Monday, July 20, 2015

Just Pick One: White or Black?

Cari Amici,

I normally keep my book reviews and my personal blog separate, but today I'm going to make an exception. I learned that an acquaintance of mine wrote and published a book. 

I was impressed, curious, and so I decided to pick it up. I had not idea what to expect. The title was "Just Pick One:" Stories of a Biracial Girl. I figured it would be about race on some level, but other than that I had no expectations. 

Before I talk about the book, let me share a personal experience. 

Today I was planning an activity and was using a poem that told girls they were princesses. In other words, the activity was trying to instill a sense of self worth into girls and women who unfortunately often lack it in today's society. 

Somebody had created two versions of the poem with accompanying images: one had a black girl and one had a white girl. 

I stared and debated long and hard about what I should do. I felt like it was drawing a division between the different races that seemed too stark and pronounced. Almost as if I were saying you can be white or black, but you can't be in the middle. So if you're black, then you have to get a special one. You have to have a different one from everybody else. 

I didn't feel comfortable drawing this much attention to differences in race. I felt like I was saying, "You're black, so you're different from anybody else, and I'm going to make that perfectly clear."

But then I thought if I were black, how would I feel getting a white girl being called a princess? Somebody who didn't look at me? I thought I'd feel like "oh joy, just another reminder that I look different."

I was startled. 

This issue of race was staring me straight in the face, and I didn't feel qualified to come up with a solution. 

Shortly afterwards, I read "Just Pick One," and my eyes were opened even more. What if you were neither "white" or "black" or what if you were both? How would you deal with race then? Which princess would you choose then? And would people force you to choose the "black one" because you looked closer to black than white? 

I don't pretend to confess that Caucasian me can make any claims or statements regarding race or can begin to understand this struggle, but this book was a beautiful and enlightening read. 

I will start out by saying that on some level I do know the author personally. I wouldn't go as far as to say we are close friends, but we are definitely acquaintances. 

I keep in touch with her on Facebook and probably keep in better touch than the author realizes (more or less read all of her statuses). 

I won't try to say that didn't affect to a certain degree how I looked at this book. It probably did, but honestly I don't think it really did affect my opinion all that much. 

The topic itself spoke to me as did the experiences the author shared. None of which I was privy to and none of which I was aware of.

And, if I'm being honest, I didn't even know that she was biracial, and unfortunately, I probably would have identified her as African-American, just like so many others did in the book.

(Although I hope in not nearly as snooty or racist of a way as some of the people portrayed in her book.)

That's why this book spoke to me. It opened my eyes to a real person's struggle that I had never been aware of. And not the struggles of a stranger, but of somebody I knew for a year.  

Tinesha Zandamela's book is poignant, heartbreaking at times, and eye-opening. She allows readers a personal look into what it means to be biracial. She doesn't ask for pity or as she talks about "play the race card," but presents, as the title says, a look into one girl's stories. 

This book is only 99 cents on Amazon and incredibly short (33 pages). It's one I would recommend everybody read. Do yourself a favor and go buy it on Amazon

I was skeptical, but I have no regrets about reading this one. 

They say good writing allows you to make connections to your own life, change the way you view things, and leaves you thinking about it long after you turn the last page.

This book did all of that and more. 

Just as the author promised, there are no neat, tidy conclusions. No answers of how society can fix the racism that plagues us. No foolish, impractical solutions.

It's merely one girl's experiences; but it's one girl's experiences that prove to be impactful and insightful. 

I always have a hard time rating non-fiction, but I'll give this 5 stars because of all the emotions I felt while reading.

Warnings: No violence, sexual innuendos, or swearing. Perfect for all readers. 

So I invite you all to join me and stop and think: How do I view race? Am I a little more unaware of racial issues than I thought I was?

Read the book and find out. 


Danica Page