Saturday, 31 August 2013

Writer Catherine Johnson

Today I am drawing your attention to the writer and screen writer Catherine Johnson. She has an impressive collection of books. Sadly some of her earlier work is now out of print.  Most of her books feature black or mixed race protagonists, and she is big on black UK history. Her latest novel Sawbones will be published in October.  She has agreed to me posting her biography below.  To find out more about her work go to Catherine's  website.

I was born and still live in London, some people might think that’s unadventurous but there’s still so much about the city I don’t know and it’s always changing. I like a lot of the really old things like Wilton’s Music Hall in the city and the new things like the gherkin building and the millenium bridge. Also I like the fact that I’ve seen more wildlife in London than in the country – foxes at 9.00am in Waterloo, kestrels in my back garden in Hackney and cormorants swimming up the canal. Most of all what makes London special is the people here from everywhere else. I like the 24hour hot bagel shop and the Turkish restaurants in Dalston, my son loves Jamaican fried dumplings and I like the Portuguese restaurants in Stockwell. It’s the mix up that’s good, old and new; Cornelissens art shop that sells dragon blood in a jar and The Algerian Coffee shop in Old Compton Street. The City farms, my local, Hackney, of course and Hampstead Heath and Epping Forest. Isn’t that enough?

My parents were very good storytellers. My dad was from Jamaica and my mum is Welsh. this is a picture of them just before they got married in North Wales in 1954. I was born in 1962 and mixed race families were still very unusual, especially in the suburbs. I went to school at Tetherdown primary school in north London. I loved it. I was good at school and if you’d have asked me then I’d have said I’d be a writer. But I hated secondary school. It was a very old fashioned girls school that soon squashed it out of me. I don’t expect any of my teachers would believe I would ever write enough words to make a book.

In fact I was bottom of the whole year in history, so how I got to writing historical novels is a mystery. Well, actually, it isn’t. History is people, and what writers and readers love is people.

I love writing about the people you don’t often see in regular history. When I was little I loved the Sunday afternoon serials, historical stuff, Leon Garfield stories, kids in big frocks, but when we came to play the stories in the playground at school there was never anyone like me in those stories, so I set about writing people like me into the past. And although the characters in my historical novels are made up, they are always based on truths. Did you know that when Elizabeth the first was on the throne she complained about the amount of black people in Britain?

And you never got to see black people wearing historical clothes, only ever rags as we were only ever slaves. That’s changed now, but I’ve put this other picture in because I love it.

It’s my Grandmother, Great Aunts and Great Grandmother in their Sunday best for the camera, my Grandmother is the little one. Isn’t it wonderful? 

Thursday, 29 August 2013


Bradley Lincoln
I recently spoke with Bradley from Mix-d: He spent 7 years carrying out some really important work with young mixed race people across the UK. His research focused on the viewpoint of young people and presents the issues in a user friendly non academic format.

Bradley said 'when I started this project a few years ago I couldn’t find the language to express what I felt.  There were plenty of people and books that told me I was mixed race. They were right – I am mixed race – but that didn’t capture how I felt, or what I knew to be the experiences of other mixed-race friends and family members'.

'I’ve had plenty of times when I have been accused of not being black enough and just as many occasions when I’ve been told I should be more white.These are the kind of things I have been seeking to understand. Thousands of mixed race people have also offered their opinions'.

'I started off this journey of discovery as the Multiple Heritage Project. For me it was a way to capture and record my own and other people’s thoughts on the subject. After some time I soon realised that we needed something else to express the shared experiences of mixed-race living – something that accurately captured those unique feelings and experiences. This is where the term mix-d: has come from'

'So, I’m Bradley. I’m mix-d: I’m nothing special but I’ve been enormously privileged to listen and to learn from a huge range of opinions and experiences'.

'The Mix-d concept is designed to create a voice for a silent group who may experience confusion, conflict, or misunderstanding about their racial identity…and to bring richness and colour to the lives of some mix-d people for whom everything to date has been simply Black or White'.

The Mix-d: project developed a Professionals’ Pack  which is an essential guide for teachers, facilitators, mentors and professional carers.

The pack will equip you, your staff and organisation with the resources and knowledge to deal confidently with all aspects of the mixed-race topic. This worksheet on Terminolgy for mixed race people is an example taken from the resource pack.  For more information about the pack (click here).

Bradley also worked on the Mix-d: Museum project. This work-in-progress Timeline draws on material from a British Academy project conducted by Dr Champion Caballero (Weeks Centre for Social and Policy Research, London South Bank University) and Dr Peter Aspinall (University of Kent) which explored the presence of mixed race people, couples and families in the early 20th century, particularly in the period 1920-1950, a time when racial mixing and mixedness tended to be viewed very negatively by British authorities.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Between 2 Races

I've just added 'Between 2 Races' to my wish list. It's a true story of growing up mixed in Germany in the early 70's. The book was released in 2011 and is currently available  for purchase from US. Check out the author Tammy Lisa Carmen's website for more details.

According to the excellent reviews, this book will make you laugh, it will make you cry, but most importantly, it will make you think. If you've ever wondered what could be going on in the mind of someone who is not only a little different because of her skin color, but where her nationality was also an issue, then this book is a must read for you.

If you live in UK and don't have access to an e-reader, Tammy has offered to send you the PDF format at a reduced rate of $3. Please e-mail her directly on and quote Mixed Race Family, special offer.
Tammy Lisa Carmen

More about Tammy Lisa Carmen

Before writing the book Between 2 Races, Tammy wrote over 300 unpublished poems, 2 published poems, 2 songs, and several quotes and vows. She is not a stranger to writing, but this book as she puts it, 'was the greatest writing challenge that she has faced so far'.  Over the years, she didn't really talk much about the silent war she was going through growing up as a bi-racial child. That is until she realized that hearing her story might benefit others.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Researching Mixed Race
Research plays a vital role in exploring issues relating to how different groups of people fare in today's society. How they feel? How they are treated? Whether they are discriminated against and how policies and procedures can be changed to improve their lives? Runnymede is the UK's leading independent race equality think tank. They work to identify racial injustice where it exists and use sound research to influence those with the power to change things.

Their mission is to end all forms of racial inequality in the UK and to facilitate a successful society, where no person or group of people is discriminated against or under-represented. To find out about their work relating to Mixed Race go to Runnymede Trust - Mixed Heritage

You can also find a comprehensive collection of global scholarly publications at  Mixed Race Studies is a non-commercial website that provides a gateway to interdisciplinary English language scholarship about the relevant issues surrounding the topic of multiracialism. 

Universities encourage students to research areas of interest and some choose to explore issues relating to being mixed race. Currently Lisa Long a PHD Student at Leeds University has a call for Black and Mixed research participants who have had experience of policing in West Yorkshire. If you would like to participate, please see further details  for more information and to contact her.

Other recent calls for research which have been posted on this blog include:

Mixed Race Experiences in UK Education by Remi Salisbury which was presented at the Mixing Matters Symposium

Mixed Race Identity and Social Media by Nadia Riepenhausen from Zimbabwee

Mixed Race Parents Identification Of Their Children by Miri Song

If you are undertaking research on Mixed Race Family issues and would like me to post a call for participants on this blog, or if you have some interesting research that you would like me to include, please contact me.

Friday, 23 August 2013


I am pleased to be able to link you to a wonderful list of books which feature mixed race characters (click here). Compiled by renowned children's author Malaika Rose Stanley, this  list is a useful resource for families, children’s centres, schools, nurseries, playgroups etc. Malaika explains that many of the books are quite dated, (indeed, I used to read some of them to my children when they were small; timeless!) and many are US publications which may be less easily available and less reflective of the British experience, but she felt it was better to leave people to make their own choices and draw their own conclusions.

The book list is a companion to her insightful blog post  Black, White And Just Right. UK publications are in bold and Letterbox Library who I featured in April (click here) is a great place to find them!

For more information about books written by Malaika Rose Stanley go to her website

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Alien Citizen: An Earth Odyssey

Alien Citizen: An Earth Odyssey is a one-woman show about growing up as a dual citizen of mixed heritage in Central America, North Africa, the Middle East, and New England. Lisa Liang says 'I wrote it for my fellow TCKs (Third Culture Kids) and people of mixed heritage because we rarely see our stories portrayed on stage or screen. The play is about identity, which everyone grapples with, but I think that everyone who has lived a cross-cultural life--anyone who has felt like a bridge or an island or both--can especially relate to it. The show had a successful run in Hollywood, California this past May. I would love to take it to London, one of my favorite cities and an epicenter for live theatre and intercultural events. I have friends and extended family in London so it would be wonderful to do the show for them as well. I'm looking into theatre festivals in the city and hoping to find a way to get there with Alien Citizen'. Lisa Liang

I would love to see this show in London. It is so funny! See for yourself; check out the Trailer excerpts and information at USA Projects for more information about Alien Citizen.  It's uncanny how there are so many similarities in the global mixed race experience, irrespective of the mix or where in the world you live. Have you ever felt like an Alien Citizen? Elizabeth (Mixed Race Family)

More info about Lisa Liang

My father is Guatemalan of Chinese and Spanish descent. My mother is American of Irish-French-German-English descent. So I'm basically a hapa Latina, ethnically speaking.

I'm proud to be part of a mixed race family because my parents (and my father's parents and grandparents) married their beloveds for Who They Are/Were, not for their family tree and ethnic heritage. My parents were married in 1967, the year of Loving vs Virginia. It didn't affect their marriage because their wedding was in Boston, Massachusetts (not in a southern state), but it still has meaning for me. Also, I see us as a family first--the mixed race part is only one of many details about us.

I was born in Guatemala City, Guatemala. I live in Los Angeles, California, USA now. The challenges I faced when I was growing up were almost entirely in the USA--we lived in six countries (I'm a TCK or Third Culture Kid). Race is hugely important in the states and I felt it very strongly when I was a kid--there were a couple of outright racist incidents toward me when I was about 5, which I portray in my solo show. But most racism was subtle--keenly felt but hard to accuse. I also got the question "What are you?" with boring regularity as I was growing up but especially from American peers. Never seeing a family like mine or anyone who looked like me on film or TV or magazines--and never finding books with characters of mixed race--was tough. But I've since met those challenges by producing Chekhov's Three Sisters with an all hapa family: Three Sisters. I wrote about the experience as well: Online Journals and  I co-host a podcast that explores and celebrates the multi-ethnic experience:  Hapa Happy Hour

I celebrate all cultures but the USA is the most predominant as I attended American international schools as a kid.I'm culturally quite assimilated after having lived here since college, but I do love to visit Guatemala to see my extended family there when I can. I love the fact that there's a sizable Guatemalan population in L.A and that I can also get a good Guatemalan meal at a restaurant. My husband and I also love Chinese food and we occasionally go out with friends to the best dumpling house outside of Hong Kong, and try to celebrate Chinese New Year in some way (usually a big meal at a Chinese restaurant).

As for the other parts of my heritage, I love French food and films, some English TV shows and places in L.A. that serve high tea, and I try to attend at least one show per year at Theatre Banshee, which produces plays set in Ireland or with Irish themes. I love culturally diverse experiences and have always had friends from different backgrounds, and they've generously invited me to celebrate those cultures with them, and that has always helped me to feel at home.

Lisa Liang