Hi world, it’s me, Michele, writing the mixed-race experience. An American story if there was one. As a child, I knew this much to be true: there is no such thing as race or color; people come in all varieties, including tall, short; wide, narrow; dark, light; blue-eyed, brown-eyed; and every combination of the above.
I can’t tell you how many times, in how many versions, I have gotten the question, “What are you?” I never knew quite how to answer that question, what it was they wanted to know. “I’m just me,” I would think to myself. And then there are the times when someone argued with me when I revealed my secret: I’m half black and half white. “No you’re not, you don’t look black,” they would say.
My parents married in February 1958, a time when it was still illegal for them to do so in sixteen states; as you can see in this picture, my father is white and my mother is black. They firmly believed there was no such thing as race or color; every different shade came through my family home. I didn’t understand until I grew up how defining race still is; as I went out into the world, I learned that neither side knew what to do with me. My parents loved me, but they didn’t prepare me for the fight that awaited me.
Navigating through it all has been quite a learning experience. And, how I answer that question today might depend on my mood.
If you want a more traditional bio, here you go:
Michele Beller was operations manager for an international fitness chain before leaving her career in the fitness industry to immerse herself in researching her family’s mixed-race history and writing their fascinating story. She is a member of the Virginia Historical Society, Historic Buckingham (Virginia) Society, and the Independent Writers of Southern California (IWOSC).
While in the fitness industry, she spent several years as an editor at Southwest Cycling, and more recently has edited several books, including The Zen of Social Media Marketing by Shama Hyder and recently released, Nine Lives of a Black Panther: A Story of Survival by Wayne Pharr and Karin L. Stanford (2014). She serves as associate editor for Kapu-Sens: The Literary Journal of the Africana Studies Department at Cal State Northridge. Her articles and short stories have been published in select journals and periodicals including Bloom, poeticdiversity, Metamorphoses, and Triathlete, and forthcoming, a book on the Black Power Movement; she has been invited to speak on issues of race, colorism, and the mixed-race experience as a guest lecturer and on talk radio.
To date, her best claim to fame is having competed in the Ironman Triathlon six times. The Trouble with Virginia is her first novel.
Header on this page:
The Fruits of Amalgamation — Engraved cartoon by E. W. Clay. New York: Published by J. Childs, 1839. Caption: “E. W. Clay inv. et fec. Entered accord’g to Act of Congress by J. Childs, in the Year 1839 in the Clerk’s Office in the District Court for the Southern District of N. York.” Courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society.