Are You Mixed? A War Bride'S Granddaughter'S Narrative of Lives In-Between Contested Race, Gender, Class, and Power

Sonia El Carlyle, Georgia Southern University

Ming Fang He, major professor; Marla Morris, Anne Marshall, William Ayers, committee members


By theorizing narrations of remembered lived experiences, this inquiry explores the spaces in-between race and place from my perspective as an educator who is multi-racial. As I reflect on my experiences as a seventh grade student up to my current position as a public school administrator, I have recognized that the complexity of situating oneself in predetermined demographic categories is uncovered as interactions in-between those categories transpire with misconnections and miscommunications. I explore my rememory (Morrison, 1990) of lives in two distinct regions of the United States: the Midwest and the South. The shifting contexts complicate the interactions that I live in-between race and place, and teach me to embrace differences, contradictions, and complexities in schools, neighborhoods and communities. Part of the challenges of this inquiry was to transgress monocultures of the mind (Shiva, 1993), to hear, to make meaning of, and to honor the differences, contradictions, and complexities of lives inbetween. This study of in-betweenness is not new as theorists like Anzaldua and Keating (2002) and He (2003, 2010) began discovering the intricacies of these undefined spaces. Exploring the in-betweenness of my life as a multi-race person problematizes imbedded notions of race, gender, class, and power. Drawing upon the works of multi-race theorists [e. g. Root, 1992, 1996a, 1996b, 2001a, 2001b; Salgado, 2004; Spencer, 1999, 2004], I explore curriculum as a racial text (Pinar, Reynolds, Slattery, & Taubman, 2002) by tracing ideas from multicultural education [e. g. Banks & Banks, 1995; Gay, 2000; Howard, 2006] and critical race theory [e. g. Ladson-Billings, 1994, 1999, 2001, 2006; L. Smith, 1949 / 1994]. I draw upon a wide array of methodological approaches in my inquiry such as the works of theorists writing about the lived experience through autobiography [e .g. Morris, 2008; Pinar, 2007], narrative [e .g. Carger, 1996, 2009; Connelly and Clandinin, 1987], and memoir [e. g. Ayers, 2004; Chai, 2007; He, 2003; Hoffman, 1989]. The power of this line of inquiry lies in its narrative possibilities to capture the contradictions and paradoxes of lives in-between race and place, "to honor the subtleties, fluidities, and complexities of such experience, and to cultivate understanding towards individual ... experience and the multicultural/multiracial contexts that shape and are shaped by such experience" (He, 2003, p. xvii). This line of inquiry creates new ways to think about and write about in-between experience and their relevance to multicultural and multiracial education. It is my intention that the inquiry challenge educators, teachers, administrators, and policy makers to view the educational experience of students with multiracial, multicultural, and multilingual backgrounds by shattering predetermined categories and stereotyped classifications and looking into unknown and fluid realms of the in-betweenness of their lives. This challenge helps create equitable and just opportunities and engender culturally responsive and inspiring curricular and learning environments to bring out the best potential in all diverse schools, communities, neighborhoods, tribes and societies.