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Being Biracial: Where Our Secret Worlds Collide

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Good, bad, ugly and illuminating—everyone has an opinion on race. As Biracial people continue trending, the discussion is no longer about a singular topic, but is more like playing a game of multi-level chess. And the co-authors of this anthology, like many, have a lot to say on this subject.

So much so they decided to write a book about what it means to be Biracial or multiracial in 2015 (and beyond). The project grew rapidly over and above anything they could ever have anticipated, and now their stories are joined by 22 others—each examining their common bond.

The anthology, Being Biracial: Where Our Secret Worlds Collide, is published by Heritage Press Publications. It is a non-fiction book that cites the experiences of both mixed-race authors and those in interracial partnerships of all ages and backgrounds, from all over the world. It blends positivity, negativity, humor, pathos and realism in an enlightening exploration of what it means to be more than one ethnicity.

210 pages, Paperback

First published September 6, 2015

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About the author

Sarah Ratliff

10 books8 followers
Sarah Ratliff is a corporate refugee turned eco-organic farmer, writer, activist, serial entrepreneur and published book author. Along with 10-time published author, Bryony Sutherland, she is the co-author of the book Being Biracial: Where Our Secret Worlds Collide—an anthology of essays written by multiracial people or parents of multiracial kids from around the world. It is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and in Powell’s of Portland, Oregon.

Sarah is Black and Japanese on her mother’s side and German, Dutch and Irish on her father’s. Much of Sarah’s writing focuses on racial equality, feminism and politics. Sarah and her husband live on the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico. Her website is: http://sarahratliff.com

Says one 5-star reviewer (who is White and the mother of two mixed kids) about the book: "Being Biracial is a book for all people, regardless of ethnicity. It's a geography lesson of people and places, some of which were totally new to me. It's a history lesson of governmental bigotry and it's the story of twenty-four individuals. Some day perhaps we will celebrate our differences and our commonalities without judgment. This book will help us get there."

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Displaying 1 - 21 of 21 reviews
Profile Image for Cheryl.
61 reviews6 followers
January 6, 2021
This book is so important because it shows how being biracial is not being half of anything, it is an own complex identity and only you decide on how much of your mixed races define you. I am biracial myself, German and Mauritian (white, black, Indian) and I could relate to a lot of these stories. To the identity crisis one has to face as a mixed child, to racism and discrimination from both parts of your family and society, but it also highlights some positive aspects, like speaking mutlitple languages, benefiting from experiencing different cultures and forming an open-mind to connect with different people. What I also liked was that there were many different ethnicities and not only black and white biracials, so this book speaks to a broader range of mixed race people.
Two things that I thought weren't fitting in here or a bit "too" much was one essay of a thirteen-year old which was cute but not really fitting to the topic in my opinion and the fact that there were quiet a lot essays from white mothers with mixed race children / family. It's interesting to read from their perspective as well, but I couldn't help but notice how many there were.
Profile Image for Debra Kingsbury.
Author 2 books14 followers
September 17, 2015
Being Biracial is a book that will make people think. It will also pave the way for important and enlightening conversations that might not otherwise take place.

I must admit, the concept of a whole person being half one thing and half another, or one part this to two parts that, has never been part of my thought process, be it a matter of race, religion or nationality. Rather, I’ve always thought of people more as a blend of all those who’ve gone before – parents, grandparents, etc. – along with a dash of something other-worldly perhaps or indefinable, creating unique individuals outside and in. To me, a person’s racial makeup, including my own, is one of many aspects that makes someone interesting, special and beautiful, although that’s honestly never been at the forefront of my mind or many conversations that I’ve had. That is, not until reading Being Biracial.

When I was a teenager and first learned that the dark-skinned woman in the weathered black-and-white photograph was my great great grandmother from Egypt, who’d married and had two daughters with a Jewish Russian cantor, my reaction was probably along the lines of “Oh, cool!” I wasn’t “just” white anymore … although I’d never given that much thought, either. And I suppose that’s because I’d had the luxury of not thinking much about race, being a Caucasian girl who’d grown up in a fairly homogeneous community, racially speaking, never having to deal with being judged for the shade of my skin, the shape of my eyes or the texture of my hair. (Socioeconomic status, fashion and body type were other matters entirely.) Other than a relatively brief exploration of religious identity -- ultimately resulting in “none of the above” for me -- I’d never sought to belong to any demographic or group much beyond my own family, sports teams, a small number of close friends or a loose community of friendly acquaintances.

Three generations between my Egyptian ancestor and my siblings and me had diluted any inherited African features and, sadly, knowledge of who my great great grandmother was or how she even met and married my great great grandfather at that time. Perhaps being so far removed from my black relative, combined with my physical appearance, is why identifying with a particular race was never a question for me.

As a teen and young adult, I was certainly well aware of the racial prejudice in the world and ever more aware as years passed, yet it was more something I’d hear about and see on the news or read about in books. Despite my disgust at humankind’s propensity for racism and empathy for those who were targets of such attitudes and actions, I was detached from that experience. Even when I lived for several years in a rural area of a certain mid-Atlantic state where the unabashed bigotry was like nothing I’d witnessed before, it wasn’t directed at me or, as far as I was aware, at any of my friends, so it wasn’t something I spent much time considering once the overheard bigoted comment was replaced by another conversation. I’d always had a diverse group of friends with a variety of racial identities, but I’d never really talked to any of them about race.

Reading Being Biracial has changed that to some degree. Even before I’d finished reading the book, I found myself broaching the subject of race, not only with people of the same race but with people of races different than my own and of mixed race too. Having been privileged to learn about the experiences of the diverse individuals who contributed to Being Biracial, I wanted to know more about the experiences of non-white or mixed race people I knew personally. The conversations thus far have been refreshing and eye-opening, and I hope they will continue. This is a definitely book for everyone of any race.

Thank you to Being Biracial for giving me not only the courage to start those conversations but even just the thought to do so in the first place.

Profile Image for Tom Conyers.
Author 6 books4 followers
February 28, 2016
Being Biracial brings together accounts from across the globe of people either of mixed race heritage or in mixed race relationships, and sometimes a combination of both.

The anthology’s editors, Sarah Ratliff and Bryony Sutherland, also contribute their own personal accounts. Their responses highlight the wide range of experiences that define being biracial.

Ratliff (of African American, German, Dutch, Irish and Japanese descent, married to an African American) devotes a long and considered piece to her experiences, enlivened by helpful delineations of the historical background to each period of her life, that touches on the truly awful (a racist grandfather who lets a black boy drown) to hopeful and rewarding triumphs – reaching out to a variety of people across the globe.

Sutherland, her co-editor, was born and raised in England but fell for a man who hailed from the Caribbean in their teenage years. They have had a long and happy marriage, and borne three sons of White/Caribbean mix. Apart from one isolated incident on a street corner, their story seems refreshingly free of racism. Sutherland does, however, write on the responsibilities she and her husband face in raising their children in a way that neither focuses too much on their difference, but also does not ignore the fact, so that they are comfortably conversant with their story.

On the issue of the responsibility of bringing children into the world, Mark White, (a product of a white/black union in Barbados, who was then adopted out to a white family which emigrated to New Zealand) the issue becomes much cloudier and more fraught. He acknowledges it brought him into contact with greater opportunities – he went on to have a successful career in the ballet, among other endeavours – but it also left him feeling like a fish out of water in a racist and violent home and broader environment. But with globalisation, one would have to assume as he writes that “a child of mixed race is a thing of the future”. Unfortunately the present is problematical.

There are many more illuminating stories in this anthology that run the gamut of mixed race experiences. One of the more quietly philosophical is novelist Chance Maree’s (Cherokee, Italian, Scottish and German). She thoughtfully tackles the thin line between enjoying separateness and claiming superiority, and also expresses the belief that, as the world grows smaller, mixed race will become the norm. But does that mean, as she posits, “we will have to find other reasons to distance ourselves from others”? Hopefully not.

Being Biracial presents an important and timely cross section of the experiences of biracial people today, some good, some not so good, in a world where race seems the least of our pressing issues, but which is stubbornly and ignorantly never quite afforded its proportionality. It explains where we’re from but needn’t define or limit who we are. A highly recommended read.
Profile Image for Kristin.
16 reviews
February 3, 2016
This book is amazing. As someone who is biracial, I loved how it was able to capture what I agree with AND what I don't. It's simplicity of just letting the various authors tell their personal story shows that those of us who are of multiple racial/ethnic backgrounds can be similar...but so different at the same time.

I have a tendency to read books while traveling or during those long weekend commutes -- but I found myself picking it up while having lunch at work or even while having some quiet time at home. Various friends of mine now have children who are biracial and, depending on their age, I would highly recommend this book. It's nice to know "we're" a bigger and more diverse group than assumed.
Profile Image for Sarah Ratliff.
Author 10 books8 followers
January 8, 2016
As one of the co-authors of this book, I'd be lying if I said I didn't love it. But honestly what I love about it isn't just what I wrote. The essays written by people from around the world remind me how complex race is and also how honored I was to have worked with such a diverse group of people.
Profile Image for Tuscany Bernier.
Author 1 book105 followers
March 25, 2019
I genuinely loved this book. It was an anthology of essays based around bi-racial experiences from all over the world with all types of people. It was very healing to read stories of people who had similar experiences as I have in life and it made me feel considerably less lonely in my feelings towards my own identity. For some people, they identified with one race over the other or identified with all aspects of their identity. Some didn't strongly identify with any part of their race and instead chose a different route of identifying themselves. This book showcased the roles of children and their parents from both sides.
Profile Image for Leslie I.
4 reviews3 followers
May 11, 2017
Intimate, important, intensely beautiful.

This is a collection of personal truths and journies. The reader is given an intricate landscape of our remarkably mixed world, honest voices divulging the arduous and facile experiences of coming from and being racially mixed/racially diverse.
I highly recommend this book. It is beautifully shared and written.
Profile Image for Alyson.
218 reviews10 followers
June 22, 2017
For editors/authors Sarah Ratliff and Bryony Sutherland, the topic of mixed race identity is very personal: Ratliff has a complex multiracial identity and Sutherland is raising a biracial family. Together, the two have midwifed a godsend in Being Biracial: Where Our Secret Worlds Collide, a collection of essays written by people who have a personal connection to the mixed race experience: either they are of mixed race heritage themselves, are in a mixed race relationship, or are raising children of mixed race.

Even though—or maybe because—I’m biracial, I haven’t felt comfortable talking about race for most of my life. The more I read about the experiences of other people of mixed race, including those in this essay collection, I am beginning to understand my discomfort. It’s the feeling of not fitting in or belonging anywhere—a struggle almost every human encounters at some or many points in their life—yet compounded by the struggle to understand not only who I am, but also what I am. Am I white or am I Asian? The simultaneously complex and simple answer is yes. And bound up in this mixed identity are often mixed feelings and confusion about which people or nation or ethnicity I should identify with, which side I should take in current and historical political conflicts, and which race/identity issues I have the right to talk about. (I’ve finally realized I have the right to identify with all parts of my heritage and to talk about any and all of the issues that touch on my personal experience.) I’ve struggled with not feeling white enough or Asian enough, and it wasn’t until recently that I even dared to identify as a person of color. For most of my life I thought my mixed heritage didn’t count.

Reading Being Biracial was like finding my people for the first time. I kept nodding in understanding and highlighting many passages that articulate exactly what I have been trying to articulate about my own experience for most of my life. Ratliff shares a deeply intimate account of struggling to reconcile her African American, Japanese, German, Dutch, and Irish heritage against the backdrop of equally complex family and political histories, which makes my own identity struggles seem easy in comparison. Sutherland writes about her mostly positive experience as a white woman married to a Caribbean black man and raising mixed race children in England, which made me thankful that I also had a relatively positive upbringing in a biracial family, although I wish we’d talked more as a family about biracial issues. I especially appreciated the essays by people who have been confused for practically every ethnic identity but their own, which made me feel better about my own Asian heritage being apparently invisible to most untrained eyes. Even if I don’t “look” Asian, I’ve come to realize all that matters is I am Asian and I know it. The essays by mothers who hope for a future in which their mixed race children will be appreciated also touched my heart. My favorite piece is “An Open Letter to My Daughter” by a mother to her English, German, Korean, and Puerto Rican child who is starting kindergarten. She writes, “I know from my own experience that the world is not color blind; I hope your experience can be one in a world that is color appreciative.”

Whether you have mixed race heritage, or know someone who does, or simply want to understand the mixed race experience, this book is a great start in becoming more “color appreciative.” It has helped me be more appreciative of my own mixed colors and inspires me to wear them proudly.
Profile Image for Cara Meredith.
1,013 reviews22 followers
November 6, 2017
You can’t argue with a person’s story ...and understanding the story of someone who is bi-racial or mixed race is crucial in today’s day and age. Book draws from a number of different writers, some polished, some not.
Profile Image for Robin.
511 reviews13 followers
December 12, 2018
It was okay. I liked the concept of the book and found some stories more interesting than others in terms of relatability and/or stimulation.

3.5 stars.
63 reviews
April 4, 2021
Really great collection of essays about what being biracial/multiracial means for different people.
Profile Image for Carrie.
149 reviews4 followers
March 1, 2021
I did not find a resonance with every essay included in this book, but found interesting takeaways from many of them, as I try to navigate parenting children of mixed race.

I was most struck by the lack of positive experiences until a few essays near the end of the anthology.

A good read for anyone interested in learning more about the lives of those growing up in mixed households.
Profile Image for Kristen Chandler.
212 reviews39 followers
January 9, 2016
Before I even read the first page, I had already started thinking. How many people do I actually know that are mixed race, or are parents to a mixed race child? The answer to that is: several. I have friends that are either mixed race or have mixed race children. My kids are friends with kids that are mixed race. I have a cousin whose mom is white, and her dad is black. Furthermore, she is married to a Hispanic man and has two children with him, so her kids are Hispanic, Black and White. But what I really thought about was not who I knew, or how many people I knew that were mixed race. What really got me thinking was the fact that I have never really stopped to think about how they feel. How they cope. What issues that have/might have as a result of being mixed race themselves or raising a mixed race child. How I, being pretty much your standard white girl, will not ever know or understand what it's like to not feel like I fit in because of my racial background. Of course everyone at some point in their lives has felt they don't belong or fit in somewhere, and I have, but it was never because of my race.

Being Biracial: Where Our Secret Worlds Collide is an anthology, or a collection rather, of essays written by people who are either biracial, multiracial, or parents to children of such, or those in interracial relationships. Sarah Ratliff and Byrony Sutherland co-authored this book, and collected essays from several others who vary in age, sex and race. They tell their stories, and what it means to them to be biracial today. Some tell what it was like growing up, as opposed to how it is now. Or is there much difference? Race is still, after all these years, a subject that is mishandled so many times. All you have to do is pick up a newspaper, or log into Google or msn.com. At least one headline daily will contain a story of someone who was mistreated because of his or her race.

I am so glad that I read this. It has opened up my mind on the topic of race even more than it was before, and I plan to read other books on this subject in the near future.

If you are biracial, in an interracial relationship, or raising biracial children, you should definitely read this book. If you aren't, you should definitely read this book. Perhaps it will give you a better understanding of someone you know. It will make you think, that's for sure.

Read my full review here: https://shelflifeblogblog.wordpress.c...
Profile Image for Maja Dezulovic.
Author 4 books9 followers
February 17, 2016
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.

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.

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
Profile Image for Shannon.
5 reviews
January 3, 2016
This book is a beautiful mix of essays written by biracial and multiracial people, as well as parents of biracial / multiracial children. What sets this book apart from the very few others in the same category is that these essays are written by people from all over the world. In addition to this large scope, the writers are both young and old and have such differing experiences that what you get is a true kaleidoscope of reality, wisdom and words. Even if you aren't mixed race yourself or in an interracial relationship, you'll still benefit from reading this book. It will provide you glimpses into different cultures around the globe and make you feel connected to these writers who bear their souls on the page. In "Being Biracial: Where Our Secret Worlds Collide," there are no easy answers or binary thinking. Instead, it's a celebration of the spaces in between.
Profile Image for Cathy.
35 reviews1 follower
January 2, 2016
The very first essay, written by Sarah Ratliff, made my jaw drop and my eyes pop. Oh yeah, and I cried. Sarah calmly and matter-of-factly recounts her experiences being biracial, but to me (I'm white as white can be and people only get a smidge curious about my ethnic background when seeing my last name, right up until I say "It's German ...") it was like being hit by a sack of bricks.

I firmly believe that understanding the experiences of others can help us become better people. And in that sense, Being Biracial is a life-changing book. Read it.

Profile Image for Amy.
103 reviews
May 18, 2016
not all of the stories are written equally well, and the fact that the stories have been gathered from a very diverse group of people from around the globe made the book feel less cohesive to me. That said, I appreciated hearing first hand from the different authors about their experiences, and it was a quick and easy read.
Profile Image for Pamela Rogers.
Author 4 books13 followers
April 14, 2017
Everyone can learn something important from this excellent book. Racism cannot be tolerated. We are all of the same human race. Highly recommended! Brava to Sarah Ratliff and Bryony Sutherland (and Bryony also was my esteemed editor for Greekscapes!) for this enlightening book.
Profile Image for Lauren.
Author 5 books15 followers
April 30, 2017
"Being Biracial" is a book that has been on my to-read list for who knows how long. While I regret not getting to it sooner, at the same time, I also think I made good timing. In less than two months, it will be 50 years since Loving v. Virginia happened, and this book gives a varied, collective glimpse of the perspectives regarding mixed race relationships and the experiences of mixed race people in the decades after; both here in the United States and abroad. It just goes to show that there's no one experience of life as either a mixed race person or as a parent of one; for each story from each of the contributors is uniquely different, through the experiences and opinions expressed.

"Being Biracial" is a source of reassurance for the worlds these stories collide with, and an informative anthology for those who need to understand why these discussions need to take place. It takes nosy questions like "What are you?" and inappropriate statements like "Mixed race people are so exotic!" to a much deeper level; beyond skin and to the depths of identity.
Profile Image for Vivienne Neal.
Author 12 books20 followers
April 28, 2017
Stirring and Informative

As the title implies, this book explores the world that comprises of an eclectic biracial/multiracial community that is rarely talked about or studied. Sequence of events are weaved into this collection of works, namely, Colonialism, World War II, the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Panther/Black Power Movement, and 9/11 and the impact these events have on the social, economic, and political structures, and on race, color, religion, and customs in the USA and abroad. The essays, written from the writers’ perspectives and experiences, from the voices of teens to seniors, are an eye-opener, and a true representation of what it means to be biracial in a world that can be unkind, where you are confronting persistent stereotypes, offensive or so-called well-meaning comments made about children of biracial couples, or toward individuals who choose to marry a person of a different color, religion, or ethnicity. The narratives expose the many positive and negative challenges biracial people face continuously, which most of us think are exclusive only to those who identify themselves as monoracial, but in reality, these stories remind us that People of Color, no matter their lineage, are more alike than dissimilar, have the same needs and wants, tackle countless contradictions, rejection, anger, and isolation. As members of the human race, we should never allow society at large to dictate one’s identity or where individuals fit into this world by making false conjectures based on skin color.
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