Mariah Carey. Barack Obama. Halle Berry. Tiger Woods. Trevor Noah. Derek Jeter.
Mixed-race kids today can look up to a long list of multiracial people and feel affirmed and inspired.
But when Catherine and I were growing up, we were the only mixed race people we knew, except for our mother who identified as black, and our cousins, who lived far away in Ohio.
Later, as English majors at the University of Michigan, the only literature we encountered about biracial people showcased the “tragic mulatto” stereotype of folks who were too white to be black, too black to be white, and as a result, tragically rejected, confused, and depressed.
On the contrary, Catherine and I were raised to embrace and celebrate our African American, Native American, French, English, and Italian mix.
So, yearning to give voice to people like ourselves, we put our graduate degrees in writing to work:
We literally wrote ourselves into contemporary American literature.
While studying at the University of San Francisco, Catherine wrote three young adult novels featuring a biracial teen named Veronica. This fall, she will publish Veronica, I Heard Your Mom’s Black, Veronica Talks to Boys, and Race Home, Veronica. Our publishing company, Two Sisters Writing and Publishing, is bringing these books, and the upcoming Infinite Veronica Series, into the world. The books will edu-tain children, teens, and parents about how the world looks and feels through the eyes of a multiracial girl.
Meanwhile, at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, I wrote my master’s thesis about the history of black-and-white race mixing in the United States. From there, I covered the “race relations” beat at The Detroit News, and my articles were nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Then I wrote three novels which are romantic thrillers featuring biracial heroines:
- White Chocolate — A biracial TV reporter goes undercover in a hate group to fight racism while caught in a sizzling love triangle with her first love and current fiancé.
- Dark Secret — A biracial woman who’s passing for white and living the glamorous life in New York City, while engaged to the son of a rich Virginia senator, ignores her sister’s pleas to save their black mother’s life, sparking a national scandal of sex and race.
- Twilight — (co-authored with actor Billy Dee Williams) — A Los Angeles judge who’s unaware of her father’s ethnicity falls in love with a movie star in Brazil, only to learn the truth about her father, while a stalker torments the people around her.
My intention with all three books was to introduce a “triumphant mulatto” who either celebrates her identity and uses it to fight racism, or who makes peace with herself and her parents, to ultimately foster harmony among all people.
Our parents, as you may soon read in our mother’s autobiography — The Triumph of Rosemary by Judge Marylin E. Atkins — defied 1960s boundaries of race, religion, and romance. The enduring power of their colorblind love is a major theme in our mother’s book, which Catherine and I edited and are publishing.
She was also inspired to tell her story by the question that interracial couples often hear: “What about the children?” She wanted to show that the children come out just fine, and they may just become Two Multiracial Sisters Writing and Publishing.
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Elizabeth Ann Atkins and Catherine Marie Greenspan are excited and grateful to become weekly contributors on Multiracial Media. In addition to blogging about life as biracial women writers, they will also provide instruction on how to write and publish your own books.