less every day.

Remember to join our Hip Hapa Homeez group on Facebook where we post and discuss such topics often. And, since this blog was created to support our feature narrative film, Watermelon Sushi, please “like” our fan page. We also have one for Hapa*Teez, a line of t-shirts designed to raise awareness and funding for Watermelon Sushi. Buy a Hapa*Teez on Cafe Press and earn a rear crawl credit on the film.

Tiffany's book
This month’s featured Hip Hapa Homee is the bright, charming and gracious Tiffany Rae Reid. The CEO/Founder of Life Coaching with Tiffany Rae, she’s also the author of Color Blind: A Mixed Girl’s Perspective on Biracial Life and host of Mixed Race Radio. Tiffany’s rocky beginnings have endowed her with an overwhelming sense of compassion and she’s all about helping others. Check out her website http://www.tiffanyraecoaching.com and the phone number for Mixed Race Radio: 201-450-3210.

Q: Tiffany, how did your parents meet?

A: My mother, Barbara, is Hungarian and a fraternal twin born in Ashtabula Ohio. My birth father, Arthur Edwards, is African American and also a twin (identical). I’m told his mother (whom I’ve never met) was part Indian. I don't know where he was born, but I know his father was raised in Texas. My father passed away four years ago.

My mother was married to an Irishman (also an identical twin) who served in Vietnam and, together, they had my sister Julie who is seven years older than I am. My birth father was a friend of my father’s and also the husband of my mother's supervisor at her job. They all knew each other.

Tiffany with her family
To this day, my mother and I go back and forth about the day she told me how I came about. After years and years of being told that I was just a dark Hungarian, I had taken matters into my own hands and tried to find out whom my father really was. When I confronted my mother with all of the stuff I was doing behind her back to learn his identity, I remember standing in my dead grandmother's living room and my mother telling me that one night, when Arthur had taken my mom and all of her girlfriends out bowling, she was the last one he dropped off--at which time he raped her. Due to these circumstances, my mother asked me not to pursue looking for him any further because of the number of lives it would impact. But at least I knew who he was and how I came about. Now, this is how I remember it happening, yet my mother swears to this day that none of this is true and that conversation never took place. I continue to tell her that of all the things I wanted to hear about my father my entire life, it never would have been this story. And, the drama about my actual origins continue.

Q: How did you grow up?

A: I was raised in an all-white Hungarian household with my white sister and white mother and without knowledge of, or a connection to, my parent of color. I didn't learn that my father was black until I was 26-years old and only then, I believe, was I able to begin to embrace a true biracial identity.

We lived in a Puerto Rican neighborhood so I knew Spanish and English, and Hungarian words for things around the house, cooking, and food. I attended an integrated elementary school and middle school, and then found myself the only person of color in 6th grade at a private Christian school 20 minutes away from home.

While I was always aware of differences in physical appearances from my white counterparts and family members, I had no idea I was mixed and took the brunt of many jokes from ignorant neighbors and hateful kids who wanted explanations as to why I was so different from my mom. I just had no answers.

The words biracial, mixed, and mulatto were never used in my household, but the "n” word was in my consciousness from kids on the playground and neighbors. I knew they were directing it at me, but I didn't know why because I didn't identify as black.

Life Coach
Q: When did you begin working as a Life Coach?

A: I started Life Coaching with Tiffany Rae in 2007, but had been working with individuals long before then. 2007 is when I made it official, and I didn't find my niche and begin to build my brand as the "biracial coach" until 2010.

Q: How much of your practice is devoted to multicultural or mixed-race people?

A: 90% of what I do is based within the multiracial/multicultural community.

Q: What is your mixed-race radio show about?

A: Mixed Race Radio is a platform that allows me to take a needed dialogue to the masses. It's a way for me to have an organic conversation with many, many people and let others hear it, too. It brings real life experiences of parents raising biracial children, interracial couples, educators or business owners impacting a multicultural classroom or workforce, to the forefront and allows us to engage with people on a very real level as we discuss bullying, differences, obstacles, challenges, victories, situational hazards, hot topics, and book and movie reviews. By creating a dialogue, we hope to create a safe space in which people will gather to share and learn. Mixed Race Radio educates, inspires and encourages people of all colors, and from all cultures, to celebrate the similarities.

And, we are always looking for guests. So if anyone reading this post is passionate about their experiences, we want to share their empowering stories, life principles as well as community resources that can motivate and inspire our listeners. We would be honored and excited to be able to interview any of the readers while featuring their business profile, life experience, book, project or event.

Q: Do you have a favorite episode?

A: Every episode is my favorite because I realize just how special each guest is and I get to hear how they are impacting their families, communities and the world. Halfbreed Clothing Company owner and visionary, Rudy Tavares, may be on the top of my list because he found a way to turn a word—“halfbreed”, a word that used to sting--into a successful brand that now empowers people instead of a word that is filled with venom that hurts.
Q: What’s in your future?
A: I recently created a community group called S.I.M.P.L.L.L.E.--Supporting Interracial and Multicultural People Living, Loving, Learning Everywhere.

We are dedicated to providing a safe place and safe space for parents, family members and caregivers raising biracial children, and educators impacting the lives of multicultural children in the classroom.

We aim to provide a chance for mixed-race children and youth to interact with others, who look and feel like one another, and share similar experiences while, at the same time, creating a place for parents and educators to unite, dialogue, and communicate about issues, challenges and obstacles that exist when living, loving and learning in uncomfortable places. 

I’m a voiceover artist and after appearing several times on the Bill Cunningham Show as a race-relations expert, and hosting local community events in the greater Philadelphia area, I’m currently looking for an agent to help me locate opportunities to further my success in the entertainment industry. I see myself as a regular co-host on a type of show like The View or a host of my own television show where I get to discuss hot topics and relationships, but from the point of view of a biracial person that would allow me to unite diverse groups of people in a setting where we can learn about one another openly and honestly, and eventually put some myths to rest.

join our Hapa Nation
Well, thank you for sharing so much with us, Tiffany. Hip Hapa Homeez, our documentary project War Brides of Japan is gaining momentum. We have an Advisor, filmmaker Jessica Chen Drammeh (Anomaly), and are moving forward with editing footage and writing grants. We are, however, still searching for participants. If you know a Japanese war bride who’d like to be involved, please put us in touch through hiphapa@comcast.net You can also support us by liking our fan page, War Brides of Japan.

Until we meet again, here’s to a HAPA Fourth!

Your Hip Hapa,