Book Review – Mixed – My Life in Black and White

“I hate covert racism. I always hated guessing whether someone is being mean/rude/nervous because they hate my race or because they are having a bad day. As I got older, I noticed that covert racism is like depression: You know it when you feel it, but it’s hard to explain to someone who has never experienced it. It’s like a sixth sense that God has given people of color that white people don’t believe in. We just know.”

In her memoir “Mixed: My Life in Black and White” (2006), Angela Nissel writes of the struggles she faces while growing up biracial. Nissel’s name may be familiar to fans of the NBC comedy series “Scrubs.” She has been a staff writer for the show for four years and is now consulting producer. As a starving artist (a.k.a. freelance writer), Nissel sold some goods on eBay for extra cash. The winning bidder for one of those items was a television executive who had read her first book “The Broke Diaries” (2001), which was about her days as a broke college student. The eBay winner introduced Nissel to a television literary agent who sent copies of “The Broke Diaries” to shows hiring comedy writers. Nissel had numerous job offers, but chose “Scrubs.”

Her knack for sarcastic, quick-witted humor that is a driving force in “Scrubs” is what makes “Mixed” a must read. When Nissel is in the fourth grade, two of her classmates, Jimmy and Michael, call her a zebra. (That isn’t the humorous part.) Nissel’s father finds out and goes to the boys’ houses with Angela. Jimmy’s parents scold their son. However, Michael’s father slams the door in Angela’s father’s face. That father’s dog has been using the Nissels’ yard as a bathroom, so Angela’s father concocts a hilarious scheme involving an Ex-Lax pill. Angela asks her father whether the Ex-Lax will hurt the dog. “‘No, just Michael’s father’s carpets,'” her dad replies.

Later, though, Angela discovers that her father has been cheating on her mother, but even this situation is steeped in humor. “I already knew my parents were having problems and she suspected my father of cheating. (Note to parents: Trying to have cryptic conversations by spelling words out no longer works once your child is reading.) Then later, “Ever since the first argument about my father c-h-e-a-t-i-n-g with w-h-o-r-e-s, my mother had started working a lot….”

The thing about this book is that the comedic moments are also sad ones. And this is Nissel’s strength: She makes you laugh, but she also makes you think. Comments from people about her looks teach her that there is “good” hair and an “ugly” nose. The features people consider pretty are from her white father.

She went to all-black schools, all-white schools, public, private, schools associated with different religions-yet she never fit in. She was never white enough or black enough, so she was the target of merciless teasing. “Being a mixed child, you get used to people staring at you,” she writes. She immediately follows with humor: “I learned that rolling my eyes or sticking out my tongue was the quickest way to get people to avert their gazes.” She learns that being biracial is no easier in the dating world. She notices that of six black male coworkers at a production company, “five had white wives and one was dating an Asian girl.”

The book is filled with Nissel’s struggles, but she doesn’t want you to feel sorry for her; she is explaining how her experiences (good or bad) made her who she is. She makes you care about the people in her life, particularly her mother, who let her daughter change schools and religions-almost as often as she changed her clothes-in an attempt to find herself. Nissel doesn’t censor herself-or anyone else-which makes for brilliant dialogue and unapologetic honesty.

Review of Transnational America – Contours of Modern US Culture

Transnational America: Contours of Modern US Culture is an editorial book including 13 essays by different individuals plus a completely illustrated one named photo essay in the work, edited by Russell Duncan and Clara Juncker. Museum Tusculanum Press has published it in 276 pages paperback with ISBN 8772899581 on 2004 in Copenhagen.

Contributors in this one volume editorial are experts in various disciplines mostly English Literature and American Studies.

The work categorized in 5 major categories: 1- Visions and Revisions 2- Secrets and Lies 3- Photo Essay 4- New People 5- New Places, which each one subcategorizes to a few essays.

This book has a pro-American structure, and tries to introduce America as a transpattern and even an Archetype which all other nations and states must follow from its nation-state pattern. Many countries are consciously or unconsciously go after it, and its taste and scent can be sensed in rest of the world. That’s why it’s called Transnational America.

In fact editors believe in an alliteration of Trans in everything related to America as it’s depicted in editors’ introduction:

“A transatlantic voyage can discover a new continent or start new lives, and a transcontinental exploration can give rise to Manifest Destiny. Pioneers can transverse frontiers to build a nation. To transmigrate is to travel through one country on the way to a more permanent resting place. Slaves are transported; immigrants make transitions; people are transformed. Transactions are necessary to property acquisition. Translators mediate among languages. Hopes are transmitted; communities are transplanted; nations are transfigured. Media producers transcribe programs for broadcast. Employees are transferred to regional for international offices.”

It can be said -In deed- the book tries to normalize the trans-Naturalization concept.

“The editors commissioned articles that explain the contours of the ‘glocal’ (global and local) and ‘intermestic’ (international and domestic) tendencies involved in transnational America.” The language of the work is not too complicated but to some extent sophisticated, editors intend to deliver their minds by coining new words using blending method which can be a sign and metaphor of interdisciplinary approach of the book per se.

“They address the complex issues of globalization, American mythology, Christian proselytizing, modern slavery, conspiracy theory, apocalyptic terrorism, Vietnam stories, international feminism, changing gender roles, resurgent regionalism, Hillary Clinton, Muhammad Ali, Latinos, and the changing definitions of place-be they in Hungary, Nigeria, Estonia, the American South or Canadian cities. As the word enters America, so America enters the world, unfettered by territorial boundaries, and experiencing ambivalent reactions of acceptance and resistance.”

It’s really hard to label it as unique, but undoubtedly it’s a great work for those who are new comers in Americaology and Globalizationology. Popular culture is smelled in the whole; examples, similes and metaphors to different Hollywood motion pictures give a subtle abstract interactive mood to work.

Nonetheless it has a unique part, and it’s the photo essay. 14 Dazzling photos which may represents 14 essays of the work. A well expert eye obviously can find a lot and even more in each; ‘Naturalization’, ‘Mc Donaldization’, American Surreallization, Presidential ExceptionalizationAmerican jigsawization, Phallicist Feminization, Negro-Islam Americanization, Economical Novelization, Mexico-America Hybridization, Amerinadaization, un-American assimilation; are probable conceptualized nominations which I dare to put on them, and of course all are coined by me save in quotation marks. I really recommend everyone who is interested in book and is in lack of time for whole reading even though skipping the rest live a quarter with this photo essay which has a encyclopedic essence.

As it is asserted in the book for American Understanding various notions and concepts must be taken into account; ‘nationalism’, ‘racism’, ‘manhood’, ‘Christianity’, ‘globalization’, ‘immigration’, ‘classic-democratic roots’, ‘militarism’, ‘technology’, ‘advertising banners’, ‘youth’, ‘future’, ‘progress’ and ‘frontier’ are issues which are reviewed in this work, so paves the way for American Understanding. But some other points are neglected in this work if so they are being concerned as modern US culture elements too; Hip Hop music, same sex marriage, new concept of Stew as successor of Melting Pot, Voluntarism, Democratization of the World and pre-emption. Nevertheless it enlightens new horizons in watching America as an insider even out of it.

Book Review of "Kabul Beauty School"

If you thought you knew everything there is to know about beauty schools, you haven’t seen anything like this. In “Kabul Beauty School”, author Deborah Rodriguez-Turner with Kristin Ohlson shares one journey you wouldn’t even imagine. It’s not an adventure I would want because I am too afraid to ever leave the United States but a fascinating one to read about from a woman who has guts.

At the age of twenty-six, Deborah divorced her first husband. She had two kids and couldn’t quite put her finger on it but she always seemed to be restless. She tried college. She tried being a correctional officer. She tried partying. She tried religion. Without a religious background, she jumped right in to a Pentecostal church and married a traveling preacher who turned out to be abusive.

Her second marriage tuned out to be a bad situation. Deborah sent her boys to live with her mother and started trying to find the safest way to escape this relationship. She began going on mission trips, convincing her husband that she would be a good helper to him when he traveled. Then, she also got involved with relief efforts of humanitarian agencies and really enjoyed it.

On her first trip by herself to Afghanistan, she felt a little awkward because all the other volunteers were educated medical professionals. To her pleasant surprise, when she was introduced as a hair dresser, everyone was ecstatic because she could help them feel refreshed in the ditsy desert.

When she returned home, she began brainstorming about how she could make a difference in the lives of Middle Eastern Women by opening a beauty school and teaching them to become hairdressers.

Deborah collected product donations, found someone to ship the product and made contacts to actually make the dream happen. Someone put her in contact with a lady who already had started a school and suggested they join forces so she agreed. She just wanted to help.

Deborah’s husband was very controlling and began making threats in attempt to stop her from leaving him. She had her mind made up and left.

Once she opened her school, friends convinced her that if she planned on staying permanently, she would need a husband. She agreed to enter an arranged marriage as the second wife.

Much of the book introduces the reader to the lives of the women at the school. Sadly, she discovered that she couldn’t help everyone because there were so many sad stories and cultural differences beyond her control. She learned to be grateful those the differences she could make. As of the publishing if the book in 2007, she was still married to her Afghan husband and remains living there. The school had many obstacles to overcome but she did make a difference.

I think the main point of the book is that you have something to offer wherever you live.