Local authors promote Blended Nation at Borders

Fairfield's own Pamela Singh and Mike Tauber will grace the town with a talk, discussion and signing of their newly released book, Blended Nation: Portraits and Interviews of Mixed-Race America, on Saturday, Nov. 14 at 2 p.m. at Borders.

With an introduction written by author and humanitarian Rebecca Walker, a foreword by news anchor Ann Curry and an essay by Hampshire College Biological Anthropology Professor Alan H. Goodman, Ph.D., Blended Nation gives readers a thorough look into the experience of being mixed-race in the United States. Personal vignettes, essays and photographs taken by Tauber himself come together to cause readers to think of the place, practice and experience of race, and close to nine million mixed-race Americans living in today's society.

When asked about the impetus to write such a book, Singh and Tauber replied, "The face of the nation is changing at an unprecedented rate due to this expanding demographic of mixed-race individuals in the US. We were really fascinated with this phenomenon and wanted to examine this population that do not fit into any specific racial category in the US, who exist in `no man's land' as far as checking a box goes."

The topic also lends itself to photography, which is Tauber's realm. "Since race is so strongly linked to the visual based on skin color, hair texture, etc., we felt it would be a fascinating photographic project," he explained. "For example, what happens to the identity of those individuals who are a quarter this, a half that, etc., who don't visually correspond to any particular group when it comes to race, ethnicity and ancestry? Where do they fit? Blended Nation is a collection of these individuals' observations and stories of growing up `caught in the middle' of two or more racial categories."

Singh brings a first-person perspective of mixed race to the book, being a product of a mixed race marriage herself. "I have frequently been asked the `What are you?' question for most of my life," she recalled. "I found it interesting that in the US, if you could not fit into a defined race, most people would assume that you are Hispanic. I also found it interesting that this concept of race, ethnicity and ancestry is highly muddled and based on visual cues, yet so much of our governmental, educational, business and social policies are based on fixed racial categories. Therefore, what box/category do you check when you are mixed race? We put the question out there, `What is race anyway?' How does one define race, particularly when it is constantly evolving? Moreover, most importantly, why is this even considered an issue?"

Starting out as a photo project, Singh and Tauber utilized their network of mixed race friends to photograph, expanding from there with contacts from mixed race-based organizations, like Swirl and the Mavin Foundation.

"We photographed individuals and families across the Northeast, California and Washington State, concentrating on areas of the country with the largest populations of mixed-race individuals," the couple relayed. "To substantiate the images, we then asked each subject to share with us his/her personal experiences of existing between the perceived racial categories designated by the US Census...For subjects, we sought as many ages and varieties of mixes as possible, but were no doubt limited to those to whom we had access and those who wanted to be involved in the project."

Singh and Tauber are aiming to open up dialogue in the US on the topic of our "blended nation."

"What really came out in Blended Nation was the extent to which a person's image and self-identity do not match up," they reported. "There seems to be this gap/disparity between how society views mixed race individuals and how they view themselves. We expect that the visual aspect of one's identity will continue to play a huge role in defining race in the near future. And, as long as we continue to have these boxes with limited choices in terms of racial categories, this issue will remain. There is a segment of the US that likes to have things/people neatly categorized; however, there is waning relevance of these categories/labels going forward. Basically, this country is at a point where all of our notions about checking a box are no longer relevant."

There are many Americans who already view the country as "post-racial." In response to this stance, Singh and Tauber said, "Many people think this topic is no longer relevant now that [Barack] Obama is our President; that we live in a post-race America where racial issues no longer exist. If anything, we've found the opposite to be true in that there currently seems to be a heightened awareness of race and racial issues than in the recent past.

"There are also people who fear that this mixed race phenomenon will lead to one generic race eventually, and that individual groups are going to lose their identity," they continued. "If anything, the mixed race phenomenon seems to be creating more sub-categories. So, overall, it's an interesting discussion that needs to continue."

Singh and Tauber will speak about Blended Nation, answer audience questions and sign copies of their book at Borders Bookstore, 1499 Post Road, Fairfield this Saturday, Nov. 14 at 2 p.m.