Review: Mixed Feelings
Mixed feelings: Poems and Stories, by Avan Jogia (2019)
This book may be slim, but it packs a punch, exploring the complicated labels of race, religion, gender, immigration, and culture when you identify as mixed-race. Using his own poetry, drawings and photographs, interwoven with excerpts from interviews with other mixed-race people, Jogia presents what feels like a thoughtful conversation between his past and present selves, and his interviewees.
As with any book of poetry or short stories, some were more effective than others. But overall I think Mixed Feelings presents a lot of interesting perspectives on the emotions connected to being mixed-race... in particular, a mixed-race person living in a world that prefers black-and-white labels. Jogia focuses his narrative on what makes us all similar without shying away from the injustices and prejudices that he has witnessed and been subject to. The book is hopeful and beautiful, angry and sad... a literal mixture of feelings. describing just what it's like to be... well, human!
My only complaint is that it wasn't clear from the outset that we were hearing from multiple contributors, so I was confused for the first bunch of pages. The way the book is laid out - with poems, contributions, photos, and drawings haphazardly arranged across the pages - is beautiful, and a huge part of it's charm. It also creates some confusion as to who is "speaking" at any one moment. After a few pages, though, you learn to differentiate the fonts of Jogia vs the interviewees.
While I cannot, of course, relate to being mixed-race, I found many things to connect to. For example, many of the feelings expressed in the book were reminiscent of those described by my mom, growing up in the multi-cultural environment of being hearing with deaf parents (i.e., a CODA - child of deaf adults). The challenges of living with one foot in one world/culture and one foot in another were comparable - even if, in outward appearance, the differences are not as visible.
I also really like the poem below, which made me think of my K-12 school years in the city of Rochester... followed many years later by my time living in a small, very monochromatic (white) town in Canada.
Our neighborhood looked like the United Nations.
Everyone with different faces.
I worry about kids who grow up in mono-racial communities,
seeing only themselves reflected back at them.
Seeing only their own problems reflected back at them.
Young eyes need to see all sides
to construct a real worldview.
I grew up with the poor and the rich,
all kinds of kids.
If everybody looks like you, then run.
And find somewhere new.
To close, here are a couple of examples of the marriage of poetry and artwork in the book:
UP NEXT: Mixed Feelings aside, I've read a few clunkers recently, and what I really want (need) is some fun escapism! So, I'm re-reading V.E. Schwab's Shades of Magic series, which I already know I love! If you have any other suggestions for something relatively light, feel free to recommend. :)