I am happy to have Alison McQueen, author of Under the Jeweled Sky, one of my favorite novels, guest posting today. My kids are multiracial and I know that gives them a unique childhood celebrating two different cultures, but also poses them some challenges. Alison is also mutliracial so I asked her how being multiracial impacted her and if she identifies more with one culture or the other or if she celebrates the traditions of both cultures. Without further ado, welcome Alison to my blog!
I was born in London during the sixties when mixed marriages were still a rarity. My mother was born in Assam in 1928. She came to England thirty years later, never meaning to stay, and met my father, a strapping great Viking of a man. He was a wonderful jazz musician.
Ours was a strange family without extension. I knew that I had a grandfather and that he had a farm in Africa, but I never met him. He existed only as a single photograph in my mother’s album. My father was effectively an orphan, having been abandoned to a Barnardo’s home at the age of five.
With so little information about who I was and where my family came from, it’s little wonder I became a writer. I am the product of two entirely mismatched people from wildly different cultures.
I didn’t visit India until I was in my late thirties. My mother had gone occasionally with her Indian friends, but she had never suggested taking any of us with her. I heard hear declare once that none of her children had any interest in visiting India. She couldn’t have been more wrong. I told her that I had been waiting a very long time for her to introduce me to the other half of my heritage. A small argument ensued and we got on a plane.
It was as though I had finally found the part of me that had always been missing. We went every year for the next decade, travelling around India together while my mother told me everything. I shall always cherish the memory of the two of us sitting out in the wilds of the jungle late at night listening to the song of the nighttime, holding hands.
I cannot imagine what it would be like not to come from a multi-racial background. To me it feels entirely normal. Of course there were times when racism reared its ugly head, particularly during the 60s and 70s, but that too was part of the landscape. As a child, I had to learn to deal with it, and that probably stood me in good stead. Learning how to handle ignorant bigots is a useful life skill.
Things are much better now, certainly in the UK, and I feel pretty confident that racism will burn itself out in another few generations. Children learn racism from parents, and I’m hoping that all those people who propagated such vile attitudes will start dying off soon. I have a great deal of faith in young people.
As the world ticks by with everyone mixing up the gene pool in the perfectly natural wake of humanity, a day will come when none of us are what we think we are.
One of the benefits of growing up sandwiched between different cultures is that you can pick and choose the bits you like and discard everything else. In many parts of India everyone joins in with the various festivals regardless of their race or religion. Christmas? Great! Diwali? Bring it on! They’re always celebrating something.
I am glad to have come from such a vibrant melting pot. It makes me a citizen of the world, not pinned to any one thing, and that’s a great feeling.
Thanks Alison for stopping by and sharing your thoughts with us. Check out my review of Under the Jeweled Sky, a fantastic book!