Two young women collect stories about race from a diversity of voices.
Before they started college, Guo and Vulchi spent a gap year traveling across the country asking 150 people the same question: “How has race, culture, or intersectionality impacted your life?” “The responses,” they write in their startling, moving, and revealing debut book, “were astonishing,” giving eloquent voice to the meaning of intersectionality: the many “overlapping parts” of any individual’s identity, including race, class, gender, sexuality, religion, ethnicity, nationality, ability, age, and physical appearance. Equally astonishing are the sophistication and insight that the authors bring to their collection. By the time they embarked on their research, they were already impressively knowledgeable about race; they had founded CHOOSE (princetonchoose.org) “as a platform for racial literacy,” on which they shared stories from interviewees in the Princeton area; they had spoken at schools; and they had given a TED talk. Their yearlong investigation deepened and widened their perspective. They listened to people who grew up in racist families, some whose parents threw them out for being gay or transgender. Many encountered virulent racism: Traveling with her predominantly black softball team to a city that was home to the Ku Klux Klan, one woman recalls her fear at spending the night in a hotel. The next morning, the team left without stopping for breakfast. A Creole woman in New Orleans discusses the lifetime of secrecy experienced by light-skinned blacks who decide to cross the color line and pass as white. A Japanese-American tells about her family’s internment for 4 years during World War II. “We accepted our way of life just because, culturally, we’re very obedient citizens,” she said, adding, “I still feel that America is the best country that we could be in.” Besides the revelatory stories, the authors provide informative introductions, annotations, and a rubric for talking about identities. Clearly, they hope this volume will lead to social change. As one young Asian woman remarks, “research papers and big words aside, what are you doing to shake things up?”
A stirring, inspiring collection.