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Meridians

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Title:
Meridians mapping metaphors of mixed race identity
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Trudell, Shane Willow
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English
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xi, 224 leaves : ; 29 cm.

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African Americans ( jstor )
Canes ( jstor )
Desire ( jstor )
Fathers ( jstor )
Mixed metaphors ( jstor )
Mothers ( jstor )
Novels ( jstor )
Utopianism ( jstor )
White people ( jstor )
Women ( jstor )
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bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

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Thesis:
Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 2004.
Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references.
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Printout.
General Note:
Vita.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Shane Willow Trudell.

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University of Florida
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Copyright [name of dissertation author]. Permission granted to the University of Florida to digitize, archive and distribute this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.
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MERIDIANS:
MAPPING METAPHORS OF MIXED RACE IDENTITY
















By

SHANE WILLOW TRUDELL


A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


2004

































Copyright 2004

by

Shane Willow Trudell













This book is dedicated to the Spirits of Peace and Love.

May they be the foundation of all our knowing and all our being.













ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I began thinking about the ideas behind this work years ago. Had it not been for

the instruction and guidance of my professors at the University of Florida, these ideas

may never have reached this form. Therefore, I wish to thank Tace Hedrick, Debra

Walker King, Mark Reid, and Milagros Pefia for their contributions to my academic

growth. Each is an individual and scholar whom I respect and admire. I am especially

grateful to Tace Hedrick, director of my dissertation, who has been a committed and

encouraging mentor, one who has shared with me wisdom gleaned from her own

journeys in academia so that I might learn from her experiences. Tace, in addition to

being a scholarly role model for me, has also become a respected friend, a fact that

pleases me and helps me with the sometimes surprising transition from student to

professional scholar. I have learned and continue to learn a great deal from her.

I am grateful, too, to other friends and peers whose support of me has kept my

spirits high and encouraged my commitment to reaching this goal. I am blessed by Penny,

sister-friend and poet, who makes me laugh and reminds me, through her amazing skill,

to play with words. I value the friendship and intellectual brilliance of Katherine and

Tzantali, who, working toward similar goals, both remind me of why we are working to

realize these particular academic dreams. I have been reminded, too, of my commitment

to working for peace and justice by all of my friends in the Association for Racial and

Cultural Harmony in Jacksonville, Florida. James, Jennifer, Joni, Sis, and Thalia have







been especially supportive friends from that group during particularly trying times, and I

extend warm thanks for their presence in my life.

I wish to thank, additionally, those who have provided me with support, financial

and otherwise, throughout this process. The fellowship I received from the University of

Florida was a blessing that allowed me greater peace of mind during my writing than I

would have felt otherwise.

Finally, I wish to thank those I love-especially my beautiful, wise, and inspiring

mother Yvonne-and those I have loved-especially Art. I extend heartfelt gratitude for

their support, encouragement, and unwavering belief in me. I would not be here if it were

not for the journeys I have taken with them.













PREFACE

"I've been reading memoirs," I announced to my mother, "which has me thinking

about the possibility of marrying literary criticism with life, mine specifically. Like so

many others producing scholarship in gender and race studies, I want my work to be

valuable to those outside the academy. I want to convince people my book is worth their

time, despite their question of 'Why would I want to read literary criticism?'"

"That would be my question," my mother confessed. "Why would I want to read

it?"

Indeed, why would she? Having previously pondered the usefulness of my work,

the possibility for praxis to accompany theory, I was stumped by my mother's question.

Because you're my mother, of course, I thought wryly. You'd want to read it

because you're proud of everything I accomplish ...

This was a shallow and narcissistic response, I knew. Why would my mother, or

any other intelligent and thoughtful person with a limited amount of time, want to choose

my book out of a limitless number of others? And what would it offer of practical value

toward social change?

Instead of attempting to give a definitive answer to my mother's question-a

question that, I suppose, an individual can answer only for herself-I offer something I

tell my students when they wonder why they should read the works we study in class:

literature illuminates life. And when we subject literature to theoretical scrutiny, we can

switch on the bulbs of knowledge and simultaneously shed light on our own cultural and







personal experiences. In literature and in literary criticism, we find new ways in which to

pose questions, to seek answers, and to see the world. We can engage the hypothetical.

We can reflect on gritty reality. We can tease out memories. We can explore the truths of

myth. We can acquisition space in which to mine our own knowledge, giving us new

possibilities for being in the world and being in relation to others.

Instead of answering my mother's question, then, I will tell you what this book is

about so that you can answer for yourself...

This is a book about race and real lives, gender and generations, traditions and

travel, love and language, borders and belonging, metaphors and maps, books and bodies.

This is a book about the twentieth century and today. This is a book about literature and

about life.













TABLE OF CONTENTS

page

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ..................................................................................... iv

P R E F A C E .................................................................................................................. vi

A B ST R A C T ............................................................................................................... x

CHAPTER

1 CARTOGRAPHIES OF RACIAL IDENTITY......................................

Intimate Cartography ......................................... ............................................ 1
Mapping Past Paths and New Directions ...................................... ............ 3
Mapping the Contemporary Landscape ............................... ....... ............. 9
Mapping Metaphors ................................................................................ 13
M ixed M etaphors ........................................................................................... 16
Playing With the Map ......................................................... ................... 19
Mapping the Path Ahead ................................................................................ 22

2 THE IVORY TOWER AND THE KETTLE BLACK: NINETEENTH
CENTURY METAPHORS OF RACE...............................................27

R ace C rystallized ........................................................................................ 27
Climbing the Ivory Tower ......................................................................... 34
Climbing into the Kettle Black ...................................................... ............. 41
Continued Crystallization .................................................................................... 55

3 LINES OF CONTACT AND COHERENCE: MERIDIANS IN THE
WORK OF JEAN TOOMER .......................................................57

Points of D eparture........................................................................................ 57
D ividing L ines ............................................................................................. 7 1
Transcending the D ivide................................................................................ 83
Points of C contact ........................................................................................... 89

4 TRAVELING THROUGH FRAN ROSS'S OREO, NO ORDINARY
COOKIE ......................................... ..... ................ ............... 94







The Frontier: Where Two Come Together ................................... ........... 94
Traveling Beyond the Boundaries ................................................ 100
"She G ot W om b" ......................................................................................... 109
Travelers, Questers, and Cookies ............................................................... 116
Traveling in/as T w os .................................................................................. 125

5 RE-VISIONS OF DIFFERENCE IN DANZY SENNA'S CAUCASIA........ 128

Disappearing: The Skin We're In ................................................................. 128
Bodies at Play: Performing (and Being) Race(d) ......................................... 134
Appearing in the Mirroring ......................................................................... 140
Longing and Belonging ................................................................................ 145
Appearing in Motion and Blurring the Lines ............................................. 150
Reappearing beyond Recognition ................................................................ 156

6 HOME LIFE: CONFLICTED DOMESTICITY IN JENOYNE ADAMS'S
RESURRECTING MINGUS......................................................... 163

H om e B found ......................................................................................... 163
D ivided H ouses .................................................................. ...................... 170
C racking the M irror ................................................................................. 181
C om ing H om e ............................................................................................. 196

7 MERIDIANS ON THE MAP OF IDENTITY................................... 201


W O R K S C IT E D .................................................................................................... 217

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .................................................................................. 224












Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

MERIDIANS:
MAPPING METAPHORS OF MIXED RACE IDENTITY

By

Shane Willow Trudell

August 2004

Chair: Tace Hedrick
Major Department: English

Although mixed race identity traditionally has been equated with conflict, the

conflict is not necessarily lived but may be more accurately viewed as a conflict of

language, a conflict of metaphors. Traditionally, metaphors of mixed race identity have

reflected notions of opposition and hierarchy; at the same time, mixed race individuals

have searched for utopian spaces in which conflict and tragedy are alleviated and race is

imagined as a unifying, rather than divisive, idea. This study looks at the treatment of

mixed race women in twentieth century novels, beginning with Jean Toomer's Cane

(1925) and then jumping to the end of the century-to Fran Ross's Oreo (1975), Danzy

Senna's Caucasia (1998), and Jenoyne Adams's Resurrecting Mingus (2001)--to study

texts written during and after the Black Power Movement. It begins with an analysis of

metaphors of blackness and whiteness that developed in the nineteenth century and then

questions the ways these metaphors have traditionally complicated possibilities for mixed

race identity, resulting in replications of the tragic mulatto and adherence to the one-drop







rule. Subsequently, the analysis moves to contemporary metaphors of mixed race identity

to explore their limits and possibilities and the ways in which these metaphors are

implicated by questions of gender. The texts under analysis respond to the same set of

problems, including the longing for utopian spaces of wholeness and harmony within

mixed race identities and non-traditional families. Additionally, these texts contain a

latent struggle over questions of history, family, and racial identity. They long to

articulate utopian visions while they are confined within the historical moments and

literary formulas in which they were written, and they struggle to negotiate postmodern

questions of identity, self, wholeness, and harmony-both individual and

communal-while bound by literary and social conventions that resist the utopian visions

they hope to articulate. Each text attempts to envision utopian social, political, familial

and individual spaces where the "play" of identity-the possibility of negotiation and

individualization-may be manifested, utopian visions of harmony may be realized, and

new metaphors may be articulated.












CHAPTER 1
CARTOGRAPHIES OF RACIAL IDENTITY

Intimate Cartography

I want to show you a map and tell you a secret. The map looks like this: I'm a

woman with skin the color of cattails in the sunshine. My hair is dark brown, soft, thick,

and willfully curled. My eyes are brown-not a honey-colored brown but a deep brown,

yet not so dark that my pupils are indistinguishable from my irises. Of course, none of

this comprises the secret, for none of this is hidden information; it is all readily apparent

on my body. The secret is this: I am not a black woman; I am a black woman; I am not a

white woman; I am a white woman.

Of course, this sounds paradoxical, impossible, but the metaphors of black and

white are often only meagerly and superficially -sometimes not even

superficially--related to actual bodies. My sense of myself as both black and white and

as neither black nor white comes from my own understanding and perception of my body

as well as understandings and perceptions that go beyond it. Additionally, the perceptions

of others become crucial in these perceptions of myself. For instance, when I am among

strangers, I assume that their first perceptions of me involve the color of my skin, the

texture and style of my hair, the codes of my gender. Although I do not consider myself a

black woman, I must recognize that this will be the way many others perceive me. In

contrast, when I was married to a white man or when I visit my white mother, I function

as part of a family and culture to which outside observers would claim I do not belong







and yet in which I feel un-contestably at home, although I do not consider myself a white

woman.

My body, then, like that of any other person, is implicated by what Debra Walker

King has called body fictions: our "externally defined identities and representations as

bodies." These body fictions result in the "collision between real bodies and an

unfriendly informant: a fictional double whose aim is to mask individuality and mute the

voice of personal agency" (vii). The body becomes a map with a very peculiar

geography, one that attempts to impose identity, to pinpoint contours and demarcate lines

of latitude and longitude, in an effort to describe and contain realities that are

multidimensional within the two-dimensional realm of black and white. If the body can

be seen as a map, then what we call that body is an indication of our navigation, of our

interpretation, of the map. Thus it is that the map of the body becomes an important

reference point in locating identity. Although most people forget to look beyond its

limited dimensions and thereby assume the map is totalizing, the body is not an exclusive

means of mapping identity.

The body, indisputably important, is still a limited and contradictory map, subject

to metaphors that function unevenly-allowing, for example, a light-skinned woman to

be called black but typically not allowing a dark-skinned woman to be called white. It is

with these contradictions and uneven metaphors of race in mind that I begin this

exploration of metaphors of mixed race identity. In so doing, I seek to draw a more

accurate map of mixed race identity-or at least one that acknowledges the limits of its

dimensions-a map that can direct new explorations of these identities and chart the

geography of my being a not-black/not-white woman.







Mapping Past Paths and New Directions

Werner Sollors has catalogued in intricate detail the history of miscegenation and

mixed race characters in American literature. His comprehensive study Neither Black Nor

White offers a thematic analysis of interracial literature, which he defines as "all genres

that represent love and family relations involving black-white couples, biracial

individuals, their descendants, and their larger kin" (3). Identifying common tropes

throughout interracial literature--such as reference to the curse of Ham, fractions of

blood, and fingernails as racial signs, among others-Sollors concludes that interracial

literature is most often themed "for a black-white contrast of 'either/or' than for an

interracial realm of 'neither, nor, both, and in-between'" (Neither 10). In this instance,

Sollors highlights an important question for current discussions of mixed race identity in

American literature: how are individuals of mixed race represented, as a site where races

unite or as a site where they collide?

Mixed race characters have long been a subject of interest to black and white

authors alike, and there have been numerous arguments made to explain the origins of

this interest in pre-Civil War and antebellum fiction. To pre-Civil War Northern

audiences, the tragic mulatto or tragic octoroon was "a perfect object for tearful sympathy

combined with moral indignation" (Zanger 285). Yet the use of the tragic mulatto by

antislavery writers also has been seen as an indication of racial prejudice since such

writers may have found the plight of a near-white character more tragic than that of one

more phenotypically black. Although it has been argued that these authors focused on

characters of mixed race in order to highlight the tragic nature of slavery and/or make

their characters more likely to generate sympathy from white readers, it is more







compelling to argue that these writers sought to highlight generations of white patriarchal

guilt through the use of mixed race characters. On an even more symbolic level,

"miscegenation and the 'unnatural' treatment of biracial offspring [may] conveniently

stand for the South's real sins: the prostitution of an entire race of black bodies for the

gratification of the white man's 'lust' for wealth and power and the resultant violation of

those 'family ties' traditionally associated with the Christian notion of the brotherhood of

man" (Clark 294). Conversely, Simone Vauthier argues that "interest in the white Negro

may be read as an imaginary testing of boundaries. The white Negro represents a cas

limited, the smallest difference that marks the point where the Other turns into the Same,

when the either/or disjunction is no longer operative" (349).

Countless other scholars, as well, have approached the topic of mixed race

literature in hopes of identifying and analyzing themes such as those detailed above. Most

often, scholars turn to discussions of the tragic mulatto and passing in order to highlight

the constructedness of race and facilitate arguments about its lack of basis in biology. In

fact, Sollors seeks to investigate the themes of mixed race literature in order to

comprehend "the cultural operations which make [races] seem natural or self-evident

categories" (Neither 3). Similarly, Naomi Zack notes that miscegenation "can be viewed

as a recurrent trope in popular fiction, a sort of metaphor for the unblended part of the

melting pot of American society as a whole; the problems of all black Americans in white

American culture; or the alienation of the modern individual in general. Characters of

mixed race have also been interpreted as universal cultural archetypes, such as the

scapegoat or the Christ figure" (128).







Other scholars have addressed mixed race literature in order to move beyond

arguments about race as a social construction. Cathy Boeckmann, for example, assumes

race's constructedness and looks to "the topics of race, passing, bodies, and American

literature using an approach based in historical vocabulary" (3). Her insightful study

questions the notion of character in the late nineteenth century, arguing that "In current

usage character is a figurative term, signifying the imagined structure of an individual's

moral and ethical orientations, but in the nineteenth century it referred to a quantifiable

set of inherited behaviors and tendencies that were almost always racial" (3). Her

discussion turns to interracialism precisely because the "equation of outer and inner that

was a cornerstone of white supremacy, and which was used to argue the absolute

inferiority of African Americans, was unsettled by the mixing of physical signs of race"

(30).

Boeckmann's study is also unique in that it seeks to demonstrate the significance

of genre to nineteenth century questions of characterization. As Boeckmann notes,

"Literature was assumed to be the best location for the representation of national and

racial character, and debates over the relative merits of sentimental, romantic, and

realistic fiction were embroiled in discussions of which mode offered the best form of

characterization" (5). Boeckmann's study is important because it questions the role of

genre in defining character and analyzes the ways in which character in nineteenth

century American literature was problematized by the reality of mixed race.

Similarly, my study recognizes the recurrence of certain genres, specifically

sentimental and romance fiction and autobiography, in discourses of mixed racial

identity. These genres facilitate many discussions of mixed race and allow a forum for







social activism within public discourse.' As in the nineteenth century, when women

writers often used the sentimental novel to comment upon and seek to change social

conventions, many writers of popular fiction--including the genres of sentiment,

romance, and autobiography-seek to make social commentary and reflect the changing

social attitudes regarding race and mixed race identity. Ann duCille argues in her study of

nineteenth century black women's novels that "the marriage convention has been claimed

by black women writers in particular as a trope through which to explore not only the so-

called more compelling questions of race, racism, and racial identity but complex

questions of sexuality and female subjectivity as well" (4). Thus, duCille comments upon

the longstanding use of the private, the domestic, the sentimental to explore questions

regarding the public and social. Autobiography, as well, is a common genre for

explorations of mixed race because, as Paul Spickard has written, "multiraciality may

inevitably be autobiographical in that it is an identity that draws its life-force from

fashioning and refashioning the story of the ethnic self" (92). And Claudine Chiawei

O'Hearn acknowledges:

Because most people didn't know where to place me, I made up stories
about myself. In bars, cabs, and restaurants I would try on identities with
strangers I knew I would never meet again. I faked accents as I pretended
to be a Hawaiian dancer, an Italian tourist, and even once a Russian
student. It always amazed me what I could get away with. Being mixed
inspired and gave me license to test new characters, but it also cast me as a
foreigner in every setting I found myself in. (ix)

Thus, O'Hearn speaks of a prevalent sense among mixed race individuals of authoring

one's own identity through autobiography, allowing those of mixed race to articulate




By popular, of course, I mean those texts that are mass-marketed and widely available to a large
population of people.







their own stories and analyze the ways in which ancestral peculiarities shape subsequent

identities.

Although autobiography also served numerous black authors in the nineteenth

century, my study investigates the treatment of mixed race women in twentieth century

novels to trace social understandings of race, mixed-race, and gender. Unlike nineteenth-

century texts dealing with mixed race characters, which often relied on tropes of conflict

and turmoil, a number of twentieth-century texts have attempted to move beyond the

binaries dictated by ideologies of race in order to assert the complex nature of mixed race

identity, rather than insisting on the either/or model.

My study, moreover, departs from traditional investigations of literature

containing mixed race characters by white and black authors in order to question the

metaphorical ways in which black and mixed race authors define mixed racial identity.

Because race itself is, as Henry Louis Gates, Jr. has suggested, a metaphor for difference,

it is useful to investigate the ways in which mixed race difference has been described via

the use of metaphors. What do these metaphors suggest about the nature and character of

mixed race difference? In what ways do these metaphors naturalize racial difference as

oppositional and hierarchical and in what ways may metaphors of mixed race disrupt this

assumption of the oppositional and hierarchical nature of race? Additionally, using a

feminist framework, I question the ways in which these metaphors are gendered in order

to investigate the options that are made available for mixed race women and men to

negotiate their identities.

My discussion focuses on the metaphorical, as well, because identity itself can be

considered a metaphor for the self, for self-perception, self-understanding, and self-







awareness. If we define the self, as C.G. Jung does, as the archetype of wholeness,2 then

we might begin to see the self and self-identity as metaphorical. Moreover, as Susan

Rowland has argued in her definition of archetypes, "Given that archetypal images can

never exhaust the multiple possibilities of the archetype and are refracted through the

personal, they can be described as fiction, metaphorical versions of an unrepresentable

reality. That is, archetypal images are fictional and metaphorical, not because they are

arbitrary but because they are the partial and imaginative expressions of fundamentally

plural potentials for meaning" (11).

So, too, with race. As a constructed imagining of difference refracted through

personal experience, race can be seen as fictional and metaphorical because it attempts to

reify and make singular that which is fundamentally plural and capable of multiplicitous

meaning. In fact, given that race cannot be singularly defined as simply a representation

of phenotype or ancestry or experience or law, it is fundamentally plural in meaning.

Thus, any discussion of race is already metaphorical. Acknowledging this, my study

seeks to highlight the ways in which race and mixed-race are constructed through various

metaphors that result in hierarchy and opposition. In so doing, we may move toward

metaphors of difference that help to eradicate notions of naturalized hierarchy and

opposition in favor of those that seek inclusivity, interconnections, and difference without

deficit.

Feminist geographer Minelle Mahtani has embarked upon a similar project in

trying to identify a more useful spatial metaphor for what she calls "multiethnic"

identities. She justifies the appropriateness of this project within her disciple by noting


2 1 acknowledge that poststructuralism has demonstrated the problematic nature of notions of the self and
wholeness, and I will return to this in chapters four and five.







geographers' assertion that "all social relations are spatial, and take place within

particular spatial contexts. Therefore, it follows that racism creates particular spatial

patterns and codes through which spatial and racial domination is maintained. This

directly impacts on questions of identity" (174). Drawing on the work of feminist

theorists Gillian Rose and Elspeth Probyn, Mahtani argues for an understanding of

"mobile paradoxical spaces," which articulate "notions of belonging as movement rather

than as static positioning" (184) and which seek a space for identity that exists beyond

dualisms. Similarly, my project acknowledges the impact of spatiality upon identity and

notes those metaphors within American literature that highlight mixed race identity in

terms of spatiality, which is common among these texts since so many of them attempt to

locate a utopia of racial harmony. These metaphors, while still problematic, may offer an

understanding of identity without duality and hierarchy that is not encouraged by other

metaphors. Temporal metaphors, for example, often rely on notions of history that

inevitably reinforce dichotomies and hierarchies-e.g., prehistoric/historic, less

civilized/more civilized. Although spatial metaphors can work in dualistic ways

also-e.g., inside/outside, margin/center-they may instead recognize the "mobility and

simultaneity of particular subject positions" (Mahtani 180). For this reason, spatial

metaphors may offer more flexible and less hierarchical notions of mixed race identity;

additionally, they are readily taken up by mixed race discourses that seek a racial utopia.

Mapping the Contemporary Landscape

Because romance is often considered a genre of popular culture, it is fitting that

contemporary discussions of mixed racial identity would exhibit a connection to issues

traditionally housed in the domain of romance: the family, interpersonal relationships, the







role of individuals in the private and public spheres. Mixed racial identity is an important

social issue in the contemporary United States due to the increase in the population of

individuals whose parents are designated as members of different races. And discourses

of mixed race identity span issues of family, relationships, and the individual's role in the

public sphere. In fact, the issue is so prominent that numerous groups highlighted the

"private" matter of mixed racial identity in the public sphere when they lobbied to have a

multiracial category added to the year 2000 census. Although this proposal was

ultimately defeated, respondents were allowed to select more than one box when

identifying their race(s), testifying to the fact that questions of mixed racial heritage and

identity are important in the lives of millions of Americans. Researchers since the 2000

census have attempted to categorize the identities of mixed race individuals in order to

discern contemporary identities of mixed race. G. Reginald Daniel argues that what he

has termed the new multiracial identity

deconstructs the dichotomization of blackness and whiteness, as well as
the hierarchical relationship between these two categories of experience.
Its goal is to rescue racial identities from distortion and erasure by
incorporating both African American and European American
backgrounds. Individuals who display this identity recognize the
commonalities between blacks and whites (integration), but at the same
time appreciate the differences (pluralism). (6)

Although Daniels' claim supports the possibility for non-hierarchical identities of

mixed race, he too readily homogenizes mixed race identity. Other researchers, however,

note more diversity in individuals whose parents belong to two different socially

designated races. Through a study conducted after the 2000 census, Kerry Ann

Rockquemore and David L. Brunsma delineate four types of identity formation for

black/white biracial individuals. First, the border identity is one that acknowledges both a







black and a white identity as well as a third identity of mixed-race. In effect, "the border

identity highlights an individual's existence between two socially distinct races as

defining one's biracialism. Meaning lies in their location of in-betweenness" (42).

Rockquemore and Brunsma divide this border identity into two types: validated, in which

others acknowledge a mixed race individual's in-between status, and unvalidated, in

which "others may not understand biracial as an existing category of racial classification"

(45).

A second type of identity defined by the researchers is the singular identity, which

typically functions in the United States via the one-drop rule. The singular identity

recognizes the binary racial classification system in the United States and asserts that

individuals of mixed race must align themselves with one racial group. Given the

historical reality in the United States of the one-drop rule, which states that any black

ancestry makes one black, most individuals of mixed race have chosen to identify (and

have been outwardly identified) as black. The researchers note, however, that a singular

white identity has, at times, been possible given certain socioeconomic and phenotypical

realities.

The third identity described by the researchers is the protean identity, one that

maintains identity as contextual and shifting. Acknowledged as the least common type of

mixed racial identity, the protean identity functions by "changing and shifting according

to the group of people that [the individual] is with and the social context" (47). The

researchers clarify the uniqueness of this identity by maintaining that "although most

people might adjust their behavior to differing circumstances, [proteans adjust their]

identity to these different circumstances" (48). Finally, Rockquemore and Brunsma







acknowledge a transcendent identity in which individuals seek to define themselves

outside of racial terms. In fact, these individuals often imagine race as a barrier to the

realization of their true identities, preferring instead to think of themselves as "human."3

It is within this social context of varied interpretations of mixed race identity that

my study seeks to investigate current and historical metaphors of mixed race in twentieth-

century American popular fiction. The texts I explore deal with individuals of mixed

black and white ancestry, and I have delineated this precise group of women for a number

of reasons. Although I acknowledge that mixed racial identity is a reality for every

designated racial group, not simply black and white, and although I recognize that the

current discourse on mixed race typically assumes the presence of whiteness and thereby

normalizes it,4 I have chosen black/white mixtures, in part, because "in the United States,

blacks and whites continue to be the two groups with the greatest social distance, the

most spatial separation, and the strongest taboos against interracial marriage"

(Rockquemore and Brunsma ix). In fact, I would argue that black/white (i.e., dark/light)

is one of the quintessential opposition of western dualism and works in metaphorical

relation with other dualisms (such as evil/good, ugly/beautiful, material/spiritual).

Given this black/white opposition and the metaphorical dualisms of western

philosophy, I find it necessary to explore metaphors of blackness and whiteness before

proceeding into an elaboration of metaphors of mixed race. I do this through a discussion

of historical metaphors of blackness and whiteness, including an analysis of two

nineteenth-century sentimental novels that demonstrate the complicated nature of these


3 Obviously, I acknowledge the problematic nature of such identities, given that race, though not a
biological truism, is a social and experiential reality.
4 Carol Roh Spaulding has astutely argued, "In American literature of the twentieth century, the term
'mixed race' almost invariably refers to individuals who are part 'white' and part 'raced'" (98).







metaphors: Emma Dunham Kelley's Megda and Frances E.W. Harper's lola Leroy, Or

Shadows Uplifted. For, as Antonio Gramsci writes "the starting point of critical

elaboration is the consciousness of what one really is, and is 'knowing thyself' as the

product of the historical process to date which has deposited in you an infinity of traces,

without leaving an inventory" (324).

Mapping Metaphors

Though we have entered into the twenty-first century, the importance of the

nineteenth century in terms of United States' racial formation cannot be underestimated.

It was during this period that cultural and phenotypic difference became codified as racial

difference and these differences came to represent variations in morality, intelligence,

and social progress. Indeed,

Racialism did not emerge in full flower until the mid-nineteenth century;
indeed, as many carefully note, early European representations of Native
Americans had much more to do with cultural rather than so-call racial
difference.... Although European representations of Africans had
virtually always drawn attention to the darkness of African skin, which
increasingly carried a host of negative connotations in European thought,
still, early observers depicted African darkness as something of a marvel,
even accepting the fact that the Africans themselves found their so-called
blackness beautiful. In European speculations that the hotter sun, or red-
colored oils were the cause for differences in skin color, is a search for
commonality-even if that commonality is the ethnocentric assumption
that "we all start out white." "Black" and "red" at this early juncture
designated a superficial, metaphoric difference between groups of human
beings. (Nelson 6)

Clearly this focus on commonality on the part of the colonialists shifted to a focus on

inherent, biological difference, enabling Europeans to claim a position of superiority and

manifest destiny and rendering the position of their racial Others one of inferiority and

subservience.







Through "scientific" research and legal precedents such as Dred Scott v. Sandford

(1856)-which declared black people to be articles of property and, therefore, not United

States citizens-and Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)-which required separate but equal

accommodations for black and white travelers- superficial, metaphoric difference

developed into racial difference, with all of the structural inequalities that difference

entailed. And, as Abdul JanMohamed has argued, "The perception of racial difference is,

in the first place, influenced by economic motives" (80). Additionally, according to

David Roediger in a discussion of the development of working-class whiteness, "the first

sixty-five years of the nineteenth century were the formative period of working class

'whiteness,' at least in the North, though obviously earlier habits of mind and patterns of

colonialist oppression of Native Americans form an important part of the prehistory of

working class whiteness" (14). Similarly, Richard Dyer alludes to research that suggests

"a sense of being white, of belonging to a white race, only widely developed in the USA

in the nineteenth century as part of the process of establishing a US identity" (19).

Further development of racial difference in the nineteenth century was allowed

through scientific inquiry. Numerous nineteenth-century researchers deployed

understandings of evolutionary biology to societies and proposed that physical

differences correspond to both racial and moral differences; arguing that certain races are

more advanced than others, they assumed that socio-political differences are, in fact,

racial and essential and, for them, colonialism became a valid response to racial

difference. Moreover, these eugenicists claimed that Caucasians "have been assigned...

in all ages, the largest brains and the most powerful intellect; theirs is the mission of

extending and perfecting civilization" (Nott and Gliddon 67). Because of such white







superiority, the numerous eugenicists of the nineteenth century argued that racial

"amalgamation" can only be detrimental to the white race, although it could have the

effect of raising the "lower" races: "the infusion of even a minute proportion of the blood

of one race into another, produces a most decided modification of moral and physical

character" (68). More specifically, Nott and Gliddon claim that "It is so rare, in this

country, to see the offspring of a Negro man and a white woman, that I have never

personally encountered an example; but such children are reported to partake more of the

type of the Negro, than when the mode of crossing is reversed" (401). Clearly, such a

claim was necessary in order to protect the sanctity of white womanhood and overlook

the transgressions of white men who forced sexual relations with black women. Although

Nott and Gliddon argued that the intellect of children usually follows the mother, they

needed to reverse this claim with regard to white women and black men. Because the race

of children legally followed the condition of the mother, Nott's claim guarded against the

likelihood that free mulatto children would result from relations between a black man and

a white woman. Here, political necessity created "scientific" knowledge.

Such nineteenth-century scientific knowledge, according to Nancy Leys Stepan,

was highly dependent upon metaphor and analogy. The use of such tropes in nineteenth-

century scientific inquiry influenced and maintained a power structure that dictated the

place of women and people of color beneath that of white men. In this way, races and

genders were constructed in specific ways and differences were maintained as natural.

Because of the naturalization of racial difference, nineteenth-century authors were forced

to confront the formation of "blackness" and "whiteness" as racial categories, whether in

an effort to defend or to refute the emerging stereotypes. As Henry Louis Gates, Jr. has







argued, "Text created author; and black authors, it was hoped, would create, or re-create,

the image of the race in European discourse" (11). Yet African-American authors were

not concerned solely with the question of blackness; they also gave voice to questions of

whiteness as well. Roediger writes, "The white problem-the question of why and how

whites reach the conclusion that their whiteness is meaningful-is an intellectual and

even an artistic problem for Black writers" (6). Thus, nineteenth-century texts-and, for

the purposes of this study, nineteenth-century texts by African-American authors-offer

an appropriate starting point for discussions of both the nature and the ontology of

blackness and whiteness, discussions which interrogate not only what blackness and

whiteness are but also what experiences are entailed for individuals in being black or

white. Such understandings of blackness and whiteness informed notions of mixed race

identities and ontology.

Mixed Metaphors

Elaine K. Ginsberg has written, "In its interrogation of the essentialism that is the

foundation of identity politics, passing has the potential to create a space for creative self-

determination and agency: the opportunity to construct new identities, to experiment with

multiple subject positions, and to cross social and economic boundaries that exclude or

oppress" (16). In other words, passing has the potential to transgress boundaries and

thereby create spaces for new affiliations that problematize what is constructed to be the

dominant group's inherent right to exercise oppressive power and domination. I would

argue, however, that the interracial figure, whether passing or not, most powerfully

represents this transgressive potential due to his or her embodiment of those metaphors of

difference that are constructed as oppositional--white and black blood. It is this figure,







which mixes the metaphors of whiteness and blackness, which embodies the potential for

deconstructing traditional notions of race. This potential is more nearly realized in

twentieth century representations and articulations of mixed race that attempt to move

beyond the binaries of race. Rather than insisting on the nineteenth century tropes of

conflict and tragedy within mixed race, many later representations explore the potential

for the reconciliation of blackness and whiteness.

Races have been constructed in particular ways in the United States since the

nineteenth century, ways that have been the foundation for contemporary notions of

racial identity. American society is mired still in nineteenth-century ideologies that

construct whiteness as the ivory tower and blackness as the kettle black-metaphors I

will investigate in the next chapter-and these metaphors are difficult to mix in the social

imagination. Furthermore, with whiteness long symbolizing power and domination, a

mixed race individual's claim of whiteness in addition to blackness can be construed as

tantamount to a desire for power, a desire to dominate, a desire to fully inhabit the

"property" of whiteness, and a desire to pass quietly into the position of a wielder of

power.

Of course, whiteness is more than a sign of power and domination when viewed

on a more individual level. The workings of affect, as in a disposition or strong feeling,

must be considered; a mixed race individual's sincere desire to claim an affiliation with

her parents-one black, one white-likely has little to do with an attempt to claim the

privileges of whiteness. This desire, furthermore, may be most clearly facilitated through

her ability to claim her parents' traces within her-blackness and whiteness. Iola Leroy's

"choice" of blackness, which will be explored in the next chapter, can be seen as







necessitated by the affiliation and kinship she felt for her black mother. On the other

hand, one is left to wonder how she could so quickly disregard her positive feelings for

her white father. In this regard, Iola's black identification seems to have required her to

subsume affect to political necessity. Had Iola chosen whiteness, in addition to or in lieu

of blackness, she would have been seen as passing. Thus, regardless of the workings of

affect, a mixed race individual who claims whiteness would very likely face accusations

that she is attempting simply to "usurp" white privileges, to become complicit in the

oppression of those with whom she should be united.

What is necessary, then, in order to avoid such accusations, may be a new

definition for whiteness, one that eschews its cultural connotations of power and

domination. Annalee Newitz suggests that white identity must undergo a "progressive

transformation," one that allows its dissociation from ideologies of white power (151)

and Robyn Wiegman writes of a "counterwhiteness whose primary characteristic is its

disaffiliation from white supremacist practices" (119). Alternatively, what I suggest is

not a new definition or a new term for whiteness but a new metaphor for mixed race

identity. Although mixed race identity has also been traditionally equated with conflict,

the conflict is not necessarily lived but may be more accurately viewed as a conflict of

language, a conflict of metaphors. What is now needed is a metaphor that explicitly

rejects the longstanding association of whiteness with domination and blackness with

degradation, a metaphor which explodes the negative connotations of both the ivory

tower and the kettle black, a metaphor which is clearly, and confidently, mixed.







Playing With the Map

Of course, in this postmodern age when multiplicity and heterogeneity within the

self are touted, the claim that one can become a homogeneous, centered being is

problematic. A poststructuralist critique would claim that wholeness is impossible, that

the center is lacking, that there cannot be, in fact, an authentic self. Yet it is such thinking

that sometimes leads to the idea that coalition is equally impossible, that identity is so

unique and individualized that it precludes solidarity and community. A poststructuralist

critique of wholeness and coherence would suggest that such qualities are impossible to

attain and, perhaps, even undesirable. After all, as George Levine has noted, "The

concept of the 'self,' fully naturalized into a coherent, stable, and normative essence, is

precisely what is invoked to dismiss deviations from the norm as symptoms of illness or

criminality" (8). For poststructuralists, the notion of structure implies organization but

also implies play, implies a movement that is both produced and limited by a point of

presence, a fixed origin, a center. The notion of a center, an idea that relies on fixity,

unity, and full presence, is problematic for poststructuralists, who would argue that such

characteristics are mythical. There is no fixity. There is no unity. There is no full

presence.

Yet "some concept of the 'self' needs to be recognized and reconstructed-one

that does not succumb to the political, psychological, and epistemological failures that

have plagued the self from the time of its invention in the West" (Levine 3). How, then,







can one speak of wholeness and an authentic self,5 which imply that coherence, unity, and

being are possible? Derrida writes that

Play is the disruption of presence. The presence of an element is always a
signifying and substitutive reference inscribed in a system of differences
and the movement of a chain. Play is always play of absence and presence,
but if it is to be thought radically, play must be conceived of before the
alternative of presence and absence. Being must be conceived as presence
or absence on the basis of the possibility of play and not the other way
around. (292)

Thus, according to Derrida, play does not negate the possibility of presence and absence;

rather it would seem that play is a precondition of being in an ontological sense. Because

it would be difficult to rid ourselves of the notion of center, which exists as an organizing

principle, rather than a part of structure, more useful is a consideration of the way the

center moves, of the play inherent in any system or being. Mixed race identity, then, can

work within this possibility because it acknowledges that fixity is missing; instead, there

is an absence, a lack of structure, which allows play (infinite substitutions, supplementary

interpretations and meanings). Any notion of mixed race identity that does not allow

play, that seeks fixity (through limiting notions of the one-drop rule and hypodescent, for

example), removes the condition for being.

Play may usefully be imagined as a foregrounding and receding of identity

components in varying contexts; play is multiplicity and difference enacted based on

social situations. Rather than discarding or ignoring those parts of identity not compatible

with certain contexts, the individual at play highlights various components over others,

while still allowing all components to speak to and implicate that individual's self-

definition and public presentation. Perhaps it will be necessary, then, to seek play before

5 Debra Walker King acknowledges that "At its best, 'authenticity' ... is an understanding of self
supported by introspective awareness, honest self-evaluation, personal integrity, and self-avowed worth"
(x).







wholeness, to acknowledge the ways in which mixed race identity "plays" with the

structure of racial categorization, rather than seeking a fixed and unchanging sense of

self. Conversely, perhaps play is the essence of wholeness, rather than authenticity or

stability. In fact, wholeness might be more usefully imagined not as coherence and

stability but as variety and difference, as the allowance of infinite substitutions, as an

acceptance of the various parts that comprise the whole, much like the construction of

various states, provinces, and countries seeks to order and comprise the globe. Wholeness

in this sense becomes akin to what Judy Elsley terms "cohesive fragmentation" (164).

Although Elsley finds multiplicity and wholeness antithetical, she states, "Fragmentation

and diversity become not a limitation but a trademark, a strength" (169). By allowing

new patterns to emerge, new possibilities for being, responding, and relating to surface,

fragmentation and diversity become positive conditions that deconstruct the hegemony of

rigid coherence and sameness. Yet it is also true that, through a redefinition of wholeness

that allows play, one can acknowledge a sense of self that revels in multiplicity and still

remains coherent in the sense of an individual "I": "Once perceived or imagined, the self

implies doubleness, multiplicity. For what knows the awareness of the self if not the

self?: division as premise and price of consciousness" (Howe 249). This somewhat

romantic notion of self-consciousness as double still acknowledges the fact that the self is

multiplicitous while at the same time often conscious of itself as singular.

Thus, my notion of "play" within identity works in terms of Derrida's notion of

play within structures, which occurs when the elements within that structure are

deconstructed or "shaken up" by other structural elements that point to its flawed nature.

We may link this notion to identities by realizing that all individuals function within a







sense of self-a persona presented to the world with the semblance of stability. Like any

other "structure," identities contain their own conflicts and contradictions, allowing shift,

room to move-in other words, "play." In terms of identity, then, play is the possibility

of negotiation and individualization -it is the paradox that allows one of mixed race to be

not black, not white, and yet both.

Mapping the Path Ahead

In search of metaphors that allow or disallow play, my study traverses historical

and contemporary metaphors of mixed race identity in novels dealing with mixed race

women. These novels all respond to a set of problems linked to historical crystallizations

of blackness and whiteness that would seem to preclude the possibility of racial harmony

within mixed race identities. Because of the historical treatment of mixed race, which

included opposition and hierarchy between the races within one's identity, most

nineteenth century portrayals of mixed race limited their characters' options to passing or

accepting the one-drop rule. Each option, however, relied on negations of ancestry and

possibly self-identity as well as negations of the vision of a potentially more-inclusive

definition of community and family. Such visions, reflecting personal and national

utopias, were necessarily discarded until social discourse became amenable to these

discussions. Even in the midst of widening discourse, however, these texts contain a

latent struggle over questions of history, family, and racial identity. They struggle to

articulate utopian visions while they are confined within the historical moments and

literary formulas in which they were written. They struggle to negotiate postmodern

questions of identity, self, wholeness, and harmony -both individual and

communal-while bound by literary and social conventions that resist the utopian visions







these texts long to articulate. Thus, these seemingly diverse texts-which do not fit into

one literary period or genre-are united by their shared questioning of identity and

wholeness. Additionally, the texts also respond to questions about the historical and

potential roles of black and white men as fathers. In many of the novels, black fathers are

both elevated and made abject, resulting in a tension that seems to acknowledge the

historical denial of black fatherhood and the longing for its affirmation and enactment.

The texts within my study, which are all first novels containing mixed race

women, share similar concerns and negotiate similar challenges. Additionally, they each

attempt to envision utopian social, political, familial and individual spaces where the

"play" of identity-which I define as the possibility of negotiation and individualization

of identities-may be manifested, utopian visions of harmony may be realized, and new

metaphors may be articulated.

Chapter 2 investigates the crystallization of racial ideologies and racial metaphors

through an interrogation of cultural constructions of blackness and whiteness by reading

two nineteenth-century sentimental novels by African-American women: Emma Dunham

Kelley's Megda and Frances E.W. Harper's lola Leroy, Or Shadows Uplifed. Nineteenth

century racial metaphors, I argue, crystallized oppositional and hierarchical notions of

race, even when these notions exhibited confusion over the negative versus positive

polarity of blackness and whiteness. Imaginings of mixed race during the nineteenth

century, then, worked from within these dichotomized constructions of race and also

were used to both uphold and condemn constructions of racial difference.

In chapter 3, I shift to twentieth century representations of mixed race, which

were shaped by earlier crystallizations of race as exhibited in nineteenth century







metaphors. This chapter focuses on Jean Toomer, likely the most renowned mixed race

writer of the early twentieth century, and his work in Cane and the poem "The Blue

Meridian," which is especially interesting due to its use of a spatial metaphor that

attempts to bridge the oppositional construction of binaries. Interestingly, Cane exhibits

distinct anxieties regarding mixed race while "The Blue Meridian" offers a metaphor that

recognizes the mixed race body as a site where differences unite, rather than a space

where they collide in conflict and, inevitably, destruction. Within the poem, the mixed

race body becomes a space of productive existence, a more utopian view than that offered

by Cane.

Chapter 4 looks at the recently republished Oreo by Fran Ross. Originally

published in 1974, Ross's novel is a rewriting of the mythical story of Theseus, and it

casts the mixed race heroine as the metaphorical traveler and border crosser, the

individual on the quest for self. Additionally, the title character manipulates the borders

of gender in interesting ways. In fact, Oreo moves beyond limited notions of the feminine

in her ability to travel, cross borders, and ignore boundaries. She, unlike traditional

notions of the feminine, is completely active and never passive; she is mobile rather than

static, multiple rather than singular. Rather than existing on the borderlands, in some

indeterminate limbo, Oreo constantly embodies movement and change and, like a

mythological hero, actively participates in a quest for her origins and, by extension, a

quest for herself. Metaphors of traveler, translator, mediator, and border crosser offer

more positive visions of mixed race that, nevertheless, suggest the impossibility of

reaching the utopia sought.







In chapter 5, I investigate metaphors of mixed racial identity in Danzy Senna's

novel Caucasia. Senna's novel allows a continuation of the discussion begun with Oreo

of travel metaphors of mixed race identity. However, Caucasia, unlike Oreo, does not

celebrate mixed race identity as movement; rather in its similar quest for origins, it

searches for a site of belonging (a prominent trope in literature of mixed race) and for the

recapture of an assumed paradise lost. This search for an imagined original utopia is,

additionally, a search for wholeness. Because this wholeness remains unrealized,

Caucasia in some ways seems to reinscribe the tragedy of mixed race; yet it questions

this type by offering a tentative space of belonging among others who also embody

traditional dichotomies.

Finally, in chapter 6, I turn to the recently published debut novel of Jenoyne

Adams, Resurrecting Mingus, and address the question of the romance genre as a frame

for discourses of mixed race identity. As illustrated by my analysis in chapter two of

Megda and lola Leroy, the sentimental and romantic genres have long facilitated

discussions of miscegenation, and Resurrecting Mingus continues this generic tradition.

Additionally, I demonstrate the centrality of a particular spatial metaphor that serves as a

locus for questions of mixed race identity in the text. This metaphor, furthermore,

continues a tradition in which women's identities are defined in terms of the domestic

sphere and familial relationships.

Chapter 7 concludes my discussion by exploring the significance of recent spatial

metaphors of mixed race identity in twentieth-century American literature. Using the

Jungian notion of the crystallization of archetypes as a metaphor, the conclusion

discusses the ways in which notions of social race and social gender are crystallized into




26


oppositional difference. These crystallizations are challenged by what I call meridian

metaphors of mixed race identity that seek non-oppositional, non-hierarchical visions of

difference; such meridian metaphors may offer a map of mixed race identity and

difference that moves beyond traditional dimensions while still acknowledging the map's

construction and the limits of cartography.













CHAPTER 2
THE IVORY TOWER AND THE KETTLE BLACK:
NINETEENTH CENTURY METAPHORS OF RACE

Race Crystallized

Since my maternal grandmother and grandfather had fourteen children and since

most of them had numerous children of their own, my family is quite large. To the public

eye, mine is a white family. Sprinkled among the white faces in family snapshots, though,

are a number of brown ones of various shades-faces like mine on the bodies of people

like me: "mixed raced." Of course, most of us may not think of ourselves as mixed raced;

in fact, many of us might not see ourselves in terms of race at all. For me, growing up

welcomed and secure in this extended family, I didn't often consider my racial

background; in fact, I don't remember knowing much about "race" at all. Not knowing

my black father or his family meant that I had only one family-this white one-and here

was where I felt a sure sense of belonging. Naturally, I noticed color, but I'd been raised

to believe that my color was simply another-not the sole-marker of my uniqueness. To

the extent that I considered it, my racial mixture was merely the cause of my brownness,

and it held no other relevant effects. Simply put, I was just one of the red poppies amidst

the pink-just a differently colored flower.

Then, on the cusp of my teenage years, I heard through the grapevine of cousins

that one aunt "felt sorry for the mixed kids" in the family. My throat tightened, my

equilibrium slightly tilted, my face infused with a reddish tinge. Sorry? Why? Ifl were so

special, then why would anyone feel sorry for someone like me? As best as I can isolate







it, this was the moment when I sensed the negative connotations of "special." This was

the moment when I recognized race, when an understanding of race and racial difference

crystallized in my imagination.

With such recognition came the weight of stereotypical assumptions regarding

whiteness and blackness, assumptions based on a history of dualisms that has constructed

race, in part, through oppositional and hierarchical metaphors. Although difference,

specifically racial difference, for centuries had been part of the cultural imagination of

western civilization, particular notions regarding race became crystallized in the

nineteenth century-that is, cultural and phenotypic difference became codified as racial

difference through legislation and through significant scientific attention to the presumed

biology of race; these racial differences came to represent variations in morality,

intelligence, and social progress through theories of social Darwinism and eugenics. In

turn, these crystallizations of racial difference, informed as they were through science and

the law, impacted society in both the public and domestic spheres, allowing assumptions

about race to become self-fulfilling prophesies through the choices afforded those of

various races.

Nineteenth century notions of whiteness and blackness-which were also

gendered in their constructions -may be succinctly articulated through the metaphors of

the ivory tower and the kettle black, and the understanding of race employed through

these metaphors further dictated constructions of mixed race. Indeed, these

crystallizations of black and white races as oppositional and hierarchical influenced

nineteenth century-and later-discourses of mixed race, resulting in prophesies of the

doomed fate of any individual of mixed race who refused to adhere to the dictates of







hypodescent, and tales of tragic mulattos abound in nineteenth century sentimental

novels. Conversely, racial mixture was also used in the nineteenth century-again, often

within the frame of the sentimental genre--to highlight the plight of blacks and the

horrors of racism. Thus, constructions of mixed race were formed by notions of

black/white racial difference as they concurrently informed understandings of blackness

and whiteness; discourses of racial mixture were used by both supporters and denouncers

of racial hierarchies to respectively confirm and condemn the assumed traits of racial

difference. Therefore, an exploration of nineteenth century constructions of whiteness

and blackness illuminates an understanding of the formation of mixed race difference.

Whiteness, the ivory tower, has historically been assumed in the cultural

imagination to be monolithic, impenetrable, phallocentric, and pure. Racial purity was in

the nineteenth century, and is for racial purists in the twenty-first, a crucial element of

whiteness. The 1896 case of Plessy v. Ferguson demonstrated clearly the anxiety over

"commingling," whether spatially or sexually, that rested at the heart of notions of white

purity. The case demonstrated that being white meant being free of miscegenation, both

literally and metaphorically:

The object of the [fourteenth] amendment was undoubtedly to enforce the
absolute equality of the two races before the law, but, in the nature of
things, it could not have been intended to abolish distinctions based upon
color, or to enforce social, as distinguished from political, equality, or a
commingling of the two races upon terms unsatisfactory to either. (1140)

This case, in addition to establishing the purity of whiteness, defined whiteness as a

property: "the reputation of belonging to the dominant race, in this instance the white

race, is 'property,' in the same sense that a right of action or of inheritance is property"







(1142).' Thus, in declaring that whiteness was a property, the Supreme Court constructed

whiteness as a status of privilege and wealth, a valuable asset that afforded one power

and even the ability to dominate. It was this property, secured through the purity of

whiteness, which was threatened by racial commingling.

As Richard Dyer attests, whiteness, in addition to becoming a "property," became

conflated with "Americanness." Although Werner Sollors argues that "the symbolic

construction of American kinship has helped to weld Americans of diverse origins into

one people, even if the code at times requires the exaggeration of differences" (Beyond

15), such American kinship is reserved most exclusively for those persons constructed as

white. Thus, during the nineteenth-century, inclusion within the privileged category of

whiteness was vigorously sought by working-class ethnic immigrants such as those of

Irish, Italian, and Polish descent. Although such groups lacked the privilege in economic

terms that would have distanced them from more obviously "colored" groups such as

Asians, Africans, and Native Americans, inclusion within the category of "whiteness"

allowed them alternate "wages," to use David Roediger's term. These wages established

their privilege and worth or value in racial, rather than economic, terms.

In addition to the parallel with "American," whiteness also has been associated

with independence, industry, and success. "It is not spirituality or soul that is held to

distinguish whites, but what we might call 'spirit': get up and go, aspiration, awareness of

the highest reaches of intellectual comprehension and aesthetic refinement" (Dyer 23).




'Justice Harlan, dissenting from the majority opinion, argued, "The white race deems itself to be the
dominant race in this country. And so it is, in prestige, in achievements, in education, in wealth, and in
power" (1143). Although he acknowledged the dominance of the white race, he simultaneously argued that
the white race's dominance was a construction, a product of its power and privilege, and not an inherent
property.







Whiteness is an indispensable characteristic of the frontiersman, through whose efforts,

we are led to believe, the United States was founded. White identity, moreover,

is founded on compelling paradoxes: a vividly corporeal cosmology that
most values transcendence of the body; a notion of being at once a sort of
race and the human race, an individual and a universal subject; a
commitment to heterosexuality that, for whiteness to be affirmed, entails
men fighting against sexual desires and women having none; a stress on
the display of spirit while maintaining a position of invisibility; in short, a
need always to be everything and nothing, literally overwhelmingly
present and yet apparently absent, both alive and dead. (Dyer 39)

Whiteness, even in the twenty-first century, maintains associations with the ivory

tower: deemed worthy of admiration, praise, and attention, yet simultaneously too large

to see, too obviously and eternally present to require notice. Blackness, on the other hand,

in many ways still is equated with the kettle black-inferior, dirty, more feminine than

masculine, and a catch-all for all that is not white. Because of slavery's degradations,

black men were excluded from the socially constructed masculine ideal. After slavery

and because of widespread disenfranchisement, black men still were denied access to the

patriarchal power offered through success in the public, capitalist realm. In apparent

contrast with this emasculation of black men is the connection made between blackness

and sexuality, a connection that has served to separate further blackness from whiteness.

The cerebral and spiritual associations of whiteness often have called for a concomitant

denial of sexual urges in both men and women; blackness, however, is not only expected

to express sexuality, it is also conflated with sexuality. Sander Gilman has insightfully

outlined the association of blackness with overt sexuality in the nineteenth-century

imagination, and, of course, such representation is still visible today. Gilman further

argues that black sexuality became equated with black women, specifically, in the

nineteenth century; the construction of the cult of true womanhood, furthermore, allowed







white women to embody those characteristics of piety, purity, submissiveness, and

domesticity and also refused to allow black women to embody such characteristics

without questioning the structural inequalities that prevented many black women from

demonstrating these traits. As Hazel Carby has noted,

The sexual ideology of the period thus confirmed the differing material
circumstances of these two groups of women and resolved the
contradiction between the two reproductive positions [producer of heirs or
producer of property, in the sense of chattel] by balancing opposing
definitions of womanhood and motherhood, each dependent on the other
for its existence. (25)

Clearly, whiteness and blackness typically occupy the positive and negative poles

of the racial dichotomy, respectively, although each can also be associated with the

opposite characteristics. Because of its pureness and impenetrability, whiteness has been

imagined at times as cold, lifeless, ornamental, unsustaining, and even representative of

death. Blackness, conversely, has been thought to offer life, vitality, vigor, virility,

warmth, and sustenance. Because of the dichotomous thought of Western societies,

whiteness and blackness have been necessary in constructing each other, and, clearly,

they represent a quintessential opposition according to American society, with blacks still

being a vilified group in a culture that glorifies whiteness and finds meaning through

dichotomies. In illustrating that the construction of whiteness in America has been

dependent upon an opposing construction of blackness, Toni Morrison has written, "the

image of a reined-in, bound, suppressed, and repressed darkness became objectified in

American literature as an Africanist presence" (39). This Africanist presence, in turn, was

invoked by white writers and became "crucial to their sense of Americanness" (6). White

writers, then, could use blackness as a metaphor against which to construct Americans as

white. Primitivized minorities within cultural constructions have represented a group







against which whites could define themselves. The oppositional nature of such

constructions between races is vital to understandings of mixed race as a site of conflict

and turmoil, for if races in larger society are imagined to be diametrically opposed, then

they likewise must be imagined within the individual. Given the comparative nature of

oppositional assumptions regarding racial characteristics, races necessarily have been

simultaneously constructed along a hierarchy of value, prowess, and potential.

Popularized around the turn of the century through the application of evolutionary theory

to human society, eugenicist theories asserted that weak, primitivized races would die

away while the fittest would survive. Of course, these eugenicist theories were developed

on a pseudo-scientific basis whose hypotheses always defined white as the fittest.

Constructions of whiteness have allowed it to dominate while concurrently

keeping its connection to power invisible, unmarked, and unnamed. Leaving this

connection unexamined allows many whites to imagine that white supremacy refers only

to violent segregation, preventing many from self-reflexively analyzing their access to

power and privilege. Because the power and domination that are available to whiteness

historically have remained invisible, they have, therefore, been difficult to confront and

combat. Nevertheless, African-Americans and other racial minorities have long made

efforts to challenge the dominating power of whiteness and to redefine blackness (and

"color") in positive terms. Likewise, numerous mixed raced individuals have made

similar efforts, and though some have felt the seduction of white identification for the

power and privilege it can provide, many have articulated a black identification.

Attractive for alternative reasons, black identification has been a positive choice for many








individuals who may have struggled with the dichotomously constructed blackness and

whiteness they contain.

Climbing the Ivory Tower

Emma Dunham Kelley's 1891 novel Megda offers a discussion of whiteness and

blackness that reflects the complexity of nineteenth century crystallizations of race. Like

other sentimental novels of the time, Kelley's novel articulates political and religious

messages through tales of romance, family, and the feminized domestic sphere, allowing

this feminized realm to speak on public issues constructed as masculine and to bring

domestic concerns into the public world. Megda tells the story of a group of schoolgirls

who embark upon womanhood with inconsistent loyalties to their duties as Christians and

their prospects as women. Meg, the title character, is a feisty heroine beloved by all, yet

one whose pride and independence must be tamed by the male Christian

minister-Reverend Stanley-before she makes a desirable wife-one who, though she

may have a mind of her own, realizes that this mind ought to be in agreement with her

God's (and her husband's) will.

Although Claudia Tate has written that Megda is among a number of "'white' or

'raceless' works" (23) and although white is typically assumed to be unraced, whiteness

in Megda is raced strikingly. Whiteness is valorized throughout the text as its characters

climb the ivory tower, and some critics have suggested that such valorization is in

acquiescence to a white audience.2 Contrary to much critical thought, however, Megda

does not present palatable white characters to present a simple story of Christian morals

2 Additionally, Tate has claimed,"By making racial difference unimportant, this novel already presumes as
gratified the political objectives of racial equality depicted in traditional black works" (24). For this reason,
Tate argues that "the nonracialized feminist paradigm about gender inequity may seem more appropriate"
for a critical reading of Megda and asks: "Does this mean that we should read Megda as we read Little
Women, since we cannot read Megda like lola Leroy?" (23).







and domestic bliss; instead, its use of sentiment and religion are vehicles for the novel's

discussion of race and gender. Since race and gender are used collaboratively to mark

individuals in specific ways, we cannot claim that Megda is an unraced work about

gender. In fact, the text resists simplified readings of race, given the fact that it appears to

be about white people but is written within a cultural context of blackness. It is true that

Kelly does not make race as explicit an object of study as most other nineteenth-century

African-American writers did. This fact of the text's "hidden" racial commentary makes

its investigation even more worthwhile, for this latent discourse reveals important clues

regarding cultural constructions of blackness and whiteness within the nineteenth

century. Kelley's text exhibits tensions within its formulations of whiteness, blackness,

and gender that comment upon social assumptions about race, color, class, and gender

roles.

This tension surrounding race and gender within the novel is notable through the

shifting use of color throughout. Whiteness symbolizes purity, goodness, transcendence,

and other positive characteristics, yet it is also used to highlight fear, pride, coldness,

sickness, weakness, and even death. Ethel, unquestionably the most pure character in the

novel and, therefore, the woman most desired by the male protagonist, is first depicted as

having a "fair, sweet face" (12) and her whiteness is increasingly emphasized throughout

the text. May is described as "white as a snowdrop" with hair that "shone like gold"

(108). Dell, "the beauty of the town," has skin that is "dazzling white, without one tinge

of pink in it" (36). Thus, throughout the novel, whiteness becomes indicative of purity,

goodness, and beauty. Of course, whiteness within Megda also functions as a signifier of

salvation. In her attempt to convert Meg to Christianity, Ethel insists that "For all these







things [she must eschew] He will give you a robe of whiteness and a crown of beauty that

fadeth not away" (145).

It is even more significant, then, that Meg wears a black robe during her baptism,

which is performed not inside the church but in the river, and that the "deep black made

her face look like marble" (322) Although Meg may be depicted here as having attained

the ultimate whiteness of purity, it is also possible that her whiteness is meant to

represent coldness and even the death of sentiment and sincerity. Since she may be

insincere in her acceptance of Christianity, she lacks the purity that white connotes. This

insincerity, in keeping with the character's pride and independence, may additionally

make her less of a woman than Ethel, whose religious sentiment is true, whose

independence is tempered through obedience and who, therefore, is first to be engaged to

the minister. The simile comparing Meg to marble, additionally, recalls the scene when

Meg plays Lady Macbeth, a scene that equates whiteness with pride, sinfulness, and

coldness. Meg's baptism, then, is tainted by these connotations, suggesting that her

baptism may not be heart-felt acquiescence to the will of God and that it, like her role as

Lady Mcbeth, is merely a performance.

For the theater performance of Lady Macbeth, "Meg wore her favorite pure white

cashmere. A large bunch of exquisite white roses was in her belt. She looked pale, but oh,

so girlishly sweet and pure." (152) Additionally, when Meg is described as being "the

color of marble," Laurie comments "the whiter, the better" (157). And though Meg would

never be beautiful, "in that costume she looked like a queen" (158). Despite the

overwhelming praise she receives for her performance and for her costume, which

emphasizes whiteness, Meg cannot feel completely proud because Reverend Stanley, the







man she admires, does not approve of the theater. Thus, although the text depicts Meg as

willful and independent, it simultaneously demonstrates in her the dissatisfaction that

results from non-conformity to male desire. Additionally, the novel makes clear that pride

is a sin, one which Meg is continually guilty of displaying. The text suggests, then, that

pride is a debilitating factor in women's most true calling-winning a husband-and that

pride in whiteness itself may be associated with sin, making whiter not always better.

In fact, the whiteness Ethel assumes during her illness confirms that whiteness

symbolizes, in addition to purity and beauty, weakness and death. Furthermore, when

Meg's conversion becomes inevitable, descriptions of Dell, one of the girls Meg admired

for her convictions and independent spirit, equate Dell's whiteness with coldness and link

this fact symbolically to her lack of conversion: "Dell's lovely face ... was white, cold

and perfectly composed. She had never felt the least desire to become a Christian" (216).

Dell's beauty in this description becomes the shell surrounding a void; here, she becomes

like a statue and her inner convictions, which Meg had praised as "true blue," become

synonymous with nothingness since those convictions do not lead her to Christ and,

thereby to Christ's representative in marriage: a husband.

Dell, additionally, understands that it is her whiteness that makes her so beautiful,

yet her whiteness is markedly different from Ethel's:

"There is a great difference between the whiteness of my skin and that of
Ethel's," replied Dell, who fully realized how beautiful she was, but didn't
consider it necessary to be foolish because she was beautiful; therefore,
she accepted the fact as a fact, and nothing more. "Mine is a healthy white,
and hers a sickly white." (221)

Although both Dell and Ethel are depicted as beautiful, Dell's beauty is merely external,

with none of the inner beauty occasioned by the presence of Christ in her soul. Ethel, on








the other hand, is beautiful both inside and out because she is the epitome of goodness

and purity; she is an angel too good for earth, the woman who initially wins Reverend

Stanley.3 Yet Dell's beauty is also equated here with a certain vibrancy provided by

health and, possibly, by her ability to enjoy life's pleasures-even, perhaps, by her

independence. Ethel, in contrast, grows weaker as she grows whiter, and whiteness comes

to signify a lack of health, vitality, and life. She, who would devote her life to Christ and

to her husband, dies before her marriage. Ethel, a victim of consumption, is consumed by

whiteness, "her face as white as the pillow on which it rested," the pillow of her deathbed

(337). Ethel dies in her room, which is decorated entirely in white, and is buried in her

wedding dress, making the association of whiteness and death quite clear as well

displaying the text's tension regarding women's roles and the prospect for women's

"life" within the confines of patriarchy.

Thus, Megda is conflicted in its view of women, and its connotations of whiteness

are likewise intricate and paradoxical. Darkness, too, is equally complex in its

constructions in the novel. The pure-hearted but economically disadvantaged Ruth is

exceptionally dark. In fact, she is the only woman within the text who is explicitly

described as "dark-faced." Maude, though not brown-skinned, is dark-featured; her hair

and her eyes are described in terms of their raven blackness. And Maude, the texts insists

through its plot and character development, is not a character worthy of our admiration or

respect. Maude, in fact, is explicitly compared to both Ethel and Meg in terms of both her


3 At Ethel's baptism, in fact, Meg describes Ethel in angelic terms:
All the girls had worn white, but somehow or other it seemed as if there was something
about Ethel that the others did not have. The slender, fragile form seemed almost
spiritualized. Her skin was as white as the driven snow; her eyes large, blue and shining.
But lovelier than anything Meg had ever seen was the expression of the delicate face. I
cannot paint it; only it was just such an expression as Meg had always imagined the
angels of Heaven must wear. (224)







physical characteristics and her spiritual condition: "She formed a strong contrast to Ethel

and Meg, with her dark, richly-colored face; large, black eyes and raven hair. It made

Ethel's delicate loveliness look almost spiritual, and Meg's white face look whiter still,

and her light-brown hair almost golden" (171). Maude's marriage is loveless and results

in her death, although her dark-eyed daughter is redeemed by being adopted by Reverend

Stanley and Meg, who marry after Ethel's death and Meg's acquiescence to God. At

Maude's death, all color is gone from her face, making it "white enough now" (388). Of

course, the associations of whiteness here are twofold and reflective of the often

contradictory associations of racial dualities: Maude is white enough because she has

been purified by repentance and sincere acceptance of Christ, yet she is also white

enough because she is nearly dead.

Meg, interestingly, is depicted as somewhat dark-reflecting her distance from

Ethel's religious and feminine purity-until she is compared with the darker Maude; Meg

is light-skinned, but her hair and eyes are brown, rather than the blonde and blue of Ethel,

who is, unquestionably, the purest and most "true" woman in her small circle of friends.

Upon the readers' first introduction to her, Meg is described as having a "pair of lovely

dark eyes" and "two small, white hands," which, the text continually suggests, are her

best feature (9). In fact, Meg's brother comments on her hand: "Pretty is no name for it

... It is a regular little beauty" (33). This odd comment is notable both for its peculiar

content and for the fact that it is made by Meg's brother while she sits upon his lap,

giving the scene a suggestion of sexual impropriety through incest-historically a

common theme in discussions of mixed race-that may imply Meg's deviance as a

woman because she is independent but that also associates her most redeeming quality







with the part of her "taken" by man in marriage. Meg's liminal state between

independence and desirability as a wife accompanies her liminal position in terms of race

as well. Meg often wears gray, mingling white and black, and this becomes a symbol of

her in-betweenness. This in-betweenness may be considered a characteristic of Meg's

racial heritage-- like Iola Leroy, she may be racially mixed as well as of her character.

In her introduction, Molly Hite describes Meg as "ethically mixed" (xxix), suggesting

that Meg's conversion to Christianity is not entirely sincere, that her morals are not

entirely pure, and that she is not entirely a woman. Meg is, after all, conflicted in her

desire to accept Christianity. She remarks that, if Maude Leonard "is a specimen of a

Christian, all I can say is, deliver me from the misfortune of being one" (11). Meg,

additionally, continues to assert that she will have no part of a church that accepts

hypocrites such as Maude. Yet Meg's turmoil over entering the church does not result

merely from the hypocrisy she sees within it; she is also conflicted because she cannot

resolve her hubris: "Pride was Meg's besetting sin; it often kept her from converting

noble thoughts into noble actions" (102), and this hubris is explicitly given as the reason

for her initial rejection by Reverend Stanley.

Thus, Meg's embodiment of "ethical [and gender] mixture" is illustrated through

the use of color within the text. Her "delicate, white, slender, dimpled hand" (13), the

hand that would perform noble actions, is inhibited by her pride, so often revealed in her

"dark eyes," which in turn inhibits her marriage prospects. Moreover, Meg is often

depicted with a hint of color tainting her fair, white face: "There was a slight tinge of

pink in her usually pale cheek" when she feels scorn that Ethel has chosen to criticize her

favorite activities of dancing and theater (37). Thus, Meg's often darkening cheeks offer







a contrast to Ethel's and Dell's. Ethel remains free of the stain of color through her moral

purity and goodness, her epitome of womanhood. Dell, on the other hand, remains

uncolored because she is the epitome of beauty and because she is, as Meg has described

her, "true blue," unwilling to compromise what she believes in and, thus, unwilling to

join the church before she feels a sincere conversion. Thus, although Dell is independent,

she is allowed praise within the text because she is redeemed by other essential

characteristics of womanhood: physical beauty and sincerity.

Rather than simply pandering to the tastes of a white audience, Kelley's text, then,

illustrates complex notions regarding gender as it struggles with questions of agency

within womanhood. Additionally it exhibits tensions between blackness and whiteness

that existed within the nineteenth century cultural imagination and which continue to

impact subsequent notions of race. Megda's in-betweenness and the text's racial

presumption, if not racial ambiguity, assume no choice is available or necessary in terms

of her racial identification, yet the text exhibits a distinct tension surrounding color and

its meanings. It demonstrates that whiteness and blackness represent a number of

complex and often contradictory ideas, problematizing strict associations of blackness

with the negative and whiteness with the positive. Although characters within Megda

appear to climb the ivory tower, the text's metaphors of whiteness and blackness insist

that such a location is not without its limitations.

Climbing into the Kettle Black

Although metaphors of whiteness include negative connotations that problematize

its construction, blackness, of course, has occupied the most limited and vilified position

on the black/white pole. Artist and writer Adrian Piper has written, "What joins me to







other blacks...and other blacks to one another, is not a set of shared physical

characteristics, for there is none that all blacks share. Rather, it is the shared experience

of being visually or cognitively identified as black by a white racist society, and the

punitive and damaging effects of that identification" (267). Yet Piper acknowledges that

she is not easily identified as black; her light (even "white") complexion functions to

problematize her claims to a black identity in the eyes of many she meets. In fact, Piper

admits that she faces not only accusations of a desire to pass for white but also

accusations that she literally passes for black. Piper's contemporary experience parallels

many nineteenth century fictive representations of racial mixture, such as Frances E.W.

Harper's lola Leroy, or Shadows Uplifted, published in 1892, which relates the common

tale of a mixed raced woman raised as white until her white father dies and she is forced

into slavery. Such tales were used by supporters of racial equity to illustrate the tragedy

of racial oppression, which seemed all the more tragic since, as these lily white

protagonists show, racism could easily affect anyone with one drop of black blood. Of

course, such tales also functioned to preserve ideologies of white supremacy since their

interracial heroines often faced the tragic mulatto's fate if they attempted to pass and

claim the privileges reserved for white women. Nevertheless, accusations that individuals

such as Piper and characters such as Harper's protagonist could pass for white but choose

to pass for black offer telling instances for the study of constructions of blackness and

whiteness as well as what is gained and lost when one is expected to choose one race

above the other.

Discussions of race within lola Leroy and other texts that rely on metaphors of

blood maintain associations between race and biology; in these instances, blackness is







seen as a powerful stain and an inescapable force that no generational distance will

diminish. Black "blood" is often depicted in terms of its strength and vigor, of its

powerful presence and its ability to blot out any whiteness, even when its presence is

proportionally smaller. The black character Uncle Ben is described "as if the blood of

some strong race were stirring with sudden vigor through his veins" (30), and Iola herself

claims-once she is made aware of it-that the "best blood in my veins is African blood,

and I am not ashamed of it" (208). Indeed, Iola's "African blood" may be understood as

her best blood, given the fact that her ability to recognize its influence despite its

miniscule presence suggests its powerful presence and vitality.

Bases for racial identities do not rely solely on essentialist metaphors of blood,

however; they also invoke questions of affiliation, kinship, and desire.4 Iola's assertion

that she wishes to be with her own people tells of her affiliation with black Americans

and such affiliation can be predicated upon political alliance or kinship, upon the desire

to align oneself with those one loves. As Iola states, all the rest of her family have aligned

themselves with the "colored race" (235); because of this fact, Iola can see no other

possibility for her own identification if she wishes to remain emotionally connected to

those she loves. Further evidence of racial identification based upon kinship and desire is

offered by both Iola's brother, Harry, and by her future (black) husband, Dr. Latimer.

Harry acknowledges that it was "love for [his] mother" that allowed him to overcome "all

repugnance" he felt at the idea of aligning himself with blackness (202). And Dr.



4 "Desire" here is broadly construed as affection, love, affinity, interest in affiliation, etc. Additionally, I am
considering affiliation in these instances to mean something other than political alliance. In these instances,
characters identify as black because loved ones do, but these loved ones identify as black because their
physical characteristics dictate that they are black. Since the repeal of anti-miscegenation laws in 1967 and
the boom in mixed raced families, the pull of kinship represents a strong force in the racial identification of
many mixed raced individuals who assert that they will not deny any portion of their heritage.







Latimer, again invoking mother-love, attests, "My mother ... belongs to that race. Where

else should I be? (263). Thus, it is the desire to remain affiliated with loved ones that

causes both men to assume no identification outside of blackness. Interestingly, it is the

desire to remain close to mothers, from whom each character (Iola, Harry, and Dr.

Latimer) had been separated by the forces of slavery, which necessitates this

identification. Such identification reflects the nineteenth-century dictate that the

children's racial status followed that of the mother and, thus, reflects the strong

matrilineal heritage of black communities. Slavery forced the physical separation of

mothers and children, and the text's alignment of these characters with their mothers

demonstrates its acknowledgement of this history. Although law necessitated black

identification for individuals such as Iola, Harry, and Robert based on the one-drop rule

and the mother's racial classification, many consciously choose to align their identities

with their matrilineal heritage. As Robert claims at the beginning of the novel, "A boy

ain't nothing' without his mother" (17); the novel, then, asserts that no person is anything

without affiliation (and even reunion) with his or her ancestors. To deny kinship and

refuse to follow desire becomes tantamount to choosing absence--absence of family,

community, and the self.

Because of the oppressions of slavery and the violence it forced on black women

at the hands of white men, mixed raced characters of this era are typically depicted as the

offspring of black mothers and white fathers. Necessarily, given both laws and social

propriety, fathers typically were absent from the lives of their mixed raced children. Even

in Iola's case, her father is present only when she is "white;" his death precipitates her

mixed raced status, thereby continuing the custom of white paternal absence from the







lives of mixed raced progeny. Although slavery often forced the absence of the black

mother specifically and of fathers generally, by the mid to late twentieth century,

representations of mixed race share a common problem of absent fathers, both illustrating

the gendered division of labor and challenging the reification of matrilineal heritage and

the one-drop rule. Texts containing absent black fathers- Caucasia and Resurrecting

Mingus, for example-confront the history and potential of black paternity, questioning

long-standing constructions of black masculinity and demonstrating challenges to black

identity based on an unknown ancestry. Texts in which the absent father is white-such

as Oreo--offer alternative visions of black female/white male relationships than those

based on the violent oppressions of slavery. In each case, because the female protagonists

long for their absent fathers, the texts examine the impact of origins on racial identities

and articulate utopian longings for a harmony of blackness and whiteness.

Such harmony is not often imagined in nineteenth century texts that were forced

through an oppressive political climate to deal with oppositional constructions of race.

Essentialist notions of race proliferated, not simply due to pseudo-scientific theories, but

also due to the necessity of political alignments in a fight for basic human rights.

Although notions of racial performance currently challenge biological bases of race,

many nineteenth century texts offered essentialist arguments of race by highlighting

racial performance of whiteness through passing. Harry's acknowledgement that "he had

seen colored men with fair complexions anxious to lose their identity with the colored

race and pose as white men" (126) suggests the essentialism that is inherent in these

notions of racial performance. Those who choose to pass as white are described as losing

their identities, as forsaking their fundamental selves in order to "pose" as something they







are not. Similar is Robert's claim that "it would be treason not only to the race, but to

humanity, to have you ignoring your kindred and masquerading as a white man" (203).

Racial passing becomes a crime not just against blackness but against nature itself; it

becomes an attempt to deny what biology has dictated and also to deny the political and

social history of oppression, and a white identity becomes simply a pose, a masquerade, a

performance.

Although numerous nineteenth century descriptions of race as a performance

imply passing for white, there are several instances where passing for black is suggested

as a performance. In defense of his mother to Miss Delaney, Harry asserts, "She is not

one who can't be white and won't be black" (278). Here, both white and black identities

are synonymous with roles adopted and costumes assumed. Race becomes a chosen

identity rather than an essential property. Harry does not claim that his mother is

someone who "can't pretend to be white;" rather, he explicitly states that she is someone

who could be white but chooses to be black instead. In this instance, then, the text

challenges essentialist notions of race, highlighting the confusing and contradictory ways

in which race has been constructed both in society and by the text itself. Harry, too,

discusses accusations that he has performed blackness when he should admit to being

white, admitting that he once had to "insist that [he] was colored in order to be permitted

to remain" in the colored car in which he was riding (245). Harry's claim to blackness,

then, is interrogated because his phenotype does not accord with his professed racial

identity. He is assumed to be "performing" blackness rather than "possessing" it,

demonstrating that it is possible, in fact, to pass as black. The text, like many others







dealing with mixed race, struggles with notions of racial ontology and racial

performance.

Within lola Leroy, racial performance highlights the possibility of social gain it

affords (through passing for white) as well as the challenge it offers to traditionally

essentialist notions of racial identity (through passing for black). Additionally, racial

performance is undertaken within the novel for political purposes. By performing certain

stereotypical characteristics of blackness, characters are able to achieve a political

agenda, as they do by performing "market speech" in the first chapter. As Eric Lott has

argued, "Black performance itself... was precisely performativee,' a cultural invention,

not some precious essence installed in black bodies; and for better or worse it was often a

product of self-commodification, a way of getting along in a constricted world" (39). The

text, then, illustrates the political value of racial performance, which allows individuals

an opportunity to say one thing when they mean another, to act as one thing above

another.

This ability to perform race hinges upon a fundamental mobility that not all

individuals possess. Such mobility is facilitated, in large part, through phenotype, which

offers another site of interrogation of racial representations in lola Leroy. Because she

has "Beautiful long hair [that] comes way down her back" and pretty blue eyes, Iola is

seen as "jis' ez white ez anybody's in dis place" (38). Likewise, because her eyes are blue

and her complexion as pale as white Dr. Gresham's, he sees no reason for Iola to persist

in her claim that she is colored (232). In these instances, Iola's race becomes equated

with her appearance. It is also appearance, this time Dr. Latimer's, that allows a challenge

to essentialist notions of racial identity when one character insists that "there are tricks of








the blood which always betray" those who are black (229). Yet by being represented

phenotypically, race becomes not simply a matter of appearance but also one of

"character," reflecting common nineteenth century eugenicist notions regarding the

interconnections between biology and behavior. As Captain Sybil asserts to Robert,

"what is the use of your saying you're a colored man, when you are as white as I am, and

as brave a man as there is among us" (43). By insisting that Robert should not consider

himself colored because he is brave, blackness becomes equated with cowardice and

whiteness with courage. Similarly, as in the description of Dr. Latimer, desirable

character traits are seemingly augmented in inverse proportion to the amount of black

blood in one's veins: "generations of blood admixture had effaced all trace of his negro

lineage. His complexion was blonde, his eye bright and piercing, his lips firm and well

moulded; his manner very affable; his intellect active and well stored with information"

(239). Positive physical and mental characteristics, according to this description, result

from racial intermixture, through the infusion of "superior white blood" into a "black"

body-a pervasive eugenicist notion that situates the text within nineteenth century

pseudo-scientific discourses of race and places it at odds with its aims of racial uplift.

This goal of racial uplift is reflected throughout the text in representations of race

as a political choice. The political necessity of aligning oneself with blackness is best

illustrated through Harry, who felt "as if two paths had suddenly opened before him, and

he was forced to choose between them. On one side were strength, courage, enterprise,

power of achievement, and memories of a wonderful past. On the other side were

weakness, ignorance, poverty, and the proud world's scorn" (125). Of course, class is

here collapsed into race, even though the novel elsewhere problematizes assumptions







which link poverty to blackness and wealth to whiteness. Nevertheless, Harry's dilemma

succinctly illustrates assumptions about what whiteness and blackness offer and about

what they are. Again, according to the dominant cultural imagination, whiteness has long

been constructed as the ivory tower-mainly associated with positive characteristics,

monolithic, impenetrable, pure, and strong. Blackness becomes the kettle

black-associated with the negative, inferior, dirty, weak; it is imagined as a container

for all that is not white. Though the novel describes the gains and losses that accompany

passing for white versus passing for black, it also makes clear that not all the gains

accompany a white identity. As Iola asserts, Harry "has greater advantages as a colored

man" (218) since she idealistically believes, "To be...the leader of a race to higher planes

of thought and action, to teach men clearer views of life and duty, and to inspire their

souls with loftier aims, is a far greater privilege than it is to open the gates of material

prosperity and fill every home with sensuous enjoyment" (219). Moreover, Harry

acknowledges, "It was more than a matter of choice where he should stand on the racial

question. He felt that he must stand where he could strike the most effective blow" for

black freedom and improvement (126). Thus, for some, race becomes a political choice.5

And within lola Leroy, the most noble-though still problematized-choice is clearly

that of blackness.

Blackness is represented in terms of nobility most clearly through Tom Anderson,

who symbolizes the black martyr willing to surrender his life for others. Tom Anderson

"was a man of herculean strength and remarkable courage" (40) who single-handedly

saves his fellow soldiers by freeing their mired boat and pushing it toward open water; in


5 Of course, we must question whether there is much choice available in the negotiation of identity and to
whom such choices are allowed.







the process, he is rained upon by enemy bullets and mortally wounded. Through this act

of heroism, Tom becomes not only a martyr but a role model as well. He, who is depicted

as a dark-black man, becomes an object of praise and a subject to emulate. Additionally,

he remains perfect in glory, rather than wasting away in a death caused by sickness and

debilitation; he remains heroic and dies with strength and dignity. Tom's blackness, then,

takes on the noble qualities of his character-qualities of strength, courage, dignity,

selflessness, and goodness -once again problematizing the metaphorical associations of

blackness and whiteness.

Yet Tom's blackness as nobility is tempered by the suggestion that it is in death

that blacks achieve greatness. Indeed, before his death, Tom's blackness has been a

physical defect. The text acknowledges, "on account of physical defects, instead of

enlisting as a soldier, he was forced to remain a servant, although he felt as if every nerve

in his right arm was tingling to strike a blow for freedom" (40). These defects may very

well be the signs of Tom's blackness; after all, he is not educated and light-skinned like

Robert and Harry, who are strongly encouraged to join the ranks of those soldiers

struggling for freedom. Under the oppression of slavery, Tom's blackness was a

hindrance to mobility and self-determination. The result of such oppressive force is a

blackness that is deemed as defect, which remains an obstacle to be overcome in the

quest for such mobility and self-determination. Tom's death, then, instead of or in

addition to representing a noble martyrdom, may also represent the brutality inflicted on

blackness, a brutality necessitated by a climate that refuses to acknowledge Tom's full

humanity and participation.







Of course, the text struggles with these conflicting notions of race, not simply

suggesting that blackness is negative. As Iola attests, there is greater merit to be found in

her association with blackness than with whiteness, so long as material prosperity is not

the only gain considered. In fact, throughout lola Leroy, blackness often takes on

distinctly positive characteristics and whiteness, in contrast, acquires negative

associations. Because white men long denied their black children, whiteness, to some

extent, becomes synonymous with a denial of family.6 In fact, such would have been the

case had either Iola or Harry chosen to pass into whiteness and surrender all efforts to

locate her or his relatives. Because they both choose blackness and because this choice is

necessitated by a desire for family, blackness becomes equated with an embrace of the

family, of history, and of ancestors.

Additionally, the text also makes explicit that "white" religion is hypocritical.

When Robert claims to not "take much stock in white folks' religion," Tom responds, "I

think wen some of dem preachers brings de Bible 'round an' tells us 'bout mindin our

masters and not stealin' dere tings, dat dey preach to please de white folks..." (21).

"White" religion, from the men's discussion, is depicted as hypocritical and self-serving.

"Black" religion, in contrast, becomes a pure, valid, authentic religion because it involves

neither hypocrisy nor oppression of others. This view of black spirituality, as the

discussion of Jean Toomer in the next chapter will show, is influenced by eugenicist

thought which attempted to portray blacks as more connected to nature and the spiritual

and, hence, more capable of self-expression. Robert's claim that "the Bible is all right,

but some of these church folks don't get the right hand of it" (22) clearly indicates a


6 Whiteness also involves a denial of family in the sense that any non-white relatives are erased from
personal and familial memory.








rejection of organized religion as the means to understand the divine. Through this

character, the text rejects the intervention of white religion and white religious leaders

into black spirituality and claims blacks' own ability to read and understand the word of

God. Through the metaphor of religion-which may largely represent wisdom, justice,

and salvation--these characters claim the superiority of blackness and the inferiority of

whiteness. They problematize white religion, and, in so doing, they condemn those

characteristics of whiteness that are not wise, just, or saved.

The text further problematizes whiteness, in the sense of a white phenotype, by

not allowing it to become a fulfilled privilege for Iola. She sees "no necessity for

proclaiming [the fact that she is black] on the house-top. Yet [she is] resolved that

nothing shall tempt [her] to deny it" (208). Ann duCille argues that "claiming, rather than

denying, the invisible racial mark becomes an act of empowerment and...a declaration of

independence" (45).7 Yet Iola can only claim this independence because her blackness is

unmarked, freeing her to choose how she will be identified. Because of her refusal to hide

her black racial ancestry, she encounters suspicion and rejection on the part of white

supervisors and coworkers in the North who discover she is black. Thus, Iola's light

complexion and blue eyes liberate her to control her identification, yet they do not change

the fact that she is black since she is unwilling to deny that this is what she is.

Nevertheless, although both Iola and Harry choose blackness over whiteness,

there is an assumption that blackness has the potential to be repulsive to them. Inherent in

this assumption is the suggestion that blackness is, indeed, the kettle black-that it is

dirty, distasteful, common, and despised. The fact that both characters overcome


7 duCille's diction declares that Iola's only racial mark is invisible, resulting in the assumption that her
white phenotype cannot be racialized and contributing to the notion that whiteness is unraced.







whatever "natural" repulsion they may feel and step into blackness acts as a sign of the

mobility and privilege allowed by phenotype. Had they not such freedom, they may not

have surmounted their own internalized anxieties about blackness. Furthermore, although

lola claims that dark-skinned Lucille Delaney is her "ideal woman," readers can assume

that their model for emulation is not Lucille but Iola herself. Though lola may admire

Lucille's qualities, she escapes Lucille's confinement in a dictated, phenotypical

blackness. This blackness, though ostensibly offering an example of the race's potential,

is also constructed problematically. Because Harry initially feels repulsed at the idea of

associating closely with blacks, his eventual realization that he loves Lucille appears to

be a textual inconsistency that readers must overlook. In selecting a dark-skinned woman

as his wife, Harry exercises the privilege that he has as a light-skinned man making a

political choice to align himself with blackness. His marriage to Lucille can be seen as a

gesture which solidifies his claims to blackness and which reinforces the desirability of

black women as well as their right to participate in social conventions that will protect

their morality rather than make them vulnerable to sexual exploitation. Positively, this

marriage may function as a demonstration that black men, even those who look white, do

not always or necessarily desire white women, thereby commenting upon the social myth

which suggests all black men lust after white women. Yet the fact remains that between

Harry and Lucille there exists none of the symbolized sexual energy of Dr. Latimer's

marriage proposal to Iola. In fact, Harry's "proposal" to Lucille is filled with comedy,

misunderstanding, and the explicit claim that "there is a great deal of misplaced sentiment

at weddings" (277). The proposal is void of sexuality and sincere sentiment, reinforcing

the idea that Lucille cannot be as ideal as Iola.







Iola, furthermore, although accepting blackness, is placed outside the bounds of

nineteenth century constructions of blackness. She is refined and educated, retains

memories of a privileged childhood, and is courted by a white man. The novel's initial

narrative, however, suggests the impossibility of a successful interracial marriage. The

marriage of Eugene and Marie, Iola's parents, is one of inequality, one that is both

metaphorically and literally a relation between master and slave. Thus, the text suggests

the unlikelihood that blackness, in close association with whiteness, will be allowed true

happiness. Because Iola marries Dr. Latimer, and because their marriage is a partnership

between equals, both socially and racially, they are allowed such happiness. Of course,

although lola contains both blackness and whiteness within her, she finds no difficulty in

ignoring her whiteness once she is made aware of her blackness. The notion that

blackness and whiteness in close association will prohibit happiness often results in the

tragic mulatto character type for those individuals who wish to claim their whiteness

and/or deny their blackness. Iola is allowed happiness and life because she does not

acknowledge a racial conflict within herself, because she accepts the one-drop rule, and

because she marries a "black" man. This access to blackness through heterosexuality is a

prominent trope in discussions of mixed race, suggesting that mixed women may be

considered as women through their blackness-which, of course, is a notion distinctly at

odds with nineteenth century dictates that prohibited black women's classification as

women at all. Thus, lola avoids the tragic mulatto's fate, which literary narratives

historically reserve for those who reject hypodescent and insist on maintaining claims to

whiteness.







Race in the nineteenth century imagination was a complex idea, as its literary

representations attest. This complexity is clear in Harry's discussion of his racial identity.

Within one paragraph, Harry asserts that his racial identity is essential, that is, a matter of

biology ("after I found that I was colored"); he asserts that it is based on desire and

kinship ("I would be more apt to find my family if I joined a colored regiment" and "love

for my mother overcame all repugnance on my part"); and he asserts that it is both a

personal and a political choice ("at first I felt a shrinking from taking the step" and "Now

that I have linked my fortunes to the race I intend to do all I can for its elevation").8 This

textual confusion as to the nature of race is really a reflection of complex notions on

racial identity that were prevalent during the nineteenth century. Harper's text, overall,

offers an equally complex discussion of this identity, a discussion that highlights the

intricate and at times contradictory assumptions on the nature of blackness and whiteness

as well as assumptions that presume no one would willing climb into the kettle black.

Continued Crystallization

These nineteenth century crystallizations of race continue to influence ideologies

of race and mixed race. Perpetuated in the cultural imagination and taken up by literary

artists, metaphors of blackness and whiteness remain complex and often contradictory.

Likewise, the ways in which these metaphors influence understandings of mixed race is

equally complex. Although the social space may be opening for notions of racial mixture

that reject the hierarchy and opposition traditionally associated with race, stereotypical

assumptions regarding blackness and whiteness continue. In fact, as the discussion of

Jean Toomer in the next chapter illustrates, these nineteenth century crystallizations of


s See Harry's discussion with his mother on page 202.




56


race extended into the twentieth century and beyond, shaping notions of racial difference

and racial mixture.












CHAPTER 3
LINES OF CONTACT AND COHERENCE:
MERIDIANS IN THE WORK OF JEAN TOOMER

Points of Departure

Apparently, my former mother-in-law was disturbed when her white son brought

me home to meet the family. She saw my brown skin as a sign of extreme, perhaps

insurmountable, difference and remarked on whether she could accept a "mulatto"

daughter-in-law. If I had been Asian or Latina, she admitted, I would have been easier to

accept; presumably in those cases I would have had whiter skin. Because my brown skin

was so readily visible, it took precedence over my upbringing and experience, both of

which were mainly within white communities. Ironically, since I had attended private

schools throughout my life and had lived with my white mother and grandmother, I likely

had less exposure to diversity than her son, who had attended a racially diverse public

high school. Nevertheless, my skin was a marker-perhaps the ultimate marker-of

difference that catapulted me outside of my own history and into a history of her

imagination, as her use of the word "mulatto" demonstrated. The word, linked as it is

with this country's violently oppressive past, was carried into the present with all of its

history in tow-a history filled with oppositional and hierarchical notions of difference.

Her use of this word, as well as her assumptions regarding my difference, illustrate both

the power of language to isolate and divide as well as the ease with which we allow a

body to represent the whole individual.







Of course, we are more than our bodies say we are, just as we are more than a

racial category can describe. Our bodies and our identities together play with socially-

established boundaries-sometimes they compete; sometimes they confuse; often they

challenge long-standing ideas that we take as given, as my former mother-in-law did

regarding my identity. We exist on borders of difference and sameness, of past and

present, of present and future. We may live on lines set up to divide black from white and

male from female; instead of dividing, however, we may unite the two regions; we may

be seen as the point where two halves unite into a whole rather than where those halves

are split. We may function as mediators, as meridians, as ones who, in the words of

mixed raced Harlem Renaissance writer Jean Toomer, "can balance strong contrasts, who

can combine opposing forms and forces in significant unity" (Essentials, XLIV).

Adamantly refusing to conform to the black identity that was thrust upon him, Toomer

sought to destabilize notions of race, a project that he attempts but which falters in Cane

(1923), as it couples essentializations of blackness with its confrontations of racist

hierarchies and histories. Such a tension within the text reflects Toomer's own struggles

with articulating an identity that acknowledges its various components while attempting

to maintain a proximity to the creativity and spirituality that popular eugenicist and social

Darwinist theories associated with blackness, which he feared he lacked. Because he did

not feel black but had been defined as non-white, he sought the combination of "opposing

forms and forces into a significant unity" through much of his life and work.

Such a utopian project was Toomer's self-defined artistic task in his book Cane

and in his poem "The Blue Meridian," a task in keeping with the aims of many

modernists prominent during the time Toomer wrote these works. The era between the







1920s and 1940s roughly isolates the modernist period in literature and the arts and

includes the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. During the modernist period, many people

in the United States faced alienation and self-doubt as society began a large-scale shift

away from communally oriented agrarian life toward technological and industrial

advancements that would change the way individuals saw themselves, their communities,

and the nation. Disillusioned and alienated, many intellectuals sought to make sense of a

seemingly chaotic world through their art; at the same time, many looked to modern (as

in contemporary) life as evidence of an evolutionary progression from what was viewed

as the primitivism of the past to modern and future advancement. Concomitant with these

complex views of modernity as both fragmenting and progressive were parallel ideas

regarding the past as a place of wholeness and connection as well as a place of the

archaic and static. Using increasingly widespread and popularized ideas regarding

evolution, notions of social progress and stasis were applied to social groups through

eugenics and social Darwinism. These ideologies relied on long-standing associations

between dualities, such as connections made between races and their presumed

characteristics-for example, those associations summarized in the metaphors of the

ivory tower and the kettle black. During the modernist period, certain groups could be

deemed pre-modern-even though they existed alongside their modern

counterparts-through their connection to certain "primitive" ideas, lifestyles,

occupations, even geographical locations. For many North American modernists, rural

black "folk" were the contemporary representation of a primitive past; they were history

existing temporally alongside the present. Rural black folk, then, were represented as a

primitive group that was dying under the march of modernization while whites and urban







blacks were being carried by the march into a progressive future. Of course, given the

complex ideas regarding the modern and pre-modern, rural blacks were thought to

embody both the negative associations with the primitive--a sense of oldness, lack of

progress, lack of civilized reason and advancement, etc. -as well as the primitive's

positive associations -a sense of innocence, innate spirituality, capability of sensual

expression, connection with the natural world, boundless creative energy. These positive

characteristics, moreover, were all assumed to be dying in the fragmenting chaos of

modernity. Thus, many modernist intellectuals sought access to these positive

characteristics assumed inherent in "primitive" races in order that advancing individuals

might enter the future with the sense of wholeness and self-expression allowed by a

perceived past.

In lamenting this potential loss of the black folk spirit in the face of

modernization, Toomer and other modernist intellectuals also recognized that the future

was full of potential. Toomer's vision was a utopian one that relied on eugenicist notions

of human development to suggest the possibility of racial evolution. Through this vision,

Toomer attempted to decrystallize (some) accepted notions of race and to champion the

possibility of a new understanding of race and racial categories in the United States; these

efforts advocated a New American identity that would act as a fusion of diverse types and

that would acknowledge the American history of racial mixture. In this notion of uniting

the disparate, Toomer is an artist whose work aids analysis of many later twentieth

century writers of mixed race, and his work is a direct precursor to current multiracial

discourse that seeks to unify seemingly oppositional races within the bodies of mixed

raced individuals. Such discourse claims that those of mixed race offer the prospect of







moving beyond race and racial categories by blending diverse elements into a unified

whole. Elimination of racial categories, this discourse claims, leaves open the possibility

of uniting people within the "human" race or based on American nationality in the United

States-the former being a utopian notion that, at times, ignores differences, perpetuates

colorblindness, and fosters homogenization and the latter being a problematic notion that

attempts to eliminate racial conflict by supplanting it with the equally divisive ideology

of nationalism.

Earlier in the twentieth century, many modernist intellectuals sought to re-

imagine a national identity and also looked to race in efforts to reconnect intellectually

and artistically with a source of creativity and meaning in an alienating and chaotic time.

For mixed raced Toomer, such a goal was also personal as he desired connection to his

black heritage and the positive "pre-modern" characteristics of rural black life. After a

trip to Sparta, Georgia, his first immersion into black southern culture,' Toomer produced

the first fragments of Cane, and, with them, began his search for connection to an

unknown and (he seems to have feared) unembodied black ancestry. This "blood"

connection would allow him creativity and self-expression without jeopardizing his

existence as a modern intellectual striding into the progressive future. As Tace Hedrick

writes, Toomer--like many other modernists-was

steeped in an intellectual and cultural milieu which felt the express need to
connect itself with some 'primitive' or premodern source of creative
energies ... for many modernists at the time, a world set 'back' in time
might provide a different, and even protective, space from which to derive
a sense of wholeness over against the seemingly fragmented and
increasingly secularized modern world. (39)



'Toomer was raised in the elite mixed raced society that existed in Washington, DC, at the turn of the
century.







Toomer's self-highlighted racial mixture connected him with the life and creativity of the

black American past while ensuring against his own intellectual and artistic demise as

that past died. Although Toomer's interest in this primitive past was in part personal, he

also sought a general renewal of the spiritual and sensual expression that was being

ignored if not actively spumed by an industrializing society:

They are passing. Let us grab and hold them while there is still time.
Segregation and laws may retard this solution. But in the end, segregation
will either give way, or it will kill. Natural reservations do not come from
unnatural laws.... A few generations from now, the negro will still be
dark, and a portion of his psychology will spring from this fact, but in all
else he will be a conformist to the general outlines of American
civilization, or of American chaos. (quoted in Hutchinson 234)2

Amidst the rural black folk of Sparta, Toomer was able to glimpse a way of life

he felt was vanishing and to record this life in Cane: "O Negro slaves, dark purple

ripened plums / Squeezed, and bursting in the pine-wood air / Passing, before they

stripped the old tree bare / One plum was saved for me, one seed becomes / An

everlasting song" (14). The text insists that the rural folk life of blacks-expressed

throughout Cane in images of dusk, darkness, purple, pine, and cane-was passing, as it

was for all America in the face of modernization. At the same time, the persona in "Song

of the Son" links himself with his black ancestors, providing through his body a link

between past and future; using agrarian images that depict blacks as a full component of

the natural landscape, the persona is depicted as a seed that should carry the essence and

positive characteristics of blackness into the future. However, in "Harvest Song," he

cannot fully connect with his blackness; he works alongside the black workers in the

fields, yet he cannot call to them, nor can he hear their calls to him. Additionally, his eyes


2 Toomer to Waldo Frank, box 3, folder 84, Jean Toomer Papers.







are "caked with dust" and his "throat is dry. [He] hunger[s]." When he finally cracks a

grain, "it has no taste to it" (71). Thus, the poem's speaker can find no access to

blackness, to the essential spirit he believes it offers. He can merely hold the shell, the

outer crust, but cannot attain the life it should hold inside. Moreover, the poem's images

suggest that the persona himself is merely a husk, someone whose identity has been

conceived as blackness but someone who, nevertheless, cannot express blackness from

within. The alienation and loss of spirituality suggested by this poem, then, make it

(hyper-) modernist in a sense; the poem's speaker cannot access blackness and this

blackness, itself, is passing under the grinding wheels of modernization. Blackness is the

bloodied victim of the ever-advancing machine he describes in the poem "Reapers."3

As a response to anxieties regarding the loss of the past and its imagined

wholeness, Cane aims to gather the gems of the past and use them as treasures for the

future while it simultaneously laments the potential loss of folk expression, which is a

prominent theme in many of the poems throughout, most notably "Song of the Son" and

"Georgia Dusk." The former poem sings of the importance of black heritage and folk

culture. The Negro slaves, it argues, and their connection to what Toomer considered

spiritually authentic were "passing." Yet before they passed away, "before they stripped

the old tree bare," they saved one plum and "one seed becomes an everlasting song, a

singing tree," preserved within the language of the poem. From that song of the son

emerge "softly the souls of slavery, what they were, and what they are" (14). "Georgia

Dusk," speaks of ancestral memory, those memories of "king and caravan, High-priests,

an ostrich, and a juju-man" kept alive in the midst of sawmills and buzz-saws. As the


3 In "Reapers," Toomer writes, "Black horses drive a mower through the weeds./And there, a field rat,
startled, squealing bleeds./His belly close to ground. I see the blade,/Blood-stained, continue cutting weeds







blacks make "folk-songs from soul sounds," clearly implying a connection to their

natural selves, they complete a spiritual union above the "sacred whisper of the pines."

Additionally, the poem suggests that, through their spirituality, the singers are able to

make the profane holy, to "give virgin lips to cornfield concubines" (15).

Cane is a montage of genres-combining poetry, vignettes, and a longer story that

had been envisioned originally for the stage. Its three sections move the reader through

the spaces in which blacks found themselves at the turn of the twentieth century in the

United States. Part I is set in the rural South, where, according to the author, black and

mixed raced individuals still can encounter what is both beautiful and violent about their

history. Here, they can connect with the folk culture of their forebears, but here they also

must contend with the racism those forebears suffered. Part II takes place in the urban

North, where the characters are disconnected from their past and alienated from others by

the pressures of modernity. Part III consists of "Kabnis," the story of a mixed raced man

who leaves the urban North to better understand and connect with his origins in the rural

South. Kabnis, unable to fully embrace the South, which is depicted with both its

nurturing folk culture and its brutal racism, illustrates the modern dilemma of entering the

future without forsaking the past. This dilemma is addressed throughout Cane, as Toomer

addresses philosophical and ontological questions regarding the meanings of race within

given spatial and temporal contexts-namely, within the text, Toomer aims to understand

black life in the rural South and the urban North at a time when society was being carried

by the tides of modernization. In addition, Toomer seeks to work through issues of racial

mixture in an effort to carry what is valuable about black folk culture-deemed to be the



and shade" (Collected Poems 23).







primitive link with the past-into the progressive white culture that threatened rural

blackness with demise. Cane both privileges racial mixture and exhibits significant

anxieties surrounding it. Within Cane, racial mixture, despite seeming for Toomer to be a

natural occurrence when people were freed from inhibitions, often results in tragedy due

to social prohibitions. Moreover, Cane demonstrates the potential of racial mixture itself

to jeopardize the folk spirit of black Americans when racially mixed individuals abandon

their connection to their black heritage.

Modernist discourses such as Toomer's sought a union of various "types" of

people under a nationalist umbrella that maintained many dominant racist assumptions.

During the modernist period, such work was eugenicist in nature and was being

attempted by numerous intellectuals, artists, and officials both in the United States and in

other countries-for example, in Mexico where the work of artists such as Frida Kahlo

and Diego Rivera and of officials such as Jos6 Vasconcelos, Minister of Education,

attempted to rescue the positive characteristics of the indigenous population, who

embodied the past, before this population met its demise. Toomer, similarly concerned

with the past and the future, paused in the present to encapsulate the moment in which

one must determine how to bring what is valuable about yesterday into always

approaching tomorrow. Cane is the capsule in which this moment is captured; it is the

fulcrum between the past, assumed to be vanishing, and the future, assumed to be

imminent. While it grapples with the anxieties of modernity, the text also argues that the

past must be carried into the future, that the present always contains traces of the past.

However, while the text demonstrates that history is not linear, it still struggles with what

it believes to be a linearity between the past, present, and future. Although it







acknowledges that the past's treasures can be carried into the present moment and

beyond, it still envisions the present as a moment of balance and shift. Within this vision,

Toomer draws upon images and metaphors of meridians-metaphors of in-betweenness,

of dusk and dawn, of black and white, of male and female-and uses mixed raced

identities, including the metaphor of the New American, and mixed raced relationships to

isolate these meridians--these points of contact, departure, and change. He uses these

meridian images to play with understandings of race and gender, with notions of

difference and hierarchy, and with the possibilities of self-expression. His meridian

metaphors, in turn, provide a point of departure from reified notions of race and

difference for analysis of later writers concerned with mixed race.

Mixed raced characters in general and mixed raced women in particular function

as meridian figures within Cane, and their portrayals reveal modernist struggles to foster

full self-expression, to find meaning in ambiguities, and to locate points of balance within

opposition. In fact, within Cane "women are more metaphors than people. As metaphors

they are ambiguous and multitextured. They are representative of the Southern black

lyrical world that is dying; they are the objects of male desire; they are the battleground

on which white and black males contend for dominance and validity" (Peckham 283).

The text's treatment of these women, then, is consistent with understandings of women as

sites of contestation between races and among men. These women's bodies, as in other

texts of mixed race, become the ground on which the fate of races is decided and the

perpetuation or demise of races is assured. The illustration of women in Cane exhibits

tensions over modern fears of alienation and fragmentation and highlights modern

anxieties regarding the future.







Overall, Cane questions-notably through the alienation its male and female

characters experience in attempting to relate-the utopian visions of the future that it

proposes through racial mixture. However, Toomer's poem "The Blue Meridian," which

was published in 1932 but over which he had labored for at least fifteen years, expands

his utopian vision of the future as the site where individuals may overcome alienation and

connect, both with each other and with their full selves, embodying meridians that unite

disparate parts. Although less visionary in its utopian ideology than "The Blue Meridian,

Cane is visionary in its unique form-which plays with the genres of poetry, drama, and

fiction--and also in its aim to locate a site for renewed self-expression at a time when

Toomer, among others, found the world alienating and even dangerous to the

understanding and articulation of identities. When Toomer published Cane in 1923, it

was a brilliant success, and Toomer became known as a new voice for black Americans.

Writers such as Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes, who had or would become

significant voices in the Harlem Renaissance, were notably influenced by the book, and

numerous other black and white authors greatly appreciated its merits. White author

Sherwood Anderson called Toomer's early efforts the first work that seemed to him to be

"really negro."4 Anderson's statement is ironic, given the fact that Toomer never claimed

to be black himself. It is true, however, that Toomer drew inspiration from the black

community, having said that

within the last two or three years ... my growing need for artistic
expression has pulled me deeper and deeper into the Negro group. As my
powers of receptivity increased, I found myself loving it in a way that I
could never love the other. It has stimulated and fertilized everything of
worth that I have done.5

4 Letter from Anderson to Toomer, dated December 22, 1922.
5 Letter from Toomer to The Liberator, dated August 19, 1922.








As Cane and many of Toomer's other works confront the realities of race-based

hierarchies, they concurrently exhibit hierarchies based on essentialisms of blackness that

were common during the modernist period. Toomer, like many others influenced by

eugenicist and social Darwinist ideologies, believed blacks had more ability or tendency

to express their emotions and release such expressions physically.6 Perhaps in part

because of these essentialisms linking blacks with the body, the intellectual, urban, mixed

raced Toomer could never strictly identify himself solely with the black community.

Instead, Toomer's black identity was thrust upon him from the outside. Publishers and

fellow authors identified him as black, and at times he allowed such identification; on

other occasions, however, Toomer insisted that identifying him as black was an

inadequate representation of his heritage, and he thoroughly resisted the notion that he

might identify as black to the exclusion of his other ancestries. When Toomer did resist

what he deemed the restricting identification of singular blackness, he was claimed to

have repudiated his black heritage and denied his blackness.

Scholars have speculated on several reasons why Toomer may have "denied" his

blackness. It is possible that Toomer's grandfather, P.B.S. Pinchback, lied about his

heritage, claiming African-American ancestry in order to win political support for his

office as governor of Louisiana during the Reconstruction period following the Civil

War. Toomer himself could have felt that inclusion of his works in wider categories of

literature may have been easier had he not been identified as a Negro. Similarly, Toomer

may have felt that denial of his blackness may have allowed him to escape threat from


6 It might also be assumed from his statement that Toomer prioritized whiteness and blackness as if there
were no other races to be considered. This, however, would be an essentialization of Toomer's beliefs, for
he clearly acknowledged the many races that were joined within his own body.







white supremacist groups, which were gaining strength at the time Toomer published his

ground-breaking first book. Alternatively, Toomer may have wanted to write as a

"human," to avoid restrictions implicit in a strictly defined racial identification. Jewish

author Waldo Frank, Toomer's friend and mentor, wrote in a letter to Toomer, "You take

your race or your races naturally, as the white man takes his." Frank, clearly, is

acknowledging the fact that whiteness can be ignored in a way that blackness cannot

since whiteness is taken to be the universal referent. For Toomer to "take his race

naturally," then, implies that he did not limit his identification to that which was only

black. However, it was precisely Toomer's ability to identify with and communicate the

experience of black Americans in Cane that encouraged others to label him as a black

man. Finally, Toomer may have reached a point where racial identification itself was

undesirable to him. This final possibility is among the most likely, given Toomer's

attitudes-about race in general and mixed race in particular--which he delineated in

many of his letters, in his unpublished, semi-autobiographical novels, and his works such

as Cane and "The Blue Meridian."

Far from denying his blackness during the years surrounding Cane's publication,

as most critics have mistakenly claimed, Toomer adopted a position that acknowledged

none of his ancestral "races" above the others. He wrote:

As near as I can tell, there are seven race bloods within this body of mine.
French, Dutch, Welsh, Negro, German, Jewish, and Indian.... One half
of my family is definitely white, the other, definitely colored. For my own
part, I have lived equally amid the two groups. And, I alone, as far as I
know, have striven for a spiritual fusion analogous to the fact of racial
intermingling... Viewed from the world of race distinctions, I take the
color of whatever group I am sojourning in. As I become known, I shall
doubtless be classed as Negro. I shall neither fight nor resent it. There will








be more truth than they know in what they say, for my writing takes much
of its worth from that source.7

Despite Toomer's claim to accept classification as a Negro, it is true that on several

occasions he explicitly contends that he is "not a Negro." He once announced, "As for

being a Negro, this of course, I am not--neither biologically nor socially..... In

biological fact, I am, as are all Americans, a member of a new people that is forming in

this country. If we call this people the Americans, then biologically and racially I am an

American...As long as I have been conscious of the issues involved, I have never

identified myself with any single racial or social group."8 Toomer seems not to have

intended a denial of his blackness by such contentions; rather, he intended an affirmation

of his composite parts. Thus, Toomer struggled with claiming an identity that was both

diverse and American during a time when being American meant being white. For

Toomer, being modern involved a confrontation with "old" bodies and new possibilities.9

These possibilities, in turn, suggested a unification of what formerly had been distinct:

various races in one body, diverse peoples in one nation. In articulating this potential

unity, Toomer offered visions of a New America, a vision of America that moved beyond

the divisions of race, gender, and nationalism to the utopian understanding of universal

humanity and unification suggested by the meridian metaphor.









7 Letter from Toomer to Double Dealer editor John McClure, dated June 30, 1922.
8 From A Fiction and Some Facts, a privately published autobiography of 1931.
9 By "old," I am referring to those bodies that were not considered new, modern-namely, the bodies of
minorities. Rather, these bodies were marked as primitive, as bodies that belonged to history and which,








Dividing Lines

This meridian metaphor functions in Cane and "The Blue Meridian" in contrast to

accepted ideas of divisive difference between races, genders, bodies, even

eras-confronting the isolation and alienation that accompanied modernity. Cane

articulates the problems and potentialities of modernism as well as possible responses to

modernity and modernization and confronts the challenge of locating within modernizing

society those bodies that had been coded as not modern, as pre-modern and even

primitive-the bodies of rural black folk in the U.S. South. Faced with the challenge of

resituating these primitive bodies, of redefining these "old" bodies as new or of

suggesting the necessary site these old bodies occupied in a modern map of America,

Toomer articulated a New American identity-his most utopian meridian metaphor-that

likely was generated by personal motivations, for his was a body that did not fit

compactly into the modern world. Instead, his body seeped across the boundaries of the

molds he had been offered in which to situate himself. Having been characterized

throughout his literary career as a black man, Toomer nevertheless did not feel that he

embodied an "authentic" blackness. He did, unsuccessfully, attempt to grasp a black

heritage that, through notions that primitivized blackness and were proliferated through

modernist discourses, he felt would bring him access to his own spirituality and

creativity. In seeking to unify opposites within himself, he sought to become a point of

contact and metamorphosis, a meridian, like America itself. Thus, though he claimed to

seek the eradication of nationalisms, he-like many other artists and intellectuals during

the modernist era-considered America as the site where cultures met and merged,


ostensibly, should not exist alongside the "modem" bodies (those that were conflated with potential and
progress) of the present.







forming a new culture, a new America. Toomer clearly involved himself in the modernist

project of restructuring various parts in order to form something new, in this case, an

understanding of American-ness that was decidedly multiracial.

Toomer, however, essentially abandoned his struggle to promote the vision of a

universal race after his introduction to Quakerism and his involvement with the Society

of Friends beginning in 1940. His work during this period clearly shows an alignment

with whiteness, and the images of his poems during this phase associate whiteness with

higher spirituality and goodness and associate darkness with negativity and degradation.

There is an insistence on both white and blue as positive, indicating that Toomer has

shifted markedly from his earlier use in Cane of the colors dusk and purple to signify

spirituality and a positive connection to the natural world. In fact, during this phase in

Toomer's writing, he reverses his earlier reverence for nature and, instead, offers his first

degrading image of it: "As the white bird leaves the dirty nest" (Collected Poems 94).

Clearly, the natural world has lost its positive connotations here; in "The Chase," Toomer

envisions a white bird that must free itself from the grim of its material existence in order

to "merge in the blue" (94). Toomer offers the ascetic vision that the soul must unchain

itself from the degradation of the body in order to reach transcendence. Additional

organic images, like those offered in "Our Growing Day," seem to suggest that humans

should be "plowed" and "planted" like the fertile earth. No longer is the mere connection

to the natural world the assurance of spiritual health; rather, the human body becomes the

"hard and encrusted" ground in which the soul is planted. Only by being plowed "deeply"

will this ground enable the seed to "spring up and grow splendidly." Here, fertility and

darkness are positioned as opposites and the positive growth is directed upwards and







outwards-rather than downwards, as roots into the soil, which is a prominent image in

Cane (97).

Before this period in which Toomer sought to transcend the material world and

identify himself based solely on spirituality, he struggled to define himself in a way that

would connect him-socially white-with his ancestral blackness, which popular

discourses of the time associated with creativity and spirituality.'1 In so doing, he called

for a re-identification of all Americans that would incorporate the diversity found in

almost all Americans' ancestry. This "American" vision of Toomer's is truly modernist

in that it functions as a response to the alienation and chaos prevalently felt during this

era. Toomer's American vision and his work in Cane and "The Blue Meridian," like the

responses of numerous other artists and intellectuals of the period, attempt to apprehend

connections and order, to move beyond imposed boundaries, and to find meaning in the

midst of the seemingly meaningless. Additionally, it, like other modernist works, was a

distinct break with what had proceeded it, both in form and in its often positive

representation of rural black life.

There is evidence in Cane of Toomer's desire to locate a new site for expression

of his notion of an "American" identity since the text explores the restrictions placed on

individuals due to racism and sexism. Cane is, in part, a book about self-expression and

the forces that work to limit such expression, a theme that was clearly important to

Toomer, given his struggles to define himself in more inclusive terms than society

normally allows. For Toomer, such self-expression involved uniting in meridian form the

disparate components of his heritage; as he wrote, "in life nothing is only physical; there


10 Moreover, Toomer's name was self-created. Originally named Nathan Eugene Toomer after his absent
father, he eventually took the name Jean.







is also the symbolical. White and Black. West and East. North and South. Light and

Darkness. In general, the great contrasts. The pairs of opposites. And I, together will all

other I's, am the great reconciler" (quoted in Jones 11). In both Toomer's life and his

writings through his involvement, which ended in 1936, with the spiritualist and mystic

G.I. Gurdjieff," this metaphor of meridian existence is prominent as he undertakes the

modernist project of reconciling opposites into a new whole. Such reconciliation is

clearly attempted in Cane, as Toomer juxtaposes black and white, North and South, male

and female-those pairs of opposites that both dominate and restrict lives. For example,

in "Seventh Street," Toomer provides a juxtaposition of white and black lives, "a crude-

boned, soft-skinned wedge of nigger life breathing its loafer air, jazz songs and love,

thrusting unconscious rhythms, black reddish blood into the white and whitewashed

wood of Washington" (41). Blackness, then, has the ability to "split" the "stale soggy

wood" of the white world and infuse it with black life, black "rhythms." It is clear that

Toomer-like many other modernists influenced by studies in anthropology, evolution,

and social Darwinism-found blacks to be more in touch with their emotions and

physical selves; they had the potential to infuse such life into white urbanity, but they

also faced the threat of being subdued by that white world that was the vanguard of

modernization and urbanism. The characters in Part II, for instance, all suffer the

inhibition of their physical and emotional selves due to their distance from the South and

from its land. The city, then, becomes a threatening force with the power to limit self-

expression and foster alienation.




" Toomer's ideas regarding mysticism, cosmic consciousness, and self-realization were facilitated through
his association with Gurdjieff, who founded a commune of which Toomer was a member for some years.







In contrast, the rural South, though vanishing in the face of modernization,

remains in Toomer's imagination a place where blacks are connected to the earth and

therefore capable of knowing and expressing their inner selves and desires. Although

Toomer's positive representation of rural southern black life in many of Cane's poems

was a marked departure from traditional representations of black Americans, he did not

completely reject stereotypical representations. In truth, his depictions of rural blacks

imply that they, along with women, are more natural, physical, and emotional. Whites,

then, become depicted as more industrial and intellectual. Thus, the juxtaposition of rural

and urban, North and South becomes synonymous with the juxtaposition of black and

white, a juxtaposition also assumed to occur within mixed raced bodies such as

Toomer's. Although blacks had the potential to infuse "life" and spirituality into white

society, the transplantation of rural blacks into urban centers threatened to remove them

from the sustenance they drew from a close connection with nature and the earth. Similar

anxieties surrounded mixed raced bodies; because Toomer feared that his own access to

the fruits of "primitive" blackness had been impeded and because modernist thought held

that such blackness faced certain demise, he sought to grasp these benefits and carry them

into the future, blending blackness and whiteness into a modern hybrid symbolized by his

own body.

In "Box Seat," whose characters are removed from rural black southern life,

mixed raced Dan and Muriel are prevented from expressing their true feelings and are

separated with an almost physical barrier by Mrs. Pribby, the white proprietor of Muriel's

boarding house, whose knock on the door becomes a "cool thick glass between them"

(63). Muriel, especially, is confined by social pressures; the house in which she lives







becoming a "sharp-edged, massed, metallic house. Bolted" about them (60). When they

arrive at the theater, the people seem to Dan to be machines bolted into their seats

because they have internalized the social demands that restrict their natural selves. Only

one large black woman with a "soil-soaked fragrance" and "strong roots [that] sink down

and spread under the river and disappear in blood-lines that waver south" is still

connected to her true self (65). She alone is not confined to her box seat, not locked into

the mechanics of the city, but violates the spatial boundaries that are dictated. Seated next

to her, Dan lets his hands follow her south-bound roots, "his heart beats violently. He

places his palms upon the earth to cool them...He sees all the people in the house rush to

the walls to listen to the rumble. A new-world Christ is coming up" (65). Encountering

what he considers to be authentic blackness, Dan tries to capture some of its essence, to

place his hands upon its soil to cool the fever and restlessness he experiences in the city's

mechanical grasp. In his reverie for this authentic blackness, Dan senses the coming of

the messiah, a modernist response that links salvation through connection to the past, to

the earth, to an essential primitivism rarely encountered in the city. Dan realizes he, like

this woman, does not fit within the boundaries and confines of the city, a place where

emotion, even violence, is not experienced authentically but only through caricature, as

the fighting dwarves on stage become a grotesque stand-in for physical and emotional

expression. Muriel remains caught between social pressures -which dictate that she must

accept a blood-spattered rose offered her by one of the dwarves--and her desire to

express her true feelings of revulsion at the offer. And Dan, disgusted by Muriel's stasis,

leaves the theater with the shout that "Jesus was once a leper" (69)- suggesting that

through their isolation and conformity, individuals reject the means of their salvation.







Through Dan's response to "authentic" blackness and his insistence that individuals

disallow connection, Toomer attempts to highlight, and thereby erase, boundaries.

Toomer's aim to juxtapose dichotomies and eliminate boundaries points to

meridians between seemingly diverse locations and is aptly illustrated when Dan tells

Muriel, "Life bends joy and pain, beauty and ugliness, in such a way that no one may

isolate them. No one should want to. Perfect joy, or perfect pain, with no contrasting

element to define them, would mean a monotony of consciousness, would mean death"

(62). As joy and pain define each other, then, so do black and white, North and South.

Cane illustrates that ideas are defined in terms of their opposites, that dualities constitute

each other. Toomer's desire to reject fixed identifications and to embrace dualities, a

desire seen in his own life and in his work, reflects utopian ideologies, and Toomer

clearly saw himself as representative of a New American type. His utopian New

American metaphor of racial mixture presented a contrast with traditional depictions that

offered only tragedy or conformity to those of mixed race. This New American, then,

would allow a fusion of opposites, would accelerate a consciousness that refused to

impose a hierarchy within dichotomies and, instead, would represent a "new" utopian

individual who might usher in a social utopia. This utopia is most hopefully mapped out

in "The Blue Meridian"; in Cane, which ultimately is ambivalent about the possibility of

achieving such a utopia, racial mixture is surrounded by anxiety as well as potential, and

the text often illustrates the idea that race mixing leads to tragedy. However, the tragedy

suggested is not necessitated because of any inherent conflict between races but because

of the forces of modernization that limit connections among people and because of

societal pressures that restrict free expression of one's true self and nature.







In the story "Bona and Paul," for instance, the title characters are confined by

society into fixed racial groups that allow no expression of attraction between those

groups. Paul, a biracial young man, and Bona, a Southern white young woman

transplanted in the North, are drawn to each other by a mutual attraction. Yet Paul

understands that "people saw, not attractiveness in his dark skin, but difference. Their

stares, giving him to himself, filled something long empty within him, and were like

green blades sprouting in his consciousness" (76). He recognizes that he is defined by

others as a black man-and that he is considered overtly sexual as a result-despite his

mixed heritage. This, at least, offers a sense of self, even if it is not of his own creation.

And, like the promise of new grass in the springtime, this definition can offer hope for the

future, provided he maintain the path chosen for him. Paul, though, does not walk the

straight and narrow path that would define him as a member of the black community

without permission to transgress his boundaries. After Bona expresses her "love" for

him, he decides to risk a relationship with her. As he and Bona leave a restaurant

together, Paul runs back to inform the doorman, "I came back to tell you, brother, that

white faces are petals of roses. That dark faces are petals of dusk. That I am going out

and gather petals" (80). However, when Paul attempts to rejoin Bona, he discovers that

she is gone. She has been overcome by her own socially induced sense of propriety.

Thus, though these characters attempt to foster the outward expression of their inward

selves, although they exist on the cusp of possibilities for breaking through barriers, they

are thwarted by the dictates of society. Although they exist as meridian figures who

might link north and south, black and white, male and female they are expected to live on

one side of the dividing line-Paul must be a northern black man and Bona a southern







white woman, each isolated from the other and locked into the confines of social

expectations. They cannot reach the full expression of themselves within the confines of

the urban center where they live, nor can they achieve the potential Toomer imagined for

race mixture.

Other characters in Cane are equally doomed to suffer because they dare

transgress the boundaries that society dictates based upon race. There is Becky, for

example, "the white woman who had two Negro sons" (7). Because of her obvious

relationship with a black man, the town ostracizes her and her sons. Yet the townspeople

recognize their responsibility for Becky and their need for her as the figure against which

to define themselves, and they provide her with a place to live "on the narrow strip of

land between the railroad and the road" (7). Becky is, thus, a meridian character, both

symbolically and actually. She is caught in between the white and black worlds, accepted

in neither. Likewise, she is situated between the past (represented by the road) and the

future (represented by the railroad), and by being a liminal character, she essentially

maintains the borders between black and white, past and future. Even her sons are locked

in between two traditional worlds: "White or colored? No one knew, least of all

themselves" (8). In the end, Becky is buried under the phallic chimney in her home when

it collapses upon her as the train rolls by. Although the narrator and his companion

imagine they hear a groan from beneath the rubble, they do not investigate. They merely

toss a bible upon the heap and rush to town, where the citizens await the details of

Becky's death. Through the townspeople's clandestine support of Becky and her sons,

they have allowed racial blending while managing it through marginalization; publicly

they ignore her, though they offer her furtive assistance. Although some scholars suggest







that the effects of progress have killed Becky since her house collapses due to the passing

train, it may be equally surmised that social dictates have killed her; having heard

Becky's groan, the narrator and his companion cannot investigate or save her life because

the townspeople refuse to acknowledge their involvement with and support of her.

Similarly, the characters in "Blood-Burning Moon" are depicted as doomed to

suffer because of strictures imposed upon them. Louisa, the black cook for a wealthy

white family, is desired by both Tom Burwell, a black field laborer, and Bob Stone, the

son of the family for whom she works. The men are both compelled to possess her,

though she really desires Tom. Bob, for his part, finds her lovely "in her way. Nigger

way. What was that? Damned if he knew." Additionally, he wonders if there were

"something about niggers that you couldn't know" (33). Perhaps what Bob Stone finds

puzzling is the connection implied throughout Cane of rural blacks and the past. In

implying that blackness is more primitive and more closely associated with emotions than

with conscious thought, the text also implies that blackness is the unconscious of

whiteness and is, therefore, unknowable. The first section of the book presents scenes

illustrating the free expression enabled in blacks by their proximity to folk culture, with

its suggestions of authenticity, spirituality, and nobility. When they are removed from

this source of authenticity (through a migration North, for example) or when they are

inhibited (through social or religious dictates), they loose both their ability to express

themselves and their seemingly inherent vibrancy. The latter is illustrated in "Blood-

Burning Moon" when, on the night of a full moon, Tom and Bob fight for Louisa. Louisa

and Tom cannot express their full attraction to each other because they are inhibited by

Bob, who cannot accept her attraction to Tom and who feels he has a right to Louisa







since he is a white man. In fact, he laments the passing of the old days, when he could

have gone in "as a master should and took her. Direct, honest, bold" (33). As a result,

Bob is knifed to death and Tom is lynched, illustrating the tragedies resulting from social

imperatives that restrict natural desires; the same imperatives restrict the expression of

more complex identities than historically allowed.

Women in the text are depicted with the least ability to follow their own desires;

they are depicted as bodies moving virtually unconsciously through life, being carried by

custom and the courses of male desire. Those who do attempt to follow their own desires,

such as Esther, are thwarted. In "Blood-Burning Moon," Louisa becomes a meridian

figure, as she is desired by both black and white men who fight to the death to claim her.

The deaths of both men suggest, of course, the tragedy that results from social shackles

placed on natural desires, illustrating that it is not the desires themselves that are harmful

but rather the denial and social control of them. Because Bob Stone's whiteness allows

him to assume black and mixed raced women as his property, he cannot abide the thought

of a black man with Louisa; because Tom's natural desires for Louisa must be subjugated

to customs that allow white men access to her, he has no social rights to a relationship

with her.

In the second section, women remain subject to social dictates, sometimes

because they are removed from the South where, presumably, they would be closer to

nature and to their own desires. Muriel in "Box Seat," for example, is unable to explore

her attraction to Dan because the world of the urban North, represented by Mrs. Pribby,

interferes with the expression of her emotions. In "Bona and Paul," the characters long to

follow their desires for each other, but tradition and alienation from the natural self







interfere. Bona's emotions initially overcome her physically when she faints while

playing basketball with Paul; subsequently, when it seems she and Paul will explore a

relationship with one another, she disappears. Other women, such as Avey and the

character in "Calling Jesus" are depicted as alienated from their own souls because they

are removed from their heritage through displacement in the urban North. They are

shown sleeping through life, living unconsciously, rather than embodying the vibrancy

that the text suggests may result from connection to the heritage of black folk culture.

Like the women within the text who are forced to repress their emotions and

desires rather than allow the spontaneous expression of them, the men in the text are

similarly confined by social norms. Cane questions the meanings and limits of black male

sexuality and demonstrates numerous failures and miscommunications that thwart these

men's expression of their sexuality, desires, and emotions. In "Rhobert," for instance, the

title character is depicted with a house upon his head. Weighed down by the pressures of

domesticity and urban life, Rhobert "cares not two straws as to whether or not he will

ever see his wife and children again. Many a time he's seen them drown in his dreams

and has kicked about joyously in the mud for days after" (42). And in "Theatre," John is

a man unable to fully integrate and enjoy his sexuality; his "body is separate from the

thoughts that pack his mind [which is] contained above desires of his body" (52). In this

section, women again are made to conform to social pressures as dancers are brought in

line by strict choreography: "Soon the director will herd you, my full-lipped, distant

beauties, and tame you, and blunt your sharp thrusts in loosely suggestive movements,

appropriate to Broadway .... Soon the audience will paint your dusk faces white, and call

you beautiful" (52). The women are animalized as they are herded into conformity, and







they are simultaneously removed from their natural selves through accommodation to

public tastes.

The text reiterates, then, that removal from black heritage, including its

connection to the earth, and forced conventions within the confines of urbanity result in

the loss of self-expression and the ability to follow -even to recognize--one's own

desires. Although Cane laments the potential loss of the black folk spirit and reviles the

limitations imposed upon self-expression, it does, however, predict through its utopian

longings the coming of a new messiah who will free Americans for expression of their

true selves. This messiah, furthermore, will provide the model for the evolved American:

a mixed raced meridian who unites the imagined riches of the past with the imagined

resources of the future.

Transcending the Divide

Characters who represent this meridian figure of messiah are depicted throughout

the text: King Barlo in "Esther," Dan in "Box Seat," and the old man in "Kabnis."

Although Toomer wrote to Waldo Frank in late 1922 or early 1923 that "Kabnis is Me"

(153), Kabnis is a weak and confused figure, a "promise of a soil-soaked beauty;

uprooted, thinking out" who journeys south to connect with his heritage but who remains

"Suspended a few feet above the soil whose touch would resurrect him" (98). In contrast,

Lewis-another mixed raced character-is "what a stronger Kabnis might have been"

(97) and it is he who "merges with his source and lets the pain and beauty of the South

meet him there" (107). It is Lewis who understands the complexities of mixed race and

Kabnis's weaknesses: "Cant hold them, can you?" he asks Kabnis. "Master; slave. Soil;

and the overarching heavens. Dusk; dawn. They fight and bastardize you. The sun tint of







your cheeks, flame of the great season's multi-colored leaves, tarnished, burned. Split,

shredded: easily burned. No use..." (109). Lewis rightly assesses that Kabnis cannot

reconcile these dualities he contains and encounters, and because presumably Lewis has,

he ultimately finds himself "completely cut out" of the interactions of his acquaintances:

"Kabnis, Carrie, Stella, Halsey, Cora, the old man, the cellar, and the work-shop, the

southern town descend upon him. Their pain is too intense" (112). Lewis, who has

achieved connection between dualities, must abandon the possibility of connection with

these individuals who as yet have not, reinforcing the sense of alienation and isolation

that were modernist anxieties. The piece does not end in social utopia, but it does end

with the suggestion of a new day when the past will be embraced in the present, allowing

a hope for a brighter future and the coming of a new messiah.

Although Toomer draws a parallel between himself and Kabnis, he longs to be

Lewis, imagining himself as a messiah, a vanguard in fostering a new understanding of

race in America. He sought to encourage within Americans a transcendental vision of

race and believed he was in the best position to offer such a transcendental vision. Robert

B. Jones contends, "Toomer indeed conforms to R.W.B. Lewis's definition of the New

American Adam: 'an individual emancipated from history, happily bereft of ancestry,

untouched and undefiled by the usual inheritances of family and race" (134). However,

Toomer was neither "bereft of ancestry" nor "untouched and undefiled" by associations

with family and race. On the contrary, Toomer was largely influenced by both his

grandfather and grandmother and his racial identity was the subject of much

discussion-on his own part as well as the part of others. His self-definition as an

American rested largely on a devaluation of traditional notions of race, and his supposed







repudiation of his black ancestry was the subject of continued scrutiny and comment.

Toomer was notably concerned with the past, with ways in which to bring the past's

treasures into the current era, as the text of Cane demonstrates. His New American

metaphor, likewise, sought to bring the consciousness of diverse heritages into one grand

cosmic consciousness, as evidenced by "The Blue Meridian." This unification of diverse

elements, this ordering of perceived chaos, was a common project among many

modernists. In terms of race, notions of social Darwinism and eugenics were popularized

to address the disparate groups of people-some considered pre-modern-who needed to

be incorporated into the modern nation. Both within the United States and in other

countries, notably Mexico, this project was taken up in hopes that a utopian "cosmic

race" might be realized.

Jos6 Vasconcelos, Mexican Minister of Education, was interested in the Indian

who was assumed, like Southern black folk, to be dying in a "natural" and "modern"

evolution of the races. In his 1925 book La raza cosmica (The Cosmic Race),

Vasconcelos predicted the realization and expansion of an enlightened human

consciousness through the integration of diverse groups. For Vasconcelos, the mestizo or

racially mixed person was the present embodiment of the future ideal in which all races

would meld into one. However, Vasconcelos predicted that more than simple biological

mixture was necessary in order for the evolution of the "cosmic race" to occur; there was

a spiritual element that he felt must be cultivated as well. The resultant race would be a

people of heightened spirituality, intelligence, and artistic ability. As Vasconcelos wrote,

"The central thesis of this book is that the various races of the earth tend to intermix at a

gradually increasing pace, and eventually will give rise to a new human type, composed








of selections from each of the races already in existence" (3). Furthermore, Vasconcelos

argued,"even the most contradictory racial mixtures can have beneficial results, as long

as the spiritual factor contributes to raise them" (5). Thus he, like Toomer, acknowledged

that the fusion of opposite types would result in a new ideal.' This new race, according

to Vasconcelos, would be "the definitive race, the synthetical race, the integral race,

made up of the genius and the blood of all peoples and, for that reason, more capable of

true brotherhood and of a truly universal vision" (20). Vasconcelos's Cosmic Race and

Toomer's New American, then, are imagined responses to anxieties regarding the loss of

the past to the future and the loss of order to the present's chaos. Both men reified and

idealized this new type.'3 Toomer's work, especially, demonstrates a need to reconcile

seemingly dichotomous ideas and entities into a substantial whole, to find meridian sites

where differences become complementary rather than oppositional. Certainly his own

background and upbringing, as well as his personality-which would never allow him to

settle into one area of interest and which caused him to retreat from any potential

conflict-must have created in Toomer a longing for wholeness, both personally and

socially.

Toomer's utopian American society is detailed in his poem "The Blue Meridian"

(Collected Poems), which he had been writing since before the publication of Cane. In

this poem, Toomer writes of "a new America, to be spiritualized by each new American"

(50), asserting, like Vasconcelos, that the ideal race will be one of heightened spirituality.


12 Obviously, both Vasconcelos and Toomer assume the existence of "races" as distinct and separate
groups; Toomer and Vasconcelos argued that such races would eventually fuse to form a new and
enlightened group, thereby erasing the divisions between the separate "races." For Vasconcelos, this
process was "esthetic eugenics."
3 "Reification refers to the process of regarding an idealized abstraction as if it were a concrete, objective
thing with a material existence" (Jones 2), and "idealism is a classic response to reification, with its







Continuing this idea of the necessity of the spiritual, the poem asserts: "The old gods, led

by an inverted Christ...Withdrew into the distance and died...We are waiting for a new

God / For revelation in our day / For growth towards faceless Deity" (51). Here is

repeated the notion, illustrated throughout Cane, that there will come a new messiah to

foster self-knowledge and self-expression for the New Americans. This messiah, the

poem argues, must be a "faceless" deity in order that all people be represented; the

messiah must be an inclusive God for a new people who will grow "by admixture from

less to more" (51). The New America, furthermore, will be a place where the "old

peoples"-in this case Europeans, Africans, Native Americans, Christians, "all peoples of

the earth"-meld into a new race (54). Thus, the poem predicts a literal "fusion of

opposites" and a combination of "opposing forms and forces into a significant unity"

facilitated through miscegenation.

The poem also speaks of the persona's own racialized body: "I stand where the

two directions intersect / At Michigan Avenue and Walton Place / Level with my

countrymen / Right-angled to the universe" (55). The speaker is, therefore, the point of

convergence, the meridian between black and white, North and South, neither superior

nor inferior to others. Additionally, the speaker's consideration of himself as "right-

angled" to the universe suggests its meaning in terms of right and wrong, rather than

solely in 90-degree angles. For he asserts later that

There is a right turn,
A struggle through purgatories of many names,
A rising to one's real being
Wherein one finds oneself linked with
The real beings of other men, and in God;
The Kingdom exists, and is to be entered. (61)


promise that the alienated individual, socially fragmented and divided, can be made whole again in







Thus, the poem acknowledges the multiplicity of definitions for a person "of many

names" and the limbo of identity these various definitions can foster. Yet, when one has

made that "right turn" into one's real being, when one accepts the diversity within and

acknowledges one's place in the human community, the poem suggests, he enters the

kingdom-that utopia of understanding, self-acceptance, and communion with others. It

is then that the individual accomplishes the true goal for which the speaker longs:

Unlock the races, Open this pod by outgrowing it,
Free men from this prison and this shrinkage,
Not from reality itself
But from our prejudices and preferences
And the enslaving behavior caused by them,
Eliminate these-
I am, we are, simply of the human race.

Uncase the nations
Open this pod by outgrowing it,
Keep the real but destroy the false;
We are the human nation.

Uncase the regions-
Occidental, Oriental, North, South-
We are of Earth.

Free the sexes
From the penalties and proscriptions
That allegedly are laid on us
Because we are male and female ...

Expand the fields, the specializations,
The limitations of occupation,
The definitions of what we are
That gain fractions and lose wholes-
I am of the field of being,
We are beings. (64)

The poem, then, calls for the eradication, not of difference, but of hierarchies that seek to

prioritize one type of difference above all others. It is these hierarchies that, according to


thought" (Jones 3).







the poem, are enslaving, and, as a result, the poem insists on the acknowledgment and

acceptance of the universal family of humanity. It insists, likewise, on being free of labels

imposed by occupation, on being free of the restrictions imposed by gender roles. "The

Blue Meridian," like Cane, encourages an understanding of the self as meridian figure-a

human being uniting various parts (as opposed to simply male or female, black or

white)--and encourages the free expression of that being in the world.

Points of Contact

Cane asserts that such free expression of the self results from connection to one's

heritage; thus, it depicts the South as a place of rootedness, of connection with the

organic, natural world. Yet it is also a place that resists control, a place filled with actual

and potential violence-as "Blood-Burning Moon" and "Kabnis" show. Rural areas,

then, are depicted with their threat to black lives. The city, too, as the location where

energies and desires are contained, is likewise illustrated as a dangerous place for blacks.

Not only does the city make self-expression difficult if not impossible because of its

disconnection from the natural world, it is also a place where blacks are more likely to

exploit other blacks. Additionally, it is the place where blacks may internalize the white

values that stifle their natural selves, as the story "Rhobert" depicts.

Cane illustrates the trials of modernization and the repressive hold of ideologies

of race and gender and remains ambivalent about the possibility of achieving harmony

through racial mixture when such mixture is surrounded by anxieties and tragedies

resulting from limiting social demands. Cane suggests the struggles and tragic fates of

individuals both dark and light, although it suggests the hope of a brighter day when the

future generation, symbolized by Carrie in "Kabnis," may acknowledge and embrace its




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MERIDIANS: MAPPING METAPHORS OF MIXED RACE IDENTITY By SHANE WILLOW TRUDELL A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLO RIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE R EQU IREM ENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVE RSITY OF FLORIDA 2004

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Copyright 2004 by Shane Willow Trudell

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This book is dedicated to the Spirits of P eace and Love. May they be th e foundation of all our knowing and all our being.

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I began thinking about the ideas behind thi s work years ago. Had it not been for the instruction and guidance of my professor at the University of Florida, the e ideas may never have reached thi form Therefore I wish to thank Tace Hedrick Debra Walker King Mark Reid and Mi l agro Pefia for their contributions to my academic growth. Each is an individual and scholar whom I re pect and admire. I am especially grateful to Tace Hedrick director of my dissertation who ha been a committed and encouraging mentor, one who has hared with me wi dom gleaned from her own journeys in academia so that I might learn from her experiences. Tace, in addition to being a scholarly role model for me has also become a respected friend, a fact that plea es me and helps me with the sometimes s urprising transition from s tudent to profe ss ional cholar. I have learned and continue to learn a great deal from her. I am grateful, too to other friends and peer whose upport of me ha s kept my spirit high and encouraged my commitment to reaching this goal. I am blessed by Penny i s t e r-friend and poet, who makes me laugh and reminds me, through her amazing sk ill to play with words. I value the friend hip and intellectual brilliance of Katherine and Tzantali, who working toward imilar goals, both remind me of why we are working to realize these particular academic dreams. I have been reminded, too of my commitment to working for peace and justice by all of my friend in the Association for Racial and Cultural Harmony in Jack onville, Florida. Jame Jennifer Joni Sis and Thalia have JV

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been e pecially supportive friends from that group during particularly trying times and I extend warm thanks for their presence in my life. I wish to thank, additionally, those who have provided me with s upport financial and otherwise, throughout this process. The fellowship I received from the University of Florida was a bles s ing that allowed me greater peace of mind during my writing than I would have felt otherwise. Finally, I wi h to thank those I love-es pecially my beautiful wi e, and inspiring mother Yvonne-and those I have loved-especially Art. I extend heartfelt gratitude for their s upport encouragement, and unwavering belief in me. I would not be here if it were not for the journeys I have taken with them. V

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PREFACE "I've been r e adin g memoir s," I a nnoun ce d to my mother which has me thinkin g a bout th e po ss ibilit y of marr y in g lit e rary c ritici s m with life, min e s pecifi ca ll y Lik e s o m a ny others producin g sc h o lar s hip in g end e r and race s tudie s, I want m y work to b e va luabl e to th ose o ut s id e th e ac ad e m y. I w a nt t o c onvince p e opl e my book i s w orth the ir tim e, d es pite th e ir que s tion of Why would I w a nt to re a d lit e rary critici s m?"' "Tha t w o uld b e m y qu es tion m y moth e r confes e d "Why wou ld I w a nt t o read it ?" Ind ee d wh y w o uld s h e? H av in g prev iou s ly pond e r e d th e u se fuln ess of m y w ork th e p oss ibilit y for p rax i s to accompa n y th eory, I was s tump e d b y m y moth e r's qu es ti on. B eca u se yo u r e m y moth er, of co ur se I th o u ght wry l y Y o u'd w ant t o rea d it because yo u 're p roud of every th ing I accom pli s h ... Thi s w as a s h a ll o w a nd nar c i ss i s ti c r es p o n se, I kn ew. Why wo uld m y m o th e r or a n y o th e r int e lligent a nd th o u g htful p e r so n with a limit e d amount o f time, w a nt to c h o o e m y book out o f a limitl ess numb e r of othe r s? A nd wh a t would it offer of p ractica l va lu e t ow ard social c h a n ge? In s t ead of a tt e mptin g to g i ve a d e finiti ve a nswer t o m y m o th e r's qu estio n a qu es ti o n tha t I s uppose, a n indi v idu a l ca n a n swe r onl y fo r h e r selfI offe r so m e thin g I t e ll m y tud e nt s w h e n they wonder w h y they s h o uld read th e work we s tud y in cl ass : lit era tur e illumin a t es li fe A nd wh e n we s ubj ec t literatur e to theoretical sc rutin y, w e c an sw it c h o n th e bulb s of k nowl e d ge and imult a neou s l y s h e d li ght o n o ur own c ultural a nd V l

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p e r o n a l exp e ri e nces. In literature a nd in literary crit ic i m we find new ways in w hich to p o e que tio n s, t o seek a nswer a nd t o see th e world W e can e ngage t h e hy p o th etical. W e can r e flect o n g ritt y realit y. W e can tease out m e m o ries. W e can exp lo r e th e t ruth of m y th W e can acqui s iti o n s pace in w hi c h t o mine our own k nowl e dge, givin g u s new pos ibilities fo r b e in g in th e world a nd b e in g in r e l a t io n t o o thers. Ins tead of a nswerin g m y m o th e r's ques ti o n th e n I will tell you w hat thi book i a b out so th a t you can a nswer fo r yoursel f . This i s a book a b out race and real live gend e r and generati o n tra diti o n s a n d t rave l love a n d l a n g u age, bord e r s and b e l o n g ing, metaphors a n d map book a n d bodi e Thi i s a book a b o ut th e twenti e th centur y an d t o d ay. T h i i s a book abou t l i terature a n d a b out life. Vll

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TABLE OF CONTENTS ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ........... .... ...... ....... ......... ....... ................................... ......... iv PREFACE ..... ... ..... . . ... . ..................................... ......... ............. ..... ........ .... ..... ...... vi ABSTRACT ... . .... ..... . ........... ... ....... .... ........ .... ............... .............. ... ...... ... ... ... .... . x CHAPTER 1 CARTOGRAPHIES OF RACIAL IDENTITY ............. .. .. ....... .. .. .. . ..... 1 Intimate Cartography ........... .............. ................. ........ .................. ...... . ........ 1 Mapping Pa t Path and New Direction . ......... ... .......... ...... .... ...... .... ... . ... 3 Mapping the Contemporary Landscape ................... ... ...... ........ ..... ........ ......... 9 Mapping Metaphors .... . ...................................... . ....................... ....... ... ... ... 13 Mixed Metaphor ........... . . .... ... . ... ... . . . . ... . . ...... .............. . ...... ....... ........ 16 Playing With the Map ................................. ... . . . .... ..... ............................. . 19 Mapping the Path Ahead .... ................. ........... ........ .... .... . ...... ..... .... ... ... 22 2 THE IVORY TOWER AND THE KETTLE BLACK: NINETEENTH CENTURY METAPHORS OF RACE ...... .. .......................... ...... . .... 27 Race Crystallized ...... .... ....... .... ... . ........... .... ........... .... ............... ...... ......... 27 Climbing the Ivory Tower .... .... ........... . ...... ... ............................ ....... ...... .... 34 Climbing into the Kettle Black ...................... ... ...... ... ... .. . . . .... ...... . ......... 41 Continued Cry tallization .... ...... ............... .... ........... ...... ....... ......... ... ...... ..... 55 3 LINES OF CONTACT AND COHERENCE: MERIDIANS IN THE WORK OF JEAN TOOMER . ............. . . .......... .................. .. ..... . 57 Points of Departure ............... .... . ..... ... .................. ... .... . .... ... ....... ... ... ...... 57 Dividing Line ...... .... . ... .......... .... ... ........ .... ....... . . . ........ ... .... ... ........ . ... 71 Transcending the Divide........ . ...... ................. ... ....... ... .... ... ... .. ..... ..... . . .... 83 Points of Contact ...... .......... ... ............. ............................ ... . ............... ...... 89 4 TRAVELING THROUGH FRAN ROSS S OREO, NO ORDINARY COOKIE .................................. .. . ............... . ....... . . ......... .... 94 VIJl

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The Frontier: Where Two Come Together ......................................... ...... ..... 94 Traveling Beyond the Boundarie s ... ..... ......... .................................... ... ... ... 100 She Got Womb ........ ..................................................... ..... ......... ... .......... 109 Travelers Que s ters and Cookie s . ........ ................. ... .... .......... .................. 116 Traveling in/as Two s ..... .... ..... ....... .............. ... .......... .... ............ ................ 125 5 RE-VISIONS OF DIFFERENCE IN DANZY SENNA'S CAUCASIA ........ 1 28 Di appearing: The Skin We're In .. ... ............................. . .... ... ...... ......... ..... 1 28 Bodi e at Play: Performin g (and Being ) Ra ce(d) ..... . ................................... 1 34 Appearing in the Mirroring . ........ ............ .... .. ..... ................ ........ .... ... ....... 140 Lon g in g and Belon g in g .................. ... . ............. ... .... ....... ........ ... .... ...... ... .. 145 Appearing in Motion and Blurrin g the Lin es ... . ... ... ... ......... . ............ .... ..... 150 Reappearing beyond R ec o g nition ..... . ........................ .............. ........ .......... 156 6 HOME LIFE : CONFLICTED DOMESTICITY IN JENOYNE ADAMS S RESURRECTING MINGUS .......................................................... 163 Home Bound .............. ....... ........... ... .... ... ........................ ....... .... ... ...... ... .... 163 Divided Hou se . . ... ........... .... ......... .... ... . .... .............................. ................ 170 Cra c kin g the Mirror ... .... .... ............... .................... ................... ............... ... 1 8 1 Coming Home ........ ........ ............... .... . ......... . ... ........ . .... . . .... .............. 196 7 MERIDIANS ON THE MAP OF IDENTITY ........... ...... .. .. .. .............. 201 WORKS CITED ................ ......... ... ....... . ... ...... ... ....... ........................ . ..... ........ 217 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ............. . ............ .................................................. ... 224 lX

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Ab s tract of Di ss ertation Pre s ented to the Graduate School of the Univ e r s ity of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requir e ment s for th e De g ree of Doctor of Philo s ophy MERIDIANS: MAPPING METAPHORS OF MIXED RACE IDENTITY By Shan e Willow Trud e ll Au g u s t 2004 Chair : T a c e H e dri c k M ajor D e partm e nt: Eng li s h Althou g h mi xe d race id e ntit y tradition a ll y h as b e en e quated with c onfli c t th e c onfli c t i s not n ece s aril y live d but m ay b e m o r e acc urat e ly vi e w e d as a c onfli c t of l a n g u age a c onfli c t o f m e taph o r s Tradition a ll y m e taph o r s o f mi xe d ra ce id e ntity ha ve r eflec t e d notion s of o ppo s iti o n a nd hierar c hy a t th e sa m e time mix e d race individu a l s h ave searc h e d fo r ut o pi a n s p aces in whi c h c onfli c t a nd traged y are all ev iat e d a nd race i s im ag in e d a a unif y in g, r a th e r than di v i s i ve, id ea. Thi s s tud y look s a t th e treatm e nt o f mi xe d race wom e n in t we nti eth centu ry no ve l s, b eg innin g with J e an Toome r's Cane (192 5 ) a nd th e n jumping to th e end of th e ce ntury-to Fran Ross s O reo (1975 ), Dan zy S e nna s Ca u cas i a ( 1998 ) a nd J e noyn e Adams's R esu r rect i ng Mi ngus (2 001 ) t o s tud y tex t s w ritt e n durin g a nd aft e r th e Bl ac k P owe r Movem ent. It b eg in s w ith a n a n a l ys i of m eta phor s o f bl ac kn ess a nd whit e n ess th a t d eve l o p e d in th e nin e teenth centur y a nd the n qu estio n s th e ways these m e t a ph o r s h ave tr a diti o n a ll y co mplicat e d po ss ibiliti e fo r mixe d race id e ntit y r es ultin g in r e pli catio n s of th e t rag i c mul a tto a nd a dh e r e nce t o th e on edrop X

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rule. Subsequently, the analysis moves to contemporary metaphors of mixed race identity to explore their limits and possibilities and the ways in which these metaphors are implicated by questions of gender. The texts under analysis respond to the same set of problems, including the longing for utopian spaces of wholeness and harmony within mixed race identities and non-traditional families. Additionally, these texts contain a latent struggle over questions of history, family, and racial identity They long to articulate utopian visions while they are confined within the historical moment and literary formulas in which they were written, and they struggle to negotiate postmodern questions of identity self, wholeness and harmony-both individual and communal-while bound by literary and ocial conventions that resist the utopian visions they hope to articulate. Each text attempts to envision utopian social political, familial and individual spaces where the "play of identity-the possibility of negotiation and individualization-may be manifested, utopian visions of harmony may be realized and new metaphors may be articulated. XI

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CHAPTE R 1 CARTOGRAPHIES OF RACIAL IDENTITY Intimate C ar tograph y I w a nt to s ho w y ou a m a p a nd tell y ou a ec r et. The m a p l ooks lik e thi : I'm a wo m a n w ith kin th e color o f catt a il in the sun hin e. M y h air i s d a rk bro w n so ft thi c k a nd willfull y c url e d M y eyes ar e b ro wn n o t a h o ney -c olor e d bro w n but a deep b row n ye t n o t o d ark th a t m y pupil s ar e indi s tin gui h a bl e from m y iri es O f cour e non e of thi s compri ses th e ecr e t for n o n e o f thi s i s hidd e n inform atio n ; it i a ll readil y a pp a r e nt o n m y b o d y The sec r e t i s thi s : I a m n o t a bl ac k woma n ; I a m a bl ac k wo m a n ; I a m n o t a w hit e wo m a n ; I a m a w hit e woma n O f course thi o und s p ara d ox i ca l imp o ibl e, but th e m e t a ph o r of bl ac k a nd w hit e are o f t e n o nl y m e a ge rl y a nd s up e rfi c i ally o m e tim es n o t even uperfi c i a lly-r e l a t e d t o ac tu a l b odie M y e n e of m y e l f a b o th bl ac k a nd w hit e and a n e ith e r bl ac k n o r w hit e com e fro m m y own und e r s t a ndin g a nd p e rcepti o n of m y bo d y a we ll a und e r t a ndin g a nd p e r ce pti o n s th a t go b eyo nd it. A dditi o n ally th e p ercepti o n s of o ther becom e c ru c i a l in th ese p e rcepti o n of m yse lf. For in t a nce, w h e n I a m a m o n g t ra n ge r I a um e th a t th eir fir t p e rceptio n of m e in vo l ve th e col o r of m y k in th e t ex tur e a nd s t y l e of m y h air, th e cod e of m y gend er. A lth o u g h I d o n o t con id e r m y e l f a bl ack wo m a n I mus t recogni ze th a t thi will be th e way m a n y o ther p e rcei ve m e In co n tra t w h e n I wa m arr i e d to a w hit e ma n or w h e n I v i it m y w hit e m o ther, I fun ctio n a part of a fa m i l y a nd c ultur e to whic h o ut s id e ob e rver s wo uld c l aim I d o n o t b e l o n g 1

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2 and yet in which I feel un-conte tably at home, although I do not consider myself a white woman. My body then like that of any other person is implicated by what Debra Walker King has called body fictions: our "externally defined identities and representations as bodies." These body fictions result in the "collision between real bodies and an unfriendly informant: a fictional double whose aim is to mask individuality and mute the voice of personal agency" (vii). The body becomes a map with a very peculiar geography one that attempts to impose identity, to pinpoint contours and demarcate lines of latitude a nd lo n gitude, in an effort to describe and contain realities that are multidimensional within the two-dimensional realm of black and white If the body can be seen as a map then what we call that body is an indication of our navigation, of our interpretation of the map. Thus it is that the map of the body becomes an important reference point in locating id entity. Although most people forget to look beyond its limited dimensions and thereby assume the map is totalizing the body is not an exclusive means of mapping identity. The body, indisputably important, is still a limit ed and contradictory map subject to metaphors that function unevenly-allowing, for example a light-s kinned woman to be called black but typically not a llowin g a dark-skinned woman to be called white. It is with these contradictions and uneven metaphors of race in mind that I begin this exploration of metaphors of mixed race identity. In so doing, I seek to draw a more accurate map of mixed race identity -or at least one that acknowledges the limits of its dimensions-a map that can direct new exp lo rations of these identities and chart the geography of my being a not-black/not-white woman.

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3 Mapping Past Paths and New Directions Werner Sollors ha catalogued in intricate detail the history of miscegenation and mixed race characters in American literature. His comprehensive study N e ith e r Bla c k Nor Whit e offers a thematic analysis of interracial literature which he define as all genre s that repre ent love and family relation involving black-white couples, biracial individuals, their de cendant and their larger kin (3). Identifying common trope throughout interracial literature-uch as reference to the curse of Ham, fraction of blood and fingernails as racial signs, among others-Sollors concludes that interracial literature i most often themed for a black-white c ontrast of 'either/or' than for an interracial realm of neither, nor both and in-between'" (N e ither 10). In thi in tance, Sollors highlights an important question for current di cu ions of mixed race identity in American literature: how are individuals of mixed race represented, as a site where races unite or as a site where they collide? Mixed race character have long been a subject of interest to black and white author s alike, and there have been numerous arguments made to explain the origin of thi interest in pre-Civil War and antebellum fiction. To pre-Civil War Northern audiences the tragic mulatto or tragic octoroon wa s a perfect object for tearful sympathy combined with moral indi g nation" (Zanger 285). Yet the u e of the tragic mulatto by antislavery writers al o ha been een a an indication of racial prejudice ince uch writers may have found the plight of a near-white character more tragic than that of one more phenotypically black. Although it has been argued that these authors focu ed on characters of mixed race in order to highlight the tragic nature of slavery and /or make th e ir character more likely to generate ympathy from white reader it i more

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4 compelling to argue that these writers sought to highlight generation of white patriar cha l guilt through the use of mixed race characters. On an even more symbolic level "miscegenation and the unnatural' treatment of biracial offspring [may] conveniently tand for the South real sin : the prostitution of an entire race of black bodie for the gratification of the white man' 'lust' for wealth and power and the re ultant violation of those 'family tie traditionally a ociated with the Chri tian notion of the brotherhood of man (Clark 294). Conver ely, Simone Vauthier argues that interest in the white Negro may be read as an imaginary te ting of boundaries. The white Negro represents a cas limit e, the smallest difference that marks the point where the Other turns into the Same, when the either/or disjunction is no longer operative" (349). Countless other cholar as well have approached the topic of mixed race literature in hope of identifying and analyzing themes s uch as those detailed above. Most often scholar tum to disc u ss ion of the tragic mulatto and passing in order to highlight the constructedness of race and facilitate arguments about it lack of ba s is in biology. In fact, Sollors eeks to inve tigate the themes of mixed race literature in order to comprehend the cultural operations which make [race ] seem natural or self-evident categories" (Neither 3). Similarly Naomi Zack notes that miscegenation "can be viewed as a recurrent trope in popular fiction, a sort of metaphor for the unblended part of the melting pot of American society as a whole; the problems of all black Americans in white American culture; or the alienation of the modem individual in general. Characters of mixed race have also been interpreted as universal cultural archetypes, s uch a the scapegoat or the Chri t figure' (128).

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Other scholars have addressed mixed race literature in order to move beyond arg ument s about race as a social construction. Cathy Boeckmann for example, assumes race's constructedness and looks to "the topics of race passing bodies and American lit era ture u s ing an approach ba se d in historical vocabulary" (3). Her insightful study questions the notion of character in the late nineteenth century, arguing that "In c urrent u sage character i a figurative term signifying the imagined structure of an individual's moral and ethical orientations, but in the nineteenth century it referred to a quantifiable set of inherited behavior s and tendencies that were almost always racial" (3). H e r di sc u ss ion turn s to interraciali s m preci se ly becau e the "equation of outer and inner that was a cornerstone of white s upremacy and which wa used to argue the a b so lut e inferiorit y of African Americans, was unsettled by the mixing of phy s i ca l s i g ns of race" (30). Boeckmann 's study i s also unique in th a t it seeks to demonstrate th e s ignificance of genr e to nineteenth centur y questions of c hara c teri za tion. As Boeckmann note s, "Lit era ture was a urn ed to b e the b es t location for the representation of national a nd racial c hara c t e r and debates over the relative merit s of sentimental romantic, and reali stic fiction were e mbroil ed in discussions of which mode offered the be s t form of c haract e ri zat ion (5). Boeckma nn st udy i s important b eca u e it qu es tion s the role of ge nre in definin g c haract e r a nd analyzes th e ways in which c hara c ter in nin etee nth ce ntur y American literatur e was probl ematize d by the reality of mi xe d race. Similarly, m y s tud y recognizes the recurrence of certain genres, spec ific ally se ntim e nt a l a nd romance fiction a nd a utobio g raphy in di sco ur ses of mi xe d racial identity These genres facilitate many discussions of mixed race and a llow a forum for 5

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6 s o c ial ac tivi s m within publi c di scours e .1 A s in th e nin e teenth c e ntur y w h e n wo m e n w rit e r oft e n u e d th e e ntim e nt a l no ve l t o comme nt up o n a nd eek t o c h a nge socia l con ve nti o n s, m a n y writ e r of p o pul a r fi c ti o n includin g th e genr es of sentim e n t ro m a n ce, a nd a ut o biography-eek t o m ake soc i a l co mm entary a nd reflect th e c h a n gi n g soc i a l a tt it ud e r ega rdin g race a nd mi xe d race id e ntit y. A nn duCill e arg u e i n h e r tud y of nin e teenth centur y bl ac k wo m e n's n o v e l s th a t "the m arr i age c onventi o n h as been c l a im e d b y bl ack wo m e n w rit e r s in p a rti c ul ar as a trop e thr o u g h w hi c h t o expl o r e n o t only th e so calle d m o r e compe llin g qu e tio n s o f ra ce, rac i s m a nd rac i a l id e ntit y but compl ex qu estio n s of sex u a lit y a nd fe m a l e s ubj ec ti vity as well (4). Thus du C ill e comme nt s up o n th e lon gs t a ndin g u e of th e pri va t e, th e d o m es ti c, th e e ntim e n ta l t o ex pl o r e qu e ti o n s r egar din g th e p ubli c a nd oci al. Aut o bi ogra ph y a well i a commo n ge nr e for expl o r a ti o n of mi xe d race because, as P aul Spickard h a w ritt e n multir ac i a lit y m ay in ev it a bl y b e a u to biographical in tha t it i s a n id e ntit y that d raws it life-fo r ce fro m fashio nin g a n d refa hio nin g th e t o r y of th e e thn ic e l f (92) A nd C l a udin e C hi awe i O H ea m ack nowl e dge : Because mos t peopl e didn't k n ow w h ere t o pl ace m e, I m ade up s tori es a bout m y e lf. In b a r s, ca b s a nd r es t a u ra nt s I would t r y o n id e ntiti es w ith s t ra n ge r s I kn ew I would never meet aga in I fak e d acce nt s a I pr e t e nd ed t o be a Hawaii a n d a ncer a n I ta li a n to uri s t a nd even o nce a Ru ss i a n s tud e nt. I t a l ways a m azed m e w h a t I could ge t away w ith Bein g mi xed i n s p ire d a nd gave m e licen e t o t es t new c h arac t e r but it a l o cas t m e as a fo r e i g n e r in ever y settin g I fo und m yse l f in. ( i x) T hu s O'Heam s peak of a pr eva l e nt se n se a m o n g m i xe d r ace indi v idu a l of a u t horin g o ne's own id e ntit y t h ro u g h a ut o bi o g ra ph y a llowin g th ose of m rxed race t o ar ti c ul a t e 1 By p opular, of cour e, I mean t h o e text t h a t are m ass -marke t e d a n d w i d e l y a v a i l ab l e t o a l arge popu l a t ion of peop l e.

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their own s torie s and analyze the ways in which ancestral peculiarities shape subsequent identities. 7 Although autobiography also served numerous black author in the nineteenth century, my s tudy inve s tigate s the treatment of mixed race women in twentieth century nov e l to trace social under tandin gs of race mixed-race and gender. Unlike ninete e nth century text s dealing with mixed race character which often relied on trope s of conflict and turmoil a number of twentieth -ce ntury t ex t have a ttempted to move beyond th e binari es dictat e d by ideologie s of race in order to assert the complex nature of mixed race id e ntit y, rather than in i s tin g on the either /or model. My study moreov e r depart s from traditional inv e tiga tion s of literature containin g mi xe d race characters by white and bla c k authors in ord e r to qu e tion the m e taphorical way in which black and mixed race author define mixed racial identit y Becau e race it elf i s, a H e nry Loui s Gat es, Jr. ha s s u gge t e d a m e taphor for differen ce, it i u e ful to inv e tigate th e ways in which mi xe d rac e diff e r e nce ha been describ e d v i a the u e of metaphor s. What do these metaphor u gges t a bout the nature and c hara c t e r of mi xed race difference ? In w h at way do the e metaphor n a turalize rac i a l difference a oppo ition a l a nd hierar c hi ca l and in what ways m ay m e t ap hor s of mi xed race di rupt thi ass umpti o n of th e o ppo ition a l a nd hierarc hi ca l n a tur e of race? Additionally, u s in g a f e mini t fram ework, I questi o n th e ways in which these m e taphor s a r e gend e r ed in order to in ve tigat e the options th a t are made ava il ab l e for mixed race wo m e n a nd m e n to n ego ti a t e th e ir id e ntiti es. My di sc u s ion focu es on th e m e t ap horical as well because id e ntit y it self ca n b e con sidered a m e t aphor for the se l f for elf-pe r cep tion e l f und e r s t a ndin g and e l f -

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awarene ss If we d e fine the self, a s C.G. Jun g do es, as the a r c h e t y p e of w h o l e n ess,2 th e n w e mi g ht begin to see th e self a nd elfid e ntit y as m e t a phorical. M o r eover, a Su a n R ow l a nd h as arg u e d in h e r d e finition of ar c h e t y p es, Gi ve n th a t arc h e t y p a l im age ca n n eve r exhau s t th e multipl e po s ibilitie s of th e arc h e t y p e a nd are r e fr ac t e d thr o u g h th e p e r o n a l th ey ca n b e describ e d as fiction m e t a ph o rical ve r s i o n s of a n unr eprese nt ab l e r ea lity. That i s, a r c h e t y pal im ages are fiction a l and m e t a phori ca l n o t becau se they a r e ar bitr ary but becau e they ar e th e p a rti a l a nd im ag in ative ex pr ess i o n s of fu nd a m e nt ally p l ural pot e nti a l s for m ea ning" (11). 8 S o, too, w ith race A a con s tru c t e d im ag inin g of d i ffe r e nce refrac t e d t hr o u g h p e r so n a l ex p e ri e n ce, race can b e see n as fi c ti o n a l a nd m e t a phori ca l beca u se it a tt e mpt to re i fy a nd m a k e in g ul a r th a t whic h i s fund a m e nt a ll y plu ra l a nd ca p ab l e of multipli c i to u m ea nin g In fac t g i ve n th a t race ca nnot b e s in g ularl y d e fin e d as s impl y a r epresent atio n o f ph e n o t y p e o r a n ces tr y o r ex p erie nce o r l aw, it i s fund a m entally plu ra l in meanin g T hu a n y di sc u s i o n of race i a lread y m e t a ph o rical. Acknowl e d g in g thi s m y s tud y eek s t o hi g hli g ht th e w ay in whic h race a nd mi xe d -race a r e c on tru c t e d thr o u g h var i o u s metap h o r s th a t r e ult in hie r arc h y a nd opp os it io n In o d oi n g we may move toward m eta ph o r s of di ffere n ce th a t h e lp t o eradicat e n otio n of n a tur a lized hierar c h y a nd o pp o s iti o n in favor of t ho se th a t eek inclu s i v it y int e rconnectio n s, a n d di ffe r e nce w itho ut d efic it. Femini s t g eogra ph e r Min elle M a h tani h as embarke d up o n a simi l ar pro j ec t in t rying t o id e nti fy a m o r e useful s p atia l m e t a ph o r fo r w h a t s h e call s multi e thn ic id e ntiti es. S h e jus t ifie s th e a p pro pri a t e n ess of th is projec t w ithin her di s c i p l e by n otin g 2 I acknowl e dge t h a t p o t t ru c t u r alis m h as d e m o n s trat e d t h e probl e m atic n a ture of n oti o n s o f th e s elf a nd w h o l e n ess a nd I w ill r e turn t o t hi i n c hapte r s four and fiv e.

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9 geog raphers' assertion that "all s ocial relations are s patial and take place within particular s patial context s. Therefore it follows that racism creates particular s patial p a ttern s and code through which s patial and racial domination i s maintained. Thi s directly impacts on qu e tion s of identity (174 ). Drawing on the work of feminist th eoris t s Gillian Rose and El peth Prob y n Mahtani argues for an und e r s tandin g of mobile paradoxical pace s," which articu l ate notion s of belon gi ng as mo vemen t rath e r than as s tatic po si tionin gs" ( 184 ) and which seek a s pace for identity that exists beyond duali m s Similarl y, m y project acknowledges the impact of s patialit y upon identit y and note s tho se metaphor s within American literatur e that hi g hli g ht mixed race identity in t e rm of patialit y, which i common among these texts s ince s o m a n y of them attempt to locat e a utopia of racial harmony. The se metaphors, while s till problematic ma y offer a n und er tandin g of identit y without duality a nd hi e rar c h y th a t i s not e ncour age d b y other metaphor Temporal metaphor for exam pl e, often r e l y on notion s of hi s tor y that in ev it ab l y reinforce di c hotomi es a nd hi erarc hi e -e.g. pre hi toric / hi toric l ess c i v ili ze d / mor e civilized. Although s p a tial m e taphor s can work in duali tic way a l o-e.g., in ide / outside margin/center they may instead recognize the mobilit y and imult a n e it y of partic ular sub ject po s ition s" (Ma ht a ni 180). For thi s reason s p atia l m e t ap hor m ay offe r m o r e flexible a nd l ess hi erarc hical notions of mi xed race id e ntit y; additionally, th ey are readily taken up by mixed race di sco ur ses th at eek a rac i a l utopia. Mapping the Contemporary L andsca p e B eca u se romance i ofte n co n s id ered a genre of popular c ultur e, it i s fitting th a t contemporary discussions of mixed racial identity wo uld ex hibit a co nn ectio n to is u e t rad iti o n ally h o u sed in th e domain of romance : the family int erperso n a l relation hip s, the

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10 role of individuals in the private and public s phere s. Mixed racial identity i s an important soc i a l i ss ue in the co ntemporary United State s due to th e increase in the population of indi v idual s whose parent s are de s ignated as memb e r s of diff e r e nt races. And di sco ur ses of mixed race identity s pan i ss ue s of family, relationship a nd the indi v idu al's role in the public s ph ere. In fact, the i ss u e i so promin ent that numerou s gro up s hi g hli g ht e d the private matter of mixed racial identity in the public s phere when th ey lobbied to hav e a multira c ial category added to the year 2000 cen s u s. Althou g h thi s propo sa l was ultimately d efea ted respondents were allowed to select more than one box w h e n identifyin g their race (s), testifyin g to the fact that qu es tion s of mixe d racial herita ge and identity are important in th e liv es of million s of American R esearc h e r s s ince th e 2000 ce n s u s ha ve attempted to categorize th e identitie of mixed race individuals in order to di sce rn contemporary identiti es of mi xe d race G R egi n a ld Dani e l arg u es that w h a t h e h as t erme d th e new multiracial identity decon str u c t s the dichotomization of blackn ess and whiteness, as well as th e hierarchical relationship between th ese tw o cat egories of ex peri e n ce. It s goa l i s to rescu e racial id e ntitie s from di s torti o n and era ur e b y inc o rporatin g both African American and European American back gro und s. Individu a l s who di s play thi s id e ntit y r ecog ni ze th e commonalitie s b e twe e n black s and whites (integration ), but at the sa m e tim e a ppreciate the difference s ( plurali s m ). (6) Although D a ni e ls' claim s upp orts the po ss ib i lit y for non -hie r archica l id e ntitie s of mi xe d race, h e too readil y h o mo genizes mixed race id e ntit y Other researchers how ever, not e more div ers it y in individual s whose par e nt s b e lon g to two different soc i a ll y d e i g n a t e d ra ces. Through a s tud y co ndu c t e d after th e 2000 cen s u s, K erry Ann Ro ckq u emore a nd David L. Brun s ma d e lin ea t e four t ypes of id e ntit y formation for black/white bira c i a l individu a l s. First, th e border id e ntit y i s one th a t ack no w l edges both a

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11 bl ac k a nd a white id e ntit y as well a s a third identit y of mix e d-race. In e ffect the border identit y hi g hlight an individual' s e x i s tence between two s ocially distinct race s a s d e finin g one's biraciali s m Meanin g lie s in their location of in-betweenness" ( 42) Rockquemore and Brun sma divide thi s bord e r identity into two t ypes : valid a t e d in whi c h other s acknowled g e a mixed race individual' s in-bet w een s tatu s a nd unvalid a ted in which oth e r s m a y not under s tand biracial a s an exis tin g cate gory of ra c ial cl ass ifi c ation (45). A econd t y p e of id e ntit y d e fin e d b y the researc h e r i s th e in gular id e ntity, w hi c h t y pi cally fun c ti o n s in th e U nit e d Sta t e v i a th e onedrop rule The in g ular id e ntit y r ecognizes the binary racial cl ass ific a tion sys t e m in th e U nit e d Stat es and as e rt s th a t indi v idu a l s of mi xe d race mu s t alig n th e msel ves w ith o n e r ac i a l g roup Give n th e his torical r e alit y in th e U nit e d Sta t es o f the o n edrop rul e, w hi c h s tat es th a t a n y bl ac k a n ces tr y m akes o n e bl ac k mos t indi v idual s o f mi xe d race have c ho sen to id entify ( and h ave been outwardl y id e nt ifie d ) a bl ac k The r e ea rch e r not e, h o w e v e r th a t a s in g ul ar w hit e id e ntit y h a a t time been p oss ibl e g i ve n cert a in so cioeconomi c a nd ph e not y pi ca l r ea liti es. The third id e ntit y d esc rib e d b y th e r e ea r c h e r s i th e protean id e ntit y, on e tha t m a int ains id e ntit y as contextu a l a nd s hi f tin g. A c knowl e dged a s th e l eas t c ommon t y p e o f mi xe d ra c ial id e ntit y, the prote an id e ntit y fun c ti o n s b y "ch a n g in g a nd s hiftin g acc ordin g to the g roup of people tha t [th e indi v idu a l] i s w ith a nd th e soc i a l contex t (4 7). The r e ea r c h e r s clari fy th e uniqu e n es o f thi s id e ntit y b y m ainta inin g th a t "althou g h mos t peopl e mi g ht a d j u t th e ir be h avior t o di ffe rin g c ir c um t a nce [protean a dju t th e ir] identity t o these di ffe r e nt cir c um t a n ce "(48). Fin a ll y, Rockqu e m o r e a nd Brun s m a

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1 2 acknowl e d g e a tran s cendent id e ntit y in whi c h indi v idu a l s see k to d e fine th e msel ves out s ide of ra c i a l t erms In fa c t the se individu a l s oft e n im ag in e race a a b a rri e r t o th e r ealiz ation of th eir tru e id e ntitie s, preferrin g in s tead t o think of th e msel ves as hum a n ."3 It i s within thi s s o c i a l co ntext o f va ri e d inte rpr eta tion s o f mi xe d race id e ntit y tha t m y tud y see k s t o in ve tig a t e c urr e nt a nd hi s t o rical m e t a ph o r of mi xe d ra ce in t we nti e th ce ntur y A m e rican popular fi ctio n The t ex t s I ex pl o r e deal w ith indi v idu a l of mi xe d black a nd w hit e a nce tr y a nd I h ave d e lineat e d thi s prec ise gro up of wo m e n fo r a numb e r of r easo n s Alth o u g h I ac kn ow l e d ge th a t mi xe d rac i a l id e ntit y i s a realit y for ever y d es i g n a t e d ra c i a l g roup not s impl y bl ac k and w hit e, a nd a lthou g h I reco gnize th a t th e curTe nt disco ur se on mixed race t yp i ca ll y ass um es th e presence of w hit e n e sand th e r e b y n o rm alizes it,4 I ha ve c ho se n bl ack/w hit e mi x tur es in p art, because in th e U nit e d Sta t es, bl ac k s and w hit es co ntinu e to b e th e t w o gro up s w ith th e g reat es t soc i a l d is t a n ce, th e m os t s p atia l sep a r atio n a nd th e s t ro n ges t t a b oos aga in t inte rr acia l m a rri age" ( R oc kqu e m o r e a nd Bruns m a i x) In fac t I wo uld arg u e th a t bl ack/w hit e (i.e. d ark/lig ht ) i o n e of th e quint esse nti a l o pp os iti o n s of wes t e rn d u a l is m a nd works in m e t a ph o rical r e l atio n w ith o th e r du a li s m s (s u c h as ev i l/goo d u g l y/ beautiful m a t e ri al/s piritu a l ) Gi ve n thi s bl ack/w hit e o pp os iti o n a nd th e m e t a phorical du a li s m s of weste rn phil oso ph y I find i t n ecessary to ex pl o r e m e t a ph o r s of bl ac kn ess a nd w hit e n ess b efo r e p roceed in g int o a n e l a b ora ti o n o f m e t a ph o r s o f mixed ra ce. I do thi s thr o u g h a di sc u ss io n o f hi s t orical m e t a ph o r s of bl ac kn ess a nd w hit e n ess in c ludin g a n a n a l ys i s of t wo nin e t ee nth -centur y se ntim e nt a l novel s th a t d e m o n s t ra t e th e co mplicat e d n ature of these 3 Obviou l y I acknowl e dge th e probl e m a t ic n a t ur e of s u c h id e nti t i es, g ive n that race, th o u g h n ot a bi o logical tru i s m i s a s o c i a l a n d exp erie nti a l r e a lit y 4 C aro l R o h Spa ul din g h a s as tut e l y arg u e d In A m e r i c a n lit eratu r e o f th e twen t i e t h centu ry t h e t erm mix e d race' a lmo t in v a ri a b l y r e f e r s to ind i v idu a l w h o ar e part 'whi te a n d part raced'" ( 9 8).

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13 metaphors: Emma Dunham Kelley's M egda and Frances E.W. Harper's Iola Leroy, Or Shadows Uplifted. For, as Antonio Gramsci writes "the starting point of critical elaboration is the consciousness of what one really is, and is 'knowing thyself' as the product of the historical process to date which ha deposited in you an infinity of traces without leaving an inventory" (324). Mapping Metaphors Though we have entered into the twenty-first century, the importance of the nineteenth century in terms of United States racial formation cannot be underestimated. It was during this period that cultural and phenotypi c difference became codified as racial difference and these differences came to represent variations in morality intelligence and social progress Indeed, Racialism did not emerge in full flower until the mid-nineteenth century; indeed as many carefully note early European representations of Native Americans had much more to do with cultural rather than so-call racial difference .... Although European representations of Africans had virtually always drawn attention to the darknes s of African skin, which increasingly carried a ho t of negative connotations in European thought till early ob ervers depicted African darkne s a something of a marvel, even accepting the fact that the African them elves found their a-called blackness beautiful. In European speculation that the hotter sun, or red colored oils were the cause for difference in skin color, is a search for commonality-even if that commonality is the ethnocentric assumption that "we all tart out white.' Black" and "red at this early juncture de ignated a superficial, metaphoric difference between groups of human beings. (Ne! on 6) Clearly this focu on commonality on the part of the colonialists shifted to a focu on inherent, biological difference, enabling Europeans to claim a po ition of superiority and manifest destiny and rendering the position of their racial Others one of inferiority and ub ervience.

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14 Through "scientific" research and legal precedents such as Dred Scott v. Sandford (1856)-which declared black people to be articles of property and, therefore, not United States citizens-and Pl e ssy v. Ferguson (1896)-which required separate but equal accommodations for black and white travelers-superficial, metaphoric difference developed into racial difference, with all of the structural inequalities that difference entailed. And, as Abdul JanMohamed has argued "The perception of racial difference i s, in the first place influenced by economic motives' (80). Additionally, according to David Roediger in a discussion of the development of working-class whiteness, the first sixty-five years of the nineteenth century were the formative period of working class 'whiteness,' at least in the North, though obviou ly earlier habits of mind and patterns of colonialist oppression of Native Americans form an important part of the prehistory of working class whiteness (14). Similarly Richard Dyer alludes to research that suggests "a sen e of being white, of belonging to a white race only widely developed in the USA in the nineteenth century as part of the process of establishing a US identity (19). Further development of racial difference in the nineteenth century was allowed through scientific inquiry. Numerous nineteenth -ce ntury researcher s deployed under tandings of evolutionary biology to societies and propo se d that physical differences correspond to both racial and moral difference s; arguing that certain races are more advanced than others they assumed that socio-political differences are, in fact, racial and essential and for them colonialism became a valid response to racial difference. Moreover these eugenicists claimed that Caucasians "have been assigned ... in all ages, the largest brains and the most powerful intellect ; th e irs is the mission of extending and perfecting civilization" (Nott and Gliddon 67). Because of such white

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15 superiority, the numerou s eugenicist of the nineteenth century argued that racial "amal ga m a tion can only be detrimental to the white race although it could have the effect of raising the "lower" races: the info ion of even a minute proportion of th e blood of one race into another, produ ces a mo s t d ec id e d modification of moral and phy s ical character' (68). More s pecifically Nott and Glidden claim that 'It i s o rare, in thi country, to see th e offspring of a Neg ro man and a white woman, that I have nev e r per onally e ncount e red an exampl e; but s uch c hildren are r e ported to partake more of the type of the Negro than when the mode of crossing i s reversed (4 01) Clearly s uch a claim was nece ary in order to protect the anctity of white womanhood and overlook th e tran sg r e ion of white m e n who forced sex ual relation with black women. Although Nott a nd Glidd e n argued that the int ellect of c hildr e n u u a ll y follow the moth e r they n ee d ed to rever e this claim with r egard to white women and bl ack m e n Becau e the race of c hildr e n legally followed the co ndition of th e mother Nott's claim g uard e d again t th e lik e lihood that free mulatto c hildr e n would re ult from relations between a black man a nd a w hit e woman. Here, political n ecess ity c reat e d sc i e ntific" knowledge. Such nin etee nth -ce ntur y sc i e ntific knowledge, accord in g to Nancy Leys Stepan wa highly d e p e nd e nt upon metaphor a nd a n a lo gy The u e of s u c h trop es in nin e teenth cent ur y cie nti fic inquir y influenced a nd maintained a power str u c tur e that dictated th e pla ce of women a nd p eo pl e of co lor b e n ea th that of white m e n In thi way ra ces a nd gender were con tructed in pecific way and difference we r e maintained as n a tu ral. Becau e of the n at urali za tion of rac i a l diff e r e n ce, nin e teenth -centur y a uthor s were fo r ce d t o confro nt the format i o n of' blacknes a nd "whit e n ess" a racial catego ri es w h e th er in a n effor t to defend or to r efu t e the emer gi n g t e r eotypes. A Henry Loui Gate Jr. h as

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16 argued "Text created author; and black author it was hoped would create, or re-create, the image of the race in European discour e" (11). Yet African-American authors were not concerned solely with the question of blackne s; they also gave voice to questions of whiteness as well. Roediger writes, "The white problem-the question of why and how whites reach the conclusion that their whitenes i meaningful-is an intellectual and even an artistic problem for Black writers" (6). Thu s, nineteenth-century te xt -and, for the purposes of this tudy nineteenth-century texts by African-American authors-offer an appropriate starting point for discussions of both the nature and the ontology of blackne and whiteness, discussion s which interrogat e not only what blackne sand whitene are but also what experiences are entailed for individuals in being black or white. Such under tandings of blackness and whitene informed notion of mixed race identities and ontology Mixed Metaphor Elaine K. Ginsberg has written, In its interrogation of the es entiali m that is the foundation of identity politics passing has the potential to create a space for creative self determination and agency: the opportunity to con truct new identities to experiment with multiple subject positions, and to cross social and economic boundaries that exclude or oppre s" (16). In other words pas s ing ha the potential to transgress boundarie s and thereby create s paces for new affiliations that problematize what is con tructed to be the dominant group's inherent right to exerci e oppressive power and domination. I would argue, however, that the interracial figure, whether passing or not, mo t powerfully represents this transgressive potential due to his or her embodiment of those metaphor s of difference that are constructed as oppositional-white and black blood. It i s thi figure,

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17 which mixes the metaphor of whiteness and blackness which embodies the potential for decon tructing traditional notion of race This potential i more nearly realized in twentieth century repre entation and articulations of mixed race that attempt to move beyond the binarie of race. Rather than insisting on the nineteenth century tropes of conflict and tragedy within mixed race many later repre entation explore the potential for the reconciliation of blackne and whitene Races have been con tructed in particular way in the United State since the nineteenth century way that have been the foundation for contemporary notions of racial identity. American ociety is mjred still in nineteenth-century ideologie that con truct whitene a the ivory tower and blackne a the kettle black-metaphor I will investigate in the next chapter-and the e metaphor are difficult to mix in the ocial imagination Furthermore with whiteness long ymbolizing power and domination a mixed race individual' claim of whiteness in addition to blacknes can be con trued a s tantamount to a de ire for power a de ire to dominate a de ire to fully inhabit the property of whitene and a desire to pas quietly into the po ition of a wielder of power. Of cour e whitene i more than a sign of power and domination when viewed on a more individual level. The workings of affect a in a disposition or s trong feeling mu t be considered a mixed race indi victual' s incere de ire to claim an affiliation with her parent s-one black one white-likely has little to do with an attempt to claim the privileges of whitene This de ire furthermore may be mo t clearly facilitated through h e r ability to claim her parent trace within her-blackne and whitene Iola Leroy' choice' of blackne which will be explored in the next chapter can be een a

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necessitated by the affiliation and kinship she felt for her black mother. On the other hand, one is left to wonder how she could so quickly disregard her po itive feelings for her white father. In thi regard, Iola' s black identification seems to have required her to 18 ub ume affect to political necessity. Had Iola cho en whiteness, in addition to or in lieu of blackness she would have been seen as passing. Thu regardless of the workings of affect, a mixed race individual who claims whiteness would very likely face accusations that she is attempting simply to "usurp" white privileges, to become complicit in the oppression of those with whom she shou ld be united. What is necessary then in order to avoid such accusation may be a new definition for w hit eness, one that eschews its cultural connotations of power and domination Annalee Newitz uggests that white identity must undergo a "progressive tran sfo rmation, one that allows it s dissociation from ideologies of white power (151) and Robyn Wiegman writes of a "counterwhiteness whose primary characteristic i s its disaffiliation from white supremacist practices" (119). Alternatively, what I suggest is not a new definition or a new term for whiteness but a new metaphor for mixed race identity. Although mixed race identity ha s also been traditionally equated with conflict, the conflict is not nece ssar ily lived but may be more accurately viewed as a conflict of language a conflict of metaphor What i s now needed is a metaphor that explicitly rejects the longstandin g association of whiteness with domination and blackness with degradation, a metaphor which explode s the negative connotations of both the ivory tower and the kettle black a metaphor which is clearly and confidently, mixed.

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19 Playing With the Map Of course in this postmodern age when multiplicity and heterogeneity within the self are touted the claim that one can become a homogeneous centered being is problematic A poststructuralist critique would claim that wholenes is impossible, that the center is lacking that there cannot be, in fact, an authentic self. Yet it is such thinking that sometimes leads to the idea that coalition is equally impossible that identity is so unique and individualized that it precludes solidarity and community. A poststructuralist critique of wholeness and coherence would suggest that such qualities are impossible to attain and, perhaps, even undesirable. After all, as George Levine has noted, "The concept of the 'self,' fully naturalized into a coherent stable and normative essence is precisely what is invoked to dismiss deviations from the norm as symptoms of illness or criminality" (8). For poststructuralists the notion of structure implies organization but also implie s play implies a movement that is both produced and limited by a point of pre ence, a fixed origin a center. The notion of a center an idea that relies on fixity, unity and full presence i problematic for poststructuralists who would argue that such characteristics are mythical. There is no fixity There is no unity. There is no full pre s ence. Yet "some concept of the 'self' need s to be recognized and reconstructed one that does not succumb to the political psychological and epistemological failures that have plagued the self from the time of it s invention in the Wes t (Levine 3). How then

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20 can one peak of wholenes and an authentic self,5 which imply that coherence, unity, and being are possible? Derrida writes that Play is the di s ruption of presence. The presence of an element i s always a signifying and substitutive reference in sc ribed in a system of differ e nc es and the movement of a chain. Play is always play of absence and pre e nc e, but if it i to be thought radically, play mu t be conceived of before the alternative of pre se nce and absence. Being mu t be conceived as pre ence or absence on the basis of the possibility of play and not the other way around. (292) Thus, according to Derrida play does not negate the possibility of presence and absence; rather it would seem that play i a precondition of being in an ontological se n se. Becau se it would be difficult to rid our elve of the notion of center which exists a an organizing principle, rather than a part of structure more useful is a consideration of the way the center moves, of the play inherent in a ny system or being. Mixed race identit y, then, can work within thi s po si bility becau se it acknowledge that fixity i s mis ing ; in tead, there is an absence, a lack of s tructure which allows play ( infinite s ub stit ution s, upplementary interpretations and meanings). Any notion of mixed race identity that does not allow play that see ks fixity (throug h limiting notion s of the one-drop rule and hypode cent, for example), remove s the condition for being. Play may usefully be imagined as a foregrounding and receding of identity components in varying contexts; play is multiplicity and difference enacted ba ed on socia l situations. Rather than di carding or ignoring those parts of identity not compatib le with certain contexts, the individual at play highli ghts various components over others, while s till allowing all components to speak to and implicate that individual self definition and public presentation. Perhap s it will be necessary then, to seek play before 5 Debra Walker King acknowledges that "At its best, 'authenticity' ... is an understanding of elf upported by intro pective awareness, honest self-eva lu ation, per onal integrity, and self-avowed worth" (x).

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wholeness, to acknow l edge the ways in which mixed race identity "plays" with the tructure of racial categorization rather than seeking a fixed and unchanging sense of 21 elf. Conversely, perhap play is the essence of wholeness, rather than authenticity or stability. In fact, wholeness might be more usefully imagined not as coherence and stability but as variety and difference, as the allowance of infinite substitutions as an acceptance of the various parts that comprise the whole, much like the construction of various states, provinces and countries seeks to order and comprise the globe. Wholeness in this sense becomes akin to what Judy Elsley terms "cohesive fragmentation" (164). Although Eisley finds multiplicity and wholeness antithetical, she states "Fragmentation and diversity become not a limitation but a trademark, a trength" (169). By allowing new patterns to emerge new po ibilities for being re ponding, and relating to urface fragmentation and diversity become positive condition that deconstruct the hegemony of rigid coherence and sameness. Yet it is also true that, through a redefinition of wholenes that allows play, one can acknowledge a sense of self that revels in multiplicity and still remains coherent in the sense of an individual "I" : "Once perceived or imagined the self implies doubleness multiplicity. For what know the awareness of the self if not the self? : division as premise and price of consciousness" (Howe 249) This somewhat romantic notion of sel f-consciousnes as double still acknow l edges the fact that the self i multiplicitous while at the same time often consciou of itself as singular Thus my notion of "play within identity works in terms of Derrida s notion of play within structures which occurs when the elements within that structure are decon tructed or "shaken up by other structural elements that point to its flawed nature. We may link this notion to identities by realizing that all individuals function within a

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22 sen e of elf-a persona presented to the world with the semblance of stability. Like any other "structure," identities conta in their own conflicts and contradictions, allowing hift, room to move-in other word play ." In terms of identity, then play is the possibility of negotiation and individualization-it is the paradox that allow one of mixed race to be not black, not white, and yet both. Mapping the Path Ahead In search of metaphors that allow or disallow play my study traverses historical and contemporary metaphors of mixed race identity in novels dealing with mixed race women. These n ovels all re pond to a set of problems linked to hi torical crystallizations of blackness and whitene that would seem to preclude the possibility of racial harmony within mixed race identitie Becau e of the historical treatment of mixed race which included oppos iti on and hierarchy between the race within one's identity most nineteenth centur y portrayal of mixed race limited their characters' options to passing or accepting the one-drop rule. Each option, however relied on negations of ancestry and po ss ibly self-identity as well as negations of the vision of a potentially more-inclusive definition of community and family Such visions, reflecting per onal and national utopias, were necessarily discarded until social discourse became amenable to these di cussions. Even in the midst of widening discourse however these texts contain a l atent s truggle over que tion s of hi tory family and racial identity. They struggle to articulate utopian visions while they are confined within the historical moments and literary formulas in which they were written They truggle to negotiate postmodern questions of identity e lf, wholeness, and harmony-both individual and communal-while bound by literary and social conventions that re ist the utopian v i ion s

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23 the e text long to articulate. Thu the e see mingly diverse texts-which do not fit into one lit erary period or genre-are united by their shared que tioning of identity and wholeness. Additionally, the text s also re s pond to questions about the his torical and pot e nti a l role of black and white men as father In man y of the novel black father are both e levated and mad e abject, re ulting in a ten ion that eems to acknowledge th e hi s toric a l denial of black fatherhood and the longing for it affirmation and enactment. The text s within m y s tud y w hich are all fir t no ve l containin g mi xe d r ace women, har e s imil a r concerns a nd negotiat e s imilar challenges. Additionally, th ey eac h attempt to envision utopian socia l political familial and individual s pa ces where the pla y" of id e ntity-whic h I define a the pos ibility of nego tiation and individuali za tion of id e ntiti e m ay b e m a ni fe t ed utopi a n v i ion of harmony m ay b e realize d and n ew m e t a phor s m ay be articulated Chapter 2 in ve tigate the crys t a lli za tion of racial id eo lo g ie s and racial m e t aphor through a n interrogation of cu ltu ra l con tru c ti o n of blackn e a nd w hit e n e s b y r eadi n g t wo nin e teenth -centur y e ntim e nt a l n ove l s by African American women : Emma Dunham Kelley Megda a nd Frances E.W. H arpe r Iola Leroy, Or Shadows Uplifed. Nineteenth ce ntur y rac i a l metaphor I argue, crys t a lli zed oppos ition a l a nd hi e r arc hical notion s of race eve n w h e n th ese n o ti o n s exhibit e d confu ion over the negati ve ver u positive polarit y of bl ack n ess and whitenes Im ag inin g of mixed race durin g th e nin e teenth centur y then, worked from within the e dichotomized co n truction s of race a nd a l o were u sed to both uph o ld and cond e mn con s truction s of racial difference. In c h ap ter 3, I hift to twentieth ce ntur y repre e nt atio n of mixed race, which were haped by earlier cry tallization of race a ex hibited in nin e teenth centu ry

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24 metaphors. This chapter focuses on Jean Toomer, likely the most renowned mix e d race writer of the early twentieth century, and his work in Can e and the poem "The Blue Meridian ," which i e pecially interesting due to its use of a patial metaphor that attempts to bridge the oppositional construction of binarie Interestingly Cane exhibits distinct anxietie s regarding mixed race while "The Blue Meridian offer a metaphor that recognizes the mixed race body as a site where differ e nce s unite rather than a s pace where they collide in confl ict and inevitably de s truction. Within the poem, the mixed race body becomes a pace of productive existence a more utopian view than that offered by Cane. Chapter 4 l ooks at the recently republi s hed Or eo by Fran Ross Ori g inally publi s hed in 1974 Ross's novel i a rewritin g of the mythical s tory of Theseu s and it cast the mixed race heroine as the metaphorical traveler and border crosser, the individual on the que t for elf. Additionally, the title character manipulate s the bord e r s of gender in intere tin g ways. In fact, Oreo moves beyond limited notions of th e feminine in h e r ability to trav e l cross bord e r s and i g nor e boundaries. She unlik e traditional notion of th e fe minin e, i completely ac tiv e and nev e r pa s iv e; s h e i s mobil e rather th a n s tati c multiple rather than s in g ular. Rath e r than existing on the bord erla nd s, in so m e indeterminate limbo Oreo constantly e mbodi es mov e m e nt and change and, lik e a mytholo g ical h ero, active l y participates in a quest for her origins and, by extension, a qu es t for herself. Metaphors of traveler tran s lator m e diator a nd border crosser offer mor e pos itiv e visions of mi xe d race that n eve rtheless, s u gges t th e impo ss ibility of reaching th e ut o pi a so u g ht.

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25 In chapter 5, I inve tigate metaphors of rruxed racial identity in Danzy Senna novel Caucasia. Senna' novel allows a continuation of the discussion begun with Oreo of travel metaphors of mixed race identity. However, Caucasia, unlike Oreo, does not celebrate mixed race identity a movement; rather in its imilar quest for origin it earches for a ite of belonging (a prominent trope in literature of mixed race) and for the recapture of an a urned paradi e lost. Thi search for an imagined original utopia i additionally, a earch for wholene Because this wholene s remain unrealized, Caucasia in some way eems to reinscribe the tragedy of mixed race; yet it question thi type by offering a tentative space of belonging among others who also embody traditional dichotomie Finally in chapter 6 I turn to the recently publi hed debut novel of Jenoyne Adam Resurrecting Mingus and addre the que tion of the romance genre as a frame for discourses of mixed race identity. As illu trated by my analysis in chapter two of Megda and Iola Leroy, the entimental and romantic genre have long facilitated di cus ions of rruscegenation, and Resurrecting Mingus continue thi generic tradition Additionally I demon trate the centrality of a particular spatial metaphor that erve a a locus for question of rruxed race identity in the text. Thi metaphor, furthermore, continue a tradition in which women's identitie are defined in terms of the dome tic sphere and familial relation hip Chapter 7 concludes my discussion by exploring the ignificance of recent patial metaphors of mixed race identity in twentieth century American literature. Using the Jungian notion of the cry tallization of archetype a a metaphor, the conclu ion di cus es the way in which notion of social race and ocial gender are cry tallized into

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26 oppositional difference. These crystallizations are challenged by what I call meridi a n metaphor s of mixed race identity that seek non-oppo si tional non-hierarchic a l visions of difference; s uch meridian metaphors may offer a map of mixed race identity and difference that move s beyond traditional dimen s ion s while s till acknowledging the map s construction and the limits of cartography.

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CHAPTER 2 THE IVORY TOWER AND THE KETTLE BLACK: NINETEENTH CENTURY METAPHORS OF RACE Race Cry tallized Since my maternal grandmother and grandfather had fourteen children and rnce mo t of them had numerou children of their own my family is quite large. To the public eye mine is a white family. Sprinkled among the white faces in family nap hots though, are a number of brown one of various shade -face like mine on the bodies of people like me: mixed raced.' Of cour e, most of u may not think of ourselve s a mixed raced; in fact, many of us might not ee ourselves in term of race at all. For me, growing up welcomed and secure in thi extended family, I didn t often consider my racial background; in fact, I don t remember knowing much about race at all Not knowing my black father or hi family meant that I had only one family-this white one-and here wa where I felt a ure en e of belonging Naturally I noticed color, but I'd been rai ed to believe that my color wa imply another-not the ole-marker of my uniquene To the extent that I con idered it my racial mixture wa merely the cause of my brownne and it held no other relevant effect Simply put I wa ju tone of the red poppie amid t the pink-just a differently colored flower. Then on the cu p of my teenage year I heard through the grapevine of cou in that one aunt "felt orry for the mixed kids in the family. My throat tightened my equilibrium slightly tilted my face infused with a reddi h tinge. Sor ry? Why? If I we r e so special, then w h y wou ld anyone feel sorry for someone lik e me? A best a I can i olate 27

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28 it, this was the moment when I sensed the negative connotations of "special. This wa s the moment when I recognized race, when an understanding of race and racial difference cry tallized in my imagination. With such recognition came the weight of stereotypical assumptions regardin g whitene and blackness assumptions based on a hi s tory of duali s m s that ha s constructed race in part through oppo s itional and hierarchical metaphor s. Although difference s pe c ific a lly racial differenc e, for centuries h a d been part of th e cultural imagination of we s tern civilization, particular notions regarding race became crystallized in the nin e teenth century-that i s, cultural and phenotypic diffe rence became codified a racial difference through l egislation and throu g h s ignificant sc ientific attention to the presumed biolo gy of race; the se racial difference s came to repre se nt variations in morality int e lli ge nce and social progre s throu g h theori es of soc ial Darwini s m and eugenics. In tum these crystallizations of racial differe n ce, informed as th ey were through cience a nd the law impacted soc iety in both th e public and dome tic s ph eres, allowing assumptions about race to b eco m e selffulfillin g proph es i es throu g h th e choices affo rd e d tho se of var 1 ou races. Nineteenth ce ntury notion s of whit e n ess and blackness-which were also gend e r e d in th eir constructions may b e s uccinctly artic ulat e d throu g h th e met a phor of th e ivory tow e r and th e k e ttl e blac k and th e under s tandin g of race e mploy e d throu g h th ese metaphor further di c tated co n s tru c tion of mixed race. Ind eed th ese c r ys t a lli za tion s of bl ack a nd white races as oppositional and hi erarc hical influ e n ce d nin e teenth centur y a nd laterdi co ur ses of mix e d race, r es ultin g in prophesies of th e doom e d fate of a ny indi v idu a l of mixe d race who r e fu sed to adhere to th e di cta t es of

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29 hypode cent, and tale of tragic mulattos abound in nineteenth century sentimental novel Conversely, racial mixture was also used in the nineteenth century-again, often within the frame of the sentimental genre-to highlight the plight of blacks and the horror of racism. Thu con tructions of mixed race were formed by notion of black/white racial difference a they concurrently informed understanding of blackness and whiteness; di cour e of racial mixture were u ed by both upporter and denouncers of racial hierarchie to re pectively confirm and condemn the assumed trait of racial difference. Therefore an exploration of nineteenth century constructions of whitene and blackness illuminates an understanding of the formation of mixed race difference. Whiteness the ivory tower, ha historically been a urned in the cultural imagination to be monolithic impenetrable phallocentric and pure. Racial purity wa m the nineteenth century, and is for racial purists in the twenty first, a crucial element of whitene The 1896 case of Pl essy v. Ferguson demon trated clearly the anxiety over "commingling ," whether patially or sexually that re ted at the heart of notion of white purity The case demon trated that being white meant being free of mi cegenation, both literally and metaphorically: The object of the [fourteenth] amendment wa undoubtedly to enforce the ab olute equality of the two races before the law but, in the nature of things it could not have been intended to aboli h distinctions based upon color, or to enforce ocial a distinguished from political, equality, or a commingling of the two races upon term un ati factory to either. (1140) Thi ca e, in addition toe tabli hing the purity of whitene s, defined whitene a a property: the reputation of belonging to the dominant race in this instance the white race, 1 property,' in the same en e that a right of action or of inheritance i property'

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30 (1142) .1 Thus in declaring that whiteness was a property the Supreme Court constructed whiteness as a status of privilege and wealth a va lu able asset that afforded one power and even the ability to dominate. It was this property secured through the purity of whiteness which was threatened by racial commingling. As Richard Dyer attests whiteness in addition to becoming a "property, became conflated with "Americanness." Although Werner Sollors argues that the s ymbolic construction of American kinship has helped to weld Americans of diverse origi n s into one people even if the code at times requires the exaggeration of differences" (Be yond 15), such American kinship is reserved most exclusively for those per s ons constructed as white. Thus during the nineteenth-century inclusion within the privileged category of whiteness was vigorously soug ht by working-class ethnic immigrants such as those of Irish Italian and Polish descent. A l though such group s lacked the privilege in economic term s that would have distanced them from more obviously "colored group s such as Asians Africans and Native Americans inclusion within the category of whiteness allowed them alternate wages ," to u e David Roediger term. Thes e wages established their privilege and worth or va lu e in racial rather than economic terms. In addition to the parallel with "American ," whiteness also has been associated with independence industry and success "It i s not spirituality or soul that is held to di s tinguish whites but what we might call 'spirit': get up and go, a s piration awarenes s of the highest reaches of intellectual comprehension and aesthetic refinement (Dyer 23). 1 Ju tice H arla n dissentin g from th e m a j o rity opinion arg u e d "The whit e rac e deem s itself to b e th e domin a nt race in thi country And so it i s, in pres tige, in achievem ents, in education in wealth and in power ( 114 3). Alth o u g h h e acknowl e dged th e domina nce o f th e whit e race, h e s imult a n e ou s l y arg u e d th a t th e w hit e race's d o min a nce w as a c o n s tru c tion a produ c t of it s powe r a nd privilege, a nd not a n inh e r e nt prop e rt y.

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Whiteness is an indispensable characteristic of the frontiersman through whose efforts, we are led to believe the United States was founded. White identity moreover is founded on compelling paradoxes : a vividly corporeal cosmology that most values transcendence of the body ; a notion of being at once a sort of race and the human race an individual and a universal subject; a commitment to heterosexuality that for whiteness to be affirmed, entails men fighting against sexual desires and women having none; a stre s on the display of spirit while maintaining a po ition of invi s ibility; in short, a need always to be everything and nothing, literally overwhelmingly present and yet apparently absent both alive and dead. (Dyer 39) 31 Whitene ss, even in the twenty-first century, maintain s associations with the ivory tower: deemed worthy of admiration praise and attention yet simultaneously too large to see, too obviously and eternally present to require notice Blackness on the other hand, in many ways still is equated with the kettle black inferior dirty more feminine than ma sc uline and a catch-all for all that i s not white. Because of s lavery's degra dation s, black men were excluded from the soc ially constructed ma sc uline ideal. After s lav ery and becau se of widespread di se nfranchi se ment, black men still were denied access to the patriarchal power offered throu g h s ucces s in the public capitalist realm. In apparent contra s t with thi s emasculation of black men i s the connection made between blackn e and exuality a connection that ha s se r ve d to separate further blacknes s from whitenes The cerebral and s piritual as ociations of whitenes often have called for a concomitant d e nial of sex ual ur ges in both m e n and wome n ; blackn e s, however, i not only expect e d to ex pr e se xuality it i al o conflated with sex uality. Sander Gilman ha s in s i g htfully outlined th e association of blackn e with overt sex uality in the ninete e nth-century im ag in a tion a nd of cour e, uch r e pr ese ntation i s till vi ible today. Gilman further arg u es that black sex ualit y becam e eq uated with black women, s pecifically in the nin e t ee nth ce ntur y; the co nstru c tion of the cult of tru e womanhood furthermore allowed

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white women to embody those characteristics of piety, purity, submissiveness and domesticity and also refused to allow black women to embody such characteristics without questioning the structural inequalities that prevented many black women from demonstrating these traits. As Hazel Carby has noted The sexual ideology of the period thus confirmed the differing material circumstances of these two groups of women and resolved the contradiction between the two reproductive pos itions [producer of heir s or producer of property, in the sense of chattel] by balancing opposing definitions of womanhood and motherhood each dependent on the other for its existence. (2 5) 32 Clearly, whiteness and blackne ss typically occupy the pos iti ve and negative pole s of the racial dichotomy respectively, although each can also be associated with the opposite characteristics. Because of its purene ss and impenetrability, whiteness ha s been imagined at times as cold, lifele ss, ornamental un s ustaining and even repre entative of death. Blackness conversely, ha s been thought to offer life vitality, vigor, virility, warmth, and sustenance. Because of the dichotomou s thought of Western societ ie s, whitene and blackne ss hav e been neces ary in constructing each other, and clearly they represent a quintes ential oppo ition according to American society, with blacks sti ll being a vilified group in a culture that glorifies whiteness and finds meaning through dichotomies. In illustrating that the construction of whiteness in America has been dependent upon an opposing construction of blackne ss, Toni Morrison has written, "the image of a reined-in bound s uppre sse d and repressed darkne ss became objectified in American literature as an Africanist presence (39). This Africanist presence in tum, was invoked by white writers and became "crucial to their se nse of Americanness" (6). White writers, then could u se blackne ss as a metaphor against which to construct Americans as w hit e. Primitivized minoritie within cultural construction have repre sented a group

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33 against which white could define themselves The oppo itional nature of such con tructions between race i vital to understanding of mixed race as a site of conflict and turmoil, for if race in larger society are imagined to be diametrically opposed then they likewise must be imagined within the individual. Given the comparative nature of oppositional as umption regarding racial characteri tic race neces arily have been imultaneou ly con tructed along a hierarchy of value, prowes and potential. Popularized around the turn of the century through the application of evolutionary theory to human society eugenicist the01ies asserted that weak, primitivized races would die away while the fitte t would urvive. Of cour e, the e eugenicist theories were developed on a pseudocientific ba i who e hypothe e alway defined white a the fitte t. Con truction of whitene have allowed it to dominate while concurrently keeping its connection to power invisible, unmarked and unnamed. Leaving this connection unexamined allow many whites to imagine that white supremacy refers only to violent segregation preventing many from self-reflexively analyzing their access to power and privilege. Becau e the power and domination that are available to whitene hi torically have remained invi ible, they have, therefore, been difficult to confront and combat. Neverthele African-Americans and other racial minorities have long made effort to challenge the dominating power of whitene and to redefine blackness ( and color ) in positive term Likewi e numerou mixed raced individual have made imilar efforts, and though ome have felt the eduction of white identification for the power and privilege it can provide many have articulated a black identification. Attractive for alternative rea ons black identification ha been a po itive choice for many

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individual who may have struggled with the dichotomously constructed blackness and whiteness they contain. Climbing the Ivory Tower 34 Emma Dunham Kelley's 1891 novel M egda offers a discu s ion of whitene and blackne ss that reflect s the complexity of nineteenth century cry tallization of race. Lik e other sentimental novel of the time Kelley's novel articulates political and religious me s ages through tale of romance, family, and the feminized domes tic s phere, allowing thi s feminized realm to peak on public issues constructed as masculine and to bring domestic concerns into the public world. Megda tells the story of a group of sc hoolgirl s who embark upon womanhood with incon i ste nt loyaltie s to their dutie s as Chri tians and their pro s pects as women. Meg, the title character, i s a feisty heroin e beloved b y all yet one who e pride and independence must be tamed by the male Christian mini ter-Reverend Stanley before she make s a des irable wife-one who, thou g h s he may have a mind of her own, realizes that thi s mind ought to be in agreement with her God's (and her husband's) will. Although Claudia Tate has written that M egda i s among a number of "'white or 'raceless works" (23) and although white is typically a sumed to be unraced whiteness in Megda is raced s trikingly. Whitene ss i s valorized throughout the text as it characters climb the ivory tower and some critics have suggested that such valorization i s in acquiescence to a white audience.2 Contrary to much critical thought however Megda doe s not present palatable white characters to pre se nt a imple s tory of Chri s tian moral s 2 Additionally, Tate has c l aimed ," By making racia l difference unimportant thi novel already pre s ume s as gratified the political objective of racial equality depicted in traditional black work "(24) For thi s rea s on Tate argues that the nonracialized feminist paradigm about gende r inequity may seem more appropriate for a critical reading of M egda a nd asks : "Does this mean that we should read Me g da a we read Littl e Wom e n, ince we cannot read Megda lik e I ola Lero y ?" (23)

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35 and domes tic bli ss; instead its use of sentiment and religion are vehicles for the novel's discussion of race and gender. Since race and gender are used collaboratively to mark individual s in s pecific ways, we cannot claim that Megda i s an unraced work about gend e r. In fact, the text re sis t s si mplified readin gs of race given th e fact that it appears to be about white people but i s written within a cultural context of blackness. It i s tru e that Kell y does not make race as expli c it an object of s tudy as mo s t other nineteenth-c entury African-American writers did This fact of th e text's hidden racial commentary makes it s inve stigation even more worthwhile, for thi s latent discourse revea l s important clues re garding cultural constructions of blacknes s and whiteness within the nineteenth centur y. Kelley's tex t exhibits t e n s ion s within its formulations of whiteness, blackness and gend e r that comment upon social ass umption s about race, color, class, and gender roles. This t e n s ion s urroundin g race a nd gender within th e no ve l is notabl e throu g h th e s hiftin g use of color throu g hout. Whiteness sy mboli zes purity goodness transcend e nc e, a nd other pos itive c h aracter i s tics, ye t it i s a l so used to hi g hli ght fear, pride coldness s ickness weakness, a nd even death Ethel, unquestion a bl y th e most pure character in th e no ve l a nd therefore, the woman mos t desire d b y the male protagoni s t i s first d e pi c t e d as h av in g a "fair, sweet face (12) a nd her whiteness i s in creas in g ly emphasize d throughout th e text. May i s described as "whit e as a snowdrop" with hair that shone lik e gold ( 108 ) D e ll th e beauty of th e town, ha s skin th a t i s "dazzlin g white, without one tinge of pink in it" (36). Thus, throu g h o ut th e novel white n ess becomes indicativ e of purity, goodness, a nd beauty Of course, whiteness w ithin M e gda also function s as a s i g nifier of sa l va ti o n In h e r a tt empt t o con vert Meg to Christianity E th e l in s i s t s th a t "For all the se

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36 things [she must eschew] He will give you a robe of whiteness and a crown of beauty that fadeth not away" ( 145). It i s even more s ignificant then, that Meg wears a black robe during her b aptis m which i s performed not in s ide the c hurch but in the river and that the deep black mad e her face look like marble (322) Although Meg may be d e picted here as having attained the ultim ate whitenes s of purity it is also po ss ible that her whitenes s is meant to represent coldn ess and even the death of se ntiment and sincerity. Since s he may be in s incere in her acc e ptance of Chri s tianity she lack s the purity that white connotes. Thi s in s inc e rity in keepin g with the character's pride and ind e pendence may additionally make her le ss of a woman than Ethel, whose r e li g iou s sentim e nt i s tru e, whose independence i s t e mpered throu g h obedience and who therefore i fir t to be engaged to the mini s ter. The imil e comparing Meg to marbl e, additionally, recall s the sce ne when M eg plays Lady Macbeth, a sce ne that equates whiteness with prid e, sinfulness, and coldness. Meg's bapti s m th e n i s tainted by th ese connotations, s u gges tin g that h e r bapti s m may not b e he art-fe lt acquiescence to the will of God and that it like her role as L a dy M c b e th i s m e r e l y a p erfo rm a nce. For th e theater performance of L a d y M ac b e th M eg wore her favorite pur e white cas hm ere. A large bun c h of ex qui s it e white roses was in her b e lt. She look e d pale but oh so g irli s hly sweet and pure (15 2) Additionally wh e n Meg i s describ e d as b e in g th e co lor of marble," Lauri e comments th e whiter th e bett e r (157). And thou g h M eg would n ever be beautiful in that costum e s he l ooked lik e a queen (158). D es pit e th e overwhelming prai se h e receiv es for her p erfo rmance and for her costume, which e mpha s i zes whitenes s, Meg ca nnot feel co mpl ete ly proud because Rever e nd Stanley th e

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37 m a n s h e admires, does not approve of the theater. Thus, although the text depicts Meg as willful and independent it s imultaneously demon s trate s in her the di ssa ti sfac tion that r es ult s from non-conformity to male desire Additionally the novel makes clear that pride i s a s in one which Meg i s continually guilty of di s playing The text s ug ges t s, then that prid e i s a d e bilitatin g factor in women's mo s t tru e calling-winning a hu sband-and that pride in whitene s itself may be associated with s in making whiter not always bett e r In fact the whiteness Ethel assumes during her illne ss confirms that whiteness y mboliz es in a ddition to purity a nd beaut y weakness and death Furthermore w hen Meg's conv e r sio n becomes inevitable descriptions of Dell one of the g irl s Meg admired for her con vic tion s a nd ind ependent s pirit equate Dell s whiteness with coldne ss and link thi s fac t sy mbolically to her l ack of conversion: D e ll s lov e l y face ... was white cold a nd perfectly composed. She had never felt th e l eas t d esi r e to become a Christian (2 16 ) D ell's beauty in thi s description b ecomes the s h e ll s urroundin g a void; h e re s he b ecomes lik e a sta tu e and h e r inn e r convic tion s which Meg had praised as "true blu e ," b eco m e sy nonymou s with nothin gness si nce those convi c tion s do not lead her to Christ a nd thereby to Christ s representative in marriage: a hu band D e ll add ition ally, und ers t an d s that it is h e r white n ess that makes h e r so beautiful yet her w hit e n ess is m arked l y different from Ethel's: "Th ere is a grea t di ffere nc e b e t wee n th e whiteness of m y skin a nd th a t of Ethel's," r e pli e d D e ll w ho full y reali ze d how beautiful s h e was but didn t co n s ider it n ecessary to b e foolish because s h e was beautiful ; th e r efo r e, s h e accepted th e fact as a fact a nd n o thin g more. "Mine i s a health y white a nd h ers a s ickl y white. (22 1 ) A lth o u g h both Dell a nd Eth e l are depicted as beautiful D e ll s beauty i s merel y ex t e rnal with n o n e of th e inner beauty occasioned b y the presence of Christ in h e r soul. E th e l on

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the other hand is beautiful both inside and out because she is the epitome of goodne ss and purity; she is an angel too good for earth the woman who initially wins Reverend Stanley .3 Yet Dell s beauty is also equated here with a certain vibrancy provided by health and, possibly by her ability to enjoy life s pleasures-even, perhaps by her 38 independence Ethel in contra s t, grows weaker a s she grows whiter and whitene ss come s to signify a lack of health, vitality and life. She, who would devote her life to Christ and to her husband dies before her marriage. Ethel, a victim of consumption, i s consumed by whiteness, "her face as white as the pillow on which it rested, the pillow of her deathbed (337). Ethel dies in her room, which is decorated entirely in white, and is buried in her wedding dress, making the association of whiteness and death quite clear as well displaying the text s tension regarding women s roles and the prospect for women s life within the confines of patriarchy Thus, M egda is conflicted in its view of women, and its connotations of whitenes s are likewise intricate and paradoxical. Darknes s, too is equally complex in it s construction s in the novel. The pure-hearted but economically disadvantaged Ruth i s exceptionally dark. In fact she is the only woman within the text who is explicitly described as "dark-faced. Maude though not brown-skinned is dark-featured; her hair and her eyes are described in terms of their raven blackness And Maude, the text s insi s t s through its plot and character development is not a character worthy of our admiration or respect. Maude in fact is e xplicitly compared to both Ethel and Meg in term s of both her 3 At Eth e l s bapti s m in fa c t Meg describ es Eth e l in a ngelic t e rm s : All th e g irl s h a d w o rn whit e but some how or oth e r it seem e d as if th e r e w a some thin g a bout Eth e l th a t th e othe r did not h ave. The s l e nd e r fragile form seem e d a lmo s t s piritu alized H e r s kin w a a s whit e a s th e driven now ; her eyes lar ge, blu e and s hinin g. But lov elie r th a n a nythin g Meg h a d e v e r seen w as th e express ion of th e d e licat e face. I cannot p a int it ; onl y it was jus t s u c h an express i o n as Meg had alwa y s im ag in e d th e a ngel s of Heav e n mu s t w e ar. (22 4 )

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39 physical characteristics and her spiritual condition: "She formed a strong contrast to Ethel and Meg, with her dark, richly-colored face; large black eyes and raven hair. It made Ethel's delicate lovelines look almost spiritual, and Meg's white face look whiter till and her light-brown hair almost golden" (171). Maude's marriage is loveles and re ults in her death although her dark-eyed daughter i redeemed by being adopted by Reverend Stanley and Meg, who marry after Ethel's death and Meg's acquie cence to God. At Maude's death, all color i gone from her face, making it "white enough now" (388). Of course, the a sociation of whitene ss here are twofold and reflective of the often contradictory associations of racial dualities : Maude is white enough because she h a been purified by repentance and incere acceptance of Chri t yet he i al o white enough because she is nearly dead. Meg, interestingly, i s depicte d as somewhat dark-reflecting her distance from Ethel's religious and feminine purity until she i compared with the darker Maude; Meg i lightskinned, but her hair and eye are brown, rather than the blonde and blue of Ethel who i unques tionably the pure t and most true woman in her small circle of friends. Upon the readers first introduction to her Meg i described as having a pair of lovely dark eyes" and "two small, white hands ," which, the text continually suggests, are her be t feature (9). In fact, Meg s brother comment on her hand: Pretty i no name for it ... It i s a regular little beauty" (33). This odd comment i notable both for it s peculiar cont e nt and for the fact that it i made by Meg' brother while he it upon hi lap giving the scene a sugge tion of sexual impropriety through incest-hi torically a common theme in di cu ion of mixed race-that may imply Meg's deviance a a woman because s he i s independent but that also a ociate her most redeeming quality

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40 w ith the part of her taken by man in marria ge Meg's liminal s tat e bet wee n independence a nd de s irability as a wife accompanies her limin a l po s ition in terms of race as well. Meg often wears gray, mingling white a nd black and thi s b eco m es a sy mb o l of her in-betweenness Thi s in betweenn ess may be c on s idered a characteristic of Meg's racial herita ge-like Iola Leroy s he ma y be racially mixed-as well as of her character. In her introduction, Molly Hite describes Meg as "ethicall y mi xed" (xxix), s u gges tin g tha t Meg's conversion to Chri s ti a nit y i s not e ntir e l y si ncere th a t her morals are not entirely pure and that s h e is not e ntir e ly a woman Meg is, after all conflicted in h e r d es ir e to accept Chri stia nity She remarks th a t if Maude Leonard is a specime n of a Christian, a ll I can say i deliver me from the mi sfo rtune of bein g one (11). Me g, additionally co ntinue s to as ert that s he will hav e n o part of a church that accep t s h y po c rit es s u c h as Maude. Yet Meg's turmoil over e nterin g th e church does not result merely from the h y po crisy s he sees within it ; s h e i s a l so confli c t e d because s he cannot r eso l ve her hubris: Prid e was Meg's b ese ttin g si n ; it often kept h e r from co nvertin g nobl e thoughts into nobl e actions" (102) a nd thi s hubri s i s explicitly given as the reason for her initial rejection b y R evere nd Sta nl ey. Thus, Meg's embodiment of "ethi ca l [ an d gend er] mixture" is illu strated throu g h th e u se of color w ithin th e t ext. Her d elicat e, white s l e nd e r dimpl e d hand (13), th e hand th a t would p erform n o bl e act ion s, i s inhibited b y her prid e, so ofte n revealed in her d ark eyes,' which in tum inhibit s h e r m a rri age prospects. Moreover, Meg i often d epic t e d with a hint of co lor taintin g her fair white face: "There was a s li g ht tinge of pink in her u s u a lly pale cheek" when s h e fee l s scorn that Ethel h as c ho se n to crit i c i ze h e r favorite activ iti es of d a n ci n g and th eater (37). Thus Meg's often d arkening c h eeks offer

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41 a contra t to Ethel's and Dell' Ethel remain free of the tain of color through her moral purity and goodness her epitome of womanhood. Dell, on the other hand remain uncolored because she i the epitome of beauty and because she is, as Meg ha de cribed her "true blue," unwilling to compromise what she be l ieves in and, thus, unwilling to join the church before he feels a sincere conversion. Thu although Dell is independent, he i allowed praise within the text because he i redeemed by other e ential characteristics of womanhood : phy ical beauty and incerity. Rather than imply pandering to the tastes of a white audience, Kelley's text then, illu trates complex notion regarding gender as it truggles with question of agency within womanhood. Additionally it exhibit ten ion between blacknes and whitene that exi ted within the nineteenth century cultural imagination and which continue to impact ubseguent notion of race. Megda's in-betweenne sand the text's racial pre umption, if not racial ambiguity, assume no choice i available or neces ary in terms of her racial identification, yet the text exhibit a di tinct tension surrounding color and it meaning It demon trate that whitene and blackne s represent a number of complex and often contradictory idea problematizing trict association of blackne with the negative and whitene with the positive. Although characters within Me g da appear to climb the ivory tower, the text's metaphor of whiteness and blacknes in ist that uch a location is not without its limitation Climbing into the Kettle Black Although metaphor of whitene s include negative connotations that problematize it construction, blackne of cour e, has occupied the most limited and vilified po ition on the black/white pole. Artist and writer Adrian Piper ha written, "What join me to

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42 other blacks ... and other blacks to one another, is not a set of shared physical characteristics, for there is none that all blacks share. Rather it is the s hared experience of being visually or cognitively identified as black by a white racist society, and the punitive and damaging effects of that identification (267). Yet Piper acknowledges that she is not easily identified a black ; her light (even' white") complexion function s to problematize her claim to a black identity in the eyes of many she meets. In fact, Piper admits that she faces not only accusations of a desire to pass for white but al o accusations that she literally passes for black. Piper's contemporary experience parallel s many nineteenth century fictive representations of racial mixture such as Frances E.W. Harper' Iola L e roy, or Shadows Uplifted, published in 1892 which relate s the common tale of a mixed raced woman raised as white until her white father die s and she is forced into slavery. Such tales were used by supporters of racial equity to illustrate the tragedy of racial oppression, which seemed all the more tragic s ince, as these lily white protagonists show, racism could easily affect anyone with one drop of black blood. Of course, uch tales al o functioned to preserve ideologies of white supremacy s ince their interracial heroines often faced the tragic mulatto's fate if they attempted to pass and claim the privileges reserved for white women. Nevertheless, accusations that individuals such as Piper and characters such as Harper's protagonist could pass for white but choose to pas for black offer telling instances for the study of constructions of blackness and whiteness as well as what i gained and lost when one i s expected to choo e one race above the other. Discuss ions of race within Iola L eroy and other texts that rely on metaphor s of blood maintain associations between race and biology; in these instances blackness is

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seen a a powerful stain and an inescapable force that no ge nerational distance will diminish. Black "blood" i often depicted in terms of its strength and vigor, of it 43 powerful presence and it ability to blot out any whitenes even when its pre ence i proportionally smaller. The black character Uncle Ben is de cribed "a if the blood of some strong race were stirring with sudden vigor through his veins" (30 ), and Iola her elf claim -once she is made aware of it-that the be t blood in my veins is African blood and I am not ashamed of it (208). Indeed Iola's 'Africa n blood may be under toad a her be s t blood, given the fact that her ability to recognize its influence despite its mini sc ule presence sugge t its powerful presence and vitality. Ba es for racial identities do not rely solely on es entialist metaphor of blood however ; they also invoke questions of affiliation kin s hip and de ire.4 Iola assertion that h e wi h e to b e with her own people tells of h e r affiliation with black American a nd uch affiliation can be predicated upon political alliance or kinship upon the de ire to align oneself with those one loves. As Iola states, all the re s t of her family have aligned the m e lv e with the "colored race" (235); b eca u e of thi fact, Iola can see no other po ibility for her own id e ntification if she wishes to remain emotionally connected to tho se s h e love s Further evidence of racial identification ba ed upon kinship and d e ir e i s offered by both Iola's broth er, Harry and by her future (b lack) hu s band Dr. Latim er. Harry acknowledges that it wa love for [his] mother" that allowed him to overcome 'all repugnance" he felt at the id ea of aligning himself with blacknes (202). And Dr. 4 D e ire" here i s broadly construed as affec tion l ove, affinity, intere s t in affiliation, e t c. Additionally, I am con s id e rin g affi li atio n in the e in tance to mean so methin g other th an political alliance. In the e in t a nce c hara c t e r s identify as black becau e loved o nes do, but these loved o nes id e nti fy as black because their phy ical c hara c t e ri s tic s di c tat e that they are black. Since th e repeal of a nti mi cegenation law in 1967 and th e boom in mixed raced familie the pull of kin hip repre ent a trong force in the racial identification of m a ny mixed raced individual s who assert that they will not deny any portion of their herita ge.

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44 Latimer again invoking mother-love, attests, "My mother ... belong s to that race. Where else should I be? (263). Thus it is the desire to remain affiliated with loved one that cau e both men to a sume no identification outside of blackness. Intere s tingly it is the desire to remain close to mothers from whom each character (Iola, Harry and Dr. Latimer) had been separated by the forces of slavery, which necessitates this identification Such identification reflects the nineteenth-century dictate that the children's racial tatus followed that of the mother and, thus reflects the strong matrilineal heritage of black communities. Slavery forced the physical separation of mothers and children, and the text's alignment of these characters with their mothers demon s trates it s acknowledgement of this history. Although law necessitated black identification for individuals such as Iola Harry and Robert based on the one-drop rule and the mother's racial classification, many consciously choose to align their identities with their matrilineal heritage. As Robert claims at the beginning of the novel "A boy ain't nothin without his mother (17); the novel then asserts that no per on is anythjng without affiliation (and even reunion) with his or her ancestors. To deny kinship and refuse to follow desir e becomes tantamount to choosing absence-absence of farruly, community, and the se lf. Because of the oppressions of slavery and the violence it forced on black women at the hands of white men mixed raced characters of this era are typically depicted as the off prin g of black mother s and white fathers. Necessarily, given both law s and soc ial propriety fathers typically were absent from the live s of their rruxed raced children. Even in Iola's case, her father is present only when she i s "white ;" hi s death precipitat es her mixed raced sta tu s, th e r e by continuing th e custom of white paternal absence from th e

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45 lives of mixed raced progeny. Although slavery often forced the absence of the black mother specifically and of fathers generally, by the mid to late twentieth century, representations of mixed race hare a common problem of absent fathers, both illustrating the gendered division of labor and challenging the reification of matrilineal heritage and the one-drop rule. Text containing absent black father -Caucasia and R esu rr ecting Mingus, for example-confront the history and potential of black paternity que tioning long-standing construction of black masculinity and demonstrating challenges to black identity based on an unknown ancestry. Texts in which the absent father is white-uch as Oreo-offer alternative vi ions of black female/white male relation s hip s than tho e ba ed on the violent oppre ion of lavery. In each ca e becau e the female protagoni t long for their absent father the texts examine the impact of origins on racial identitie and articulate utopian longing s for a harmony of blackness and whiteness. Such harmony i not often imagined in nineteenth century texts that were forced through an oppre ive political climate to deal with oppo itional con tructions of race. E entialist notion of race proliferated not s imply due to pseudo-scientific theorie but al o due to the nece ity of political alignments in a fight for bas ic human right Although notion of racial performance currently challenge biological bases of race, many nineteenth century text offered essentiali t argument of race by highlighting racial performance of whitene through pa sing. Harry acknowledgement that he had een colored men with fair complexion anxiou to lo e their identity with the colored race and pose as white men ( 126 ) uggests the essentiali m that i inherent in these notions of racial performance Those who choose to pa a white are described a losing their identities a for aking their fundamental elve in order to pose" as something they

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46 are not. Similar i s Robert's claim that "it wo uld be treason not only to the race, but to humanity to have you ignoring your kindred and masquerading a a white man" (203). Racial passing become a crime not just again t blackne but again t nature itself it become an attempt to deny what biology ha s dictated and also to deny the political and soc ial hi tory of oppre ion and a white identity become imply a po e, a masquerade, a performance. Although numerou nineteenth century de cription of race a a performance imply pas s ing for white, there are seve ral instance s where passing for black is s uggested as a performance. In defen se of hi mother to Mi s Delan ey, Harry a ert "She i not one who can't be white and won't be black (278). Here, both white and black identitie are synonymou with role adopted and costume assumed. Rac e becomes a cho en identity rat her than an e ential property Harry doe s not claim that hi s mother i s so meone who "can' t pretend to be white;" rather he explicitly tate that s he is someone who could be white but choose to be black instead. In thi in tanc e, then, the text challenge esse ntiali t notion of ra ce, hi g hli g hting the confu ing and co ntradictory ways in which race ha s been con tructed both in soc iet y and by the text it elf. Harry, too di c u sses accusation that he ha performed blackness when h e hould admit to being white, admitting that h e once had to in s i s t that [he] was colored in order to be p ermit ted to remain" in the colored car in which he wa s riding (245). Harry's claim to blackne ss, then is int erroga t e d becau e hi phenotyp e doe not accord with hi profes ed racial id e ntity. H e is a urn ed to be "performing" blackness rather than "pos essi n g" it demon tratin g that it i pos ibl e, in fact to pa as black. The t ext, lik e many others

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dealing with mixed race, truggles with notions of racial ontology and racial performance. Within Iola L e ro y, racial performance highlight the possibility of social gain it affords (through pas ing for white) as well as the challenge it offers to traditionally 47 e sentialist notion of racial identity (through pas ing for black ) Additionally racial performance is undertaken within the novel for political purposes By performing certain stereotypical characteristic of blackness, characters are able to achieve a political agenda, as they do by performing "market speech" in the first chapter. As Eric Lott has argued, Black performance itself ... was preci ely performative,' a cultural invention not some preciou es ence in tailed in black bodie ; and for better or worse it was often a product of self-commodification, a way of getting along in a constricted world (39). The text then illustrates the political value of racial performance, which allows individuals an opportunity to say one thing when they mean another, to act as one thing above another. This ability to perform race hinges upon a fundamental mobility that not all individuals possess. Such mobility is facilitated, in large part through phenotype which offer another site of interrogation of racial representations in Iola L eroy. Because he has Beautiful long hair [that] comes way down her back and pretty blue eyes, Iola i s een as jis ez white ez anybody's in dis place (38). Likewise, because her eyes are blue and her complexion as pale a white Dr. Gresham's, he ees no reason for Iola to per si t in her claim that she is colored (232). In these instances Iola's race becomes equated with her appearance. It is also appearance this time Dr. Latimer's, that allows a challenge to e entialist notions of racial identity when one character insist that there are trick of

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48 th e blood which always betray" tho se who are black (229). Yet by b e in g r e pr ese nt ed ph e not y pic a lly race become s not s imply a m a tter of appearance but also one of character ," reflectin g common nineteenth century eugenicist notion s regardin g th e int erco nnection s betwe e n biolo gy and beha v ior. As Captain Sybil asserts to Robert what i s th e use of your say in g you re a colored man when you a re as white as I a m and as brave a man as th e re is among us" ( 43). By in sis tin g that Robert s hould not consider him self colored becau se he is brav e, blackn ess becomes e quated with cowardice and whiteness with courage. Simil a rly as in the de sc ription of Dr. Latimer, desirabl e c haract e r trait s are see mingly a u g ment e d in inv e rse proportion to th e amount of black blood in one's veins: "generation s of blood a dmixture h ad efface d a ll trac e of hi s ne g ro lin eage. His compl exio n was blond e his eye bri ght a nd piercing, hi s lip firm a nd well moulded ; hi s m a nn e r very affable ; hi s intellect active a nd well s tored with information" (239) Po s itive phy s ical and mental characteristics according to thi s d esc ripti o n result from racial int e rmi x tur e, throu g h th e infu s ion of "superior white blood into a black body a pervasive e ugenicist notion that sit uat es the text wi thin nineteenth century pseudo-scientific discourses of r ace and places it at odds with its aims of racial uplift. This goa l of racial uplift i s r e fl ec t e d throu g hout the text in representations of race as a political c hoi ce. The political n ecess it y of a li g nin g o n e e l f with blackn ess i s be s t illu s t rate d throu g h H arry, who fe lt "as if two paths h ad s udd e nly opened before him a nd h e wa s fo rced to c hoo se between th e m. On one s id e were stre n g th coura ge, enterp ri se, power of achievem e nt a nd m e m ories of a wonderful past. On the other s id e were weakne ss, i g n orance, poverty a nd th e proud world's sc orn (125). Of cour se, cla ss i s h ere coll a p se d into race even thou g h th e novel elsew here problemati zes ass umpti o n s

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49 which link poverty to blacknes and wealth to whitene Nevertheless, Harry' dilemma s uccinctly illustrate s a umption s about what whitenes s and blackness offer and about what they are. Again, according to the dominant cultural imagination whitene ss ha long been constructed a s the ivory tower-mainly as s ociated with positive characteristics monolithic impenetrable, pure, and trong Blackne becomes the kettle black-associated with th e negativ e, inferior dirty weak; it i s imagined as a container for all that is not white. Though the novel describe s the gains and lo sses that accompany pas s ing for white ver s u s passing for black, it also makes clear that not all the gains accompany a white identity A s Iola assert s, Harry 'ha greater advantages a a c olored man (218) since she ideali ticall y believe s, "To b e .. th e leader of a race to higher plane s of thought and action to teach men clearer views of life a nd duty, and to in pire their souls with loftier aim s, i a far greater privilege than it i s to open the gates of mate rial pro s perity and fill every home with s ensuous enjoyment" (2 19). Moreover, Harry acknowledges, "It wa more than a matter of choice where he hould s tand on the racial qu e tion He felt that he mu t tand where he could trike the mo t effective blow for black freedom and improvement ( 126 ). Thus, for some, race becomes a political choice.5 And within Iola Leroy, the mo t noble-though till problematized-choice is clearly that of blackness. Blackness is represent e d in terms of nobility mos t clearly through Tom Ander on who symbolize the black martyr willing to surrender hi life for others Tom Anderso n was a m a n of herculean s trength and remarkable courage" ( 40) who ingle-handedly ave his fellow soldier b y freeing their mired boat and pus hing it toward open water ; in 5 Of cour e, we must que tion whether there i much choi ce avai labl e in the negotiation of identity and to whom s uch c h oices are allowed.

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50 the process, he is rained upon by enemy bullets and mortally wounded. Through this act of heroism Tom becomes not only a martyr but a role model as well. He, who is depicted a a dark-black man becomes an object of prai se and a s ubject to emulate. Additionally, he remains perfect in glory, rather than wasting away in a death caused by s ickne ss and debilitation; he remains heroic and dies with strength and dignity. Tom's blackne ss, then, takes on the noble qualitie of his character-qualities of strength, courage, dignity, elflessness, and goodness -once again problematizing the metaphorical association of blackness and whiteness. Yet Tom's blackness as nobility is tempered by the suggestion that it is in death that blacks achieve greatness. Indeed, before hi death Tom's blacknes s ha been a physical defect. The text acknowledges, "on account of physical defects, in stea d of enlisting as a soldier, he was forced to remain a servant, although he felt as if every nerve in his right arm was tingling to strike a blow for freedom" ( 40) These defect may ve ry well be the signs of Tom's blackness ; after all, he i s not educated and light -skin ned like Robert and Harry, who are strongly encouraged to join the ranks of those soldiers truggling for freedom. Under the oppression of slavery, Tom's blackness was a hindrance to mobility and self-determination. The result of such oppressive force is a blackness that is deemed as defect, which remain an obstacle to be overcome in the quest for such mobility and self-determination. Tom's death, then instead of or in addition to representing a noble martyrdom may also represent the brutality inflicted on blackness a brutality necessitated by a climate that refuses to acknowledge Tom's full humanity and participation.

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51 Of cour e the text s truggle with the e conflicting notions of race, not s imply u gges ting that blackne i negative. As Iola atte t there is greater merit to be found in her association with blacknes than with whitene o long as material prosperity i s not the only gain considered. In fact, throughout Iola L eroy, blackness often take on di tinctly po itive characteri tic and whitene in contra t, acquire negative a ociation Becau e white men long denied their black children, whiteness to ome extent, become synonymous with a denial of family.6 In fact, such would have been the ca e had either Iola or Harry chosen to pas into whitene and surrender all effort to locate her or hi relative Becau e they both choo e blackness and becau e thi c hoice i nece itated by a de ire for family blacknes becomes equated with an embrace of the family of hi tory and of ance tor Additionally, the text al o makes explicit that 'white' religion is hypocritical. When Robert claim to not "take much stock in white folk religion ," Tom re pond I think wen some of dem preacher brings de Bible round an' tell s u bout mindin our mar ter and not steal in dere ting dat dey preach to plea e de white folks ... (2 1 ). White religion from the men's di cus ion i depicted a hypocritical and elferving. Black religion in contra t become a pure valid, authentic religion becau se it involves neither hypocri y nor oppre s ion of others. Thi view of black pirituality as the di cu ion of Jean Toomer in the next chapter will how i influenced by eugenici t thought which attempted to portray blacks a more connected to nature and the piritual and, hence more capable of self-expression. Robert's claim that the Bible is all right, but ome of the se church folks don't get the right hand of it" (22) clearly indicate a 6 Whitene s also involve a denial of family in the en e that any non-white relative are era ed from per onal and familial memory.

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52 rejection of organized religion a the means to under tand the divine Through thi s character, the text rejects the intervention of white religion and white religiou leader s into black pirituality and claims blacks' own ability to read and understand the word of God. Through the metaphor of religion-which may largely represent wisdom justice, and alvation-the e character claim the superiority of blackness and the inferiority of whiteness. They problematize white religion, and, in so doing, they condemn tho e characteristics of whiteness that are not wise just, or saved The text further problematize whiteness, in the sense of a white phenotype, by not allowing it to become a fulfilled privilege for Iola. She ees no nece ss ity for proclaiming [the fact that she is black] on the house-top. Yet [she is] resolved that nothing shall tempt [her] to deny it' (208). Ann duCille argues that "claiming rather than denying the invi ible racial mark becomes an act of empowerment and ... a declaration of independence ( 45).7 Yet Iola can only claim this independence because her blackness is unmarked, freeing her to choose how he will be identified Because of her refusal to hide her black racial ancestry, she encounters suspicion and rejection on the part of white supervisors and coworkers in the North who discover she is black. Thus Iola' light complexion and blue eyes liberate her to control her identification, yet they do not change the fact that he is black since he i unwilling to deny that this is what she i Neverthele although both Iola and Harry choose blackness over whiteness, there is an assumption that blackness has the potential to be repulsive to them Inherent in this assumption is the suggestion that blackness is indeed, the kettle black-that it is dirty, distasteful common and de pised The fact that both characters overcome 7 duCille's diction declare that Iola's only racial mark is in v i s ible, resultin g in the a sumption that her white phenotype cannot be racialized and contributing to the notion th a t whiteness i s unraced.

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53 whatever "natural' repulsion they may feel and step into blackness acts as a sign of the mobility and privilege allowed by phenotype. Had they not such freedom, they may not have surmounted their own internalized anxieties about blackness. Furthermore, although Iola claims that dark-skinned Lucille Delaney is her "ideal woman," readers can assume that their model for emulation is not Lucille but Iola herself. Though Iola may admire Lucille's qualities she escapes Lucille's confinement in a dictated phenotypical blackness. This blackness, though ostensibly offering an example of the race's potential, is also constructed problematically. Because Harry initially feels repulsed at the idea of associating closely with blacks his eventual realization that he loves Lucille appears to be a textual inconsistency that readers must overlook. In selecting a dark-skinned woman as his wife Harry exercise s the privilege that he has as a light-skinned man making a political choice to align himself with blackness. His marriage to Lucille can be seen as a gesture which solidifies his claims to blackness and which reinforces the desirability of black women as well as their right to participate in social conventions that will protect their morality rather than make them vulnerable to exual exploitation. Positively, this marriage may function a a demonstration that black men even tho e who look white do not always or necessarily desire white women thereby commenting upon the social myth which suggest s all black men lust after white women Yet the fact remains that between Harry and Lucille there exi ts none of the symbolized sexual energy of Dr. Latimer marriage proposal to Iola In fact Harry s proposal to Lucille is filled with comedy, misunderstanding and the explicit claim that there is a great deal of misplaced sentiment at wedding s" (277). The propo sal i s void of sexuality and sincere sentiment reinforcing the idea that Lucille cannot be a ideal as Iola.

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54 Iola, furthermore, although accepting blackness is placed outside the bounds of nineteenth century constructions of blackness. She is refined and educated, retain memories of a privileged childhood, and is courted by a white man. The novel's initial narrative however suggests the impossibility of a successful interracial marriage. The marriage of Eugene and Marie Iola's parents is one of inequality one that is both metaphorically and literally a relation between master and slave. Thus the text suggests the unlikelihood that blacknes s, in close association with whiteness, will be allowed true happiness. Because Iola marrie s Dr. Latimer, and because their marriage is a partnership between equals, both socially and racially, they are allowed such happiness. Of course, although Iola contains both blackness and whiteness within her, she finds no difficulty in ignoring her whiteness once s he is made aware of her blackne ss. The notion that blacknes s and whitene s in close association will prohibit happines s often results in the tra g ic mulatto character type for those individuals who wi h to claim their whiteness and/or deny their blackne ss. Iola i s allowed happines s and life because s he doe s not acknowledge a racial conflict within herself because she accepts the one-drop rule and becau e s he marri es a black" man Thi s access to blackn e through heterosexuality is a prominent trope in di cussions of mi xe d race, s ugge s ting that mixed women may be considered as women through their blackness-which of course, i s a notion distinctly at odds with nineteenth century dictat es that prohibit e d black women's classification as women at all. Thus, Iola avoids th e tra g ic mulatto's fate, which lit e rary narratives hi s tori ca lly re serve for those who reject hypode sce nt and in s i s t on maintainin g claim s to whiteness.

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55 Race in the nineteenth century imagination was a complex idea as its literary representations attest. This complexity is clear in Harry's discussion of his racial identity. Within one paragraph Harry asserts that his racial identity is essential, that is a matter of biology ("after I found that I was colored"); he asserts that it is base d on des ire and kin s hip (" I would be more apt to find my family if I joined a colored regiment and love for m y mother overcame all r e pu g n a n ce on my part"); and he asserts that it i s both a personal and a political choice ("a t first I felt a s hrinkin g from taking the s t e p and "Now th a t I have linked m y fortunes to the race I intend to do all I can for its elevation").8 Thi s t ex tual confusion as to the nature of race is really a reflection of complex notion s on racial id e ntity that were prevalent during the nineteenth century. Harper's text, overall, offers an equally complex di sc u ss ion of thi s identity a di sc u ssio n that hi g hli g ht s the intri ca t e a nd a t times contradi c tory assumptions on th e nature of blackne ss and whiteness as well as ass umption s th a t presume no one would willing c limb into the kettle bl ack. Continued Crystallization These nin etee nth centur y crysta lli za tion s of race continu e to influ e n ce ideolo gies of race a nd mi xe d race. P erpet u ated in th e cultural im aginatio n and tak e n up by lit e rary artists metaphors of bla ck n es a nd w hit eness r e main complex and often contradictory. Likewise, th e ways in which th ese metaphors influ e nce und e r s tandin gs of mi xed race is eq u a ll y complex. Although th e soc i a l s p ace may b e opening for notion s of rac i a l mixtur e tha t reject the hie rarc h y a nd opposition traditionally associa t e d with race s t e reot ypica l ass umption s regarding blackness a nd whiteness continu e. In fac t as th e di sc u ss ion of J ean Toomer in th e next c h apter illu s trat es, these nin e teenth century c r ys t a lli za tion s of See Harry's d iscu s sion with his moth e r on pa g e 202

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56 race ex t e nd e d into th e twenti e th centur y a nd beyond h a pin g n o ti o n s of racial difference a nd ra c i a l mi x tur e.

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CHAPTER 3 LINES OF CONT ACT AND COHERENCE: MERIDIANS IN THE WORK OF JEAN TOOMER Points of Departure Apparently, my former mother-in-law was disturbed when her white son brought me home to meet the family. She saw my brown skin as a sign of extreme, perhaps insurmountable, difference and remarked on whether she could accept a "mulatto" daughter-in-law If I had been Asian or Latina, she admitted I would have been easier to accept; presumably in those cases I would have had whiter skin. Because my brown skin was so readily visible, it took precedence over my upbringing and experience, both of which were mainly within white communities. Ironically, since I had attended private schools throughout my life and had lived with my white mother and grandmother I likely had less exposure to diversity than her son who had attended a racially diverse public high school. Nevertheless, my skin was a marker-perhaps the ultimate marker-of difference that catapulted me outside of my own history and into a history of her imagination as her use of the word mulatto demonstrated. The word linked as it is with this country s violently oppressive past, was carried into the present with all of its history in tow a history filled with oppositional and hierarchical notions of difference. Her use of this word, as well as her assumptions regarding my difference, illustrate both the power of language to isolate and divide as well as the ease with which we allow a body to repr es ent the whole individual. 57

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58 Of course, we are more than our bodie s say we are, just as we are more than a racial category can describe. Our bodies and our identities together play with socially established boundaries-sometimes they compete; sometimes they confuse; often they challenge lon g-standing ideas that we take as given as my former mother-in-law did regarding my identity We exist on borders of difference and sameness, of pa s t and present, of present and future. We may live on lines set up to divide black from white and male from female; instead of dividing, however, we may unite the two regions; we may be seen as the point where two halves unite into a who l e rather than where those halves are split. We may function as mediators as meridians as ones who, in the words of mixed raced Harlem Renaissance writer Jean Toomer, "can balance strong contrasts, who can combine opposing forms and forces in significant unity (Essentials, XLIV ) Adamantly refusing to conform to the black identity that was thrust upon him, Toomer sought to destabilize notions of race, a project that he attempts but which falters in Cane (1923) as it couples essentializations of blackness with its confrontations of racist hierarchies and histories. Such a tension within the text reflects Toomer's own struggles with articulating an identity that acknowledges its various components while attempting to maintain a proximity to the creativity and spirituality that popular eugenicist and social Darwinist theories associated with blackness, which he feared he lacked. Because he did not feel black but had been defined as non-white, he sought the combination of "opposing forms and forces into a significant unity through much of his life and work. Such a utopian project was Toomer's self-defined artistic task in his book Cane and in his poem The Blue Meridian," a task in keeping with the aims of many modernists prominent during the time Toomer wrote these works. The era between the

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59 1920s and 1940s roughly isolates the modernist period in literature and the arts and includes the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. During the modernist period, many people in the United States faced alienation and self-doubt as society began a large-scale shift away from communally oriented agrarian life toward technological and industrial advancements that would change the way individuals saw themselves their communities and the nation. Disillusioned and alienated, many intellectuals sought to make sense of a seemingly chaotic world through their art; at the same time, many looked to modern (as in contemporary) life as evidence of an evolutionary progression from what was viewed as the primitivism of the past to modern and future advancement. Concomitant with these complex views of modernity as both fragmenting and progressive were parallel ideas regarding the past as a place of wholeness and connection as well as a place of the archaic and static. Using increasingly widespread and popularized ideas regarding evolution, notions of social progress and stasis were applied to social groups through eugenics and social Darwinism. These ideologies relied on long-standing associations between dualities such as connections made between races and their presumed characteristics-for example those associations summarized in the metaphors of the ivory tower and the kettle black During the modernist period, certain groups could be deemed pre-modern-even though they existed alongside their modern counterparts-through their connection to certain primitive" ideas, lifestyles, occupations even geographical locations. For many North American modernists rural black folk were the contemporary representation of a primitive past; they were history exi s ting temporally alongside the present. Rural black folk then were represented as a primitive group that was dying under the march of modernization while whites and urban

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60 blacks were being carried by the march into a progressive future. Of course, given the complex ideas regarding the modern and pre-modern, rural blacks were thought to embody both the negative associations with the primitive-a sense of oldness, lack of progress, lack of civilized reason and advancement, etc.-as well as the primitive's positive associations-a sense of innocence, innate spirituality, capability of sensual expression, connection with the natural world, boundless creative energy. These positive characteristics, moreover, were all assumed to be dying in the fragmenting chaos of modernity. Thus, many modernist intellectuals sought access to these positive characteristics assumed inherent in "primitive" races in order that advancing individuals might enter the future with the sense of wholeness and self-expression allowed by a perceived past. In lamenting this potential loss of the black folk spirit in the face of modernization, Toomer and other modernist intellectuals also recognized that the future was full of potential. Toomer' s vision was a utopian one that relied on eugenicist notions of human development to suggest the possibility of racial evolution Through this vision Toomer attempted to decrystallize (some) accepted notions of race and to champion the possibility of a new understanding of race and racial categories in the United States; these efforts advocated a New American identity that would act as a fusion of diverse types and that would acknowledge the American history of racial mixture. In this notion of uniting the disparate, Toomer is an artist whose work aids analysis of many later twentieth century writers of mixed race, and his work is a direct precursor to current multiracial discourse that seeks to unify seemingly oppositional races within the bodies of mixed raced individuals. Such discourse claims that those of mixed race offer the prospect of

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61 moving beyond race and racial categories by blending diverse elements into a unified whole. Elimination of racial categories, this discourse claims, leaves open the possibility of uniting people within the "human" race or based on American nationality in the United States-the former being a utopian notion that, at times, ignores differences, perpetuates colorblindness, and fosters homogenization and the latter being a problematic notion that attempts to eliminate racial conflict by supplanting it with the equally divisive ideology of nationalism. Earlier in the twentieth century, many modernist intellectuals sought to re imagine a national identity and also looked to race in efforts to reconnect intellectually and artistically with a source of creativity and meaning in an alienating and chaotic time. For mixed raced Toomer such a goal was also personal as he desired connection to his black heritage and the positive "pre-modem" characteristics of rural black life. After a trip to Sparta Georgia, his first immersion into black southern culture,' Toomer produced the first fragments of Cane, and, with them, began his search for connection to an unknown and (he seems to have feared) unembodied black ancestry This "blood" connection would allow him creativity and self-expression without jeopardizing his existence as a modem intellectual striding into the progressive future As Tace Hedrick writes, Toomer like many other modernists-was steeped in an intellectual and cultural milieu which felt the express need to connect itself with some 'primitive' or premodem source of creative energies ... for many modernists at the time, a world set 'back' in time might provide a different and even protective, space from which to derive a sense of wholeness over against the seemingly fragmented and increasingly secularized modem world. (39) 1 Toomer was raised in the e lit e mix e d raced soc i e ty that existed in Washington DC, a t the tum of th e century

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62 Toomer's self-highlighted racial mixture connected him with the life and creativity of the black American past while ensuring against his own intellectual and artistic demise as that past died. Although Toomer s interest in this primitive past was in part personal he also sought a general renewal of the spiritual and sensual expression that was being ignored if not actively spumed by an industrializing society: They are passing. Let us grab and hold them while there is still time. Segregation and laws may retard this solution. But in the end segregation will either give way, or it will kill. Natural preservations do not come from unnatural laws .... A few generations from now the negro will still be dark and a portion of his psychology will spring from this fact but in all else he will be a conformist to the general outlines of American civilization, or of American chaos. (quoted in Hutchinson 234)2 Amidst the rural black folk of Sparta Toomer was able to glimpse a way of life he felt was vanishing and to record this life in Cane: "O Negro slaves dark purple ripened plums / Squeezed, and bursting in the pine-wood air/ Passing, before they stripped the old tree bare / One plum was saved for me, one seed becomes / An everlasting song" (14). The text insists that the rural folk life of blacks-expressed throughout Can e in images of dusk darkness purple pine, and canewas passing as it was for all America in the face of modernization. At the same time, the persona in "Song of the Son links himself with his black ancestors, providing through his body a link between past and future; using agrarian images that depict blacks as a full component of the natural landscape, the persona is depicted as a seed that should carry the essence and positive characteristics of blackness into the future. However, in "Harvest Song he cannot fully connect with his blackness; he works alongside the black workers in the field s, yet he cannot call to them, nor can he hear their calls to him. Additionally, his eyes 2 Toom e r to Waldo Frank box 3 fold e r 84 J ean Toom e r Pap e r s.

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63 are caked with dust and his "throat is dry [He] hunger[s]." When he finally cracks a grain "it has no taste to it" ( 71). Thus the poem s speaker can find no access to blackness to the essential spirit he believes it offers. He can merely hold the shell, the outer crust but cannot attain the life it should hold inside Moreover the poem's images s uggest that the persona himself is merely a husk, someone whose identity has been conceived as blackness but s omeone who nevertheless, cannot express blackness from within The alienation and loss of spirituality suggested by this poem then make it (hyper-) modernist in a sense ; the poem s speaker cannot access blackness and this blackness itself is passing under the grinding wheels of modernization. Blackness is the bloodied victim of the ever-advancing machine he describes in the poem Reapers "3 As a response to anxieties regarding the loss of the past and its imagined wholene s s Cane aims to gather the gems of the past and use them as treasures for the future while it simultaneously laments the potential loss of folk expression, which is a prominent theme in many of the poems throughout most notably Song of the Son and Georgia Dusk. The former poem s ing s of the importance of black heritage and folk culture The Negro slaves it argues, and their connection to what Toomer considered s piritually authentic were "pas s ing ." Yet before they passed away before they stripped the old tree bar e," they saved on e plum and one s eed becomes an everlasting song a s inging tree ," pre serv ed within the lan g u a ge of the poem. From that song of the son emerge softly the soul s of slavery what they were and what they are (14 ) Georgia Du s k ," s p e ak s of ance s tral m e mory tho s e memories of king and caravan High-priests, a n o s tri c h and a juju-man k ept a live in th e mid s t of s awmill s and buzz saws. As the 3 In R ea p e r s,' To o m e r writ es, Bl ac k h o r ses dri ve a mow e r thr o u g h th e w ee d s.I And th e r e, a fie ld rat s t art l ed s qu ea lin g bleeds./Hi s b elly c l ose t o gro und I see th e bla de/Bl o od s tain e d c ontinu e c utt i n g w ee d s

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blacks make "folk-songs from soul sounds," clearly implying a connection to their natural selves, they complete a spiritual union above the "sacred whisper of the pines." Additionally, the poem suggests that, through their spirituality, the singers are able to make the profane holy, to "give virgin lips to cornfield concubines" (15). 64 Cane is a montage of genres-combining poetry, vignettes, and a longer story that had been envisioned originally for the stage. Its three sections move the reader through the spaces in which blacks found themselves at the tum of the twentieth century in the United States. Part I is set in the rural South, where, according to the author, black and mixed raced individuals still can encounter what is both beautiful and violent about their history. Here they can connect with the folk culture of their forebears but here they also must contend with the racism those forebears suffered. Part II takes place in the urban North, where the characters are disconnected from their past and alienated from others by the pressures of modernity. Part III consists of "Kabnis the story of a mixed raced man who leaves the urban North to better understand and connect with his origins in the rural South Kabnis, unable to fully embrace the South which is depicted with both its nurturing folk culture and its brutal racism, illustrates the modem dilemma of entering the future without forsaking the past. This dilemma is addressed throughout Cane as Toomer addresses philosophical and ontological questions regarding the meanings of race within given spatial and temporal contexts-namely, within the text, Toomer aims to understand black life in the rural South and the urban North at a time when society was being carried by the tides of modernization. In addition, Toomer seeks to work through issues of racial mixture in an effort to carry what is valuable about black folk culture-deemed to be the and shade (Coll ec t e d Po ems 23)

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65 primitive link with the past-into the progressive white culture that threatened rural blackness with demise Cane both privileges racial mixture and exhibits significant anxieties surrounding it. Within Cane racial mixture, despite seeming for Toomer to be a natural occurrence when people were freed from inhibitions, often results in tragedy due to social prohibitions. Moreover, Cane demonstrates the potential of racial mixture itself to jeopardize the folk spirit of black Americans when racially mixed individuals abandon their connection to their black heritage. Modernist discourses such as Toomer's sought a union of various "types" of people under a nationalist umbrella that maintained many dominant racist assumptions. During the modernist period such work was eugenicist in nature and was being attempted by numerous intellectuals, artists, and officials both in the United States and in other countries-for example, in Mexico where the work of artists such as Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera and of officials such as Jose Vasconcelos, Minister of Education attempted to rescue the positive characteristics of the indigenous population who embodied the past before this population met its demise Toomer, similarly concerned with the past and the future paused in the present to encapsulate the moment in which one must determine how to bring what is valuable about yesterday into always approaching tomorrow. Cane is the capsule in which this moment is captured; it is the fulcrum between the past assumed to be vanishing, and the future assumed to be imminent. While it grapples with the anxieties of modernity the text also argues that the past must be carried into the future that the present always contains traces of the past. However while the text demonstrates that history is not linear, it still struggles with what it believes to b e a linearity betwe e n the pa s t present and future. Although it

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66 acknowledges that the past's treasures can be carried into the present moment and beyond it still envisions the present as a moment of balance and shift. Within thi s vision, Toomer draws upon images and metaphors of meridians-metaphors of in-betweenness, of dusk and dawn of black and white, of male and female-and uses mixed raced identities, including the metaphor of the New American, and mixed raced relationships to i so late these meridians-these points of contact, departure and change. He uses these meridian images to play with understandings of race and gender, with notions of difference and hierarchy, and with the possibilities of self-expression. Hi s meridian metaphors in turn, provide a point of departure from reified notions of race and difference for analysis of later writers concerned with mixed race. Mixed raced characters in general and mixed raced women in particular function as meridian figures within Cane, and their portrayals reveal modernist struggles to foster full self-expression, to find meaning in ambiguities and to locate point s of balance within oppositions In fact, within Cane "women are more metaphors than people. As metaphors they are ambiguous and multitextured They are representative of the Southern black lyrical world that is dying; they are the objects of male desire; they are the battleground on which white and black males contend for dominance and validity" ( Peckham 283). The text's treatment of the se women, then, is consistent with understandings of women as sites of contestation between races and among men. These women's bodies as in other texts of mixed race become the ground on which the fate of races is decided and the perpetuation or demise of races is assured. The illustration of women in Cane exhibits tensions over modem fears of alienation and fragmentation and highlights modem anxieties regarding the future

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67 Overall, Cane questions-notably through the alienation its male and female characters experience in attempting to relate-the utopian visions of the future that it proposes through racial mixture. However, Toomer's poem "The Blue Meridian," which was published in 1932 but over which he had labored for at least fifteen years, expands his utopian vision of the future as the site where individuals may overcome alienation and connect, both with each other and with their full selves, embodying meridians that unite disparate parts. Although less visionary in its utopian ideology than "The Blue Meridian, Cane is visionary in its unique form-which plays with the genres of poetry, drama, and fiction and also in its aim to locate a site for renewed self-expression at a time when Toomer, among others, found the world alienating and even dangerous to the understanding and articulation of identities. When Toomer published Cane in 1923, it was a brilliant success, and Toomer became known as a new voice for black Americans. Writers such as Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes who had or would become significant voices in the Harlem Renaissance, were notably influenced by the book and numerous other black and white authors greatly appreciated its merits. White author Sherwood Anderson called Toomer's early efforts the first work that seemed to him to be "really negro ."4 Anderson's statement is ironic given the fact that Toomer never claimed to be black himself It is true, however, that Toomer drew inspiration from the black community, having said that within the last two or three years ... my growing need for artistic expression has pulled me deeper and deeper into the Negro group. As my powers of receptivity increased I found myself loving it in a way that I could never love the other It ha s stimulated and fertilized everything of worth that I have done .5 4 Letter from Anderson to Toom e r d a ted D ece mb e r 22 1922 5 L e tt e r from Toom e r to The Lib erato r dated August 19, 1922.

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68 As Cane and many of Toomer's other works confront the realities of race-based hierarchies, they concurrently exhibit hierarchies based on essentialisms of blackness that were common during the modernist period. Toomer, like many others influenced by eugenicist and social Darwinist ideologies, believed blacks had more ability or tendency to express their emotions and release such expressions physically.6 Perhaps in part because of these essentialisms linking blacks with the body the intellectual, urban, mixed raced Toomer could never strictly identify himself solely with the black community Instead, Toomer's black identity was thrust upon him from the outside. Publishers and fellow authors identified him as black, and at times he allowed such identification; on other occasions, however, Toomer insisted that identifying him as black was an inadequate representation of his heritage, and he thoroughly resisted the notion that he might identify as black to the exclusion of his other ancestries. When Toomer did resist what he deemed the restricting identification of singular blackness, he was claimed to have repudiated his black heritage and denied his blackness. Scholars have speculated on several reasons why Toomer may have "denied" his blackness. It is possible that Toomer's grandfather, P.B.S. Pinchback lied about his heritage, claiming African-American ancestry in order to win political support for his office as governor of Louisiana during the Reconstruction period following the Civil War. Toomer himself could have felt that inclusion of his works in wider categories of literature may have been easier had he not been identified as a Negro. Similarly, Toomer may have felt that denial of his blackness may have allowed him to escape threat from 6 It mig ht also b e assumed from hi s s tatem e nt that Toomer prioritiz e d whiteness and blac knes s as if th e r e were no other races to be con s id e r ed. This, howev er, would be an esse nti a lization of Toomer s b e li efs, for h e clearly acknowledged th e many races that were joined within hi s own body.

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69 white supremacist groups, which were gaining strength at the time Toomer published his ground-breaking first book. Alternatively, Toomer may have wanted to write as a "human," to avoid restrictions implicit in a strictly defined racial identification. Jewish author Waldo Frank, Toomer's friend and mentor wrote in a letter to Toomer, "You take your race or your races naturally, as the white man takes his Frank, clearly, is acknowledging the fact that whiteness can be ignored in a way that blackness cannot since whiteness is taken to be the universal referent. For Toomer to "take his race naturally," then, implies that he did not limit his identification to that which was only black However, it was precisely Toomer's ability to identify with and communicate the experience of black Americans in Cane that encouraged others to label him as a black man Finally, Toomer may have reached a point where racial identification itself was undesirable to him. This final possibility is among the most likely, given Toomer s attitudes-about race in general and mixed race in particular-which he delineated in many of his letters, in his unpublished, semi-autobiographical novels, and his works such as Cane and "The Blue Meridian." Far from denying his blackness during the years surrounding Cane's publication, as most critics have mistakenly claimed, Toomer adopted a position that acknowledged none of his ancestral "races above the others. He wrote: As near as I can tell there are seven race bloods within this body of mine. French Dutch, Welsh Negro German Jewish and Indian .... One half of my family is definitely white the other definitely colored. For my own part I have lived equally amid the two groups. And, I alone, as far as I know have striven for a spiritual fusion analogous to the fact of racial intermingling .. Viewed from the world of race distinctions, I take the color of whatever group I am sojourning in. As I become known, I shall doubtless be classed as Negro. I shall neither fight nor resent it. There will

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be more truth than they know in what they say, for my writing takes much of its worth from that source.7 70 Despite Toomer's claim to accept classification as a Negro it is true that on several occasions he explicitly contends that he is "not a Negro ." He once announced, As for being a Negro, this of course, I am not-neither biologically nor socially .... In biological fact, I am, as are all Americans, a member of a new people that is forming in this country. If we call this people the Americans then biologically and racially I am an American ... As long as I have been conscious of the issues involved I have never identified myself with any single racial or social group. "8 Toomer seems not to have intended a denial of his blackness by such contentions; rather, he intended an affirmation of hi s composite parts. Thus Toomer struggled with claiming an identity that was both diverse and American during a time when being American meant being white. For Toomer being modern involved a confrontation with "old bodies and new possibilities .9 The se possibilities in turn suggested a unification of what formerly had been distinct: various races in one body di verse peoples in one nation In articulating this potential unity Toomer offered visions of a New America a vision of America that moved beyond the division s of race, gender, and nationalism to the utopian understanding of universal humanity and unification suggested by the meridian metaphor. 7 Letter from Toomer to Double D ealer ed itor John McClure d a t e d Jun e 30, 192 2. 8 From A Fi c tion and Som e Fa c ts, a privately published autobiography of 193 1 9 B y "old, I am referring t o those bodies that were not co n side r ed n ew, mod ern nam ely, th e bodies of minorities. Rath er, these bodies were mark ed as primitive, as bodies that b e lon ged t o histo r y and which

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71 Dividing Lines This meridian metaphor functions in Cane and "The Blue Meridian" in contrast to accepted ideas of divisive difference between races genders, bodies even eras-confronting the isolation and alienation that accompanied modernity. Can e articulates the problems and potentialities of modernism as well as po s sible responses to modernity and modernization and confronts the challenge of locating within modernizing society those bodies that had been coded as not modern as pre modem and even primitive-the bodies of rural black folk in the U .S. South. Faced with the challenge of resituating these primitive bodies, of redefining these old bodies as new or of suggesting the necessary site these old bodies occupied in a modem map of America Toomer articulated a New American identity-his most utopian meridian metaphor-that likely was generated by personal motivations for his was a body that did not fit compactly into the modem world. Instead his body s eeped across the boundarie s of the mold s he had been offered in which to situate him s elf. Having been characterized throughout his literary career as a black man Toomer nevertheless did not feel that he embodied an authentic blacknes He did un s uccessfully, attempt to grasp a black heritage that, through notions that primitivized blackness and were proliferated through modernist discourses he felt would bring him access to hi s own spirituality and creativity. In seeking to unify opposites within himself he sought to become a point of contact and metamorpho is a meridian, like America itself. Thus though he claimed to seek the eradication of nationalisms, he-like many other artists and intellectuals during the modernist era-considered America as the site where cultures met and merged, o s t e n ibly s hould not e xi s t a lon g ide th e mod e rn bodi e ( those th a t w e r e c onfl a t e d with p o tenti a l and pro g r ess) o f th e present.

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72 forming a new culture, a new America. Toomer clearly involved himself in the modernist project of restructuring various parts in order to form something new, in this case an understanding of American-ness that was decidedly multiracial. Toomer, however, essentially abandoned his struggle to promote the vision of a universal race after his introduction to Quakerism and his involvement with the Society of Friends beginning in 1940. His work during this period clearly shows an alignment with whiteness, and the images of his poems during this phase associate whiteness with higher spirituality and goodness and associate darkness with negativity and degradation. There is an insistence on both white and blue as positive, indicating that Toomer has shifted markedly from his earlier use in Cane of the colors dusk and purple to signify spirituality and a positive connection to the natural world. In fact, during this phase in Toomer's writing, he reverses his earlier reverence for nature and, instead, offers his first degrading image of it: "As the white bird leaves the dirty nest" (Collected Poems 94). Clearly the natural world has lost its positive connotations here; in The Chase ," Toomer envisions a white bird that must free itself from the grim of its material existence in order to "merge in the blue (94). Toomer offers the ascetic vision that the soul must unchain itself from the degradation of the body in order to reach transcendence. Additional organic images like those offered in "Our Growing Day ," seem to suggest that humans should be "plowed" and "planted" like the fertile earth. No longer is the mere connection to the natural world the assurance of spiritual health; rather, the human body becomes the "hard and encrusted" ground in which the soul is planted. Only by being plowed "deeply" will this ground enable the seed to "spring up and grow splendidly." Here, fertility and darkness are positioned as opposites and the positive growth is directed upwards and

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73 outwards-rather than downwards, as roots into the soil, which is a prominent image in Cane (97). Before this period in which Toomer sought to transcend the material world and identify himself based solely on spirituality, he struggled to define himself in a way that would connect him-socially white-with his ancestral blackness, which popular discourses of the time associated with creativity and spirituality .10 In so doing, he called for a re-identification of all Americans that would incorporate the diversity found in almost all Americans' ancestry. This "American" vision of Toomer's is truly modernist in that it functions as a response to the alienation and chaos prevalently felt during this era. Toomer's American vision and his work in Cane and "The Blue Meridian," like the responses of numerous other artists and intellectuals of the period, attempt to apprehend connections and order, to move beyond imposed boundaries, and to find meaning in the midst of the seemingly meaningless. Additionally, it, like other modernist works, was a distinct break with what had proceeded it, both in form and in its often positive representation of rural black life. There is evidence in Cane of Toomer's desire to locate a new site for expression of his notion of an "American" identity since the text explores the restrictions placed on individuals due to racism and sexism. Cane is in part a book about self-expression and the forces that work to limit such expression, a theme that was clearly important to Toomer, given hi s struggles to define himself in more inclusive terms than society normally allows. For Toomer, such self-expression involved uniting in meridian form the disparate components of his heritage ; as he wrote, "in life nothing is only physical ; there 1 0 Mor eover, Toome r's n a m e was self-cr eate d Originally named Nathan E ugen e Toomer after his absent father, h e event u ally took th e n a m e J e an

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74 is also the symbolical. White and Black. West and East. North and South Light and Darkness. In general, the great contrasts The pairs of opposites. And I together will all other I's, am the great reconciler (quoted in Jones 11) In both Toomer s life and hi s writings through his involvement, which ended in 1936 with the spiritualist and mystic G .I. Gurdjieff 11 this metaphor of meridian existence is prominent as he undertakes the modernist project of reconciling opposites into a new whole. Such reconciliation is clearly attempted in Cane as Toomer juxtaposes black and white North and South male and female-those pairs of opposites that both dominate and restrict lives. For example in "Seventh Street," Toomer provides a juxtaposition of white and black lives, a crude boned soft-skinned wedge of nigger life breathing its loafer air jazz song s and love thrusting unconscious rhythms black reddish blood into the white and whitewashed wood of Washington (41). Blackness, then, has the ability to "split" the "stale soggy wood of the white world and infuse it with black life black "rhythms. It is clear that Toomer-like many other modernists influenced by studies in anthropology evolution and social Darwinism found blacks to be more in touch with their emotions and physical selves; they had the potential to infuse such life into white urbanity, but they also faced the threat of being subdued by that white world that was the vanguard of modernization and urbanism The characters in Part II for instance, all suffer the inhibition of their physical and emotional selves due to their distance from the South and from its land The city, then becomes a threatening force with the power to limit selfexpression and foster alienation. 11 Toom e r s id e a s r e garding my stic is m c o s mi c consciou s n ess, a nd se lf-r e ali za tion w e r e fac ilitat e d thr o u g h hi s a s so c iation with Gurdjieff who founded a commun e of which Toome r was a member for s om e y e ar s

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75 In contrast, the rural South, though vanishing in the face of modernization remains in Toomer' s imagination a place where blacks are connected to the earth and therefore capable of knowing and expressing their inner se lves and desires. Although Toomer's positive representation of rural southern black life in many of Cane's poems was a marked departure from traditional representations of black Americans he did not completely reject s tereotypical representations. In truth his depictions of rural black s imply that they, along with women, are more natural physical and emotional. Whites then become depicted as more indu stria l and intellectual. Thus the juxtaposition of rural and urban North and South becomes sy nonymous with the juxtapo s ition of black and white, a juxtaposition also assumed to occur within mixed raced bodies such as Toomer's. Although black s had the potential to infuse life and spirituality into white society, the transplantation of rural blacks into urban centers threatened to remove them from the sustenance they drew from a close connection with nature and the earth. Similar anxieties s urrounded mixed raced bodie s; because Toomer feared that hi s own access to the fruits of "primitive" blackne ss had been impeded and because modernist thought held that s uch bl ackness faced certai n demise he so ught to gras p these b e n efi t s and carry them into th e future, blending blackne ss and whiteness into a modem hybrid symbolized by his own body. In Box Seat ," whose characters are removed from rural black southern life mixed raced Dan and Muriel are prevented from expressing their true feelings and are separated with an almost physical barrier by Mrs. Pribby the white proprietor of Muriel's boarding hou se, whose knock on the door becomes a "cool thick glass between them (63). Muriel, especia lly is confined b y socia l pressures; the hou se in which s he live s

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76 becoming a "sharp-edged, massed, metallic house. Bolted" about them (60). When they arrive at the theater, the people seem to Dan to be machines bolted into their seats because they have internalized the social demands that restrict their natural selves. Only one large black woman with a "soil soaked fragrance" and "strong roots [that] sink down and spread under the river and disappear in blood-lines that waver south" is still connected to her true self (65) She alone is not confined to her box seat, not locked into the mechanics of the city, but violates the spatial boundaries that are dictated. Seated next to her Dan lets his hands follow her south-bound roots, "his heart beats violently. He places his palms upon the earth to cool them .. He sees all the people in the house rush to the walls to listen to the rumble. A new-world Christ is coming up (65). Encountering what he considers to be authentic blackness Dan tries to capture some of its essence, to place his hands upon its soil to cool the fever and restlessness he experiences in the city's mechanical grasp. In his reverie for this authentic blackness Dan senses the coming of the messiah, a modernist response that links salvation through connection to the past to the earth, to an essential primitivism rarely encountered in the city. Dan realizes he like this woman does not fit within the boundaries and confines of the city, a place where emotion, even violence, is not experienced authentically but only through caricature, as the fighting dwarves on stage become a grotesque stand-in for physical and emotional expression. Muriel remains caught between social pressures-which dictate that she must accept a blood-spattered rose offered her by one of the dwarves-and her desire to express her true feelings of revulsion at the offer. And Dan, disgusted by Muriel's stasis, leaves the theater with the shout that Jesus was once a leper (69)-suggesting that through their isolation and conformity, individual s reject the means of their sa lvation

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Through Dan s response to "authentic blackness and his insistence that individuals disallow connection Toomer attempts to highlight and thereby erase, boundaries. 77 Toomer's aim to juxtapose dichotomies and eliminate boundaries points to meridians between seeming l y diverse locations and is aptly illustrated when Dan tells Muriel, "Life bends joy and pain, beauty and ugliness in such a way that no one may isolate them. No one should want to. Perfect joy, or perfect pain, with no contrasting element to define them, would mean a monotony of consciousness, would mean death (62). As joy and pain define each other, then, so do black and white, North and South Cane illustrates that ideas are defined in terms of their opposites that dualities constitute each other. Toomer s desire to reject fixed identifications and to embrace dualities, a desire seen in his own life and in his work, reflects utopian ideologies, and Toomer clearly saw himself as representative of a New American type. His utopian New American metaphor of racial mixture presented a contrast with traditional depictions that offered only tragedy or conformity to those of mixed race. This New American then, would allow a fusion of opposites would accelerate a consciousness that refused to impose a hierarchy within dichotomies and instead would represent a "new utopian individual who might usher in a social utopia. This utopia is most hopefully mapped out in The Blue Meridian ; in Can e, which ultimately is ambivalent about the possibility of achieving such a utopia, racial mixture is surrounded by anxiety as well as potential and the text often illustrates the idea that race mixing leads to tragedy However the tragedy suggested is not necessitated because of any inherent conflict between races but because of the forces of modernization that limit connections among people and because of societal pressures that restrict free expression of one s true self and nature.

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78 In the story "Bona and Paul," for instance, the title characters are confined by society into fixed racial groups that allow no expression of attraction between those groups. Paul, a biracial young man, and Bona, a Southern white young woman transplanted in the North, are drawn to each other by a mutual attraction Yet Paul understands that "people saw, not attractiveness in his dark skin, but difference. Their stares, giving him to himself filled something long empty within him, and were like green blades sprouting in his consciousness" (76). He recognizes that he is defined by others as a black man-and that he is considered overtly sexual as a result despite his mixed heritage This, at least, offers a sense of self, even if it is not of his own creation And like the promise of new grass in the springtime, this definition can offer hope for the future, provided he maintain the path chosen for him. Paul though, does not walk the straight and narrow path that would define him as a member of the black community without permission to transgress his boundaries. After Bona expresses her "love" for him he decides to risk a relationship with her. As he and Bona leave a restaurant together, Paul runs back to inform the doorman, "I came back to tell you, brother that white faces are petals of roses. That dark faces are petals of dusk. That I am going out and gather petals (80). However, when Paul attempts to rejoin Bona he discovers that she is gone. She has been overcome by her own socially induced sense of propriety Thus though these characters attempt to foster the outward expression of their inward selves, although they exist on the cusp of possibilities for breaking through barriers, they are thwarted by the dictates of society. Although they exist as meridian figures who might link north and south, black and white male and female they are expected to live on one s ide of the dividin g line Paul must be a northern black man and Bona a southern

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79 white woman, each isolated from the other and locked into the confines of social expectations. They cannot reach the full expression of themselves within the confines of the urban center where they live nor can they achieve the potential Toomer imagined for race mixture. Other characters in Cane are equally doomed to suffer because they dare transgress the boundaries that society dictates based upon race. There is Becky for example, the white woman who had two Negro so ns (7). Because of her obvious relationship with a black man, the town ostracizes her and her sons. Yet the townspeople recognize their responsibility for Becky and their need for her as the figure against which to define themselves and they provide her with a place to live on the narrow strip of land between the railroad and the road" (7). Becky is, thus a meridian character, both sy mbolically and actually. She is caught in between the white and black worlds, accepted in neither. Likewise she is situated between the pa s t (represented by the road) and the future (represented b y the railroad), and by being a liminal character she essentially maintains the borders between black and white, past and future. Even her sons are lock ed in between two traditional worlds: White or colored? No one knew least of all themselves (8). In the end, Becky is buried under the phallic chimney in her home when it collapses upon her as the train rolls by. Although the narrator and hi s companion imagine they hear a groan from beneath the rubble they do not investigate. They merely toss a bible upon the heap and rush to town where the citizens await the detail s of Becky's death. Through the townspeople s clandestine s upport of Becky and her sons, they hav e allowed racial bl e nding while managing it through marginalization ; publicly they ignore her, though they offer her furtive assistance. Although some scholars suggest

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80 that the effects of progress have killed Becky since her house collapses due to the passing train, it may be equally surmised that social dictates have killed her; having heard Becky's groan, the narrator and his companion cannot investigate or save her life because the townspeople refuse to acknowledge their involvement with and support of her. Similarly the characters in "Blood-Burning Moon" are depicted as doomed to suffer because of strictures imposed upon them. Louisa the black cook for a wealthy white family, is desired by both Tom Burwell, a black field laborer, and Bob Stone, the son of the family for whom she works The men are both compelled to possess her, though she really desires Tom. Bob for his part finds her lovely "in her way. Nigger way. What was that? Damned if he knew. Additionally, he wonders if there were "something about niggers that you couldn t know" (33). Perhaps what Bob Stone finds puzzling is the connection implied throughout Cane of rural blacks and the past. In implying that blackness is more primitive and more closely associated with emotions than with conscious thought, the text also implies that blackness is the unconscious of whiteness and is, therefore, unknowable. The first section of the book presents scenes illustrating the free expression enabled in blacks by their proximity to folk culture, with its suggestions of authenticity, spirituality, and nobility. When they are removed from this source of authenticity (through a migration North, for example) or when they are inhibited (through social or religious dictates), they loose both their ability to express themselves and their seemingly inherent vibrancy The latter is illustrated in Blood Buming Moon when, on the night of a full moon, Tom and Bob fight for Louisa Louisa and Tom cannot express their full attraction to each other because they are inhibited by Bob who cannot accept her attraction to Tom and who feels he has a right to Louisa

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81 since he i s a white man. In fact, he laments the passing of the old days, when he could have gone in "as a master should and took her. Direct, honest, bold (33). As a result Bob is knifed to death and Tom is lynched, illustrating the tragedies resulting from social imperatives that restrict natural desires; the same imperatives restrict the expression of more complex identities than hi s torically allowed. Women in the text are depicted with the least ability to follow their own desires ; they are depicted as bodies moving virtually unconsciously through life, being carried by custom and the courses of male desire Those who do attempt to follow their own desires such as Esther, are thwarted In Blood-Burning Moon ," Louisa become s a meridian figure as she is desired by both black and white men who fight to the death to claim her. The deaths of both men s uggest of course, the tragedy that results from socia l shackles placed on natural desires illustrating that it is not the desires themselves that are harmful but rather the denial and social control of them. Because Bob Stone s whiteness allows him to assume black and mixed raced women as hi s property, he cannot abide the thought of a black man with Louisa; because Tom's natural desires for Louisa mu s t be s ubjugated to customs that allow white men access to her he has no social right s to a relationship with her. In the second sec tion women remain s ubject to soc ial dictates so metimes bec a u se they are removed from the South where, pre s umably they would be clo se r to nature and to their own desires Muriel in Box Seat, for example is unable to explore her attraction to Dan because the world of the urban North, represented by Mrs. Pribby interferes with the expression of her emotions. In Bona and Paul ," the characters long to follow their desire s for each other, but tradition and alienation from the natural self

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82 interfere. Bona' s emotions initially overcome her physically when she faints while playing basketball with Paul; subsequently, when it seems she and Paul will explore a relationship with one another she disappears. Other women, such as Avey and the character in "Calling Jesus are depicted as alienated from their own souls because they are removed from their heritage through displacement in the urban North. They are shown sleeping through life living unconsciously, rather than embodying the vibrancy that the text suggests may result from connection to the heritage of black folk culture. Like the women within the text who are forced to repress their emotions and desires rather than allow the spontaneous expression of them, the men in the text are similarly confined by social norms. Cane questions the meanings and limits of black male sexuality and demonstrates numerous failures and miscommunications that thwart these men s expression of their sexuality desires and emotions In "Rhobert ," for instance the title character is depicted with a house upon his head Weighed down by the pressures of domesticity and urban life Rhobert cares not two straws as to whether or not he will ever see his wife and children again. Many a time he's seen them drown in his dreams and has kicked about joyously in the mud for days after (42). And in Theatre ," John is a man unable to fully integrate and enjoy his sexuality; his "body is separate from the thoughts that pack his mind [ which is] contained above desires of his body (52) In this section women again are made to conform to social pressures as dancers are brought in line by strict choreography: "Soon the director will herd you, my full-lipped distant beauties, and tame you, and blunt your sharp thrusts in loosely suggestive movements appropriate to Broadway ... Soon the audience will paint your dusk faces white and call you beautiful (52). The women are animalized as they are herded into conformity and

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they are simultaneously removed from their natural selves through accommodation to public tastes. 83 The text reiterates, then, that removal from black heritage, including its connection to the earth and forced conventions within the confines of urbanity re s ult in the loss of self-expression and the ability to follow-even to recognize-one's own desires Although Can e laments the potential loss of the black folk spirit and reviles the limitations imposed upon self-expression it does however predict through its utopian longings the corning of a new messiah who will free Americans for expression of their true selves. This messiah, furthermore, will provide the model for the evolved American : a mixed raced meridian who unites the imagined riches of the past with the imagined resources of the future Transcending the Divide Characters who represent this meridian figure of messiah are depicted throughout the text: King Barlo in "Es ther ," Dan in Box Seat, and the old man in Kabni s Although Toomer wrote to Waldo Frank in late 1922 or early 1923 that "Kabni s is Me" (153) Kabnis is a weak and confused figure, a promise of a soil-soaked beauty; uprooted, thinking out who journeys south to connect with his heritage but who remains Suspended a few feet above the soil whose touch would resurrect him ( 98). In contrast Lewis-another mixed raced character-is what a stronger Kabnis might have been (97 ) and it is he who merges with his source and lets the pain and beauty of the South meet him there (107) It i s Lewis who understands the complexities of mixed race and Kabnis's weaknesses : Cant hold them, can you? he asks Kabnis. Master; slave. Soil ; and the overarching heavens Dusk; dawn They fight and bastardize you The sun tint of

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84 your cheeks, flame of the great season's multi-colored leaves tarnished, burned. Split, shredded: easily burned. No use ... (109). Lewis rightly assesses that Kabnis cannot reconcile these dualities he contains and encounters, and because presumably Lewis has, he ultimately finds himself "completely cut out" of the interactions of hi s acquaintances : Kabnis Carrie, Stella, Halsey, Cora, the old man the cellar, and the work-shop, the southern town descend upon him. Their pain is too intense" (112) Lewis, who has achieved connection between dualities, must abandon the possibility of connection with these individuals who as yet have not, reinforcing the sense of alienation and isolation that were modernist anxieties The piece does not end in social utopia but it does end with the suggestion of a new day when the past will be embraced in the present, allowing a hope for a brighter future and the coming of a new messiah Although Toomer draws a parallel between himself and Kabnis, he longs to be Lewis, imagining himself as a messiah, a vanguard in fostering a new understanding of race in America. He s ought to encourage within Americans a transcendental vision of race and believed he was in the best position to offer such a transcendental vision Robert B. Jones contends, "Toomer indeed conforms to R W.B Lewis's definition of the New American Adam: 'an individual emancipated from history happily bereft of ancestry, untouched and undefiled by the usual inheritances of family and race" (134). However Toomer was neither bereft of ancestry" nor "untouched and undefiled by associations with family and race. On the contrary, Toomer was largely influenced by both his grandfather and grandmother and his racial identity was the subject of much discussion-on his own part as well as the part of others His self-definition as an American rested largely on a devaluation of traditional notions of race and his supposed

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85 repudiation of his black ancestry was the subject of continued scrutiny and comment. Toomer was notably concerned with the past with ways in which to bring the past's treasures into the current era, as the text of Cane demonstrates His New American metaphor, likewise sought to bring the consciousness of diverse heritages into one grand cosmic consciousness as evidenced by The Blue Meridian. This unification of diverse elements this ordering of perceived chaos was a common project among many modernists In terms of race, notions of social Darwinism and eugenics were popularized to address the disparate groups of people-some considered pre-modem-who needed to be incorporated into the modem nation. Both within the United States and in other countries, notably Mexico, this project was taken up in hopes that a utopian "cosmic race" might be realized. Jose Vasconcelos Mexican Mini s ter of Education, was interested in the Indian who was assumed like Southern black folk, to be dying in a natural and modern evolution of the races. In his 1925 book La ra z a cosmica (The Cosmic Rac e), Vasconcelos predicted the realization and expansion of an enlightened human consciousness through the integration of diverse groups. For Vasconcelos the mestizo or racially mixed person was the pre se nt embodiment of the future ideal in which all races would m e ld into one. However, Vasconcelos predicted that more than simple biological mixture was necessary in order for the evolution of the cosmic race" to occur; there was a spiritual element that he felt must be cultivated as well. The resultant race would be a people of h e i g ht e n ed spiri tuality intelligence, and artistic ability As Vasconcelos wrote The central thesis of this book is that the various races of the earth tend to intermix at a grad u a lly increasing pace and eventually will give rise to a new human type, composed

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86 of selections from each of the races already in existence (3). Furthermore, Vasconcelo s argued, even the most contradictory racial mixture s can have benefici a l re s ult s, as lon g as the spiritual factor contributes to raise them ( 5 ) Thu s he like Toomer, acknowledged that the fusion of opposite types would result in a new ideal.12 Thi s new race, according to Vasconcelos would be "the definitive race the sy nthetical race, th e integral ra ce, made up of the genius and the blood of all peoples and, for that rea s on more capable of true brotherhood and of a truly universal vision (20). Vasconcelos's Co s mic Race and Toomer's New American then, are imagined responses to anxieties regarding the lo ss of the past to the future and the loss of order to the pre se nt's chaos. Both men reified and idealized this new type.1 3 Toomer's work especially demonstrate s a need to r econc ile seemingly dichotomou s ideas and entities into a substantial whole, to find meridian s it es where differences become complementary rather than oppositional. Certainly his own background and upbringing as well as his personality-which would never allow him to settle into one area of interest and which caused him to retreat from any potential conflict-must have created in Toomer a longing for wholeness, both pers onally and socially. Toomer's utopian American society is detailed in his poem "The Blue Meridian ( Coll ec ted Poems) which he had been writing since before the publication of Cane. In this poem Toomer writes of "a new America, to be spiritualized by each new American ( 50) asserting, like Vasconcelos, that the ideal race will be one of heightened s pirituality 12 Obvi o u s ly both Va sco n ce lo s and Toomer assume the existence of races" as di s tinct a nd separate gro up s; Toom e r and V asco ncelo s argued that s u c h races would eve ntu a lly fuse to form a new and e nli g ht e ned group, thereby e r asi n g th e divi s ion s betwe e n the se parat e r aces For Va concelos, thi s process was "es th etic e u ge ni cs." 13 R eifica tion refer s to th e pro cess of r egar ding an idealiz e d a b stractio n as if it were a co n crete, objective thing with a mat e rial existence (Jo n es 2) and ideali s m i s a classic r espo nse to r e ifi ca tion w ith its

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87 Continuing this idea of the necessity of the spiritual, the poem asserts: "The old gods, led by an inverted Christ. . Withdrew into the distance and died ... We are waiting for a new God I For revelation in our day/ For growth towards faceless Deity" (51) Here is repeated the notion illustrated throughout Cane, that there will come a new messiah to foster self-knowledge and self-expression for the New Americans. This messiah the poem argues must be a "faceless" deity in order that all people be represented; the messiah must be an inclusive God for a new people who will grow "by admixture from less to more" (51). The New America, furthermore will be a place where the "old peoples" -in this case Europeans Africans, Native Americans, Christians, all peoples of the earth meld into a new race (54). Thus the poem predicts a literal "fusion of opposites and a combination of "opposing forms and forces into a significant unity" facilitated through miscegenation. The poem also speaks of the persona s own racialized body: "I stand where the two directions intersect / At Michigan Avenue and Walton Place/ Level with my countrymen/ Right-angled to the universe (55 ) The speaker is therefore, the point of convergence the meridian between black and white North and South, neither superior nor inferior to other s Additionally the speaker s consideration of himself as "right angled to the universe suggests its meaning in terms of right and wrong rather than solely in 90-degree angles. For he asserts later that There is a right turn A struggle through purgatories of many names, A rising to one s real being Wherein one finds oneself linked with The real beings of other men and in God ; The Kingdom ex ists and is to be ente red (61) promjse th a t th e a li e nat e d indi v idual s o ci ally fr agme nt e d and di v id e d c an b e made whol e a g ajn in

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88 Thus, the poem acknowledges the multiplicity of definitions for a person "of many names" and the limbo of identity these various definitions can foster. Yet, when one ha s made that "right tum" into one s real being, when one accepts the diversity within and acknowledges one's place in the human community the poem suggests he enters the kingdom -that utopia of understanding, self-acceptance and communion with others. It is then that the individual accomplishes the true goal for which the s peaker longs: Unlock the races, Open this pod by outgrowing it, Free men from this prison and this shrinkage, Not from reality itself But from our prejudices and preferences And the enslaving behavior caused by them Eliminate these-I am, we are, simply of the human race U ncase the nations Open this pod by outgrowing it Keep the real but destroy the false; We are the human nation U ncase the regions Occidental Oriental North SouthWe are of Earth. Free the sexes From the penalties and proscriptions That allegedly are laid on us Because we are male and female ... Expand the fields the specializations, The limitations of occupation, The definitions of what we are That gain fractions and lose wholes I am of the field of being We are beings. (64 ) The poem, then calls for the eradication not of difference but of hierarchies that seek to prioritize one type of difference above all others. It is these hierarchies that a c cording to th o u g ht ( Jon e s 3)

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89 the poem are enslaving and, as a result, the poem insists on the acknowledgment and acceptance of the universal family of humanity It insists likewise, on being free of labels imposed by occupation, on being free of the restrictions imposed by gender roles. The Blue Meridian," like Cane, encourages an understanding of the self as meridian figure-a human being uniting various parts (as opposed to simply male or female, black or white)-and encourages the free expression of that being in the world. Points of Contact Cane asserts that such free expression of the self results from connection to one's heritage ; thus it depicts the South as a place of rootedness, of connection with the organic, natural world. Yet it is also a place that resists control, a place filled with actual and potential violence-as "Blood-Burning Moon and "Kabnis show. Rural areas, then are depicted with their threat to black lives The city, too, as the location where energies and desires are contained, is likewise illustrated as a dangerous place for blacks. Not only does the city make self-expression difficult if not impossible because of its disconnection from the natural world, it is also a place where blacks are more likely to exploit other blacks. Additionally, it is the place where blacks may internalize the white values that stifle their natural selves, as the story Rhobert depicts Cane illustrates the trials of modernization and the repressive hold of ideologies of race and gender and remains ambivalent about the possibility of achieving harmony through racial mixture when such mixture is surrounded by anxieties and tragedies resulting from limiting social demands. Cane suggests the struggles and tragic fates of individuals both dark and light although it suggests the hope of a brighter day when the future generation, symbolized by Carrie in "Kabnis," may acknowledge and embrace its

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90 history symbolized by the old black man whom she holds at the end of the s tor y It doe s not offer the utopian ideal of The Blue Meridian which is after all just that utopi a n removed from lived experience in the world in which people actually reside The poem's vision is a transcendental one that s eeks to lift people into the realm of the s oul aw a y from their bodies and experiences thus offering thought s on how race mi g ht be envi s ioned on a more theoretical level ; as such it elides the slippery cir c um s tanc es met by people who necessarily must interact through their troublesome bodie s Of c ourse this is the nature of utopian thought; it relies on non-utopian realities to contrast with it s ideas of perfection. Ultimately then the texts solutions to dealing with primitive bodie s in a modernizing world are different. In Cane, the solution suggested is one to be r e alized in the future when the modern individual will have rescued those beneficent elements of the dying past allowing intellectual progress and enlightenment along with a conn e ction to the folk characteristics garnered through bodily experience: connection to s exual ity, sensuality emotions and an assumed wholeness derived from remaining pre-modern and, hence unfragmented The solution offered in The Blue Meridian is to lift human s above those bodies in hopes that they may relate on the level of the soul-in Toomer s later estimation the true location of identity. Both texts however, also offer the more material suggestion that the points of contact, the sites of juxtaposition offer hope for alternative views of race and difference; they suggest that these sites s uch a s Seventh Street and the bodies and minds of the New Americans, may provide the location for working through hierarchy and opposition in order to foster sites of greater harmony In the material realm, it may be only on the border between seemingly oppo s ite worlds or in

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the point of transition between seemingly opposite identities where the texts offer hope for socia l progress. 91 Toomer's New American is a meridian metaphor of identity that attempts to resist fixation into one racial category. 14 Nevertheless it is also an identity that attempts to leave behind bodies and actual histories in an effort to understand individuals in terms of the so ul and the future while at the same time maintaining a connection to an idealized image of the pa st. On the theoretical level, such an identity could foster social change by allowing new space within language for self-definition; in other words new meridian metaphors may be suggested to facilitate broader understandings of identity understandings that resist the hierarchy and opposition of traditional notions of race Toomer's texts begin to offer an alternative way of discussing race and racial difference to implement a new language of meridian metaphors that would allow a unified whole to be created from distinct parts The texts demonstrate the search for a language to express the understanding that society itself is made of individuals who are all composites of diverse origins and who must relate to each other beyond the boundaries of their bodies If the human role in modernism was truly as Cecelia Tichi suggests, to "formulate new designs (xii), then Toomer was performing his role when he imagined th e New American, a new design for under s tanding humanity beyond categories of race and gender. His texts attempt to fight the sense of alienation that was rampant during the newly industrializing time in which they were written as well as that alienation their author may have felt by being neither black nor white." Toomer once asked, "Is it ... th at I am to interpret the white to the bl ack, the black to the white? Or i s it that I am to 14 Of course, de s pite his pronounced dislike of all categories, Toomer's New American is a cat ego ry that do es not avoid the oppos ition s r es ultin g from n atio nali sm.

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92 decrystallize these divisions and make possible the widespread consciousness of the American race?" 15 "The Blue Meridian" and Cane aim, through their meridian metaphors, to decrystallize traditional divisions and facilitate an understanding of a universal-and utopian-whole. Within them, one reads Toomer's call for the New American man and woman, who might symbolize a transcendence of traditionally divisive categories, who might carry the past within modernity and who might stand as meridians on the map of the nation. This meridian metaphor, then, suggested a use of l anguage not to isolate and divide but to unite disparate parts into a new whole. Toomer' s meridian metaphor offers a point of contact and departure for my study of later twentieth century metaphors of mixed race that seek sites of fusion where difference can be viewed beyond hierarchy and opposition. In Toomer s work are the seeds of an effort to imagine the mixed race individual outside of the limits imposed by dominant ideas of blackness and whiteness. I am reading his mixed race ideologie s and meridian metaphors as precursors of the work of later writers-such as Fran Ross Danzy Senna, and Jenoyne Adams-who take up the discourse of mixed race in order to assert new understandings of race and racial mixture. These writers' metaphors continue Toomer's efforts to decrystallize historical lines of division as they attempt to de-solidify reified notions of race and gender difference. In this effort these later authors offer metaphors that, like Toomer's meridian metaphor continue to articulate longings for utopian sites of harmony where mixed raced identities may find sites of belonging ; however, they also demonstrate that s uch sites for mixed race are limited by the traditional language of human understanding and interaction thereby problematizing 15 From a 1930 diary entry

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93 utopian aims for harmony and wholeness. Nevertheless these later metaphors such as the metaphor of traveler and quester in Fran Ross's Oreo, continue to play with concepts of race and difference in order to pinpoint new sites for locating mixed race on the map of identity.

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CHAPTER4 TRAVELING THROUGH FRAN ROSS'S OREO, NO ORDINARY COOKIE The Frontier: Where Two Come Together Traveling to my grandmother's funeral when I was married, my white husband and I walked down the narrow plane aisle toward our seats. In front of me was a black woman who stopped the line when she reached her row and asked the white man in the aisle seat to excuse her as she shuffled into the window seat. As she settled herself, the man looked at me and asked, "Are you two together?" I said no and proceeded past him and his bewildered look. My husband scoffed, loudly enough for the man to hear, "That was an interesting assumption, huh?" "Yeah," I replied "But you know that happens to me all the time." And, indeed, it does. People readily assume I "belong" with any other people of color in the vicinity, and rarely, if ever, did they assume I "belonged" with my husband Reflecting on the incident now I wonder how effective I could have been in articulating my sense of place if I'd answered the man's question affirmatively, though unexpectedly: "Yes, I am two together." Because I can see myself as both black and white, I like many others whose parents are of different races may think of myself as moving in the space that unites the two as traveling from one shore to another given certain contexts, or as sailing the river that forms the meridian between two s hores. Such metaphors of movement travel, and 94

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95 cruising are not uncommon in explorations of mixed race identity; in fact, the metaphor of border crosser has been taken up readily and used to suggest a mobility and indeterminacy that may not be as easily accessible as the metaphor suggests. Mixed race identity often has been considered a "frontier" in race relations, continuing the travel metaphor and extending it into the realm of quest.1 Thus, the anecdote with which I began this chapter becomes a fitting example of the role of movement, travel, and quest in explorations and definitions of mixed race identity. Alternatively, the anecdote may invoke Denise Riley's suggestion that the various components of identity are made to foreground and recede in differing situations. This notion may be more useful in interrogating the workings of identity than that of the border crosser. We may imagine individuals traveling with identities whose components are variously enacted or shelved without imagining that these individuals are completely liberated from the constraints of identity, as if their ability to cross borders were a ticket into every desirable community and a ticket out of every undesirable situation. These introductory comments regarding travel and quest are important to the following discussion of Oreo the recently republished novel by Fran Ross This novel, like the others under discussion here, explores the play within mixed race identity as it attempts to assert a utopian sense of racial harmony and wholeness and to grapple with the theoretical and philosophical questions of mixed race and gender. Its metaphors -of traveler and quester remain consistent with discourses of mixed race that theorize such individuals in terms of the past as outcasts who seek an acknowledgement and understanding of their origins-and in terms of the future as pioneers whose existence 1 Consider M aria P P Root s 1996 antholo gy Th e Multira c ial Experience : Ra c ial B orders as the New Frontier

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96 may foster the racial harmony of utopian visions. In keeping with other di s courses of mixed race identity, the novel prioritizes questions of history and origins as well a s future possibilities for imagining race. Within Oreo, the personal utopia sought also connects to the longing for a national utopia that would rectify the racial discord of the period in which it was written-during the Black Nationalis t Movement of the 1970 s. Originally published in 1974, Ross s novel was not well received since it both literally and figuratively plays with the ideologies of race and gender that were being debated at the time In a January 197 5 review the novel is described as "experimental, intelligent, and even funny in places. The dialogue, however is a strange mixture of Uncle Remus and Lenny Bruce, and quite often unintelligible" ( Salassi 146). This initial review offers a striking contrast to one following the novel's reprinting in 2000 when it i s heralded as "a true twenty-first century novel. Its wit is global hybrid and uproarious; its meditation on language is simultaneously irreverent appropriative and serious (Foreman and Stein Evers 36). The latter review however, problematically a s serts the goodness of ambiguity which leads everywhere: the triumphant chameleon goe s unnoticed where v er it chooses ," displaying precisely the dangerous assumption inherent in notions of the border crosser as they are often articulated Oreo by no means suggests that the dualities of identity make it possible for one to escape the realities and constraints of racism sexism and oppression. Rather, the novel suggests that dualities allow one to play (both literally and figuratively) with the structures of identity allow one to manipulate boundaries and seek agency in arenas where these might seem rigid and inaccessible respectively. Or e o is a rewriting of the mythical story of Theseus, and it casts the black/Jewish mixed race heroine as the metaphorical traveler the individual on the quest for self as she

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97 searches for the secret of her birth by trying to find her father. Additionally the title character manipulate s the boundarie s of gender in interesting ways; in fact, Oreo moves beyond limited notions of the feminine in her ability to travel, cross borders, and m a nipulate boundaries. She, unlike traditional notions of the feminine i s completely active and never pa ss ive ; she i s mobile rather than s tatic multiple rather than s ingular I take care however not to read Oreo as the typical border crosser, given the problematic nature of that metaphor. Although Gloria Anzaldua's theories of mixed race identity as a borderland shed light on Ross's novel Oreo-as traveler translator and medi ator-mov es beyond prevalent uses of the border crosser. Indeed rather than ex i s ting on the borderland s, in some indeterminate limbo Oreo constantly embodies movement a nd change and, like a mytholo g ic a l hero actively participate s in a que s t for her origins and by extension a que s t for h e r self; unlik e These us however Oreo explores more fully the frontiers of her own identity in terms of racial and gender mixtur es. Additionally, the novel in vokes and qu es tions other American id eo logie s s uch as myths of pioneers and the frontier which ha s lon g be e n und e rstood as th e meetin g point or dividing lin e b e tween disparate a nd often opposi tion a l e ntities: civilization and wilderness, socia lized and savage known and unknown This dichotomou s thinkin g is clearly problematic in discussions of race a nd gen d er, as my a nal ysis of nin etee nth cen tury m eta phor s of race attests. If race is co n struc ted as oppositional and hierar chical w h at might it mean to li ve on the border of race or conv erse l y, to e mbody that bord er? Again, th e limitation s of th e border crosser m e t a phor are mad e clear when we ima gi n e an individual adept at cro ing boundaries w hil e at the same time we im agi n e her as representative of those b o undari es ; in this way mov eme nt and ontology s tru gg l e in

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counter-productive ways. A more useful question may be: What might it mean to travel into and between the realms that the racial and gender borders both divide and unite to foreground and recede characteristics of identity traditionally associated with opposing sides of those borders? Ross s Oreo allows an exploration of this question through its questing protagonist. 98 As much literary scholarship has noted the quest motif is prevalent within American literary history .2 The utopian language that this motif employs has been adopted by many within the context of mixed race identity discourse. As suggested by the title of Joel Williamson's text-New People: Miscegenation and Mulattoes in the Unit e d States-many consider mixed race individuals to be "new people, though the reality of race mixing is hardly novel. During historical periods of racial crisis and turmoil mixed race people have been hailed as the solution to divisive race relations; as mentioned in the previous discussion on Jean Toomer, in 1925 the Mexican Minister of Education Jo s e Vasconcelos, called those of mixed parentage the "Cosmic Race and asserted that this would be the "definitive race, the synthetical race, the integral race made up of the genius and the blood of all peoples and for that reason more capable of true brotherhood and of a truly univer s al vision" (20) provided the "spiritual factor wa s present to direct and consummate this extraordinary enterprise" (26) Of course, Va s concelos's notion of the cosmic race was founded on eugenicist thought that hoped to rid the nation of the s uppo se d primitive and inferior native through r e production with th e pr e sumed mod e rn 2 Acc ordin g to Kri s tin a Groov e r "The notion of s piritu a l qu es t as a quint esse nti a l Am eric an ex p erie nce is central to both American m y tholo g y a nd lit e ratur e ... E arl y Puritan t ex t s depi c t th e E n g li s h c oloni s ts' lite ral s oj o urn in th e N e w E n g land wild e rn ess a s a s piritual d esce nt into th e wild e rn ess o f th e s oul. .. ( 1 ). E laboratin g upon thi s idea, Gro o v e r turn s to th e work of R W B L e wi s, who wrot e th a t Th e auth e nti c Am erican ... d e rives fr o m th e Bibli cal Ad a m a fig ur e of h e roic innocence and vast pot e nti a liti es, poi se d a t th e s tart of a n e w hi s tory'" (3).

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99 and superior European ; in this way, reproduction becomes tied to racial and cultural genocide as Vasconcelos hoped racial mixture would lead to the eradication of indigenous populations Though Vasconcelos wrote his treatise almost a century ago rhetoric reminiscent of his and even earlier utopian visions is still apparent in contemporary discussions of mixed race identity. Thus it is that mixed race individuals, a heterogeneous group, become Williamson s new people and the pioneers of Root s racial frontier. The quest motif-whether imagined on a personal or a national level-embodies utopian longings. And in each case the relationship between the national and the per s onal as well as the personal and the historical i s one that though elided cannot be eradicated .3 Of course, the idea that people can exist without history is precisely what is implied by misnomers such as Williamson s new people." Despite the fact that they are said to be forging a new race, mixed race individuals can be viewed as doing so only by laying claim to a certain history one that traditionally has been denied them. As Naomi Zack a s serts Since mixed race does not exist in a biracial system individuals who are of mixed race or who would be if black and white racial categories had rational foundations have an interesting identity problem: Either they can create identities of mixed race for themselves in opposition to the biracial s y s tem or they can eschew all 3 A s Nin a B ay m c ont e nd s, qu es t moti fs e n fo rce a c ommon m y th a bout th e indi v idu a l's r e lationship to soc i e ty : The myth narrat es a c onfront a tion of th e Ame ri ca n indi v idual the pure Am e rican self divor c ed from s p ec ifi c s o c ial c ircum s t a n ces, with th e promi s e offer e d by the idea of Am e rica. The promi se i s the d eeply romanti c on e that in thi s n e w land untramm e l e d by hi s tory a nd s o c ial acc id e nt a p e r s on will b e able to achie ve c omplet e selfd e finition B e hind thi s promi se i s th e ass uran ce th a t individual s come b e fore s o c i e t y, th a t the y e xi s t in some m e anin g ful se nse prior to a nd apart from s o c i eties in which th e y happ e n to find th e m se lv es The m y th a l s o h o ld s th a t a s s om e thin g artifi c i a l and secondary to human n a tur e, s o c i ety exe rt s a n unmitigat edl y d es tru ctive pr ess ur e on individuality (quote d in Groove r 3)

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100 racial identities" (6). A third option one that has been advocated historicall y, has been that of hypodescent-whereby individuals identify with the minority side of their ancestry. The final option which has been problematized by reifications of hypode s cent has been passing into the majority race an option available only to those of mixed race with phenotypes resembling the majority s.4 Mixed race individuals can find identity as mix ed race only by acknowledging their ancestry completely; they can claim multiraciality only by claiming the races of both parent s, of all ancestors-majority and minority alike-rather than relying on traditional notions of hypodescent that specify pers ons of mixed ance s try must be classified as member s of the minority group. Traveling Beyond the Boundaries Ross's text challenges traditional notions of race and gender, questioning the significance of individual histories on collective understanding s of race and gender and offering a vision that allows play within identity Additionally, within its present moment of racial conflict, it searches the past in order to offer poss ibilities for racial harmony Oreo confronts the meaning of origins in terms of identit y s ince notion s of hi s tory and ancestry are complicated in discussions of mixed race, with traditional definitions of race requiring individuals to deny portions of their ancestry.5 The idea that one might sidestep the se complexities and define oneself apart from one's family, history and society is 4 Suzanne Bo s t argues Onl y a few African Am ericans who s u ccess full y manipul a t e d s ubv e rt e d or m asked rac i a l ide ntity s u cceeded in overcoming th ose (in)visib l e [racial] barri ers (35) s u ggesting th a t th ose w ho p ass a r e r eal l y bl ac k s in disguise, rather than w hit es or so m e thin g b e twe e n th e two poles 5 As Zack h as remarked th e American probl e m of mixed race c reat es crises of personal id e ntity if personal id e nti ty mu s t b e bas e d on individu a l family his tori es E l a boratin g on thi s matt e r Zack writes: If designated black Am erican s are not racially pur e ... th e n individual a tt e mpt s t o identify th e self on a foundation of family hi s tory where th e individu a l id e ntifi es w ith bl ac k forebears, will b e se riou s ly frustrated by the pr ese n ce of oppressive white forebears. D es i gna t e d bl ack Americans who are racially mi xe d and w ho id e nti fy with their w hit e ancestors will face a diffe r e nt probl e m of accepting as part of th e ir id e ntit y black ancestors who h ave been d eval u ed b y wh i t e a n ces tors. (65)

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101 intrinsic not only to notions of hypodescent but also to the American quest motif, which privileges individualism and self-sufficiency.6 Obviously, such notions of self-definition are problematized by race and feminist theories that challenge the prototypical American quest motif and assert the importance of personal history and community to individual identity, racial and otherwise. As feminist inquiries have shown, women-centered searches for identity often take into account the individual's history and origins Oreo remains in keeping with this tradition even though its model is not representative of a feminist literary canon. In Oreo, Ross rewrites the Greek myth of Theseus, who, longing to know the secret of his birth, embarks on a quest to find his father, a journey that challenges Theseus mentally and physically and takes him into the Minotaur's labyrinth Additionally, it is a journey that involves Theseus's betrayal of a woman, his lover and guide Ariadne, necessitating a questioning of Ross' s use of this white patriarchal model for her story of racial and gender resistance. Yet, according to Suzanne Bost, Many cultures have worked out their racial anxiety through a l egendary woman. Often like Pocahontas or La Malinche, this woman is positioned between cultures, translating between the colonized and the colonizer mediating the process of colonization Both Pocahontas and la Malinche became lovers with one of the conquering men and have thus assumed symbolic responsibility for fusing the cultures of the colonizer and the colonized They represent both sides of the colonial conflict and the crossings between sides. The women's bodies are targeted as the source of new mixed races. (59) In the case of Oreo however the legendary woman is also a virgin; she becomes not the source of new mixed races but the source of new possibilities for imagining mixed 6 "Thi s im age of th e m a tur e, full y developed person as one who has s u ccess fully separat ed and differentiated from others r ecalls [R.W. B.] L ewis s d esc ription of the mythi c American Adam, untou c h e d and und efi l e d by th e u s u a l inh eri t a n ces of fami l y and race; a n individual sta ndin g alone, selfr e liant and self-prope lling"' (G roover 4)

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102 race and consequently, race in general-during a time of heightened ra c ial anxiety a nd oppo s ition. Ross s use of a mixed race character during this time of racial struggle a nd interracial turmoil and anxiety is not surprising s ince hi s torical analy s is demon s trate s that, during moments of racial crisis, discourses of mixed race emerge with i n the national consciousness. During those historical moments when racial tensions and anxietie s are most s evere mixed race becomes centralized in public forums For example, after the slave trade was abolished in the United States the racial identity and social status of mulattos became increasingly important. During the antebellum period the tragic mulatto motif became more wide s pread in North American literary narrative s a s an emblem of the evils of slavery Similarly during Recon s truction and the period of Jim Crow mulatto characters emerged as literary representatives of W E.B Du Bois s Talented Tenth, whose call it was to lead the African-American ma s se s out of oppre ss ion Mixed raced individuals and character s become increasingly vis ibl e in moment s of racial c ri s i s, perhaps because the notion of pure blood alway s re s ts on the pos sibility and th e reality of mixed blood' (Sollors Neith e r 4). Ross s use of a mixed raced character i s in keeping with this tradition of the heightened visibility of mixed race in times of racial conflict. Interestingly Ro ss uses a character who is representative of the inclusivenes s of Civil Right s stru g g l e7 at a time when the achievements of that struggle were being criticized as too few and too limited. Neither Ross s historical context nor her textual setting is the Civil Rights era ; instead Ross u s e s a protagonist who embodies Civil Rights ideologie s of int e gration in an 7 Jewi s h parti c ip a tion in th e Ci vil Ri g ht s Movem e nt is w id e l y docum e nt e d Indeed, as K a tya Gib e ) Azoulay a nd o th e r s ha ve not e d man y s imilariti es exi s t b e tween Afri c an -Ame ri c an and Jewi s h s tru gg les, allowin g th e p ossi bility of s olidarit y in politi c al mo ve m e nt s.

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historical and textual setting of Black Nationalism and separatism. Additionally, she models her heroine s quest after one from the canon of white, patriarchal western civilization. According to Harryette Mullen, 103 Oreo's tongue-in-cheek mimicry of the Greek hero underscores Ross's cheekiness as an African American woman who takes on the Western literary tradition ... Like other black women writers who emerged in the same decade, Ross creates a feminist heroine whose strength is tested through conflict with male antagonists, sexual predators as well as negligent or oppressive father figures .... [Oreo] is aware that she has entered an urban space controlled by aggressive males, just as Ross and other feminist writers of the 1970s entered a literary arena in which women s writing was devalued. ("Apple Pie 112) Although Ross re-centralizes white patriarchal models of literature and the quest for identity and self-knowledge, she simultaneously subverts this model through both content and form altering the typical white male quest to suit specific feminist purposes and racial uplift. Her use of humor and her variations of genre, too, represent distancing from the white patriarchal norm signaling the limitless possibilities for artistic, racial, and gender expression while remaining inclusive of a literary ancestry that has been privileged. In this way Ross s own writing mimics her character s mastery of and subsequent moves beyond the limitations of pre-existing texts.8 Thus Ross s text plays not only with notions of racial and gender identity and with the meanings of wholeness for mixed raced individuals but also plays with language, genre, the quest motif, and even literary history. 8 A s Ore o s fina l s chool ass i g nment s h e r e write s a standard treati se" in her own word s, paying att e ntion t o onl y th e s ound a nd not th e sense-of h er di c tion "Thu s a t y pi cal sent e nce in Fall ow: Whe a t farm B s how e d a d e clinin g profit lo ss ra t io durin g th e harv es t s e as on,' b ec am e in Ore o's manu s cript: Oat ran c h wa s p pl aye d th e dro o pin g excessdeath proportion while a c rop p e pp e r"' ( 84).

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104 Ross' s retelling is, in the words of Mullen a linguistically riotous feminist tall tale of a young black woman's journey from Philadelphia to New York in search of her Jewish father (Foreward xix). Neither the Greek myth of Theseus nor the journey of Oreo uphold the traditional American quest motif of a lone male individual wandering into the wilderness in search of himself through solitude. Rather both the myth of Theseus and Oreo's story revolve around the protagonist journeying into the unknown encountering others instead of solitude, in order to find answers about themselves by finding their fathers. These quests then, are rooted in community and ancestry, rather than solitude and a forward marching trail toward a new self that ignores that self's origins .9 In both cases identity cannot be divorced from history; rather, one s ancestry and origins are crucial to an understanding of the self. Like Theseus Oreo begins her quest when her mother notices that she is ready: emotionally mature, intellectually adept and physically capable. At this point, Oreo's mother Helen gives Oreo a list of clues left by her father, Samuel,1 0 and tells Oreo that if she is capable of lifting a boulder under which her father has left a sword and sandals, she i s indeed ready to find her father and learn the secret of her birth. Unlike the tale of Theseus however the bolder in Or eo is really a huge mound of silly-putty collected by Ore o s brother Jimmie C. Once this obstacle i s removed, Oreo discovers nothing beneath it. Instead absent-minded Helen takes Oreo inside to a loose floorboard where the 9 Theseus, howev e r do es s p e nd twenty years on hi s qu es t-years th a t mak e him a b se nt from hi s wife a nd the so n h e s n eve r see n It can b e sa id th e n th a t These u s do es i g nor e community even thou g h hi s qu es t i s o n e t o see k out ancestry. 1 0 In keepi n g with the no ve l's s ubv e r sio n s of lo g i c, th e li s t of c lu es Oreo's father l eaves, which supposedly mimi c Theseus s j o urn ey ac tu a lly pr e di c t th e ex peri e n ces of Oreo's journey in searc h of her father eve nt s that Samu e l co uld not hav e known b efo r e hand. In many insta n ces, th e novel ca ll s on r eade r s to s u spe nd the ir di sbelief; how ever th ese instances often read less lik e flaws than th ey do as exa mples of Ro ss s lit e r ary playfulness and c h alle n ge of c on ve ntion s

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105 heroine is disappointed to find "a mezuzah on a thin chain and a pair of bed socks. 'This he calls sword and sandals?'" (80) Oreo asks Thus begins Oreo's "journey" or, to quote the title of the section in which this journey begins her "meandering. Her journey allows her encounters with a pickpocket with a fake limp on the subway a family of dwarves who speak only in rhymed couplets and who sell dog treats in Central Park, a young actor who speaks English in the syntax of other languages Oreo s absurd encounters offer entertaining revisions to the Greek myth but they also become part of a playful yet important critique of race, gender and even language use. According to Mullen, "If Theseus entry into the Labyrinth suggests the masculine hero s return to the womb followed by the rebirth of a new self through the feminine power of his guide Ariadne Oreo s quest to meet her deadbeat dad suggests a feminist daughter s claim to self-knowledge as well as her determination to challenge patriarchy and to contest the phallic power of the male (Foreword xxi). 11 Clearly the novel presents biting critiques of both the dominant (white ) and the alternative (Afrocentric ) ideologies of it s time It presents a character who both uphold s and denounce s Black Nationalist ideologie s; Oreo is smart capable and proud of her heritage ( s ), yet she is al s o s mart and capable in way s that demonstrate her independence from men in an era wh e n wome n mo s t often were relegated to the background of the movement for racial uplift. The text additionally returns to the familiar motif in texts of mixed race as it s f emale protagoni s t searches for h e r identity through her father Although Oreo's mother and grandmother have been influential in shaping her identity 11 The n ove l's promin e nt gend e r and rac i al c ritiqu es m ake it a radi ca l s t a t e m e nt durin g th e e ra in whi c h it was w ritt e n ; as Mull e n a l so n o t es, th e no vel's titl e, pl o t s ubject m a tt e r and irr eve r e nt satire mu s t h ave b ee n a t odds wi th th e c ultur a l n atio nali m of o th e r w o rk s publi s h e d b y black w rit e r s in th e 19 7 0 s, not to m e ntion th e works of esta bli s h e d J ew i s h a uth o r s s u c h as S aul B ellow" ( N o t p ar 9 ).

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106 she still perceives a lack without knowledge of her father; it is he who holds the "secret of her birth ," although Oreo's mother could not be unaware of this secret having her self been present at Oreo's conception Regardless of Helen s awareness, Oreo must seek thi s knowledge through her father ; unlike the other texts being analyzed here however the absent father in Oreo is white instead of black. Oreo does not problematize the history and present dilemmas of black patriarchy; rather, it acknowledges a history in which mixed race individuals were conceived through the sexual liaisons of white men and black women. In this case, it is important to note, the liaison is not due to the rape of a black slave woman by a white master-historically the most common occurrence ; instead Oreo s parents are depicted as a couple united in marriage at a time jus t subsequent to the legalization of miscegenation and during the initial years of the Black Nationalist Movement when relationships between black women and white men were s trongly denounced.1 2 The text resists the separatism that was often a prominent part of Black Nationalist thought encouraging in many ways an integrationi s t view more in keeping with the Civil Rights movement than with Black Power. At the same time however the text exhibits a tension regarding the potential for succe s s in interracial romance as Samuel and Helen s marriage ultimately fails and Samuel sub s equently marrie s a white woman. Of course the text also acknowledges that Samuel is financially pre ss ur e d by hi s father to abandon his initial marriage, suggesting that it i s s ocial pre ss ure s that may spell the downfall of interracial romance. The text resists easy categorization reflecting in form what it also demon s trate s in cont e nt: a qu es tioning of th e cod e s typically used to construct one's own or pinpoint 1 2 In 1 967, th e Supre m e Court d ec id e d in Lov i ng v. Vir g i nia tha t anti mi scege n a ti o n l aws ar e un c on s tituti o n al.

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107 another's identity. In the same way that Oreo questions ethnic, racial, and gender identity within its content, it also necessitates a questioning of its representation of the Black Power, Civil Rights, and Feminist movements Simultaneously, it forces questions regarding what makes a text a representative of each of these movements. Oreo both resists and is implicated by the various ideologies circulating during the time it was written, demonstrating that we may not judge even a book by its cover. Thus Ross's novel diverges from the Black Nationalist ideology prominent in the 1970s, when many of the movement's members had grown weary of the techniques used by Civil Rights activists in the 1960s to free African-Americans from racial oppression As William Van Deburg has noted, Black Nationalists were a diverse group favoring a variety of often competing strategies for achieving African-American autonomy. Van Deburg highlights two fundamental ideologies of the Black Power Movement: pluralism and nationalism, both of which were essentially separatist in their stance toward African American and Caucasian interactions (120). Disillusionment with the integrationist tendencies of the Civil Rights Movement caused many Black Nationalist s to assert the necessity of black separatism in struggles for racial autonomy. Ross's use of a black/Jewish female protagonist then is significant during this time of heightened Afrocentrism and separatist ideology. Thi s choice i s yet another that i s reminiscent of the more integrationi s t Civil Rights movement, when Africanand Jewish Americans s truggled to ge ther against racial oppre ss ion By the time Oreo wa s written the aims of Black Nationalism had fractured the solidarity among many blacks and Jews. Thus Ross's depiction of Oreo as an individual of mixed black/Jewish heritage is c hall e n g in g to ass umption s regarding relations between the two communities. Katya

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108 Gibel Azoulay asserts that in the 1960s "Jews and Blacks shared similar concerns when it came to the politics of group identity and attitudes toward its reproduction (61). These similarities include ambivalence about assimilation, politically motivated social movements and an existence that includes being "othered by the dominant group. Yet, partially because there is debate over whether Jews should be considered as "whites," tension emerged between blacks and Jews. Ross in fact, points explicitly to the post-Civil Rights lack of empathy and solidarity among many blacks and Jews Oreo's black grandfather, James, earned his living conning Jewish customers out of their money with items catering to their religious practice. When he learned of his daughter's intention to marry a Jewish man "he managed to croak one anti-Semitic Goldberg! before he turned to stone, as it were, in his straight-backed chair, his body a rigid half swastika" (3). Similarly when Oreo's Jewish grandmother learned her son would marry a black woman and that he was dropping out of school, she dropped dead of a racist/my-son-the-bum coronary" (3). Because of this tension among black and Jewi s h communities, questions of race for individuals of mixed black and Jewish heritage are complicated. Ross's choice to create her protagonist as the daughter of an African-American woman and a Jewish man, then is significant and offers opportunities to question the meanings and experience of blackne ss, Jewishness, and black/Jewish mixture as well as the ideological underpinnings of the Civil Rights and Black Nationalist movements, when the one-drop rule still prevailed to determine identity in those of mixed race heritage. Accordingly, Oreo may be viewed by many as a black girl whose father happ e ns to be Jewish, though J ewis hne ss for Samuel Schwartz is merely a nod to hi s culture of origin and a religion he does not

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109 practice. However, Ross clearly questions such easy identifications by making Oreo well versed in both African-American and Jewish-American cultures, cuisines, and languages. Through Oreo's satirical performances of blackness and Jewishness, Ross seems to uphold the notion of race as social construction, yet at the same time, she allows Oreo access to Jewishness merely through paternity-which does not make Oreo Jewish at all since that lineage is passed through the mother. Additionally, the father through whom Oreo makes this claim does not perform Jewishness himself, suggesting that, again through racial performance, Oreo may be more Jewish than he. "She Got Womb" In her choice of a black/Jewish protagonist, Ross confounds normalized racial boundaries and plays with the meanings of racial identity and identification. Through her choice of a distinctly unconventionalfemale protagonist, Ross similarly plays with the boundaries of gender, creating a young woman who challenges stereotypes of female intellectual physical and emotional potential. By the age of three, Oreo demonstrates her linguistic expertise by writing backwards a note to her mother, who has for years sent elementary letters to her children during her business travels Held in front of a mirror, Oreo's letter would read: "dear mom cut the crap" (24). Additionally Oreo is mathematically brilliant entertaining herself with complex calculations and speculations on "how many people in say, Denver Colorado were at that very moment making love" (91). Finally eleven-year-old Oreo is physically unconquerable and emotionally unflappable, having developed a self-defense system she calls WIT (Way of the Interstitial Thrust) "based on an Oriental dedication to attacking the body s soft, vulnerable spaces, or au fond, to making such spaces, or interstices, where previously

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110 none had existed." Thus, "whether he was big or small, fat or thin, well-built or spavined, Oreo could, when she was in a state of extreme concentration known as hwip-as, engage any opponent up to three times her size and weight and whip his natural ass" ( 55). Given her superior mental and physical abilities and her parallels with the Greek hero Theseus, Oreo clearly disrupts traditional gender roles. At a time when black women were expected to work behind the scenes in nationalist groups dedicated to racial uplift Ross presents a young minority woman who will not be silent. Moreover, writing in the era when Stokley Carmichael suggested that the best position for women in the movement was prone Ross dares to offer a female character who is deliberately and defiantly active. Constantly in movement and in celebration of her body, Oreo takes pleasure in herself and for herself. Consciously choosing to remain a virgin, Oreo nonetheless toys with men who mistake her for an easy sexual target, turning the tables on them in ways that reveal their ignorance and subject them to sexual manipulation. For example, when Oreo receives an obscene phone call, she does not allow her self to be victimized. Instead, she subtly controls the conversation tricking the caller into a situation where he becomes the victim of the neighborhood nymphomaniac This scene although demonstrative of Oreo's reversal of sexual oppression represents a significant flaw in this novel of female empowerment and subversion of patriarchal culture. In fact, this scene and another in which Oreo must pretend to be a prostitute reveal important tensions in the text's feminist narrative which falters when confronted with the reality of female sexual desire and prostitution The novel characterizes Betty the woman who helps Oreo trick the obscene caller with malice and contempt. She is depicted as a woman so sex-crazed that she feels slighted when she

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111 cannot fulfill her desires with the obscene caller. In fact it is clear from her characterization that Betty shares none of Oreo's indignation with the man s attempt to mole s t women over the phone and in person ; additionally, she is characterized singularly in terms of her body and her phy sica l desires, a mindless entity, the "Half WIT" of the section's title. After Oreo punishes the caller and elicits his promise to cease his molestations of innocent young women," Betty asks," But what about me? Oreo's response is scathing and at odds with her previous championing of women: "Your father will be home any minute now. Do what you usually do in these circumstances. Fuck him" (6 1 ). Oreo treats other women, prostitutes specifically, with similar disdain. In each of the se instances the text's feminist narrative appears to slip, not allowing its protagonist to enact its feminist ideologies in support of women who are depicted as highly sexual beings or as women who choose or are forced to choose a life of pros titution. The text explicitly questions the loyalties of these women when Oreo wonders how many of the se women would fight for Parnell [their pimp] once she made her move and started pushing and s hoving him all over this room? Would she have to rack them all up ?" (155). The text is unc ertain where to positio n it self in regard to prostitutes and women who flaunt their sex u ali ty women it sees as upholding patriarchal culture whether through choice or unfortunat e circumstance; interestingly this text that makes a mockery of boundaries and c h a ll e n ges conventions is unea y with these women whom it cannot definitiv e ly place within th e matrix of patriarchy In fact the repeated reference to Oreo's virginity suggests the text's e l evation of women who are untainted by sex ual contact with men; Oreo's extraordi nary n ature may corre lat e with her sex u a l sta te-sh e may be a

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112 virgin because she is an exceptional young woman or she may be an exceptional young woman because she is a virgin. Despite this tension between the text's feminist discourse and its depictions of female sexuality, the protagonist is positioned decidedly as a strong woman. As Oreo s uncle attests, "She sure got womb, that little mother. .I wouldn't want to mess with her when she gets older. She is a ball buster and a half." (53) Ross s reversal of the masculine-centered testament to power depicts female power as something not to be taken lightly. In many ways, then, Ross demonstrates women's power and self determination in an age when women were seen as bodies in service to the movement. At the same time, however, it sexualizes certain women as mere bodies, continuing the struggle over women's bodies and their autonomy. During the movement as before it, black women's bodies were highly subject to regulation since the building of the black nation within a diaspora context has always been seen to be contingent on the maintenance of a biologically determined and genetically maintained racial purity, inscribing the individual black body with the investments of a nation" (Ongiri 233) Given such nationalist ideology, Ross s Oreo is a revolutionary figure-a young, independent, intelligent, active and capable woman. Yet, as previously mentioned, the fact that Oreo s sense of identity and origin relies on her father is testament to the iron grip of patriarchy on definitions of self; common among texts dealing with mixed race is this privileging of the father in negotiations of a daughter s identity Additionally, though the novel highlights a number of strong women, including Oreo's mother and grandmother, Oreo's strength, intelligence, and wit are clearly conflated with masculinity

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113 Nevertheless, Ross' s novel allows a broader understanding of identity, both racial and gender, than many other texts both during and after its time Rather than being structured through traditional limitations, race and gender in Oreo become characteristics that the protagonist is free to explore beyond the boundaries of tradition, allowing her to move beyond the limited notions of womanhood defined for many minority women by the political ideologies of the 1970s when the Black Nationalist Movement encouraged women to subsume their needs and desires to those of the race In 1974 when Ross s novel was published, Elaine Brown became the first woman to lead the Black Panther Party. Although on the surface this suggests a progressive attitude toward women Brown notes in her autobiography that women recruits were reminded that they might someday be called upon to deploy their sexuality as but another weapon against the enemy" (quoted in Perkins 116). Moreover Brown s considerable power did not shield her from "reactionary gender expectations within the Black Panther Party (quoted in Perkins 121) and, as Brown s autobiography s eems to indicate a woman s most valuable as s et was not her intelligence but her sexuality. Oreo is a character who subverts this ideology as her intelligence i s prioritized over her s exuality or, conversely, as her intelligence is maintained through the pre s ervation of her virginity Although both black women and black men have b e en se xualiz e d in particular ways throughout history, and although both have been deemed as hypersexual black women have been the objects of complex patriarchal quests for power.1 3 As Brown notes black women s sexuality was expected to serve the movement either through the reproduction of revolutionaries or through 13 Of co ur se, bl ac k wom e n and m e n h ave been s t e r eoty p e d by whit e s upr emac i s t id e olo g y a s both h y p e r sex u a l and non -sex u a l thr o u g h o ut his t o r y a nd fo r parti c ular r eas on s. A s C o m e W es t not es, "The d o min a nt m y th s dra w black w om e n and m e n e ith e r as thr ea t e nin g c reatur es who hav e th e pot e ntial for sex u a l p o w e r ov e r whit es, o r as harml ess d esexe d und e rlin gs of a whit e c ulture" ( 119 )

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114 seductive attacks against the white enemy. Oreo, too, is depicted using her sexuality to further her aims, yet her use does not extend so far as to compromise her virginity. She overturns the historical use of women's bodies in service of men, using her body in service of her own quest. Of course, not all within the Black Nationalist Movement wished to have women's bodies service the nation; many within the movement wished to halt the victimization of black women by white men that had begun in slavery and had been perpetuated subsequently Many of these people, moreover, wanted black women to be respected as women since historical constructions of womanhood had excluded them from the category. Additionally, tension existed within the movement over whether racism and sexism were interlocking and mutually functioning systems of power that should be confronted simultaneously or whether one oppression, namely racism, should be prioritized over the other. Black women could not find adequate support for their struggle as women and as black people in the feminist movement, either, since many feminists at the time prioritized the needs and issues of white women Despite flaws within its feminist discourse, Oreo seems to both embrace feminist ideology and move beyond it even to the point of critiquing degrading images that were mainly ignored by the feminist movement of the 1960s: Helen s letter went on to point out the implications of her formulation for the theory of the so-called black matriarchs: it tore the theory all to hell. In a later day Helen might have gone on to add (with a slip of the pen owing to hunger): "There's no male chauvinist pork like a black male chauvinist pork ." (54) Using language that mocks much academic writing, Ross critiques the notion made explicit in the Moynihan Report (1965) that black women were responsible for the

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115 emasculation of black men and the poverty and hardships faced by black communities as a whole ; thus, Ross is a precursor of feminist critiques of black patriarchy such as Michele Wallace s Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman (1979), refusing to ignore gender oppression not simply within the larger society but within the black community and Black Nationalist Movement as well. Critics such as Ross and Wallace resisted racial and gender oppression from their positions as black women The intricacies of black women s lives and struggles were largely ignored by the larger feminist movement as many of its proponents were white women who ignored the impact of racial difference on gender. Black feminists such as the members of The Combahee River Collective, which issued its "Black Feminist Statement in 1977, struggled to include the interworkings of race within gender constructions As its statement attests, disillusionment within these liberation movements [of white women and black men] .. .led to the need to develop a politics that was antiracist unlike those of white woman and antisexist, unlike those of black and white men (233). Ross s Oreo departs from limited notions of womanhood that would compel her to reproduce black revolutionaries to use her sexuality to further Black Nationalist aims, to ignore her sexuality or to subsume either her interests as a woman or as a racial minority and person of mixed race in order to prioritize others' political agendas. Oreo's consciously chosen virginity ; her comfort with her sexuality; and her strength, intelligence and self-determination create new possibilities for mixed raced women; the text offers its mixed raced protagonist as a traveler between the traditionally opposing shores of black and white masculine and feminine. She embodies the point of contact

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116 and exists as "two together ": a successful combination of black and white masculine and feminine a satisfying concoction of cookie and cream Travelers Questers and Cookies Throughout her text, Ross confronts various understandings of gender of race and of mixed race She attacks biological notions of race and upholds an understanding of race as contextual shifting, and multifaceted acknowledging that play within racial and gender identities allows individuals a greater sense of personal harmony and likewise, could result in a utopia of greater social harmony Contemporarily more and more mixed race individuals are theorizing mixed race identity in just these ways. However there is little agreement on how these individuals should position themselves both culturally and politically possibly because multiraciality itself is a broad category Yet we have seen the analy s i s of diverse heritages manifested in the works of authors such as Gloria Anzaldua who in Borderlands affirms the various cultures that con s titute her heritage Accordingly Anzaldua legitimize s the standpoint resulting from such a position when she writes: At the confluence of two or more genetic streams 1 4 with chromosomes constantly crossing over ," this mixture of race s, rather than resulting in an inferior being provides hybrid progeny a mutable more malleable s pecies with a rich gene pool. From this racial, ideological cultural and biological cross-pollinization an "alien consciousness i s pr es ently in the making a new me stiza consciousnes s .... It is a consciousness of the Borderlands (77 ) Similarly Chicana writer and poet Cherrie Moraga has di s cussed her po s ition on the borderland as the daughter of a M e xican mother and an Anglo father although she makes her position appear far le ss utopian : You call this a choi c e! To constantly pu s h up 14 Of c our se, Anz a ldua's r efe r e nce to ge n etic s tr e am s i s probl e mat ic, since th ese s tream s do not r e ally ex i s t r a c e i s not a bi o lo g ic a l trait but a trait of s o c ial and c ultural co n s tru c tion s

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117 against a wall of resistance from your own people or to fall away nameless into the mainstream of this country, running with our common blood?" (97). The metaphor of the borderland is one of displacement of Ii ving in two worlds, living in neither. Yet Moraga is explicit in her adoption of a Chicana identity; she cannot consider herself white without betraying her people but she has taken advantage of her ability to pass to move more freely between the two "worlds than other Chicanas. As she writes "once my light skin and good English saved me and my lover from arrest. And I'd use it again. I'd use it to the hilt over and over to save our skins" (97). An analysis of identity for the mixed race individual, then must take into account common metaphors-such as traveler and quester-that denote the ability to move between worlds and the inability to remain fixed in one position, the ability to foreground certain pieces of identity and relegate others to the background within certain social situations. The mixed race individual as any other, experiences life through a multitude of prisms specifically those prisms of her various races, of gender, of sexuality, etc. It is unlikely unless she chooses to ignore a part of her heritage that her identity will remain constant; rather, in some situations, one portion of her ancestry will take precedence will be foregrounded, over the others. Conversely, there may be times when components of her gender are the mo s t salient characteristics of her life. Oreo offers a clear use of these metaphors of traveler, of questing individual and doe s so in a way that acknowledges the s hifting of sa lient characteristics given various contexts. In fact, although Oreo is visually identifiable and self-identified as African American, the content of her identity is formed dynamically improvisationally and contingently as she interacts with others, choosing from a diverse menu of sometimes

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118 competing possibilities and influences that vary from one encounter to another" (Mullen, Foreword xxvii). I would argue that Oreo is not clearly self-identified as African American, however, since she seems to understand race as performance, as an enactment and repetition of various characteristics that she uses to her advantage in different situations, foregrounding those most useful and allowing others to recede; within this text, performance aids in fostering notions of play within identity. For example, in Mr. Soundman's recording studio, Oreo calls upon her experience of Jewishness to perform as Tante Ruchel. In another instance she relies on stereotypes of black womanhood to perform as an uneducated maid, which allows her to gain access to medical specimens of her (now) late father in order to blackmail her grandfather. In still other instances, Oreo manipulates conventions of gender, first appearing as a helpless girl soon to be taken advantage of by a pimp, and then returning to her more fluidly gendered identity in order to perform her martial arts and free herself from the pimp's assumed control. I argue that understandings of race within the text are not performative, in Judith Butler's sense of the word (which I will elaborate in greater detail in my discussion of Caucasia), since Oreo s enactment of characteristics is not binding; instead, racial characteristics in the text are presented as performance, as costumes, accents, and scripts Oreo engages to accomplish her quest. None of these acts of performance becomes ontologically binding for Oreo; in fact, these acts allow a questioning of ontology and identity, demonstrating that identities contain room for "play ," for shifts, contradictions and negotiations. Oreo, then, is both literally and figuratively a traveler, a quester. Literally she journeys in search of her father, traveling from Philadelphia to New York, crossing borders between the worlds of black and white, wealthy and deprived educated and

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119 uneducated. Figuratively, she embodies the metaphor of traveler and quester in her existence as a mixed race individual of black/Jewish heritage and as a young woman who confounds the strict traditional gender divide. As Anzaldua asserts, A borderland is a vague and undetermined place created by the emotional residue of an unnatural boundary" (3). In Oreo's existence, the boundary is not so much delineated as vague and undetermined as much as it is ignored. Because Oreo can move so expertly and easily across that unnatural boundary, she problematizes the "violent clash" of overlap so often suggested by Anzaldua who writes of many defense strategies that the self uses to escape the agony of inadequacy," confessing that she has "split from and disowned those parts of [herself] that others rejected," internalizing "rage and contempt" (45). Oreo though, shows no signs of self-contempt; she is perennially self-confident and comfortable with her intelligence, beauty and abilities. Moreover, Oreo suggests a certain ease and naturalness in manipulating boundaries that troubles traditional notions of conflict and turmoil in mixed race identity; stereotypes such as the tragic mulatto emphasize a sense of conflict and unease within the mixed race individual. And narratives of passing necessitate a denial of heritage in order to achieve a (tentative and trouble some) s ta sis; they suggest movement in one direction only and prohibit acknowledgement of one's site of origin. Oreo however and numerous individuals of mixed heritage embodies an ease and fluidity of movement more than a paralyzing confusion. She exhibits thi s fluidity clearly as she travels moving confidently into various contexts and cultures, foregrounding those elements of her identity most u se ful to each context, literally taking up roles (such as African-American maid and Jewish American aunt) to gain access to disparate communities. Striking! y, Or eo is able to travel

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120 and perform various "selves" within these contexts to foreground specific parts of her identity and move others to the background; yet she also appears to maintain no doubts about what her mission entails, suggesting at least some sense of self that is maintained in the midst of performances. Thus, Oreo embodies the metaphor of traveler of one who moves and changes to suit situations; although Oreo maintains a sense of self, her understanding is tentative and limited since her journey is a search for the relevance of her origins to her identity. For this reason, Oreo varies from the traditional quest motif and demonstrates in some ways Kristina Groover's theory of women's quests-quests that do not neglect relationships or "home. Many feminist researchers note that identity for men is assumed to be distinct from home and family while for women the domestic realm is considered to be a constituting factor of identity. And Oreo's quest is relationship-centered; the novel thoroughly details both her family at home as well as the people she meets along her journey. Additionally the quest itself is driven by a relationship-that of Oreo and her father, whom she needs in order to learn the secret of her birth However, this quest in some ways remains parallel to that of Theseus and does follow the path of the prototypical journey into the wilderness where the hero(ine) leaves behind home and family in order to learn vital self-defining information. Oreo s quest, then, also differs from women s spiritual quests as outlined by Groover : Oreo does not remain in the domestic realm but journeys into the public world ; she does not find meaning in a garden but seeks it in the "wilderness. This wilderness, however, is not the literal wilderness of the traditional male-centered quest that remove s the individual from the boundaries of civilization; rather, it is a wilderness of civilization

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121 the wilderness of the city and even of public park s that are transformed into sites where the most unu s ual creatures are encountered. Nevertheless, this wilderness is still partially in keepi ng with that of traditional quests since the wilderness can be read on a figurative rather than a literal level.15 At the same time however Oreo's quest demonstrates the circu larit y, the return to home and community of women's spiritual quests Becau se Oreo's quest entails elements from both the male-centered and female centere d motifs the text appears to enact a "mix ing of the masculine and feminine paradigms of spiritual que st-a fact in keeping with the other mixtures suggested by the novel, all of which suggest an element of play in the text's imaginings of race and gender. Oreo enacts both figurative and literal mixtures in a way that suggests the nece ssi ty of embracing dualitie s without hierarchy and opposition. Dualities and complements function n egative ly when the y are not joined in a whole that affirms both components as valid and nec essary. Thus it is not the dualitie s themselves that must be transcended but the t e nd e n cy to view dualities as oppositional and hierarchical. Or eo privilege s this not ion of compleme ntary dualities, of opposites that are not oppositional of difference without hierarchy. In a llowing various mixtures to co-exist within her text-mixtures of race and gender, for example-Ross works within thi s harmonizing se n se of difference and duality. As an embodim ent of the metaphor of mixed race individual as traveler and que s ter who melds the p aradig m s of ma sc uline and feminine spiritual quest, Oreo urges reconcil e d visio n s of race and ge nd er, s u ggesti n g future possibilities for race and ge nd er th at are consistent with many contemporary discourses of mix e d race Additionally, Oreo embod i es another common metaphor of mixed race identity: that of translator. And in 1 5 Groover n otes that "Beginnin g with mod emi t works and throughout twentieth-century literature . the wilderness i s a more hi g hly sy mbolic one whic h nonetheles s s u gges t s that wi sdom i s to be found in the flight from hom e and community."

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122 fleshing out this metaphor, Ross enacts additional mixtures within her text, crossing other traditionally delineated boundaries. Specifically, the mixtures within Ross's novel experiment with new and varied possibilities for race, gender, identity and language. In fact, Ross's novel blends Yiddish and African-American dialects with more formal academic language foreign languages, and languages of the heroine's and others' invention. Oreo, for example, creates a list of terms to describe movements in her self-developed system of self-defense. Oreo s brother also invents a language when, covering his ears to prevent hearing a cat fight, he misinterprets his neighbor's words "My cat's a coward" as "Mah cassa cowah" (42). Jimmie C. was delighted. He decided to use this wonderful new expression as the radical for a radical second language. "Cha-key-key wah, mah-cassa-cowah ," he would sing mysteriously in front of strangers. "Freck-a-louse-poop!" Oreo recognized the value of Jimmie C. 's cha-key key-wah language over the years. For her it serve d the same purpose as black slang. She often used it on shopkeepers who lapsed into Yiddish or Italian. It was her way of saying, Talk about mother tongues-try to figure out this one, you mothers." ( 42) The text clearly disrupts racialized language use-even language use in general. Oreo works briefly at a recording studio-Mr. Soundman, Inc.-run by a mute AfricanAmerican man who communicates via cardboard signs featuring cartoon bubbles inscribed with pre-made messages ranging from "YOU'RE LOOKING AT HIM" to "RIGHT ON." Ironically, he had translated the typical cartoon asterisk-spiral-star exclamation point -sc ribble as a straightforward FUCK YOU, YOU MUTHA" (140). Thus Mr. Soundman makes no so und and, although he has a collection of cartoon bubbles in which he can write spontaneous me ssages, he appears to communicate well with his small selection of prepared messages. The fact that he can participate in a variety of conversations with a few predetermined lines suggests fluidity and interchangeability

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123 in language and an understanding of conversations as simp le fill-in-the-blank exercises. Also ironic is Oreo's standing-in for her father, who normally works at Mr. Soundman recording commercials. Oreo records a commercial for "Tante Ruchel's Frozen Passover TV Seder," a product that makes light work of but also makes light of a significant religious festival. At one point during the recording process, Mr. Soundman balloons to Oreo: "A LITTLE MORE JEWISH PLEASE" (143), allowing Ross to point to the insufficiency of language use as a gauge of race and also to disrupt expectations of gender by having Oreo, a black/Jewish girl speak for her father, a Jewish man, who speaks for "Tante Ruchel," presumably a Jewish aunt but really a (double) work of fiction. Ross' s experimentation with language allows a glimpse into the role of language in constructing various identities as well as an acknowledgment of the playfulness inherent in language. "Oreo' s linguistic prowess and her arsenal of wit enhance her self confidence and provide her with the means to turn ordinary tasks and events into opportunities for play ... she finds a lt ernative modes of thinking and writing (Mullen, Not par. 16) and, I will add, alternative modes of being and relating to others. She plays with the strictures of identity in order to reconcile the dualities within her own. The importance of language to this text cannot be underestimated, nor can its importance to the development of identity be denied. As Mullen observes, "th e moment that signals [Oreo's] readiness to begin her quest for comp l ete self-knowledge is a test of her verbal ability" (Not par. 16), illustrating the role of language in self-development. In this text's explorations of race and gender, a crucial consideration is the use of lan guage as a component of identity and as a vehicle for transporting one to new possibilities of being.

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124 An analysis of metaphors of mixed race identity in Oreo would not be complete without a discussion of its most prominent metaphor: that of the "Oreo." This metaphor is commonly used not only to suggest those of mixed black and white ancestry but also to suggest a capitulation to white mainstream values by African-Americans: "black on the outside, white on the inside. "16 The connotations of this metaphor are many, suggesting a certain sweetness, edibleness and vulnerability, connotations that are denounced by Oreo as a character-one who is more sarcastic than sweet, more apt to consume than to be consumed, more capable of self-defense than vulnerability. In fact, the text makes clear that "Oreo" is the protagonist's nickname rather than her given name; furthermore, this nickname is depicted as a misnomer, a misunderstanding in language due to lack of understanding between people of different backgrounds and vernaculars. Using satirical allusions to the Bible, Ross writes that When Christine was about two and a half, she got her nickname. It came to Louise [her grandmother] in a dream Louise was walking down a dusty road with Christine on a gray, overcast day, when suddenly the clouds parted and a ray of sunshine beamed down right in front of the child. Out of this beam of sunshine came a high-pitched squeaky voice. "And her name shall be Oriole .... People had been calling the child various things as she toddled down the street after Louise, cursing them under her breath ... But when they looked at Christine's rich brown color and her wide smile full of sugar-white baby teeth, they said to themselves "Why, that child does put me in mind of an Oreo cookie-side view." And that is how Oreo got her name. Nobody knew that Louise was saying "Oriole." (39) Ross's use of Oreo's nickname then, both appropriates and rejects the validity of this metaphor. Additionally it speaks to a notion of "consumption" or appropriation of discourses of mixed race identity by polarized groups, the ways in which each group vies over the meaning of mixed race in moments of racial crisis. Such appropriative 1 6 Consider also s imilar u ses of food m etap hor s to desc rib e Native Americans (apples), Asian Americans (ba nana s), Latinos (coco nut s), etc.

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125 discourses often serve to consolidate traditionally reified categories of race, figuratively warring over the mixed race individual, rather than to deconstruct race and allow the individual to personify a site of union. With characteristic satire, Ross questions the assumptions underlying such acts of naming, stereotyping, and appropriating-demonstrating that not all "cookies" will crumble and that not all Oreos taste as sweet as they look. Traveling in/as Twos Oreo clearly offers new possibilities of being-new possibilities for women and for individuals of mixed race. In many respects Oreo's mixed race heritage is taken for granted; it is neither taboo, tragedy nor trophy. Yet it does contribute to new understandings of race and the possibilities and mobilities of mixed race; additionally, it fits solidly within discourses of mixed race identity that seek utopian spaces of harmony and wholeness within mixed race individuals and by extension, within society. Likewise, the novel seeks to understand these present and future possibilities of mixed race by confronting the significance of personal and collective history and by grappling with the contradictions and tensions this history causes in the present moment. Oreo offers space on the map of human existence for those normally fixed at the intersection of precise lines to travel to trek beyond the boundaries of delineated categories, and to traverse the possibilities of mobile and multi-faceted identities Yet given the utopian tendencies of the quest motif, it would seem that positing mixed raced existence as quest is problematic, suggesting as it does the impossibility of s ucce ss ful completion, th e failure of attaining the desir e d utopia. Likewi se, the notion of mixed race individual as traveler is equally problematic since it attempts to leave behind

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126 the conflict of the present moment and context, assuming the existence of a utopia in which the current crisis will vanish. As with all utopian longings then these metaphors of mixed raced identity as quest and the mixed race individual as traveler seek to displace the conflict and racial crisis of the here and now outside the realm of the unattainable utopia After all, what is ultimately important to Oreo s identity has little to do with her predetermined utopian goal-finding her father and suddenly knowing the secret of her birth-which, after additional searching she learns was the result of artificial insemination again suggesting the text s difficulty in supporting the possibility of successful interracial romance Through the secret of Oreo s birth, Ross ultimately problematizes the extent to which identity, kinship and heritage are constructed around race culture and economics and questions "the 'natural' bond presumed to exist between parent and child" (Mullen, Foreword xxv) .1 7 In so doing Ross also suggests what is important in constructing Oreo s identity : that Oreo is able to play with the boundaries of racial and gender identity to foreground different parts of herself in different contexts and to enact each of these parts in various circumstances and for various purposes She is a utopian character not limited by stereotypes of race or gender but one who instead offers new options for identity through an understanding of history and through broadened understandings of the present and future. She illustrates the problematic metaphors of mixed race identity that suggest such individuals are travelers to utopian spaces of racial harmony pioneers who may lead soci e ty to a utopian future an under s tanding of racial mixture that is taken up at the end of the twentieth century by text s s uch as Dan z y Senna s Cau c asia. Indeed Ross s character is a precur sor for later 17 T h e presen ce o f artifi c i al insemin atio n m a y s u gges t artifi c i ality within ra c ial mi x tur e Conve r se ly it c ould b e r e ad as a comme nt on th e dim i ni s h e d importance of th e fath e r s presence not onl y a ft e r birth but eve n at c oncepti o n

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127 imaginings of mixed race ; she is representative of metaphors that acknowledge an Oreo is made of both cookie and cream that suggest the mixed raced individual is "two together ," no matter where that one (or two-in-one) may travel.

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CHAPTERS RE-VISIONS OF DIFFERENCE IN DANZY SENNA'S CAUCASIA Disappearing: The Skin We're In I have disappeared several times that I can remember. For instance ... Once, when I was married I perused an antique store with my husband (who looks older than his age) and my mother-in-law (who looks younger than her age), and we were approached by a store employee offering assistance. "What are you and your husband looking for? she asked my mother-in-law glancing next at my husband. Of course, there were embarrassed chuckles all around when my husband informed her that the woman whom she mistook as his wife was really his mother and that his wife was really me, whom she didn t seem to have noticed at all. I felt like a brown-skinned shadow, as if I must have blended into the woodwork around us and thereby been rendered invisible. In the instant after the woman asked her question I felt the weight of stereotypical assumptions attempting to deny both a part of my identity and the legitimacy of my desire Having seen my body, the woman promptly determined where and with whom I didn t belong pass ing her eyes over me like an eraser wiping away a pencil mark. As seer, she had the power to make me figuratively disappear. Another example ... In January 2003, I was involved in an automobile accident in which the police had to be s ummoned. Afterwards, with the copy of the police report in hand I went about my bu s ine ss, s ure that the situation and the involved parties had been clear. But reviewing the 128

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129 report later I noticed two things : one the man at fault was described as "BM" [black male] ; two the person he rear-ended was described as "WF" [white female] Startled I double-checked the names of the two involved. Yes there was the man's name and there was mine, so who was this white female the officer had claimed was present for an accident in which both parties had variations of brown skin? To be clear, let me insist that there is no mistaking me for a tanned white woman, though I have been labeled as Indian South Asian, Mexican ... none of which constitute whiteness in the United States. Did the officer see my white husband who arrived after the accident, and privilege his race? Did I become merely a reflection of my husband? Could the officer not fathom a marriage that didn t match the norm ? Or was something else altogether affecting his reading of me and my body? Does my body encourage body fictions of which I am not even aware, those that would seem to hold no validity whatsoever? Once again, I felt myself disappearing for if the officer could call me a white woman, then he clearly could not see me In the first instance, my brown ski n made me disappear from the woman's recognition. In the second, my brown ski n itself disappeared" because inexplicably it was ignored causing invisibility for me once again. In each instance my body played an integral role: first it became all of me; then it became none. Of course, historical forces are crucial in s haping "who I am" with reference to the body I inhabit. Historically, those on th e lower end of hierar c hies have been associated with the body women as opposed to men and people of color as opposed to whites. We may see ourselves outside of or beyond our bodies but society typically uses our bodies, especially if we are relegated to the bottom of th e hierarchy as points of refer e nce or even as maps of our identitie s The

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130 body has ... been at the center of feminist theory precisely because it offers no ... 'natural foundation for our pervasive cultural assumptions about femininity. Indeed there is a tension between women's lived bodily experiences and the cultural meanings inscribed on the female body that always mediate those experiences" (Conboy et al 1 ) Reflecting this tension the identities we establish for ourselves may be at odds with the meanings inscribed on our bodies ; thus, our identities may disappear because of social forces that locate our identities through cultural interpretations of bodies. Rarely our bodies themselves may "disappear or be ignored, as when people claim colorblindnes s in a misguided attempt to avoid racism. Our bodies may play tricks on us ; they may lead people who "read them to conclu s ions other than those we intend, all un s ettling possibilities-certainly so for those whose bodies seemingly are in contradiction with their self-defined identities, as is sometimes the case with those of mixed race. Such philosophical and theoretical questions are common in novel s dealing with mixed race which struggle with issues of play in racial identity with the performativity of race, and with the law and its interpellation of bodies Such novels additionally long for a utopia a space beyond the law and beyond history, where identity is not subject to interpellation or the confines of the past. As it did in my opening anecdote the law calls on various bodies to be raced in specific ways Those whose racial affiliation is not in keeping with their visible bodies are interpellated and externally defined as the law sees fit often in contradiction to their self-definitions. The invisibility of their identitie s keep s their bodies under indictment since according to the law, identity and body should correspond. Such individuals are forced to confront the "misrepresentation of their identities through conformity to the law or are forced to remain under indictment by

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131 assuming an identity contradicted by their bodies In the latter instance, individual ontology is challenged by the body, while in the former instance ontology is subject to disappearance. In her satirical essay "The Mulatto Millennium, Danzy Senna describes her fear of disappearing "of being swallowed whole by the great white whale ( 18). Senna seems to resist in part the potential depreciation in black political power if mixed-race Americans continue to emphasize their blended heritages. Additionally there is a danger that not only political clout will be lost but cultural uniqueness as well; it is likewise feasible that blackness itself could be lost through miscegenation Although countless theorists predict the browning of America (mainly through immigration) during the coming century interracial mixture in areas of white majority would serve to produce a gradually whiter and whiter society Though the myth of atavism-which suggested the possibility of a genetic throwback the possibility that blackness will out was widely h e ld throughout the ninete e nth century such a throwback is a genetic impossibility. Yet many found and s till find frightening this invisible blacknes s and this threat of the r es urgence of that blackness (Williamson 103) Nevertheless in a country where whites still are the majority,1 it is not the erasure of whiteness that would result from interracial mixture ( a s m a ny whit e s upr e maci s t s c ontend)2 but the erasure of blackne ss.3 1 Ex tr a pol atio n s fr o m th e cen s u s pr e di c t th a t Hi s p anics will c on s titut e th e majority in th e Unit e d St a t es b y 2050 2 See Whit e M an Fa lli ng: R ace, Fende r and White Supr e m acy by Abby L. F e rb e r fo r a d e t a iled s tud y of th e f earfill e d m o tiv a tion s s urrounding whit e s upr e m ac i s ts mov e m e nt s. 3 L awre nce R. T e nzer d esc rib es th e ge n etic proces ses wh e r e b y s kin c olor i s d e t e rmin e d Unlik e eye c olor whic h i s d e p e nd e nt upon d o minant and recess iv e gen es, produ c in g only a set numb e r of eye c olor p oss ibiliti es, s kin c ol o r r es ult s from a bl e ndin g of th e p a r e nts' ge n es; thu s, far gre at e r numb e r s of s kin c olor are po ss ibl e And throu g h c ontinu a l mi x tur e with whit e n ess," s kin color will c ontinuall y lig ht e n (107 ). T h e refo r e, th e offs prin g o f a white and a bl ac k p are nt will a lway s b e lig ht e r in s kin color than the black p are nt.

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132 The disappearance of blackness within those of mixed race is a prominent theme of Senna's 1998 novel Caucasia since for many people, as Senna states in an interview, "the mulatto represents assimilation, the end of blackness, and the end of the discussion on racism" (Arias 448).4 A popular novel hailed as a national bestseller, Cauacasia details the childhood and adolescence of Birdie, a black/white biracial girl, during the 1970s and early 1980s. Because Birdie's phenotype is indeterminate, her grandmother insists that Birdie could be Sicilian or Italian or any more highly ranked ethnicity than black. Birdie accompanies her white mother, Sandy, when the latter feels she must flee the authorities after participating in illegal activities during the Black Power movement. Because Birdie's older sister Cole is brown-skinned, curly-haired, and gray-eyed, with "a face that betrayed all of its origins" (49), she leaves with their black father, Deck, for Brazil, a country where the characters believe there is no racial strife-a utopia of racial harmony. Even Birdie and her sister's names are indicative of their respective identities; Cole's name is synonymous with blackness, while Birdie's suggests mobility and even indeterminacy.5 Birdie's narrative begins: "A long time ago I disappeared" (1). Caucasia is the story of her disappearance and her subsequent struggle to re-envision herself. The novel's genre and popularity have allowed it to comment on mixed race identity at a time when the topic has moved visibly into public discourse. Because of its setting in the 1970s and 1980s, the novel highlights the meanings of mixed race after the active period of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements. Like Oreo, the novel recalls the era of Black Nationalism but appears to move more fully beyond it, to project itself into a future 4 Of course, the sociocultural disappearance of blackness through the reality of race mixture is a possibility only if tho e of mixed race reject their blackness Alternatives to this disappearance are available when those of mixed heritage seek to affirm their minority or both their minority and their majority heritage s 5 When Birdie is born her parents cannot agree on a name for her so her birth certificate reads Baby Lee and she is known by the nick.name her sister gave her

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133 where negotiations of mixed race are mapped through political questions like the census; in other words Caucasia, though set thirty years ago, parallels the lives of many people of mixed race who currently are confronted with determining the possibilities of a public space amenable to identities of mixed race In addition to the themes shared by all of the texts under discussion-utopian visions of harmony and wholeness, absent fathers the possibility of play within identity allowed by notions of duality that emphasize complementarity over hierarchy and opposition-Caucasia struggles with notions of invisibility and power; with the role of bodies in shaping identities; with movement and belonging; with questions of racial ontology, performance, and performativity; and with the failure of historical paths toward racial harmony. As a family drama the novel shows that harmony and wholeness are tenuous even within the supposed security of a family, but it refuses to locate the mixed raced individual solely in the domestic realm. Instead it posits the meanings of mixed race when the individual finds herself beyond the boundaries of home and cast into the public world Birdie enters this world and figuratively passes into the belly of the great white whale as she escapes with her mother into white middle-class America the America her blue-blooded mother consider s authentic, but her escape is predicated upon her invisibility The disappearance of which she speaks then, is the disappearance of her blackness as she passes as white Yet the novel suggests that both blackness and whiteness at times constitute performances for her ; Birdie has to adopt the dress and speech patterns of her black classmates who mistake her for white, and she has to ignore her bla c kn e ss and adopt the codes of whiteness when she and her mother enter white Ame ri ca. Th e play su g ge s ted by r acial performance, part of the type of play I describe

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134 as a shifting and destabilization of racial categories, becomes in this text an act of survival, thus denouncing any hint of romanticism or freedom from str uggle in the idea of play and in reference to the lives of those of mixed race. The novel depicts only one site of authenticity for Birdie-in the "mirror" she and her sister provide for each other. The attic room they share as children becomes a utopian site exclusive of the forces of the outer world, a space where Birdie can act as herself freed from the specific racial performances the world demands outside; this is the only space in which she can be without conflict, the daughter of her white mother and black father. Bodies at Play: Performing (and Being ) Race(d ) In the outside world where she escapes with her mother, Birdie's body provides her with invisibility and is the costume of her performance. In the world of her childhood, her body initially is ignored. Alluding to the ways in which bodies shape identities, the first named chapter in Caucasia is titled "Face" and begins: "Before I ever saw myself, I saw my sister. When I was still too small for mirrors, I saw her as the reflection that proved my own existence" (5). Recalling the notion of the mirror stage when individuals discover they exist because they can be recognized by others, Birdie's statement illustrates the importance of her sister to her own identity as well as the importance of bodies in definitions of self and others. It is Cole's face that Birdie comes to recognize and imagine as her own; she does not even realize their differences in ski n color and hair texture until these are pointed out to her. Birdie and Cole imagine themselves part of a utopia created in their own fantasies; as Birdie states I had some vague understanding that beyond our window, outside the attic, lay danger-the world, Boston, and all the problems that came with the city. When Cole and I were alone in our attic, speaking Elemeno [a language they created] and making cities out of stuffed animals, it seemed

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that the outside world was as far away as Timbuktu-some place that could never touch us We were the inside, the secret and fun and make believe and that was where I wanted to stay. (6) 135 Birdie however, is forced into that world outside, thereby forcing her away from the paradise she believes she shares with Cole as well as the paradise of being surrounded by blackness in her community and school. Interestingly, as Cole explains to Birdie the Elemenos "were a shifting people constantly changing their form, color, pattern, in a quest for invisibility (7), and this becomes the challenge for those of mixed race as well as they seek the type of invisibility that allows belonging concurrently with a visibility in which they are seen for who they believe themselves to be. For Birdie, the initial desire for invisibility is driven by a need for safety in a hostile world literally the world in which her mother believes the FBI chases her, but figuratively the world in which having a black father and a white mother would make Birdie stand out as something undesirable and dangerous. The text depicts her body, then, as both the tool for her salvation and the fact of that which makes her unsafe ; Birdie's body allows her mobility but is also characterized as "a federal offense (303). The novel questions in which realm Birdie should exist-in the white realm where she would be bound by the law's authority and the call to perform whiteness,6 or in the black realm, where her body would be held under indictment. Significantly then the novel suggests that the only space of "authenticity" for those of mixed race is a space freed from the competing pressures of both whiteness and blackness ; it is not necessarily a raceless space but a space where races are held in the equilibrium of duality beyond hierarchy and opposition, a space where play is allowed 6 Of cour se, for Birdie this white realm i s not a pure s pa ce; ins tead it i s haunt e d by the blackness in h e r history and memory

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136 free reign. It is a space that, of course does not exist within the social sphere. Nevertheless, the novel continues to struggle with the search for such a space and Birdie s quest becomes a search for a psychological utopia.7 Such a utopia would allow the individual to be freed from social forces that demand her disappearance; it is a search therefore, for a space in which she can be visible truly seen and recognized. Implicit in Birdie s claim that "I" disappeared by passing into whiteness is the understanding that the identity of most individuals of mixed race has necessarily encompassed blackness, yet this claim does not imply sole black identification for those individuals. The I suggests that there is nothing left of Birdie Lee when s he becomes the white Jewish girl Jesse Goldman. Although the identity of a mixed race individual may rest on the reality of both her father and her mother the text at times challenges the possibility of a specifically mix ed rac e identity through the one-drop rule Additionally it questions the play allowed in racial identities given historical notions of race and despite popular notions of race as performative. Thus, in addition to addressing the role of bodies in s haping identities the text questions the meanings of racial ontology and racial performance. As Deck asserts "In a country as racist as this you re either black or you re white. And no daughter of mine is going to pass (27) Her sister too emphasizes that Birdie's blackness should dominate even though Birdie is so light-skinned and straight haired that other children "mis take her for white. Cole defends Birdie and simultaneously makes known her own identification by saying "Birdie isn t white. She s black. Just like me" (48) 7 P e tt eri Pi e tik a in e n d e fin es p syc hologi c al utopi a as "a form of utopian thou g ht in w hi c h th e a ttainm e nt o f an ideal s t a t e o f co nsciou s n ess re quir es th e e mplo y m e nt of p syc holo g ical in s i g ht s and m e thod s th a t ar e effec ti ve in tran s formin g human p e r so n a lit y and th e r e by the whol e s oci e ty or cultur e (41).

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137 Birdie though, is awed by and envious of Cole's body Instead of being non descript and open to innumerable interpretations by the viewer, Cole's body is more readily defined in a specific way. Cole's darker skin and curlier hair identify her as a person of color, a fact that Birdie envies. When she and Cole enter the Afrocentric school Nkrumah, they soon realize, as Cole remarks that their mother doesn't know anything about rai ing a black child" (53). Although Cole defends Birdie's blackne ss, she is chided for her ashy knees and unmanaged hair until she discovers lotion and convinces her father to let his girlfriend take her to a black hair care salon. Subsequently Cole and Birdie begin to experiment with their images, using make-up studying fashion trends adopting hairstyles that are popular with their peers The se manipulations do not alter Birdie's se nse of her difference but they do make her "more conscious of [her] body as a toy and of the ways [she] could use it to disappear into the world around [her]" (65). De s pite the difference between her body and Cole's, at times Birdie's character seems to assert a thoroughl y black identity: "My mother did that sometimes, spoke of Cole as if s h e had been her only black child. It was as if my mother believed that Cole and I were so differ ent. As if she believed I was white, believed I was Je sse" (275) Of course, the text itself questions whether or not Birdie actually becomes white become s J esse during her exile with her mother: "May be I had actually become Je sse," Birdie fears, "and it was thi s girl, thi s Birdie Lee who haunted these streets, searc hing for g ho s t s, who was the lie (329). As the text asks whether "whiteness were contagious, whether it "affec ted the way [Birdie] walked, talked, dressed, danced, and at its mo s t adva n ced stage, the way [Birdie] looked at the world a nd at other people" (329) race becomes not only something that is performed but something that is performed so

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138 thoroughly and convincingly that its essentialized characteristics become adopted, internalized, experienced, and believed. It becomes real in a very experiential sense. The text, then, questions whether racial performativity becomes racial ontology ,8 whether, in living as a member of one race an individual actually becomes accordingly raced .9 As Judith Butler has argued in terms of gender identity, gender is not a noun but neither is it a set of free-floating attributes for we have seen that the substantive effect of gender is performatively produced and compelled by the regulatory practices of gender coherence ... gender proves to be performati ve-that is constituting the identity it is purported to be. In this sense gender is always a doing, though not a doing by a subject who might be said to preexist the deed. (GT 33) Race is similarly performative; it is "produced and "compelled" by enactments of race and by forces of interpellation. Through these processes of interpellation individuals are called to be "raced in specific ways ; this call often takes the form of a requirement since the caller occupies a position of authority a position that is capable of calling the addressee into the experience the ontology of a specific role. In this way, then social dictates most often call an individual of mixed racial heritage to be raced as black. The text also suggests that one who is freed through phenotype to perform whiteness as well may in fact be white through the power of a binding act that is continually reiterated: Performative acts are forms of authoritative speech: most performatives for instance, are statements that in the uttering, also perform a certain action and exercise a binding power. Implicated in a network of authorization and punishment, performatives tend to include legal sentences [etc ] ... statements which not only perform an action but confer a binding power on the action performed. If the power of discourse to produce that which it names is linked with the question of 8 Truly thi s notion of an ontolo gy of ra ce c ould only b e po ss ibl e throu g h p e rform a nce and proj ectio n since raci a l b eing c annot b e bas e d on biolo g y 9 Howe ve r th e text al s o d e mon stra te s that s u c h performativity c um ontolo g y i s base d on notion s of h y pod esce nt for Sandy does not b ec om e black throu g h livin g amon g and adoptin g th e pre domin ant c od es of African Am e rican s.

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performativity, then the performative is one domain in which power acts as discourse. (Butler, Bodies 225) 139 Birdie is not acting "as if' she were white; the very act of reiterating whiteness-and of being interpellated as white by the law which sees bodies as definitive of identities-makes it ontologically binding for her. Performativity and reiteration lend substance, rather than attributes that, as in performance, can be taken on and off. However, the same "freedom" of performativity is not allowed for individuals with more precisely determined phenotypes-such as Cole and Sandy. Thus, performativity can suggest ontology only given other, specific (or un-specifiable?) characteristics. Birdie's character can claim that she has disappeared, perhaps ceased to exist, because of her performativity of race ; this performativity the text suggests, may have erased the ontological Birdie altogether and replaced her with another being, Jesse, for "[t]here is no [racial] identity behind the expressions of [race]; that identity is performatively constituted by the very 'expressions' that are said to be its results" (Butler, GT 33). In addition to emphasizing the performativity of race, the novel also highlights the reality of race in daily lives and the primary role bodies play in making race "real." Cole comments about their father, He's right, you know. About it all being constructed. But ... that doesn't mean it doesn t exist" ( 408). The visible clues to ocial identity are often those located upon bodies and the text suggests that the paradise Birdie and Cole shared is lost, in part, due to the response individual bodies elicit in the social world; separated from other bodies that served as markers for her own, the protagonist is cast out of the relative diversity of the city and relocated to a small, rural, and homogeneous

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140 wilderness equated with the 'real' America. 10 As Birdie laments at the beginning of the novel, she disappears within the whiteness of America because of the body in which she moves abo ut the world. She has only this body and "a memory of something lost (1). America becomes the easiest place to lose oneself because of pressures toward assimilation and also because of assumptions readily made on the basis of bodies. Since Birdie is described as a well-tanned white girl, her body betrays the identity she has held for herself as black. After years of allowing her body to be taken at face value, Birdie begins to forget the identity she believed was true; she forgets her black father and brown-skinned sister and begins to accept what her body tells others: she is Jesse, a white Jewish girl: "I would become white-white as my skin, hair bones allowed. My body would fill in the blanks, tell me who I should become, and I would let it speak for me" (1). Only when she is identified as black by a black classmate does Birdie realize who she is, who she has become, and what she has lost: the paradise of truly being seen. Appearing in the Mirroring The text suggests that the longing for visibility and recognition are the catalysts in the search for affective relationships namely Birdie's search to find her sister and father. This search continues Birdie's travels in the larger world and demonstrates, as does Oreo and other mixed race literature, the prominence of tropes of mobility and travel in texts dealing with mixed race. And as with other motifs within this text-such as visibility and invisibility, performativity and ontology-travel and mobility are facilitated (or limited) 1 0 According to an Associated Press article dat ed June 2002 th e 2000 cen s u s revealed a "decl in e in the numb e r of p eo ple id e ntifying th e mselv es as b e ing of Irish, German, and other E urop ean ancestries" a nd a r e lativ e ly s mall but grow in g number of people who . are si mply ca lling themselves American. The article suggests a corre l a tion b etwee n th e two popul a tion s, indicating that an increasing number of people of European de sce nt are identifying a s American a nd perhap s, e ncouragin g the notion that those of Europea n a n cestry are the Americans, without need of hyph e nation

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141 by bodies. As Birdie narrates "I disappeared into America, the easiest place to get lost. Dropped off, without a name, without a record. With only the body I traveled in (1). Because Cole's body is a more definitive marker of her race she is not allowed the mobility her mother and sister experience; instead, she joins her black father and his black girlfriend as they travel to Brazil where they anticipate racial harmony. Cole's determinacy does not allow her access to the same communities Birdie and her mother enter, thus demonstrating that the search for sites of belonging is limited by the body in which one travels Unlike Oreo, Caucasia does not celebrate mixed race identity as movement; rather it searches for a site of visibility and for the recapture of an assumed paradise lost or utopia where the individual was seen and accepted. Movement in this text, then, is propelled not by a search for origins but by the realization that the current space is so filled with conflict and opposition that it threatens one's being with invisibility The text suggests a search for a utopia where those of mixed race can be seen as they see themselves-for example, as Birdie and Cole initially see each other: secure individuals with a white mother and black father who belong to and are accepted as vital members of an interracial family rather than through the social fictions of the one-drop rule or passing. As mentioned, the utopia in this text is not a literal space but a psychological one created through the act of seeing each other as each sees herself initially as a functioning member of a family that does not reflect the norm but exists by valuing affect over superficialities, by valuing dualities over hierarchies and oppositions ; such honest recognition moreover would likely alter the social space as well.

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142 Metaphors of mixed race identity in Caucasia-which I am suggesting encompass the tensions of movement and belonging visibility and invisibility power and performati vity-reflect the longing for a site where the lost paradise of Birdie and Cole's relationship can be reclaimed where blackness need not war with whiteness, where the mixed raced individual need not be made invisible through passing as white or through adherence to the one-drop rule; this site is depicted as the psychological utopia shared between Birdie and Cole symbolized by their attic bedroom where the external world did not intrude upon their visions of themselves. It is a space where blackness is allowed, not made invisible or swallowed by the great whale of whiteness And it is a space where whiteness is allowed; yet, importantly it is a space where the children's parents representative in the text of their respective races rarely trespass At one point when Birdie's mother enters the space, she plays a game wherein she disguises herself and pretends to be a wicked monster who has taken the place of their mother. When they were younger, this game both frightened and delighted the girls; yet as they grow older the game bores them well aware as they are of the realities of their mother's existence and her whiteness, despite the life she has chosen among black communities. The text's references to disappearance s of race and the invisibility of mixed race illustrate that whiteness, along with its privilege and power, remains despite political choices that are meant to relinquish that whiteness. Thus their mother Sandy's "disap pearance into a black community and the family she created with her black husband Deck is no true disappearance. Her whiteness continues to function as a badge, as a type of property despite her ideologies. The same cannot be said, however, of blacknes s, as the text s hows in num erous ways. When the family drives together through

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143 racist white sections of Boston the disappearing game Deck is forced to play is noticeably different from Sandy 's. Compelled to crouch on the floor of the car and hide under a blanket Deck turns his hiding into a game for the children, but it is a game in which he lacks agency. He unlike Sandy cannot ignore his racial category and traverse racially demarcated communities with the same ease. Unlike Sandy he cannot distance his racial category from his identity, ignoring the former while maintaining the latter. Instead his racial self is undeniably linked to his entire body his entire being and hiding one necessitates hiding the others. The text makes clear then the mobility and agency allowed by whiteness and the limits imposed upon blackness limits that potentially force individuals to the point of disappearance In so doing the text questions the mobility and agency of tho se of mixed race, suggesting through two sisters with different phenotypes that individual bodies determine one's access to mobility one's power through invisibility and one's identity through visibility. Because of Birdie's 'white body she is able to disappear to seem invisible by blendin g in with the white majority. Birdie however like her mother, wants to reject the power of whiteness. Although her mother eventually succumbs to the luxury of maintaining the status quo only criticizing it in ways that do not compromise her own comfort, Birdie acknowledges her performance of whiteness as a charade, an act of pas sing th a t re s ult s in a denial and eventual forgetting of her father and sister. She begin s to s lip into the comfort of her white skin until she is "outed as black by a black classmate. Thus, th e nov e l illustrates specific n ego tiations of race and mixed race including th e challenges faced by tho se who may long for s pace s of multir acia l affirmation but must face the pull of forces toward assimilation to whiteness.

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144 Experiencing whiteness allows Birdie to give testament to the theory that white people find their power in invisibility while the rest of us remain bodies for them to study and watch" (72). The text struggles with questions of power in relation to visibility and invisibility, at times demonstrating that invisibility ( for whites ) brings power while invisibility (for people of color ) strips power from the individual. In adopting whiteness Birdie does become invisible ; she is able to hide as Jesse Goldman ignoring the racist remarks of her schoolmates and pretending that such comments do not condemn her as well as the persons at whom they are aimed. Importantly the novel demonstrates that due to the oppositional construction of blackness and whiteness, mixed raced individuals are encouraged to deny either their blackness-if they like Birdie can "pass" -or their whiteness-the more common occurrence 11 In addition to perhaps throu g h its demonstrations of the uneven power of whiteness and blackness, the text also shows that blackness and whiteness have been at war with one another-Birdie's parents relationship represents larger social struggles on an individual level and suggests the struggle historically assumed to take place within the mixed raced individual ; their war is representative of the social war and liberal whites s uch as Sandy can be seen attempting to renounce whitene ss but never able to sustain the project. Her choice to ignore her whitenes s (until the moment when s he need s to take advantage of her white privilege) does not diminish its power or it s presence In fact, her eventual refuge in whiteness demonstrates how difficult s ustained renunciation of power and privilege can be ; Sandy slips easily back into white middle class society, 11 In making th e c l ai m th a t whiteness s hould not be m a d e invi s ible I am not s ug ges tin g th a t it s h o uld b e prioritized over blackne ss. It i s c lear that white s upr e m acy is detrim e ntal to individual s, communiti es, and n at i o n s, but in i g norin g th e whiteness within mixed race individu a l s, we ri s k an in ve r s ion of the hi erarc h y of blackness a nd whiteness B y di scla imin g w hit e n ess b eca u se of its representation in th e "whit e d evi l s of the wo rld we are m e r e l y recreating th e di v i s i ve dichotomies with which America h as so l o n g co nt e nd ed

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145 romanticizing less privileged whites as she had romanticized blacks when she lived among them. Conversely blacks such as Deck struggle through movements such as Civil Rights and Black Power but become co-opted by the ivory tower; he argues against race from within the comfort zone allowed him by the social system in which whiteness still dominates and maintains power. Even the admission of endearments between Sandy and Deck do not reflect acceptance and parity; they do not say "I love you" but rather "I miss you ," suggesting that many whites and blacks in addition to those of mixed race, long for a site where they need not relate as adversaries and racial representatives but may relate as allies and individuals. The struggle is in locating or creating that space, and the text demonstrates that neither Sandy's liberal militancy nor Deck's intellectual theorizing succeeds in realizing that space. Longing and Belonging After Birdie Deck is the character who most consistently searches for such a utopian space yet his absence from Birdie's life complicates the notion that any space he may find might include individuals like Birdie. Deck' s absence is in keeping with the motif of absent black fathers in many texts concerning mixed race women. As these women struggle to negotiate the boundaries of race while under the care of their white mothers, they are denied access to supportive black paternity, and this denial reflects the historical sy s tems that denied and continue to deny black fatherhood. In so many of these texts a driving force behind the protagonist s mobility is the search for her missing black father suggesting that mixed race women desire to know and be seen by black men. The implication s here concern both race and gender since the s e mixed race women often can be viewed as longing for blackne ss ( not nece s sarily to the exclusion of whiteness) as well

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146 as for the father. In the words of Simone de Beauvoir, "If her father shows affection for his daughter, she feels that her existence is magnificently justified; she is endowed with all the merits that others have to acquire with difficulty; she is fulfilled and deified. All her life she may longingly seek that lost state of plenitude and peace" (287). 1 2 In the case of mixed raced women in the texts under discussion the longing for the father's acceptance also can be read as a longing to incorporate and be accepted within blackness. This longing illustrates the shortcomings of the one-drop rule when it is held up against individual lives and families; although these women would be classified as black, their experiences within white communities and with white mothers problematize any easy acceptance of the one-drop rule. Whether depicted as seeking their fathers in order to identify as black solely or black in addition to, the desire to find the absent black father demonstrates the wrinkles of identity and identification. As with the other motifs under discussion Birdie's relationship with her father-as well as her identity and her self-identification is complicated by her body, notably in one scene when Birdie and her father are seen as suspect when they relax in a park. A white couple asks two white police officers to intervene in what they assume is an unlawful (or, at least undesirable) relationship between the two: they assume Deck has kidnapped a white child. Birdie and Deck's insistence that they are father and daughter is not believed, and the officers assume Birdie is calling Deck her father out of fear and coercion; one officer asks Birdie, "Did the man touch you funny?" (61). Thus, the text demonstrates the ways in which bodies subvert individual claims to identity and familial relationships. Moreover, the text tropes on fears of potent black male sexuality danger, 1 2 In Cau c asia Cole in some way s stand s in for thi s fath e r fig ure sin c e s h e i s the sourc e of Birdie's lo s t "ple ntitud e and p e ace" and the ultimat e aim of Birdie's se ar c h

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147 and degeneracy In demonstrating these stereotypes, however the text struggles with its own latent fears of father-daughter incest-incest being another recurrent theme in mixed raced literature, as Werner Sollors has shown. Before the officers approach, Birdie lay in the grass "with [her] head on [her father's] stomach, so that [their] bodies made a T (59). After the incident, Deck is distant with Birdie who narrates: "Usually he kissed me on the top of my head before he said goodbye, but this time he just touched my forehead with the back of his hand as if he were checking for a fever. His own hand was cold, and he pulled it away quickly as if the touch had burned him" (61). The text struggles with the problem of father-daughter intimacy when it becomes complicated by issues of race, in this case s uperficial markers of race such as skin color, since Deck does not demon s trate a similar awkwardness around Cole Thus the law implicates not only an individual's racial identity through interpellation but also individual and familial relationships through restrictions on sexuality and behavior. The text suggests the pervasive power of the law in both defining and restricting identities and relationships illustrating that-having no utopia-individuals are bound by the law. Additionally the text asks questions regarding how a daughter relates to a distant and subsequently absent black father who take s on a greater importance through his absence. Birdie is depicted exploring issues of sexual intimacy throughout the text with people who are notably diff ere nt from those whom she has loved The homoerotic enco unt ers b etween Birdie and her white friend at the women's commune and her intimate encounters with Alex a white boy who befriends her in New Hampshire are significa nt. Birdie is depicted searching for intimacy with people who are unlike those people whose intimate relationships s he has lost her black/mixed raced sister and her

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148 black father. Predictably, neither of these explorations Birdie undertakes appears to satisfy the absence she feels without her sister and her father. Of course, when Birdie finds her father again, she discovers that the image she'd carried of him-as a man who would return for her-was decidedly grander than the real man-who hadn't made any notable effort to find her. The absent father assumed larger significance than the actual man suggesting the significance of parental relationships-even those experienced mostly through memory-to racial identity ; the social pressures that often lead to disappointments in black fatherhood ; and the forces that constrain many black men limiting their ability to be fathers in healthy relationships with their daughters. In addition to functioning as a longing for her absent father, Birdie's search for Deck also is predicated on her desire to find her sister, a relationship which I have suggested illustrates the means by which individuals find themselves through recognition by another. Deck-the intellectual, postmodern entity in the novel-complicates the experiences Birdie has lived with theories that seek to discount those experiences. His theories of racelessness and his endeavors to find spaces of racial harmony not "based on bodies and where they fit in the world are shown to be utopian and na'ive since Birdie's experiences demonstrate without question the persistence of race as a marker of difference if not a biological fact (320). When she reunites with him at the end of the novel Deck insists upon the illusionary nature of race, but Birdie points to reality: "If race is so make-believe why did I go with Mum? You gave me to Mum 'cause I looked white. You don t think that s real? Those are the facts (393). Deck functions as the postmodern voice in the novel, suggesting as he does that race is simply a costume that Birdie is able to switch Thus when Birdie finds her father, she also finds someone who

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149 is disembodied by intellectualism without human relationships and, presumably, without much attention to bodily concerns.1 3 Birdie does not find recognition and acceptance or belonging1 4 with her father but simply theories that come up empty when contrasted with the life she s lived. The text s uggests that answers to questions regarding mixed race identity cannot be found solely through postmodern theories and the intellect; rather, identity questions must acknowledge experiences and must involve human interaction and recognition both of the body and beyond it. In addition to suggesting the performative nature of race facilitated by notions of the body as costume Deck also insists that the "fate of the mulatto in history and literature ... will manifest the symptoms that will eventually infect the rest of the nation (393). Deck s use of the archaic and racist term mulatto a metaphor based on the a s sumed biological difference of those of mixed race is a strange dis juncture from his more po s tmodern views on the performative nature of race. Such a disjuncture points to the continued struggle between notions of race as a social construction and persistent notion s that still s uggest biological difference among the races In addition to struggling with thi s ten s ion the novel also s truggl e s with lo c ating the path toward racial harmony ultimately demonstrating the failur e of most efforts-those militant efforts like Sandy s a s well as tho s e intellectual efforts like Deck's. The most utopian space allowed by the novel is that s hared in the s helter e d innocence of Birdie and Cole s childhood in the mirror mix e d raced individuals provide for each other by Birdie and Cole as children and by the multicultural community among whom Cole lives when Birdie finds her. The 13 Wh e n Birdi e r e unit es with h e r fath e r s h e not es th a t wh a t h e feed s h e r w as g ood in an artifi c ial kind of w ay (39 5 ), s u gges tin g th a t h e c annot pro v id e th e nouri s hm e nt s h e d been see king. Addition a lly H e a t e th e w ay h e a lw ays h a d ... as if we i g h e d down with thou g ht s" (395). 14 Eve n wh e n Deck g lan ces a t h e r fro m tim e to t i m e, h e d oes n o t ee Birdi e but in s tead sees how mu c h s h e look s lik e hi s moth er.

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latter space is one that is not exclusively black but one that is notably absent of whiteness Appearing in Motion and Blurring the Lines 150 Prior to encountering this space Birdie is swept into the whiteness of America, a nation and nationality that are equated with whiteness, and her blackness is threatened with invisibility and even demise. The text demonstrates the mixed raced individual's struggle to maintain blackness along with whiteness-the utopian vision of wholeness common among all of these texts under discussion-but concludes with the individual's renunciation of a particular whiteness that maintains the status quo (personified by Birdie s mother) and the search for a space of diversity and mixture Despite this desire for diversity, the space that is found lacks whiteness. Thus although the text seeks a harmony of black and white, the "paradise" it illustrates is not a space where blackness and whiteness can co-exist without opposition and hierarchy but a space in which whiteness is absent, perhaps even invisible-a significantly problematic suggestion given the power whiteness has gained through its invisibility. Additionally however the text contradicts this renunciation of whiteness through Cole, who desires and initiates contact with her mother at the end of the novel. Relinquished by her white mother and claimed by her black father because of her phenotype, Cole seeks reunification the reunion with her mother symbolizing the longing for reunification of blackness and whiteness within the mixed raced individual so that no parts of the self are denied. Conversely, the text longs for and seeks utopia while at times asserting that such a paradise does not exist at all. It seeks a peaceful union of blackness and whiteness at the same time it asserts that conflicts of blackness and whiteness are diminished through

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151 separatism and that people of color may need to form spaces of seclusion where mixture and diversity, rather than fallacies of purity ," are the norm. 1 5 It s uggest s that indi victuals of mixed race, whose literary history has insisted on their inability to belong, may find acceptance only among others who have been marginalized. These "outcasts" may then form their own communities where the differences that resulted in their marginalization may become the social glue of a new community. Caucasia considers this option for individuals of mixed race as they seek freedom from racial conflict and seek spaces that resist their erasure. It does not however comment upon the problematic nature of attempting to form identity and community through negation of the larger culture unifying around a perceived lack rather than through affirmation of the smaller culture, unifying around inherent assets. The utopia s uggested by the text, then is one that is only briefly glimpsed by Birdie through her relationship with her sister; interestingly this utopian moment is not of the future but is a moment of nostalgia for the past, the lost paradise of childhood where Birdie and Cole were isolated from the realities of the outside world. 1 6 Although th e text lon gs for the past, it does so in a way that attempts to acknowledge but not be bound by it s effects. The text wants to become ahistorical in the utopian sense, yet it makes clear that one cannot step outside of history since history, as Fredric Jameson has argued, is always found in the present moment. Indeed Caucasia is greatly influenced by questions of history and the philosophical and theoretical impact of history on racial 15 Carol Roh Spaulding h as suggested that secession, in addition to abjec tion and prescription, i s one of the m ajo r th emes within mixed race lit eratur e. Sh e associates secess ion with the "symboli c exi le" of individual s who "choose a way out of their conflict by finding a way out of their c ulture" and liken s this to Homi Bhabha s Third Space which s h e defines as "that alien territory that makes pos s ible an alternative identity beyond th e concept of mar gin and center and beyond th e con cep t of pur e or esse nti a l racial types (105). 1 6 Thi s utopia i s in keepin g with Adam Rob e rts's analy s i s of utopias, which h ave often not so lved the problem s of s ociety but ju t expe ll ed them o ut side their boundaries ( 108).

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152 identities. It struggles to acknowledge history while attempting to point to a utopian space that would be necessarily beyond history. In this way, it longs for a utopian space freed from the present history, rather than attempting to imagine a "future history," a future in which the history of the present moment could be acknowledged. This paradox of wanting to both acknowledge and escape history leads the novel to its nostalgic sense of utopia in the relationship between Birdie and Cole. Their relationship constitutes what Michele Hunter calls "difference from difference" (304) arguing "the differences between two mixed-race women, and the possibilities they inspire, provide an alternative model for defining difference" (298). The prevalent argument between essentialism and social construction results in notions of difference that rely on binaries: In such formulations, difference is conceived of as two-dimensional-self vs other, sameness vs. difference-and lacking in originality. Either scripted by society, biologically rooted, or discursively upheld, difference as such forecloses the range of individual expression and/or the impact of individual non-conformity to these competing-and certainly politically urgent-definitions of identity. Furthermore, these positions require that identity itself be one of two: male vs. female black vs. white, heterosexual vs. homosexual. ... theories of difference rely on the either/or model. Or, in the case of mixed-race people, neither/nor. (Hunter 302) Although current understandings of binary difference are problematic and limit possibility for identities of mixed race, binaries, as Werner Sollors has suggested, may present the opportunity for "an interracial realm of 'neither, nor, both, and in-between" (Neither IO, emphasis added). Dualities are not inherently problematic or limiting; rather the problem lies in the prevalent insistence on viewing dualities as inherently oppo s itional and hierarchical instead of complementary and self-constituting. When dualities are viewed as components within the inevitable play of identity their equal

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presence becomes a necessary criterion, rather than a debilitating battle, for individual identity. Hunter also argues: To position a mixed-race woman in relation to another mixed-race woman ... emphasizes the limitations of binaristic theories of difference which rely on negation and subordination .... In these formulations, what is deemed normative is white, heterosexual, and male. Since Birdie and Cole's difference from each other undoes our traditional notions of difference in which a normative standard oppresses its corresponding deviant, difference here is no longer tyrannically hierarchical, nor it is oppositional. (304) 153 However correct her analysis, I must also emphasize that Hunter pinpoints the nonhierarchical, non-oppositional difference here, solely in the relationship between Birdie and Cole or between those of mixed race. Indeed, the text itself seems to suggest that the only space conducive to this type of difference is such a relationship between two individuals who see each other as each one wants to see herself-secure within an identity of affirmation of the entire being rather than negation of one or more components.17 For the text only demonstrates this difference between Birdie and Cole and presumably among the group with which Birdie finds Cole at the end of the novel. In every other situation the novel depicts-from Birdie's days at the Black Power school to her days at the women's commune to her life among rural New Hampshire whites-Birdie must struggle with questions of difference, with performing blackness while in a white body or performing whiteness while loving and longing for her black father and mixed raced but more black-identified sister. The text's struggle over the possibility of a racially utopian space and its limited scope is clear; yet the text also 17 The text doe s i s olate these relationships between those of mixed race or mixed cultu ral experience For in tance Samantha-the black girl adopted into a white family and white community-is able to see Birdie s blackness in addition to her whiteness while black individuals without similarly dominating multicultural experiences must be told that Birdie is black-as when Cole defends Birdie's blackness with the chi ldr en at the Black Power school.

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154 acknowledges through its tropes of mobility and travel that even individuals who have glimpsed this utopian space must still exist and move about in a world that is far from utopian. As Birdie asserts "I had started in motion would stay in motion until I hit the truth or a wall whichever came first (377) The space existing between those of mixed race is not the only space those individuals enter. Thus, such a space only frees those who can occupy it, and because they can only occupy it in relation to each other, they cannot experience such freedom in relationships with those who are not mixed race. This space offers the possibility of revolution but in doing so it simultaneously draws around itself tight borders crossable by only a select few. Of course, the challenge lies creating s paces where differences are respected among larger more diverse groups of people. A simultaneous challenge lies in putting into practice refusals of hierarchy and opposition and of embracing dualities as complements ; these are challenges for which the text longs but does not successfully illu s trate. In none of Birdie s travels does she encounter a space of communal racial harmony where she is simultaneously allowed internal racial harmony. Even at Aurora the women s commune Birdie must pas s as white; although she is free to explore her s exuality and to acknowledge her interest in same-sex relation s hips she is not jointly freed to a cknowledge her blacknes s;18 it must remain invisible because of her mother s insi s tence that she pass. Thus, the invisibility of Birdie s blacknes s is n e cessitat e d in the text as the res ult of an unspecified threat that appears more imagined than real the result 18 Althou g h C a u cas i a a llo ws Birdie to ex plor e r e l a tion s hip s with w hit e partn e r s, it di s mi ss e s th e s am e se x r e l a tion s hip pri vilegin g in s tead Birdie's r e l atio n s hip with a whit e boy because it i s h e t e rosexu al. In man y t ex t s fea turin g multir ac i a l wom e n h e te ro sex u a l rom a n ce w ith a blac k man i s prioriti ze d s u gges tin g tha t a multiraci a l w oman's black "side" i s th e only on e th a t m akes h e r a woman Thi s, o f course, i s a s trange t w i s t from hi s tori c al n o tion s that bla c k w o m e n's bl ac kn ess ex clud e d th e m fr o m th e category of w om e n a ltogeth e r

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155 of Sandy's paranoia rather than a true persecutor. Yet even in this respect, the text demonstrates the lived effects of the racial "wars even when the wars are being waged most directly in the individual's mind Thus, these wars, both real and imagined, result in the perpetuation of conflict and opposition, in negations and erasures that seem the only course for survival. Although the text does suggest the existence of a space beyond these wars, it shows the tenuous nature of such spaces-Birdie and Cole's childhood paradise which the text shows cannot be maintained outside their attic walls or even in the presence of their parents, and Cole's community of friends at the end of the novel. This latter space is also seen as tenuous since, at the novel s conclusion Birdie again steps into the larger world albeit only momentarily, and witnesses the blurred and fleeting image of another mixed raced girl. In fact, the text leaves Birdie s identity in confusion through her reading of the girl she sees: It was a cinnamon-skinned girl with her hair in braids She was black like me, a mixed girl,1 9 and she was watching me from behind the dirty glass. For a second I thought I was somewhere familiar and she was a girl I already knew. I began to lift my hand but stopped remembering where I was and what I had already found. Then the bus lurched forward and the face was gone with it just a blur of yellow and black in motion. ( 413) The text begins and ends with mixed raced faces, reiterating the longing for visibility and recognition and suggesting that even though Birdie has found the object of her travels the longing and the motion will not end as long as s he must enter the world outside her sister's utopian circle. Although Birdie may have a temporary illusion of familiarity (read "family in this word's root) in this outer world s he finds it and the people who occupy it unfamiliar in the end This world then, does not contain the family she has sought. Thus 19 The asse rtion of both blac kn ess and mi x tur e h e r e s how s th e te x t s s truggl e to includ e both bl a ckn ess and whit e n es r a th e r than c onform to hyp o d esce nt. Th e g irl Birdi e sees i s not d es crib e d a s bla c k but r a ther as black lik e [Birdi e ] ," whi c h c an be r e ad a s blac k mix e d with white

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156 the text once again confines the utopian space of belonging and family within a small domestic frame, suggesting that mixed raced individuals may not find similar spaces where they will be visible and recognized in the public sphere; instead, they will continue to remain in motion, moving in and out of a clear line of vision. Reappearing beyond Recognition Caucasia, like other novels of mixed race follows in the wake of the tragic mulatto tradition within mixed raced literature and alludes to the possibility of tragedy, demise, and disappearance; nevertheless, this novel, along with most of the texts under discussion here, also moves beyond traditional tropes of tragedy in seeking spaces where mixed race identity may be recognized and affirmed. Metaphors of mixed race identity in Caucasia-those of visibility and invisibility mobility and belonging power and recognition-involve visions of psychological utopia, and at this metaphorical level, Birdie's psychological longings are offered as parallels for social longings as well Birdie's self represents the nation, and the utopia sought by the text involves the social "liberation [of individuals, in this case those of mixed race] through the liberation of their inner selves" (Pietikainen 42). This utopia involves the possibility of spaces in which the mixed race individual is free to be and is accepted as herself. Within Caucasia, liberation of the true self involves Birdie s escape from the confines of Jesse's identity-suggesting that those of mixed race need to free themselves from the fictions of passing-and a more difficult liberation from the tensions of race relations which have been internalized in the lives of mixed race individuals. Important, however is the understanding implicit in Caucasia that various se lves Birdie and Jesse for example-and various races in this case, black and

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157 white-are present within the mixed race individual and that her identity must be inclusive of these various self-constituting parts. As Michele Hunter notes, "disappearing is not the solution. The universe of Caucasia insists on the recognition of mixed-raced women" (307). It would be reductive to argue that Birdie embodies the protagonist's "true" identity while Jesse represents an identity performance, for both function as extensions of who the protagonist claims to be; as Senna notes, "In traditional literature of passing, the protagonist was always thought to be authentically black because of her one drop of black blood. The idea of passing relied on the notion that there was an authentic racial self that one was concealing. With Birdie, her authentic racial self is only what she makes it" (Arias 448). With this seeming freedom associated with mixed race, however, also comes the insecurity of having an undefined or indeterminate self. Although this state is liberating in some contexts, it can also distance the individual from a core sense of self. Such an understanding of self asserts that there is a primary core within the individual that exists before or outside of performance. Of course, postmodern theories have encouraged us to imagine that there is no self, no identity outside construction and performativity.20 Still, the meridian between two poles is a location one occupies at a given point in space and time, giving at least the illusion that the individual is singular, perhaps only in the way that an orange is singular as it unites the differentiated segments within its skin. It is useful then, to postulate the existence of a self that holds in union one's inherent differences a self that appears to the individual to be an authentic" vision : Admittedly, 20 Homi Bhabha ar g u es, "What i s at issue i s th e perfonnativ e n a ture of differenti a l identitie s : the regulation and negotiation of tho e spac e s th a t are c ontinually co ntin ge ntl y, 'ope nin g out', remakin g th e boundari e s e xpo s ing th e limits of any claim to a s ingular or autonomou s sign of diff e rence ... where difference is n e ither One nor the Oth e r but s o m e thin g e l se b e sid e s in b etwee n (2 19 )

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158 the sense of authenticity referred to here is itself a construction, but one each of us creates, owns, and celebrates" (King x). Individuals often do maintain the sense of an authentic self, but this self is often challenged by social definitions that rely on signs upon the body and calculations of ancestry. The text demonstrates that bodies become prey to body fictions that attempt to impose identity based on superficial signs. These body fictions ignore internal definitions one has for her own identity in favor of external applications, producing "overwhelming confrontations that act out violence against the mind and spirit of the individual whose body is gazed upon" (King ix). As demonstrated through Caucasia, these body fictions are capable of colonizing the mind and spirit, subjecting the individual to psychological and social torment and even destruction: initially, Birdie's performance as Jesse begins as a ruse, a strategy enacted to ensure her safety, even a game of fantasy. Over time, however, Birdie's body fictions work with her performance as Jesse to murder the self she had been: "I wondered ... if I too would forever be fleeing in the dark, abandoning parts of myself that I no longer wanted, in search of some part that had escaped me. Killing one girl in order to let the other one free" (289). The text confronts the dangers of body fictions, of performances that shadow other portions of one's authentic self, of performativity that threatens one's assumed ontology, of social strictures that undermine identities; in so doing, it suggests the possibility of and longing for spaces where authentic selves may be recognized and affirmed, where utopian notions of harmony and wholeness may be realized. According to Senna, "Cole represents this intimate space outside of the constructs of identity" (Arias 448), suggesting the possibility of sites in which the enactment of authentic identity is possible. This idea of authenticity alludes to a psychological utopia

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159 in which individuals of mixed race may be able to accept themselves and be accepted as mixed race or even accepted beyond the notion of race, in which one's authentic self is not forced to disappear In order to attain this state, the text maintains individuals must foster relationships with others who will see them as they see themselves-Birdie, for example, must recapture the relationship she and Cole shared as children, where, presumably, they recognized each other without the outside world's markers of race. Although the "pursuit of a better way of being does not always involve the alteration of external conditions but may mean the pursuance of spiritual or psychological states" (Levitas 192) for those of mixed race, the pursuance of the desired psychological and social state requires altered external conditions since these conditions often have compromised the individual's vision of her authentic self. Herein lies an additional challenge, for the text also makes clear that the individual's authentic self can remain visible only when she is known through intimate relationships or what Michele Hunter terms passionate re cognition. For to recognize means to admit the validity of, that is, to confirm another's legitimacy ; to recall knowledge of, that is to validate the memory of a shared experience; to perceive clearly; to admit as being one entitled to be heard; to acknowledge with a show of approval or appreciation; to acknowledge the independence of; and, to acknowledge an acquaintance with, that is, to recognize an existing relationship. (309) Yet within the public world, which of course is not utopia, bodies will lend themselves to erasure and to body fictions and social forces will interpellate individuals in ways that may conflict with their visions of themselves. Even the notion that mixed race individuals who are strangers can recognize each other in a crowd is not a sufficient, or reliable way

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160 for one's "true self' to be recognized consistently in the larger world.2 1 As mentioned earlier, in the final image of the text, Birdie recognizes another mixed girl who passes by in a school bus. Although her initial response is to connect with this girl by waving to her, Birdie does not, "remembering where I was and what I had already found" (413). Importantly, although passionate recognition seems to exist, it is not acted upon. Thus, in the world outside of intimate relationships, where passionate recognition has yet to be practiced uniformly, the strongest defense against invisibility is one's internal commitment to enacting constantly one's authentic self, regardless of recognition by others and regardless of the body s betrayals. The strongest defense against invisibility, then, is passionate recognition of one's self, with its concomitant resistance to erasure in the public world. As a condition forced upon the powerless by the powerful, upon the seen by the seer, erasure must be resisted. It, unlike invisibility, does not hold the potential for power. As Senna argues, "invisibility only has power when you disrupt it in some way, by speaking out, airing dirty laundry, disrupting comfort zones. Taking notes (Arias 450). The text demonstrates that the power of Birdie's invisibility is forsaken when she sacrifices Birdie's life for Jesse's; only when she attempts to use her invisibility to disrupt the racial status quo is she potentially powerful. As I have argued, although Birdie's invisibility holds the potential for power, not all invisibility does so. The invisibility I describe at the beginning of this chapter was not a source of power for me but of 21 A repeated trope in literature by those of mixed race insists that these individuals can recognize multiraciality in others who share it and, through this recognition, can know these others immediately and intimat e ly. Consider the words of Rebecca Walker who writes: I would meet these young mixed -b lood people and I'd always look at them and feel like we knew each other. We recognized something similar, but there was no story underneath no way to really access it. I wanted a space where we could be everything or all of who we are ( quoted in Hunter 297)

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161 diminishment, of powerlessness. It was invisibility that, on the one hand, attempted to sever interpersonal ties and, on the other, attempted to sever me from my skin. In each instance the viewer attempted to reconstruct the world through her and his own preferences none of which accommodated my reality. This powerless invisibility, this erasure, is projected onto those of mixed race each time they are forced to deny any part of their heritage and/or their identity as they see it. When individuals whose sense of identity lies in multiracialism are categorized as black or white exclusively, invisibility is forced upon them In this position of invisibility, their reality may be denied-as my marriage to my husband was denied by the sales clerk and as my skin color was denied by the police officer. Clearly, this position of invisibility is not restricted to those of mixed heritage alone; critical analysis by countless men and women of color has long documented their subjection to erasure. Additionally, invisibility is not restricted to race but can be influenced by gender class sexuality, etc. In each of these instances, however, the position of invisibility is one forced upon those in positions of restricted power by those in positions of power.22 And in every instance, being placed under erasure restricts not only the reality but also the rights of individuals. The passionate recognition of which Hunter writes relies on the "productive value of difference (309), wherein all differences are beyond hierarchy and opposition, for the relationship between Birdie and Cole "models what it would take for any one of us to know ourselves and each other outside of the protocols of race class, gender, sexuality, and /or nationality (309). All difference is difference; the truth is not simply that I am different from my white mother my white former husband, my black father the white 22 W e mu t not forget of course, th e invi s ibility of white n e whi c h fun c tion a a s ource o f p o w e r rath e r than a dim.ini hme nt of it.

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162 sales clerk and the white police officer but also that they are different from me and from each other. White patriarchal supremacy creates a false norm through homogenization and essentialism, making whiteness the standard and blackness substandard. However as Homi Bhabha writes, there exists a space that "constitutes the discursive conditions of enunciation that ensure that the meaning and symbols of culture have no primordial un ity or fixity; that even the same signs can be appropriated, translated, rehistoricized and read anew" (37). Read anew, the true norm may be recognized as difference as multifaceted as individuals are, and this norm can be difference beyond possibility of hierarchy and opposition. The norm can become difference that is not only visible but also re envisioned. Such a vision of difference is reflected in both the social and literary imagination at the end of the twentieth century; however, earlier crystallizations of race and gender continue to problematize these re-visions of difference as the next chapter's analysis of Jenoyne Adams' Resurrecting Mingus shows.

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CHAPTER 6 HOME LIFE: CONFLICTED DOMESTICITY IN JENOYNE ADAMS S RESURRECTING MINGUS Home Bound You two don t have kids, do you? This was asked I always speculate, with the slight grimace of those who are forced to imagine something they find disgusting or incomprehensible, in that efficient way that allows someone to inquire and pass judgment in one swift and unmistakable remark a remark that bears the clear imprint of the figuratively up-turned nose. My former husband s reply-"Not yet but we will"-was equally efficient, conveying our unwavering intention to form our family as we desired in the face of silent opposition or voiced hostility I'm not entirely sure when he learned to stand unflinchingly and proudly with his choices before the gales of public opinion. But I think, now that I am just beginning to know my mother that I must have learned it before I was born ... When my grandmother learned my mother was pregnant with me a child conceived with a black man she said "That's just like you Always trying to break down barriers ." Gram said this because she knew my mother-rebellious and prone to taking the left fork whenever she was directed to the right (or vice versa). Of course my grandmother was not implying that my biracial heritage was something to be frowned upon only that my mother's inner promptings so often directed her to challenge convention s in any way possible. 163

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164 And so Mom had me, one of "those kids" that the anonymous woman above must have found so unappealing or pitiful or (dare I say it?) tragic. I always found it ironic when people with no intimate knowledge or experience of the subject claimed that my husband and I should "consider the children." A common argument is that interracial relationships are fine but realities will limit the potential for happiness and belonging in any children born of those relationships. I reply to such arguments that, as one of those children, the most limiting factors in my life have been just such accusations; my greatest hardship has been simply the assumption that my racial heritage will bring me hardship. I have struggled, not with my racial heritage, but with others' assumptions regarding that heritage. Individuals attempt to force their ideologies upon my lived experience, never hearing the fact that during my childhood I was embraced by love and belonging, never hearing the fact that I have not regretted or felt inhibited or conflicted by my mixed racial heritage. Indeed, I am not confused; I am simply met with confusion. Because of this, I have realized that the "what about the children? protest from whites really has little to nothing to do with the children. The protest is less about the potential child's identity and well-being and more about the questioner's own discomfort with the idea of diminished white racial "purity" and power. This fear does not concern the child's self esteem but the questioner's estimation that whiteness must remain singular and sacred. Given that the interrogator already knew I am of mixed parentage when she disparaged our willingness to have children, her distaste was clearly not about the well-being of those children Instead, her distaste was a reflection of her own discomfort in disruptions of the status quo and her own desire to maintain traditional

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notions of race, specifically whiteness .1 For as Richard Dyer attests, "Inter-racial hetero s exuality threatens the power of whitenes s because it breaks the legitimation of whitene s s with reference to the white body ( 25). 165 Of course during period s of heightened racial pride among African American s s uch as the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920 s and the Black Nationalist Movement of the 1970 s-the imperative of preser v ing racial purity was perva s ive among black communities. Although the assumption of hypode s cent had preserved communal bonds among all who had black forebears nationalist ideologies admonished individual s to stay black and to recognize black is beautiful. Still, as discussed within the conte x t of Or e o these nationalist ideologies-especially those of the Black Nationali s t Movement-were rife with contradictions regarding sexuality and racial mixture. Black men s involvement with white women often went overlooked during the Black Nationalist Movement; conversely such involvement was sometimes encouraged as a wa y to enact revenge ag a in s t the s exual oppres s ion of black women by white men-which often wa s really a re v enge ag a in s t the hi s torical erasure of black masculinity and denial of patriarchal power to black men. Black women however were typically encouraged to build the black nation by reproducing with black men although Elaine Brown has noted that nationalist women were expected to sometime s engage in s exual relationships with white men if necessary to benefit the movement. Thu s, black respon s es to interracial s exu a lity ha v e been complex reflectin g the ambiguitie s resulting from historic a l ideologies of hypodescent and the nationalist 1 An easy esca p e for w hit es from this dil e mm a r e gard i n g c hildren of mix e d race alread y born i s t h e p e rp e tu a ti o n of th e o n edrop rul e : "Tha t int e rr ac i a l chjld c annot harm m y sense of sel f a nd m y sen se of w hit e n ess if I a nd s ociety d e n y th e p oss ibili ty o f int e rr ac i alis m and i n s i s t the child i s bl ac k ." Man y Afri ca n Am erican s al o find va lu e in th e o n e -drop rul e a nd h y p o d escent but t y pically do so in o rd e r t o m a intrun soci a l bond s and p o litical coal i ti o n

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166 ideologies of furthering the aims of the race. White dissatisfaction with interracial reproduction, however, is often an expression of fear regarding the sanctity and maintenance of whiteness. As Dorothy Roberts's and Rachel F. Moran's studies have demonstrated, recent court decisions involving mishaps in fertility services and recent decisions regarding adoptions illustrate that "valuable" reproduction is still tied to race. This fact offers interesting considerations for discussions of interracial intimacy and interracial families. And since racial reproduction is often intimately tied to notions of female racial purity, mixed race women and their "ambiguous bodies" provide insights into the reproduction of race. Caroline Streeter argues: "control of what the ambiguous body of the black/white woman shall signify is crucial to the continued coherence of race as ideology" (307). Likewise, struggle over the meaning of the ambiguous body can problematize the racial identification of the individual herself. Furthermore, dissatisfaction with interracial reproduction constitutes a value judgment, not necessarily on the life chances of the child, but on the basic rights of individuals. Clearly, "The right to bear children goes to the heart of what it means to be human. The value we place on individuals determines whether we see them as entitled to perpetuate themselves in their children" (Roberts, Dorothy 305). My former husband's value was diminished in his questioner's eyes because he had not assumed his "place" as patriarch of a traditional white family. My value was likely already diminished in her eyes whether she viewed me as a black or a mixed race woman. Had either of us been with traditional partners, her view of our reproduction would likely have been different.2 2 Of course thi s woman would likely have s upported reproduction within white families to a greater degre e than that within black families In fact, her views on bla c k people s reprodu c tion mi g ht very well h ave r eflec ted Dorothy Rob e rts's es timation on th e ge n era l view According to Rob e rt s, "In the American market a Black baby i s indi s putably an inferior product (271)

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167 The respect (or lack thereof) shown to non-traditional families and individuals of diver se heritage s does indeed reflect the value placed on them as human beings. Although it is not necessary that these families and individuals have the respect and approval of strangers-so long as they have the same liberties-the views of others will likely affect their sense of themselves When families are not recognized as legitimate they are forced to contend with assumptions, misunderstandings, and even hostilities that legitimated families avoid. As illustrated through the analysis of Caucasia in the previous chapter, when social forces deny families and individuals a sense of "rightness," these families and individuals must work to affirm their own rightness, belonging and wholeness-for some, a daunting task. In keeping with historical patterns and with social privileging of the heterosexual family, many authors explore these issues of family and domesticity through the genre of romance fiction. Even black and mixed raced women, who historically were denied access to normalized families often imagine family and identity through the formula of romance, which provides fertile soil for cultivating question s regarding the reproduction of race, color, and gender. In the discussion that follows, I analyze Jenoyne Adams's novel R esurrecting Mingus becau se it offers a fictive ima gi nin g of raced and ge ndered questions of domesticity and family and because it illustrates the ways in which racial mixture de-legitimizes families according to soc ial norms. The novel like others within the romance ge nre constructs identitie s as bound (linked) to home and family and constructs individuals as home(ward) bound in the quest to id e ntify th emse lves-that is, individual s in the se texts often return to their points of origin to their histories, in order to understand who they are. Thus, metaphors of hom es and dome sticity proliferate in this text, as it imagines the importance of a utopian familial

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168 space of belonging and safety and as it negotiates the desire for a body that can contain elements society deems should tear one asunder.3 Published in 2001 in the wake of the much-publicized 2000 census, Resurre cting Mingus is framed in the African-American romance genre which shares similarities with the romance genre as it is generally categorized As Janice Radway has noted in her study of romance novels published in the l 980 s few of the books ... advance the truly radical suggestions that women do not need men to define themselves or to be happy, that they might be able to operate in the public world on their own just as men do" (220). Although more recently published texts may more strongly assert the possibility of women s autonomy, many still isolate a woman's identity and value through her heterosexual relationships with men. Romance novels written by black women occupy a complex position in their negotiation of romance, families and women's autonomy Since black women were denied categorization as women during slavery and the Cult of True Womanhood and black families were denied the stability and structure of the white patriarchal norm issues of domesticity and family differ historically between black and white women who have occupied markedly different positions in social and domestic spheres. For women writing romance these historical realities-in which African American women had to fight for both their autonomy and the recognition of their womanhood-influence imaginings of family, domesticity, romantic relationships and women's autonomy. Despite significant differences in the historical positioning of black and white women in domestic and public realms, contemporary romances written by both 3 I do not wish to s u gges t that individuals are simply their bodie s or th a t id e ntity can b e located s uccinctly there How eve r I do recogniz e that bodi es are racialized and gend e red not throu g h biology and blood but through metaphor-and th ereby become point s of refer e n ce for m a ny as they seek to articulate id e ntiti es Likewise, although the "self' is not the body we look to bodi es as repre se nt a tive s, vehicles, and hou ses of the self.

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169 black and white authors appear to prioritize heterosexual relationships as the path to women's fulfillment. However, novels such as Terry McMillan's widely popular Waiting to Exhale challenge these priorities by validating bonding among women as similarly (even equally?) important. This bonding between black women as "sisters" is common, even within novels in which some women are able to fulfill the primary desire of heterosexual romance. Thus, although the romance genre privileges heterosexual relationships, many popular novels by black women assert the importance of sister love in addition to utopian longings for romantic love. Resurrecting Mingus, however, struggles in its negotiation of relationships, both romantic and familial. Although it works within the romance frame and attempts to privilege heterosexual romantic relationships as the path to its protagonist's fulfillment, it nevertheless demonstrates tensions and contradictions between its surface and unconscious messages regarding women s autonomy, familial relationships and the desire for sister love. Significantly, its romantic frame puts the text at odds with its theme of self-realization and its desire to show women as capable of autonomy. However, the narrative frame and the particular nexus of spatial metaphors throughout the novel, in this case metaphors of home and the domestic link this text to the romance genre and to historical constructions of women s identities, a link that allows an exploration of the inter-workings of gender and race in mixed race identity. Resurre c ting Mingus uses the issue of mixed race heritage and domestic metaphors to deal with questions regarding women s autonomy belonging and desire for intimate relationships but it struggles with the nature of those relationships displacing its longing for sibling intimacy-which is an intimacy that mirrors the self-onto heterosexual romance. The novel's metaphors,

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170 additionally, exhibit tensions regarding the role of the domestic and romantic within negotiations of racial and gender identity. The text's use of homes and the domestic realm suggests a desire for familial acceptance as well as self-acceptance-being "at home" with oneself-and for identities that do not ignore familial and romantic relationships Like other texts dealing with mixed race, Resurrecting Mingus exhibits utopian longings for the internal security of families as well as for the external security that would free non traditional families from public pressures. And like other romance novels, it identifies heterosexual romance as a utopia in which women's desires may be fulfilled and their identities validated. Divided Houses Consistent images associated with mixed race identity appear as tropes in the literature of those of mixed race-who, through social insistence on hypodescent, have been grouped historically with the minority race have been forced to deny certain parts of their ancestry, and have been expected to struggle over identity issues. As noted throughout this study, recurring metaphors of the mixed individual include quester seeker of utopia, one without a space of belonging and one who comprises the space of warring blood. Through an analysis of African-American women's writing Maude Hines discusses the use of the "metaphor of the body as container [that] illustrates the confinement created by social pressure to deny multiplicity" ( 46) Although Hines cites literature that critiques containment for its denial of multiplicity literature dealing with mixed race often deals with the quest for a confine that can allow multiplicity.4 As I have 4 Of course, much lit e ratur e dealin g with i ss ue s of mi xe d r ace acknowledges that conta inment in socia l definitions, for example often d enies multipli c ity This lit e ratur e th e n hold s man y parallels with the lit eratu r e by African-American women th a t Hin es stu di es Y e t literatur e o n mixed race a l so sugges t s a

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171 suggested, in literature by women of mixed race heritage and literature containing mixed race characters, metaphors of homes and the domestic sphere proliferate. These metaphors like those discussed in previous chapters, depict a longing for utopia in the domestic and familial realm-a longing consistent with the romance genre in which Resurrecting Mingus is framed. While the utopian longings are more self-reflexive and aware of their limitations in Caucasia, in Mingus they are much more unconscious. The text seeks spaces of belonging and acceptance for its protagonist, both within the family of origin and within romantic relationships yet it does not acknowledge how these personal struggles manifest larger political struggles in which mixed race individuals and groups seek utopian spaces of acceptance and affirmation Nor does the text acknowledge the extent to which historical forces have brought about current personal and political crises surrounding race Although the "present is a site contested by past and future histories 'now' being a composite of the traces of the past and the anticipants of the future present in our contemporary mode of production" (Roberts Adam 28) Resurrecting Mingus ignores these traces of past and future within the current moment, offering instead limited (and limiting) metaphors that long for utopia within the personal and romantic realm. It i s not surprising, then that in R e surr e cting Mingus metaphors of the domestic-tropes of houses and homes-and the familial are abundant suggesting the need for a racial identity that can contain dualities and for a site of belonging in which non-traditional families can find safety from silent opposition and voiced hostility. Moreover the nov e l s frame within the romantic genre is in keeping with discourses of lon g in g for "cont a in e r s, b e th ey bodi es or hom es th a t ca n acc ommod a t e multipli c itou s and dichotomou s c har ac t eris ti cs

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172 mixed race identity that seek to locate a space of belonging for the individual through romantic relationships. The novel relates the stories of Mingus a black/white mixed race woman in her late twenties, her older sister Eva their Caucasian mother Elaine (known to the daughters as M'Dea) and their African-American father Carl. The protagonist's struggle is to reconcile her lifelong desire for a family in which she feels belonging with the reality of her actual family: her parents impending divorce is precipitated by her father's infidelity and feelings of having been trapped within the domestic realm by Elaine s initial pregnancy. Elaine searches for an identity separate from her life as wife mother and homemaker in the wake of Carl's infidelity Eva struggles with the burdens of colorism and alcoholism, and Mingus attempts to define her own identity in relation to this family in which she has been a friend to her father a stranger to her mother and an enemy to her sister. Following cultural expectations that marriage and motherhood are women's path to belonging wholeness and a secure identity Mingus simultaneously seeks to define her identity through attempts to create her own nuclear family with various men Mingus is a fictive representation of the common longing among women to create, through her own body a being who will show her unconditional love and acceptance and who will offer her a mirror of herself-similar to the mirror Birdie and Cole provide for each other in Caucasia.5 Mingus is depicted desiring someone who will allow her a re-visioning of herself and her space of belonging and hoping that the creation of a child will allow a re creation of herself through that child's eyes. Mingus also however longs for a healthy relation s hip with her sister to such a degree that th e text unconsciously s uggests this 5 In sta tin g th at thi s lon g in g is common I am not s u ggest in g that it i s natural or innat e. Rather b eca u se women's id e ntiti es hi s toric a lly have been linked with r e produ c tion many wome n sti ll seek id e ntification and affirmation throu g h thi s mean s.

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173 relationship is the one in which harmony and intimacy would be most vital. A healthy relationship between two sisters, the text asserts, would allow the mixed race woman a sense of home and belonging; a mirroring relationship like that between Birdie and Cole in Caucasia allows to use again Michele Hunter's term, passionate recognition. Although Resurrecting Mingus is explicit about its protagonist s longing for a true sister, it elides the significance and prominence of this longing, which runs as an undercurrent throughout the text and makes the protagonist's struggles to find intimacy in other relationships even more displaced In many ways Mingus is a less sophisticated text than Cau casia, and it often does not find its mark; in this case, it ignores its own suggestion that intimacy between sisters-two individuals who are the same through their differences-is the intimacy for which it most longs. Mingus is left instead struggling to create a home for herself through heterosexual romance when the most valued site of belonging might be attained through the mirror of an intimate sibling relationship. Like many other contemporary African-American novels within the romance genre, Resurrecting Mingus prioritizes heterosexual love while attempting to allow women's autonomy. This shift toward individuality and autonomy, however produces another tension with the romantic frame as it has developed historically; within the romance genre, the aim traditionally has been marriage between a woman and a man wherein the woman willingly relinquishes some of her autonomy in favor of the security and protection the man offers. Howev e r, since the first romance by an African-American author featuring African-American characters was published in 1980,6 the genre of African-American romance often has problematized the traditional formula of sacrificed 6 See Gwendolyn Osborne's article How black romance nov e ls, th a t i c am e to be ," Black Is s u es B ook R ev iew v 4 no l (Ja n ./Feb. 2002) p. 50.

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174 female independence for security through dependence upon a man. The extraordinarily popular works by Terry McMillan, for example, attempt to disrupt the typical romance formula by "creating narrative spaces where Black families are in crisis, where conflict is not always resolved, where the fissures of contemporary existence are not denied, and finally, where self-reliance abides with nurturing interdependence (Ellerby 107). Following this reconfiguration of the traditional romance Mingus struggles to find a balance between female autonomy and secure partnership, to identify the mechani sms of interdependence. Such attempts to marry romance with self-realization are common in current African-American fiction. As many feminist ideals become increasingly incorporated into popular culture, the traditional patterns of romance and romantic fiction evolve to reflect more current ideologies. Furthermore, as contemporary narratives seek to move beyond the historical norms of the patriarchal white middle class in order to illustrate more accurately diverse lifestyles and communities, spaces become open for authors such as McMillan and Adams to challenge traditional notions of family, intimacy, and women's autonomy. Although current ideologies often work to allow women space outside the domestic realm, romance fiction still relies on tropes of family and domesticity in working through the intricacies of women's lives. Of course, these narratives reflect a culture that continues to link the domestic sphere with women, despite advances women have gained in the public sphere and despite many men's more active involvement in the domestic. In Adams s text the domestic realm is used not only to explore issue s of gender but also to explore issues of race and mixed race. One of Mingus's early journal entries includes a biblical quotation that exemplifies a familial and psychic state common

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175 to those of mixed race, alluding to and continuing the trope of the tragic mulatto: "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation ; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand" (188). In terms of gender and family, the quotation functions as a call for harmony whether that harmony be based upon traditional gender roles or more contemporary roles that favor interdependence rather than patriarchal domination In terms of race and mixed race we typically might read this quotation as advocating harmony among races or solely in reference to the expected conflict within individuals of mixed race. However, the text draws parallels between the life of the individual and the life of the familial. Thus the quotation references Mingus's literal family as well as the house her body comprises for her sense of self and is in keeping with the use of domestic metaphors within the novel. This fictive family, due to its mixed race status, falls prey to external pressures that threaten its stability and health, resulting in a disjuncture between the mixed race individual and social expectations. As Mingus decides it is not white mothers who are anomalies, but brown daughters. Later, Elaine understands that what Mingus really wanted was normalcy, a life without so many complications" (197). Mingus's childhood drawing of "The Perfect Family in which she colors her mother brown also illustrates the mixed race individual's clear view of the racial difference of her own family. However, the text makes clear that external forces are the impetus for this realization of difference and that external pressures, rather than non traditional families, are the problem Indeed, the novel attempts to negotiate responses of mixed race families facing social pressures that become too much to bear ; as Carl begins to tell Elaine, "Racism' s not dead .... If I can live the rest of my life with less of it [by being with a black woman

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176 instead of a white] ... (121). Carl is unable to finish his statement because Elaine, who has never believed in the debilitating pressures of society, interrupts him. Social forces that limit African-American patriarchy are ignored by Elaine but are still depicted as the eroding force destroying the marriage; Elaine and Carl's split represents the demise of non-traditional families and also prefigures the mixed race individual's recognition of her own divided self. Mingus's initial denial of her parents marital problems parallels a lack of investigation into identity problems that have become the stereotypic norm for those of mixed race These identity problems stem from long-standing assumptions that two races are at war within the mixed race individual. These races deemed oppositional and hierarchical by prevailing ideologies, are thought to exist in conflict within the individual as well as within the larger society. A reconciliation of such opposing forces and the quest for healing the conflict assumed within mixed race identity is figured in the text, as mentioned earlier in metaphors of house and home. These metaphors are, of course, common in the writing of many women yet the mixed race imaginings of house and home often focus on metaphors of division disjunction, lack of unity and utopian longings for sites of reconciliation. Mingus is depicted as a mixed race woman still confined within limited understandings of herself understandings that are based, not upon recognition of her whole self, but upon social assumptions that she must feel conflict due to her family of origin and that her best response is to identify as black. Reflecting the lived reality of many mixed race individuals, Mingus functions in the world as a black woman but privately dwells on the importance of her white mother to her racial identity. Mingus speaks clearly the need for her mother to live her own

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177 "authentic" life when she states, "This house is dead. And you can t live your life for a house or for a family that's not here (14). However, she is depicted living her life in the way she warns her mother against: on the surface, she is a successful and independent black woman, yet the text consciously illustrates that her inner world is dominated by identity questions and the search for a family not yet created; she engages in romantic relationships in an effort to secure for herself a utopian place of belonging and intimate relationships in which she is securely accepted. Unconsciously, the text struggles to articulate its true longing-for a sister who will offer the mixed race woman a mirror of herself; this longing, however, is at odds with the novel's romance genre, which consciously asserts the primacy of heterosexual love. Contemporary romance struggles with questions of women's autonomy, racial and otherwise. Mingus's brief foray into a relationship with a white man does not satisfy the text's questions regarding mixed race identity; in fact, it exhibits the tensions of most texts that struggle to negotiate affective relationships within mixed race families. Only though romance with a black man many texts assert, will the mixed race woman satisfy her racial conflict-only through relationship with a black man will she be a "real" black woman. Mingus's father is her first romantic partner, and Elaine describes Mingus as his mistress, continuing the historical associations between miscegenation and incest. Within the novel's frame which privileges romantic relationships processes of identification through the father-daughter relationship are necessarily problematized: the home of her father's new family is not a space in which Mingus can claim a sense of belonging for when Mingus visits the home of Carl's mistress Glenda she is out of place from the moment s he ste p s through the door. She spends some time coloring with Glenda's son,

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178 then learns that Glenda s baby, Sarah, is her father's child The sense of self engendered through the father-daughter relationship becomes a tenuous basis for identification as Mingus is displaced as her father's favored daughter. As she rushes from the house, Mingus tells her father, "You were all I had. M'Dea has Eva. Now you have Sarah I'm just-I'm leaving" (184). Of course, the text will not allow this particular romance between father and daughter to satisfy its longings for domesticity family, and racial belonging, nor as I've mentioned, will it allow Mingus's relationship with a white man to suffice. Instead, as Mingus's future partner Eric suggests upon his introduction to her, she needs to try loving a brother in order to avoid looking "elsewhere for what [she] should be getting at home" (40). Explicitly then, the text locates the home of the mixed race woman in a relationship with a black man. Thus, Eric's house appears to be a space of comfort and healing. Through its description it is depicted as an "authentic" space-i.e., natural and unpretentious: "a cabin-style house with rustic wood shingles and palm-size rocks built into the lower three feet of the front wall" (85). Yet inside it is both elaborate and empty; it is subtly indicative of wealth and physical luxury and at the same time bare and selectively furnished Although it is a space of various comforts, it is also a site of tensions and doubt. This domestic space on which the protagonist holds no claim becomes a site of false security and temporary retreat. Mingus admits to herself that she "wanted to close her eyes tight and wrap herself up in [Eric]. He made her feel safe" (96). But this safety and comfort is fleeting; as demonstrated by her feelings of doubt and insecurity in his home, Mingus s sense of belonging in relationship to Eric is unstable and easily disrupted.

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179 The stark decor of Eric's house parallels the illusory ease Mingus can gain from her relationship with him and, by extension, the temporary stability engendered by seeking identity through romantic relationships. The choice of romantic partners by mixed race individuals often is viewed as an alignment based on racial identification ; that is, those who select white partners may be viewed as seeking or privileging a white identity, while those with black partners may be viewed as choosing a black identity. Eric s home, like the romantic relationship, is not a space in which Mingus may find an unalterable sense of belonging or acceptance; it is not a space in which she may satisfy questions of racial and gender identity. Instead the space is depicted as one where Mingus must wonder about other women who ve come before her; when she awakes from her first night there she hears Eric speaking with a woman-his young attractive cook who appears irritated with Mingus's presence and with the fact that Eric will be having dinner at Mingus's house. While turning to romantic relationships as utopian sites to engender racial harmony within the mixed raced individual, the text simultaneously problematizes romantic relationships as too unstable a context in which to find one s racial balance Additionally, concurrent with the text' s assertion that mixed race women return home through romance with black men is the text s problematizing of black male fidelity ; both Carl and Eric have affairs that end their primary relationships The question offered then is how the mixed race woman may find her racial identity through heterosexual romance with a black man when black male fidelity is consistently undermined As Resurre c ting Mingus both privileges romantic relationships and suggests the unea s y s ense of identity gained through romance it simultaneously affirms the validity

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180 and essentialness of familial identification. The text asserts that the individual's divided sense of self is manifested because of social pressures that seek to divide families of origin, allowing Mingus to illustrate the trope of tragic mulatto-conflicted over her identity and ancestry Claiming blackness through a denial of whiteness-whether as manifestation of the one-drop rule or as practical emotional, or political maneuvering-Mingus also illustrates a longing for whiteness, represented by her mother. Reflecting on the surface that which has been criticized historically-mixed race individuals' longing for whiteness and devaluing of blackness-the text nevertheless contends that such longing may be more personal and familial than political and racial. That is, the longing for whiteness may have less to do with a longing for privilege and power than it does with a longing to validate personal affiliations and life-sustaining relationships. As the text shies away from the overtly political implications of mixed race, it prioritizes the personal and familial suggesting that questions and conflicts within the mixed race individual may result from desires to align with others based more on affect than political ideology. As she writes in a poem directed to her mother Mingus feels "stuck outside your womb/ trying to get back in (124). Mingus's subtle conflicts with race are representative of many mixed race struggles due to pressures to choose one parent and the text turns briefly to both father-daughter and mother-daughter relationships as possible answers to its questions of racial identity and identification. Each relationship, however becomes part of a binary that effectively polarizes the mixed race individual, perpetuating notions of conflict. Acknowledging the pre ss ure to choose between parents Mingus tells her mother, "It's like I can't love the both of you the same. Somebody always has to be loved more. And somebody always has to get their feelings

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181 hurt or the other one isn't happy (8). Thus it is that Mingus writes of her mother, "I keep you hidden . / You are in me / Your name written across my wrists / in umbilical cord dust. .. ( 124). Yet because of the overarching presence of race within the text, the dilemma Mingus recalls reflects more than the oppositional pull between parents; it reflects the pull of affiliation between races that society dictates as oppositional. Cracking the Mirror The divide illustrated between Mingus and each parent is racialized making clear that Mingus's mother represents the other albeit unclaimed race within her : Mingus had always felt more black than white. But there was something about what Eric said [in making light of her white mother s existence] that unnerved her. Like he was denying that a part of her existed" (159). The distance between Mingus with her white mother repre se nts Mingus's distance from whiteness and her affiliation with blackness.7 The text is not consistent, however in its parallels between racial identification and parental closeness. Eva, who is able to connect with M'Dea, nevertheless is represented as black within the text. Simultaneously, though Eva is allowed to question the insistence that she is black through her questioning of Mingus: "Is that what you think .. Do you think you 're more black than white?" (115). Eva's puz z led questioning suggests that this i s not her own under sta ndin g of her identity that s he may not think of herself as more black than white She does admit that s h e ha s tried, un s ucc essfu lly, to be a "white gir l with black skin and that her life would have been easier if their mother had married a white man (115); when Mingus asks Eva if she wishes she were white, Eva replies: "I wish I 7 Mingus's black identification is problematized a t various points in the nov e l when s h e exp licitl y s t a tes that she is mixed that she h as a white mother whom she cannot vilif y, etc These confli c t s reveal commo n themes of confusio n within mixed race identity as well as the effec t s of a nov e l th at s truggl es to remain clear about it s theorie s

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182 had a job. White skin would make it that much easier ( 115 ) In thi s in s tance the s ocial and economic implications of race are made clear : the des ire for whitenes s i s not alway s a desire for power as it is commonly understood or a longing for closer familial relationships; instead, this desire for whiteness is a de s ire for personal security. In Eva's case the security sought is economic during her adulthood and romantic during her adolescence when she uses bleaching cream to compete with lighterskinned girls in garnering boys' attention Although the text is clear in its insistence that Eva is not a white girl with black skin, it is not explicit in revealing her identification as exclusively black leaving open the possibility of mixed race identities In questioning the relationship between parental affiliation and racial identification the novel pertinently illustrates Mingu s's s en s e of rejection by her mother. Additionally the parents are characterized as unable to offer equal love for their two daughters, and the daughters are shown in the grip of racialized conflicts over this fact. Eva struggles with the effect s of racism and colorism which seem to be the root causes of her hatred of Mingus who is lighter in color. Not only is Eva depicted as darker she is also depicted struggling with that darkness as when she uses bleaching cream in an attempt to lighten her face. Mingus catches her sister using the cream and tells their mother who had expres s ly forbidden Eva to u s e it on her face and M Dea is s trangely understanding when "Eva rushed to M Dea and hugged her tightly. Told her how the Richardson girls got all the attention from the boys because they were lighter-skinned like Mingus (66). Instead of punishing her, M'Dea consoles Eva and sends Mingus to her room for the rest of the night. Thus the tension between Mingus and Eva is more

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183 than sibling rivalry ; their conflict is shown to stem from color consciousness and jealousy on Eva's part. Additionally, this color consciousness is depicted as something that affects the girls' relationships-romantic and otherwise-with men Mingus holds their father's approval and confidence throughout their childhood, giving her the acknowledgement and acceptance by a black man that is a recurrent desire in texts with mixed race women. As M'Dea narrates, "Mi ngus was his first mistress. That s the irony of bringing female children into an unsettled relationship. A kind of competition occurs. Not just between sisters, but between all of the women in the household (59). In the case of Mingus and Eva, the competition becomes colorized. Although Eva attempts to lighten her face and draws closer to her mother, she ultimately adopts stereotypes of blackness in speech and attire. The text also exhibits tension surrounding the lived effects of the sisters' different colors: Mingus is a successful lawyer, while Eva is an alcoholic without a steady job, and no explanation other than the implications of the color hierarchy is offered for this difference. This hierarchy affects not only opportunities for material s ucces s but also romantic success. The novel allows Mingus to achieve an engagement to Eric, while it depicts Eva without a romantic partner. Her attempt to have an affair with Mingus's fiance reads as a product of rivalry and an attempt to alleviate Eva's own sense of disconnection and inadequacy ; Eva's revelation of the affair also functions to denounce Mingus s tenuous sense of security and belittle her success: "Maybe he's been having an affair with your sister ," Eva posits. Maybe that's why he proposed. So by the time the shit hit the fan he d have you hooked. But you probably don't want to hear that huh ?

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184 Let's just ignore it and concentrate on poor alcoholic Eva. Poor, poor confused Eva" (205). Of course, Eva is depicted as poor, alcoholic, and confused. At the same time, however, the text shows Mingus similarly-confused, deserving of pity, and searching for consolation. Mingus's consolation comes not from a bottle, as does Eva's, but from the arms of men-initially her father and then her romantic partners. However, her longing begins with her childhood estrangement from Eva, although Mingus "couldn't figure out what Eva saw in her back then that made her hate her so much" (7). Referencing her mother's anxiety over the race of Carl's mistress, Mingus states, "Color doesn t matter. .. (13) but it clearly does Carl seeks a black woman in order that his life be simplified; Mingus ends a budding relationship with a white man in order to begin one with a black man ; and Eva hates her sister because she envies her lighter color, which she believes translates into more security (romantic and economic) in a world obsessed with whiteness. The source of Mingus s longing for acceptance and belonging is embedded in her relationship with her family specifically her sister. As children, Mingus would lie in the center of the bed, arms outstretched and Eva would jump as high and as close to Mingus as pos s ible without hitting her. .. Never once did Eva hit her. Mingus missed that. The security of knowing she could trust Eva (21). However when Eva was ten she suddenly stopped wanting to play their game and convinced their parents to give her a room of her own "For her eleventh birthday [Eva] got a new bedroom set, and for the first time Mingu s realized s he hated s leeping alone" (22). Thus, Mingus's fear of being alone is initiated in the childhood moment when Eva refuses to sleep with her anymore. Subsequently, when her parents argue late at night and when she begins to realize the rift

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185 in their marriage, Mingus has no mirror in which to find consolation and affirm a sense of belonging; the mirror Eva provided as someone who might experience the world as Mingus does is cracked by the rivalry of colorism, leaving Mingus to search elsewhere for security acceptance, and a sense of identity. The means offered for the mixed race woman to appease her sense of isolation, to stabilize her sense of belonging and to acknowledge her sense of identity-namely, relationships with men-are demonstrably inadequate. Neither her relationship with her father nor her subsequent relationships with romantic partners fill the void resulting from Mingus's estrangement from Eva. The text s romantic genre, of course, necessitates these romantic means through which a woman presumably finds security, belonging, and validation. This genre is not equipped to satisfy the more pressing longing for sister love that the text exhibits. The tension between the romantic frame and the text's longing to re-establish connection between sisters remains unresolved. Through Mingus and Eva s conflicted relationship though the text illustrates the effects of the color caste system on lives and relationships, allowing no one to escape the effects of color and race consciousness It uses these motifs in addition to domestic metaphors to confront issues of autonomy and dependence, belonging and refusals of belonging intimacy and isolation although it displaces the longing for resolution of these issues onto romantic relationships. Resurrecting Mingus attempts to negotiate the longing for racial harmony within mixed race individuals through the medium of replication-which, within the frame of the romanc e genre, appear s pos sible only through heterosexual romance and the re enforcement of the nuclear family. The text must struggle then with its unconscious and

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186 seemingly anti-romantic desire for a sister, a more accurate mirror of the self; thu s, the text's stronger desire is one that its romantic framework cannot encompass The longing for family ties and domesticity, according to the romance genre, is fulfilled onl y through heterosexual love. The racial politics of the text must work in reference to a history that denied through long-standing anti-miscegenation laws marital and familial bond s to tho se hetero sex ual lovers of differing races and denied, during slavery, those sa me bond s among African-Americans The frame of the text offers romance as the utopia to satisfy de s ires for family and domesticity which are in turn seen as the solutions to quest i ons regarding racial identity and belonging. Mingus s struggle to define herself in terms of race and in terms of womanhood are consolidated in her desire to have a child; thus she is depicted taking the traditional path women have been allowed in defining their identitie s, a path that links a woman's identity with her body and its processes and with her relationships with men. However, this path is noticeably different from, even contradictory to Mingus's profes s ional life where she is independent self-determined, in control, and valued for her mind. Mingus's de s ire to have a child then reflects a desire to solidify gender as well as racial identity ; it becomes a profound example of the common longing to create a domestic site of belonging through the forging of a family of one's own. Furthermore it i s indicative of a fear of being without an image against which to define oneself as w e ll as indicativ e of the de s ire to replicate the self.8 As I have suggested, this fear of being alone i s depicted as s temming from the moment when Eva rejects Mingu s and their sibling rivalry escalates; 8 This desire a l so d e mon s tr a t es th e link b e tween the body and th e psyc h e, s p ecifically the a tt em pt t o come to t e rm s with th e p syc h e and one's id e ntity throu g h th e b o dy. Int e r es tin g ly man y lit e r ary and a utobio grap hical accounts of mi xe d rac e women d e mon s trat e a sex ualized u se of their bodies thr o u g hout th ei r processes of se lf-id e ntification S ee, for exa mpl e, R e b ecca W alker s Bla ck, White and J e w i sh: Autobiograph y of a Shifting Self

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187 Mingus's desire to replicate herself functions as a stand-in for the text's true desire-a replication of the self through the mirror of an intimate relationship with one who is the same because of shared difference. Because of the genre in which this text is framed, the affect and longing Mingus feels for her sister are displaced onto normalized heterosexual relationships. Thus this romance works against itself since its real desire is not for a man but for a sister who may offer a mirror for the mixed race woman and a relationship of acceptance and belonging Within this novel romance and family prove to not be the means whereby the mixed race woman successfully negotiates her racial and gender identity. Yet in keeping with the romance genre, the novel also does not allow a woman's identity to revolve around her autonomy and prosperity in the public realm for, despite Mingus's career achievements the novel still asserts that women's identities must encompass a successful heterosexual relationship Since the novel unconsciously suggests that it is not heterosexual romance but sororal relationships in which women may negotiate their identities and find belonging it is at odds with the formula of romance. R esurr ecting Mingus falters in thi s area where Caucasia more closely reaches its goal of locating a site of acceptance because the former longs for a reclamation of the sisters' relation s hip but mu s t work from within its romantic frame and thereby refuse to prioritize sorority over heterosexual romance. Mingus fails in each attempt at "lateral" female bonding through its privileging of romance which results in issues of colorism and rivalry between women it depicts as longing for sisterhood. Because of the imperative to achieve romantic s ucce ss, sisters in the text become competitors in a game whose goal is to seek and capture a man. Where Caucasia recognizes the longing for

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188 sister -mirrorself and highlights this relationship as utopian, Mingus-through its adherence to the romance genre-must seek utopia in heterosexual romance and displace this longing onto romantic longings for the other. The novel struggles with itself not only over what I've termed lateral bonding between women, but also with vertical bonding and mother love-both through the relationship for which Mingus longs with a child of her own and the relationship between Mingus and M Dea. Thus the novel displaces its longing for sister love onto both heterosexual love and mother love and the connection between Mingus's longings for a child the loss of her sister's love, Eva's color-consciousness, and their sibling rivalry is made explicit in the novel when Eva returns a doll she had stolen from Mingus during their childhood. Unwrapping a box Eva gives to her, Mingus finds a "shiny brown porcelain face Curly black hair" and she holds the doll as if it were a real baby" (144). When they were children, "Eva wanted to take the doll to school with her for show-and-tell Said that all her classmates had white dolls and she wanted to take Marilyn in. Eva had all white dolls too. Mingus knew that Eva would feel special being the only kid at show-and-tell with a black doll (144). Although the doll is brown-skinned it still is representative of a color Mingus has that Eva does not, a lack for which the latter feels envious. The text is not clear whether this episode occurs before or after Eva's skin-bleaching attempt, but it is clear that Eva returns the doll when she has replaced it with Eric as pawn in her rivalry with Mingus. Thus the text links Eva's colorism their sibling rivalry and Mingus's longings and it refuses to recognize its desire for sister love. Instead the novel continually displaces this desire to reclaim lost love between sisters onto romantic love and longings for a nuclear family.

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189 The book begins with Mingus's disappointment and sense of abandonment after her lover leaves her and she realizes she is not pregnant. And throughout the novel, Mingus's sense of aloneness and abandonment is figured with references to the emptiness she feels when her menstrual cycle begins continual confirmation that she is not pregnant. "Every new emptiness she discovered inside herself made her desire for a child grow stronger" (57). Later in the novel "A rumbling in the center of her abdomen split her body into two opposing halves. She was holding herself together with tears" (188). Although this quotation literally refers to Mingus's menstrual pain, it figuratively refers to the split sense of identity typically associated with individuals of mixed race. The text figures identity in terms of relationships and reproduction, depicting the longing for a birth specifically the mixed race individual's own rebirth-as suggested by the title, her resurrection Mingus's desire to replicate herself becomes indicative of a need for belonging and acceptance so often accompanying discussions of mixed race ; this desire is spoken by Elaine, who says, "[I] needed to see myself in someone. Someone who had my eyes and my nose my hair. My skin. My smile. I needed to appear somewhere" (223) The text does not allow this vision of the self through replication via reproduction nor does it allow, as Caucasia does, the relationship of its sisters to suffice; due to its romantic framing, it seeks this mirroring in other relationships that ultimately are, both figuratively and literally, unfruitful. Not only are the protagonist's attempts to reproduce herself unsuccessful so too are her attempts to find herself in other vertical relationships Like other texts that address the theme of reconciling opposites within the mixed race individual, Resurre cting Mingus attempts this reconciliation through the child's relationship to her parents. Mingus's

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190 mother, for example, in part symbolizes Mingus's Other. Because Mingus is depicted as a stranger to her mother due to her close relationship to her father, her subsequent bonding with her mother shows an embrace of the Other within her-other race and even other gender since Mingus has aligned herself with the traditionally masculine public world and longs for the traditionally feminine qualities of love, family, nurturing sustenance and power found in the domestic realm of which her mother is such a strong part. In contrast to Eva, who is closer to their mother, the text demonstrates that throughout her life Mingus has existed in closer relationship to her father, representative of her blackness. Common as black identification is for individuals of mixed race, the text exhibits a struggle regarding whether such identification is sufficient, at times reifying Mingus's black identification and at others demonstrating its limitations. At the end of the novel, Mingus's identification with blackness and her father is capsized through a dismissal of her father and a subsequent embrace of her mother. Her father asserts: "I can't keep Mingus attached to my hip bone forever. .. People fall, they always fall. The more you tend to depending on yourself, the less you fall with em. Mingus needs to learn that" (232). Although we may read Mingus's embrace of her mother as a simple reversal of the one-sided identification she had with her father, Carl s statement suggests that the mixed race individual must learn to depend on herself to define and assert her own identity Blind identification with one side or the other of one's ancestry leads to an unstable dependence on the fallible. Instead of choosing sides, the text longs for a choice that would affirm the totality of mixed race; it longs for the mirror of acceptance Mingus and Eva could provide for each other but it struggles with its prioritizing of romance and its adherence to the stereotype of conflict and opposition within the mixed race

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191 individual. Just as the text overlooks the significance of lateral female bonding, it ultimately rejects the possibility of achieving the utopia it seeks through vertical female bonding, as neither M'Dea nor a child of Mingus and a black man could provide an adequate mirror for the mixed race woman, one who would represent, in Michele Hunter's words, difference from difference. The problematic nature of this one-sided vertical identification is also made clear within the text through Mingus s relationship with her father. As with other texts containing mixed race women, the absent black father is prominent in Resurrecting Mingus. Although Mingus shares a close relationship with her father when she is a child, distance grows between them as Mingus matures, a distance necessitated by the privileging of heterosexual romance as the path to a site of belonging as well as by the incest taboo which prohibits the father/daughter relationship from being that path. Carl s dissatisfaction with his marriage becomes overwhelming after his children are grown and he no longer has them to support. His infidelity is depicted as an act of unfaithfulness against his wife and his daughter; as I have noted, when Mingus learns that Carl has had another daughter, she knows her place as her father's confidant and favorite has been usurped Although the novel offers a somewhat different image of black fatherhood than other texts since Carl remains in the household to support his family until his children are grown he is still absent in his presence through overwork and neglect of Elaine and Eva. He has long been absent from Elaine since he felt trapped into marrying her and he is essentially absent from Eva due to their distance from each other. Thus the black father in this text has been present to only one member of the family: Mingus. Through her

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recollections, readers are offered glimpses of Carl's "absence" from the family even while he remained a physical presence : Instead of sitting next to M Dea, as he normally did sometimes Carl would place himself next to Mingus .... As everyone else at the table dug into scalloped potatoes or chicken with homemade dumplings Carl would crunch on seasoned pork rinds out of an oil-stained paper bag and wash them down with Coca-Cola in a thick-bottomed glass bottle. He was playing dirty and Mingus would feel sorry for her mother. Refusing M Dea s food was like refusing her ... (126) 192 This parallel between Elaine and food is prominent throughout the novel and is consistent with the use of domestic tropes to signify both racial longings and rejections and women's "place." As Elaine states I know now that there is power in the kitchen, that's why I've been drawn to it all these years I can create myself over and over again in there. Bake myself into casseroles fresh rosemary bread, a lemon cream pound cake. I can become everything I can t be anywhere else So many forms of beautiful. Just like my mother used to do (223). Problematic though not inconsistent with historical representations is this equation of women with food which allows the notion that women, like food are objects for male consumption; thus, the novel once again struggles with its articulation of female autonomy-Elaine's notion that she holds power-and its formulaic representations of women. Despite this inherent struggle, the text is clear in its link between Elaine and food ; thus Carl's absence from the family and his marriage is clear in his boycotts of M Dea's food as well as in his excessive work schedule and his lengthy excursions into his tool shed where he listens to jazz music, plays his saxophone, and imagines a life without his family Although this novel allows the black father to remain financially respon si ble for his commitments to his family until his children are grown it shows him as mentally and

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193 often physically absent from them. Likewise, when he encounters trouble with his new family his response is to flee : "I threw my things in the trunk. I just drove, catching speed, not wanting to stop. The windows rolled up tight, I tried to hear my inner voice above all the racket in my head What am I, I thought (152) What Carl is depicted as being is partially in keeping with images of black husbands and fathers as dwellers within multiple families who have the autonomy to abandon those families each time they feel the urge to re-imagine themselves. Although Carl has sought a new "black" family through his relationship with his mistress in an effort to have a simpler life as a black man he remains consistent with other images of masculinity that depict men's identities as separate from their families and the domestic realm. Carl's true self the text asserts was the carefree lover of music and travel who was trapped in the domestic realm through Elaine's secretly planned pregnancy Thus in another formulaic vision, the text constructs women as d ev ious schemers who must snare men into the domestic web; women in the text even those with careers, must compete with each other to attain what is assumed to be their most important goal: a man And men in this text, even those who are financially respon s ible for their families, are depicted as adulterers who ultimately long to escape the clutches of women altogether In Mingus's first journal entry she calls her father a "Punk Ass Nigga, suggesting that readers should view Carl in light of common stereotypes of black ma sc ulinity that depict black men as selfish, unfaithful untru s tworthy and unable to remain committed to and present in their families. These images of Carl (and even Eric) as representative of black masculinity and pat e rnity problematize the novel' s m e t a phor s of home and the dom es tic realm D e pictin g conflict and in s tability the ima ges allow few po s itive associations with black men black

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194 fatherhood, or racially mixed families. In many ways the novel simply relies on common tropes of conflict and insecurity and uses its domestic metaphors to reference these tropes. In fact, the initial image of the Browning family home-subsequently M'Dea's house-is an illustration of the novel's use of the domestic to depict conflict and lack of belonging and security within mixed race identity. As the novel attempts to move toward a healing of this racial conflict within the individual M'Dea's home becomes a space where Mingus can reconnect and reconcile with her mother with the whiteness she had at times denied or only tentatively acknowledged. Still this reconnection between Mingus and M'Dea is not enough to satisfy the former's longings for security and acceptance. The home remains a space that Mingus and Eva do not share-in fact, after their childhood, they are never depicted in M'Dea's house or M'Dea's presence at the same time. Just as Mingus's reconciliation with M Dea does not heal her inner conflict, neither do her relationships with black men; the novel concludes with Mingus estranged from her father and postponing her engagement to Eric. Although the novel privileges heterosexual romance as the means through which mixed race women may reconcile their conflicts, it simultaneously problematizes the validity of seeking one's identity through relationship with the "Other" -be that other of another race such as Elaine, or another gender, such as Eric The most sure possibility for finding a utopia of acceptance and belonging is suggested through the relationship of mixed race sisters, which acknowledges origins while remaining free of the conflict of one-sided racial identification The novel's frame, however, will not allow such a relationship to suffice in lieu of romance, and this privileging of heterosexual romance results in colorism and sibling rivalry between the

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195 sisters Ultimately sister love is rejected as a viable path to healing the conflict assumed to exist in mixed race identity although the text continues to recognize the importance of this mirror that would allow a reflection of self-love ; as Mingus states on the novel s last pages she needs to "Love myself I've never done that. I've always relied on someone else to do it, even if they did it badly. I'd rather be with you than be with me and something s wrong with that. .. I'm afraid to be alone, Eric. I don t even like sleeping in a bed by myself-it shouldn't be this way .. .l have to make things right with myself' ( 240 ) Resurrecting Mingus clearly struggles with traditional and non-traditional notion s of gender and race questioning whether and to what extent women of mixed race should rely on the domestic and public realms to define themselves. The text does not, however, completely resolve these tensions Although Mingus ultimately removes her self from her romantic relationship and, we assume, her efforts to have a child her struggle to "love herself is left open-ended suggesting the route to identity cannot be through romance or maternity; instead it suggests that individual identity must be a precursor to romantic and maternal relationships. Although the text may shift its prioritizing of heterosexual romance as the means whereby a mixed race woman locates her identity, it continues to elevate heterosexual romance as the end of her efforts. The last lines of the novel reflect that love between a man and woman still is privileged: So it s over ?" For now yes ," her voice was barely a whisper. Tears dropped from his eyes onto his jeans. Not forever, right?" Mingus didn't answer. Just held his hand as tightly as he held hers and hoped. (241)

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196 Coming Home Resurrecting Mingus is a useful text for exploring the construction of mixed race and gender identity at this historical moment when we might assume more allowance is made for women to define themselves outside the traditional realm of the domestic sphere. Yet because the text uses the metaphors of house and home to suggest a space of belonging for the mixed race individual, both literally a domestic space of familial acceptance as well as a figurative space of internal reconciliation, it is representative of other discourses of mixed race identity Indeed, such discourses rely on domestic metaphors since parallels have been drawn historically between mixed race individuals and outcasts or those without homes A literary survey reveals countless stories in which the mixed individual is depicted as tragic mulatto existing between two worlds and with a home in neither. Metaphors of mixed race identity as home, then suggest a desire for spaces of belonging and acceptance for the whole individual spaces that have been unavailable to most who are mixed race The spaces that have been available-within the black community, through acceptance of the one-drop rule or ideologies of political and social solidarity, and within the white community through passing-do not typically include sites of belonging for mixed race individuals as mixed race. Metaphors of home in Resurrecting Mingus reflect a longing for a site of belonging wherein the mixed individual may be accepted-for example the site that might be comprised between two mixed race sisters who share origins and present struggles. These domestic metaphors and the text's desire for sister love offer the additional possibility that spaces of belonging may be created through new visions of family and community, freed from the

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197 racial and gender tensions that force antagonism within families and offering new points of reference on maps of identity that locate family not through race but through affect. Because the idea of family and love is central to Resurrecting Mingus, its frame within the romance genre is not surprising. Its unconscious longings, however-which seek to locate women's identities through the relationship of sisters-place the text at odds with this romantic frame, which maintains social assumptions that women function in relation to men and through romantic relationships can find their identities. The use of the romance genre and domestic metaphors is appropriate, for mixed race identity is figured in this text as extremely personal, intrinsic, a matter of selfhood. As it is presented in Adams's text, mixed race identity is political only insofar as the personal is political, yet the text does not explore the political ramifications of personal lives; identity is presented in terms of the individual, the family, and the local community. Mixed race identity is depicted as having real-life consequences on matters of personal liberty and happiness such as romantic relationships, childhood friendships, one's sense of safety and autonomy in the community, and one's sense of possibility in achieving the "American" dream For example the fact that Mingus's family does not correspond with the normalized family type makes the realization of goals more challenging. Even though Carl works in real estate because he is a black man he cannot search with Elaine for homes in certain neighborhoods. Instead, Elaine must scout the houses alone and return in the dark with Carl to show him what she has found. Discrimination in housing is common with regard to minority families of any race(s), yet Adams's text makes clear that Mingus's family faces distinct pressures because it is interracial. As Carl remarks to Elaine "I gave up my dream-a normal black life with a normal black wife and black

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children. I just want to be like everybody else. Not have to put on shows or have my defenses up when I'm out with my wife. I get tired" (120). Carl's statement references the social pressures he and his family face, not because they are a minority family but because they are an interracial one. 198 Adams' s depiction of mixed race identity as closely tied to the personal and familial is fitting since, in this historical moment, mixed race identity is increasingly negotiated through individualism. During the Civil Rights and Black Nationalist movements (and in texts that depict that era), individualism was commonly subsumed beneath a concern for the collectivity. As discussed in the previous chapter, in texts such as Danzy Senna's Caucasia, the individual concern of identity is largely implicated by external political factors that encourage people of African descent to form coalitions in the struggle against racist oppression. In the current era, pressing concerns with racial identity include much more individualized issues, as the popularity of African-American romance novels attests. Within discourses of mixed race, prominent issues are also individualized, such as the importance of one's family of origin and the role of family members in one's negotiation of identity This is not to say, of course, that mixed race individuals' identities are not influenced by political concerns As the debate over a multiracial classification on the U.S. census in 2000 attested, the question of how individuals should racially identify is not merely personal. Resurrecting Mingus elides these overtly political dimensions of mixed race although it does struggle with the categorization of mixed race individuals; for the most part the text suggests that both Mingus and her sister are black. However, the text does provide moments when it questions the one-drop rule, as when Mingus argues that hatred

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199 of whites would include hatred of her own mother and, by extension, a part of herself. However, the text s destabilization of hypodescent is inconsistent; it may assert that mixed race individuals must reconcile the socially constructed dichotomies of race within themselves but it doesn t s uggest ways that actually threaten the categories of race. In fact because the text assumes mixed race identity is a personal issue, because it overlooks the political dimensions of the personal, it poses little threat to social constructions and classifications of race. Resurrecting Mingus struggles with the identities of mixed race individuals vacillating between acceptance of the one-drop rule and acknowledgement of the importance of affect in defining racial identities. Like other texts dealing with mixed race, it exhibits a utopian longing for spaces in which mixed race individuals may find acceptance and belonging Reflecting this longing Resurrecting Mingus attempts to investigate the challenges of non-traditional families and the effects these challenges have on individual lives and negotiations of identity. Its domestic metaphors and romantic frame are in keeping with such concerns yet the text is unsuccessful in pushing beyond the boundaries of this frame in order to allow female autonomy in the midst of intimacy ; moreover it privileges heterosexual intimacy over the other types of intimacy it explores reinforcing traditional notions of which relationships should be considered most fulfilling for women Ultimately, a large problem with R e surrecting Mingus is that it offers no play whatsoever in the racial identities of mixed race people Instead, from within its frame of popular romantic fiction and its ba s ic alignment with hypodescent, the text attempts to articulate notions of harmony for mixed race women through privileging heterosexual

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200 romance with black men. The novel reinforces many traditional notions of race, mixed race, and gender as it is unsuccessful in challenging the status quo in any forceful way. It remains in keeping with ideologies such as the one exhibited by the white woman in this chapter's opening anecdote, illustrating the presumed unavoidable and tragic struggles of mixed race individuals rather than remaining committed to the integrity and full recognition of these individuals and the families in which they find belonging.

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CHAPTER 7 MERIDIANS ON THE MAP OF IDENTITY Like most people I'm often asked where I'm from. Having moved often throughout childhood, I have never felt as if one geographical location were hom e I like to give people in s tead a more postmodern re s ponse: I'm from every place I've ever been. Similarly when faced with the question of race I work hard to identify myself outside of the confines of U S racial categorization and through terms that more accurately reflect if not typical notions of hypodescent the ancestral lives that have shaped my own. So when a s ked my race, I talk about my mother and al s o about my father though I never knew him. I talk about my maternal grandmother who helped rai s e me I talk about my large extended family. My notion of identity necessarily relies on affect more so than on the metaphors of difference we call race. Since our society revolve s around categorizations and classification s, people continue to call me mixed and re ponses to my so-called mixture vary. Some have felt pity for me and for other s like me Some, I am sure have felt angry, although according to my memory I have been spared the awareness of this. Some have considered my mixture a sign of racial progress, a forecast of utopian racial harmony. The last time I met this response was at a recent event at a university women s center focusing on body image. As a woman and I discussed body image and the ways in which race shapes both representations of and responses to bodies, the discus s ion turned personal and our own bodies and racial heritages were brought into our theorizing The woman u sed my mixed heritage to segue 201

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202 into a discussion of race mixture as a sign of racial progress, as an indication that individuals-and therefore society-are more accepting of racial difference. Clearly individual acceptance of race mixture cannot be unproblematically extrapolated into wide-scale social and institutional acceptance Additionally the notion that those of mixed race currently signal the dawning of racial harmony and an end to racism implies a certain novelty to race mixture, an implication that ignores the history of race interactions in the United States. In reality, race mixture is nothing new, nor are the varied-and very limited-responses to it. Mixed race has long been a subject of inquiry-whether to imply the downfall of race based hierarchies to support eugenicist notions of racial types and racial progress or to assert the social construction of race. Recently, studies of mixed race have followed equally varied paths. Numerous autobiographies give accounts of living "on the color line via mixed race heritage, and myriad studies investigate mixed race through the lenses of social science and psychology, whether contributing to the arguments on transracial adoption or exploring the identity challenges thought to accompany multiple heritages. Additionally, countless anthologies abound that investigate mixed race from sociological, political, psychological, legal and literary perspectives, but there exist relatively few book-length studies of mixed race in literature In Neither Black Nor White Yet Both (1997), Werner Sollors explores prominent themes that historically have been included in mixed race literature from the Biblical curse of Ham and the close knitting of miscegenation and incest to passing and the tragic mulatto stereotype. Suzanne Bast's Mulattas and M estiz as: Repres e nting Mixed Id en tities in the Americas, 1850-2000 (2003) offers a comparative analysis of the mixed race woman in the literature of the United

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203 States and several Latin American countries that investigates "contemporary racial paradigms in the context of their precursors [to] show the historical contingency of these paradigms and [to] show how past theories prefigure or challenge post civil rights and postmodern theories" (11). Kathleen Pfeiffer, in Race Passing and American Individualism (2003), studies race passing-which typically assumes race mixing-in literature near the turn of the twentieth century to illustrate that, rather than proving shame and denial of blackness, literary representations of passing often show its consistency with notions of American individualism. Unlike sociological studies of mixed race, my study acknowledges the ways in which literary texts both shape and are shaped by culture, and unlike many other literary investigations this analysis acknowledges the themes of mixed race texts and also moves beyond a thematic study to look at the ways in which language use shapes social understanding of mixed race which in turn affects constructions of race in general. Many studies furthermore, reiterate the either /or dichotomy of mixed race by focu s ing too narrowly on these themes rather than extending the critique to look at the metaphorical ways mixed race is imagined, ways that-though included in narratives that deal with the realities of race conflict-clearly long for if not actively anticipate utopian spaces where mixed race may be under s tood outside of hierarchical opposition My s tudy look s a t text s that attempt to move beyond conflict and an either / or choice identifying the re emergence of themes of unity humanism, and nationalism that have proliferated in mixed race literature but that, at various historical moments, have been subsumed under the necessary demands of civil rights struggles that call for minority coalitions Even during these periods however-including the Jim Crow era and the Civil Rights and Black

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204 Power movements-certain authors-such as Jean Toomer and Fran Ross-confronted race and gender oppressions through the reality of mixture, which they used to highlight the illegitimate, often arbitrary, bases of racism and sexism. Of course, they were not alone in either these efforts or these eras. My study, then also attempts to identify the relationship between these texts and the social and artistic spaces allowed within the moment of their production. Paradoxically, race mixture both challenges and upholds traditional categories of race. Recent social rhetoric surrounding such mixture often denies the long-standing history of mixed race and the ways in which racism has been maintained through the control of interracial sexuality and the co-optation of mixed race people. Much of this rhetoric romanticizes race mixture by ignoring the past and encouraging utopian visions of the future. Mixed race, then, often functions in the social imagination as a false barometer of racial progress and a short-sighted predictor of the future of race. Within literary representations, however, the history of mixed race is often acknowledged even as texts grapple with the meanings of that history and the place it must have in future understandings of race Thus, although the texts long to envision a racially utopian future in keeping with many social imaginings of mixed race, they struggle with past and present realities that have not allowed the fruition of these utopian longings. These tensions among historical realities, present longings, and future possibilities result in complex literary negotiations of mixed race. The texts' historical contexts have facilitated certain "themes and literary strategies that often inform mixed race texts, including narratives of passing formations of new racial space, multiple naming, redefining and challenging racial categories

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205 gendered racial crossings, grappling with the tragic mulatto, and the appearance of the tragic trickster (Brennan 20). As my study has shown, certain historical moments have also given rise to mixed race literature that addresses themes of history and origins, ontology and performativity movement and belonging the role of bodies in identity formation, and the play within identity that may allow de-crystallizations of race and gender. Although analyses of mixed race literature have highlighted the traditional themes of conflict and tragedy, these analyses have not considered that much of this literature, especially recently has searched for utopian spaces-personal, familial communal, and national through the articulation of meridian metaphors that emphasize unity and connection in lieu of opposition and hierarchy. As Jonathan Brennan asserts, the literary text poem or prose the site for metaphor, is the act of language that encodes social meanings of race and mixed race and challenges them as well" (9). Thus, these metaphors encode and challenge imaginings of mixed race by positing sites of harmony and utopia while in the midst of disharmony and distopia in the socio-political realm, thereby constructing tensions between social realities and imagined possibilities. Indeed, the texts utopian longings are problematized by their latent struggles with their historical contexts and generic constraints. The texts both attempt to shape and are shaped by the moments and formulas in which they are written, and these historical and generic restrictions are indicative of climates that work against the texts' imaginings of racial and gender harmony. The basis of Oreo on Greek mythology, for instance catapults the issue of mixed race beyond realism and into the realm of the fantastic and mythological. On one hand use of such a formula could demonstrate that the issue of mixed race is universal and,

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206 therefore contains within itself elements that are transcultural and transhistorical. U s e of this formula, furthermore, elevates mixed race to the symbolic realm a nd makes o f it a short-hand to discuss larger issues of human nature and interaction. On the other hand drawing parallels between discourses of mixed race and the mythological ob s cures the realities of mixed race individuals within a given historical moment and s ocial location It is difficult to imagine a mixed race woman during the Black Power Movement with as much room for fluid identification as Oreo when her story is taken out of the genre of myth and placed into that of reali sm. Likewise the romance formula of Resurr ec ting Mingus restricts the possibilities for re-envisioning mixed race women s identitie s and relationships as the text simultaneously attempts to challenge racist and sexist assumptions about these women's lives Similar to the ways in which genre shapes and is in tum shaped by the literary text there exists a reciprocal relationship between the text and its moment of production. The social space for discourses of mixed race would seem to have broadened in the mid to late twentieth century; the Civil Rights and multicultural movements in the latter half of the century appear to have facilitated greater acceptance of race mixing and mixed race individuals. Interestingly discourses of mixed race and multiculturalism late in the twentieth century seem to have picked up the baton of unity within diver s ity that Toomer and others presented decades earlier. Such utopian ideal s continue to fa s cinate tho s e who are confronted with insurmountable difference both out s ide of and within the body. In the face of modernization many nineteenth and early twentieth century intellectuals sought to make sense of the apparent chaos and fragmentation they faced. Modernist anxieties in the early 1900s led intellectuals and arti sts such as Toomer Zora Neale

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207 Hurston and Jose Vasconcelos to desire the unification of disparate entities under the banners of humanism and/or nationalism These intellectuals functioned from differing social and political spaces and often toward differing ends, some encouraging unity through the demise of primitive cultures while still allowing the "gifts" of those cultures to benefit the nation as a whole. Others were motivated more by the experience of social misunderstanding of finding themselves unable to fit into predetermined categories. The subject of mixed race, then became a focus for questions of difference and challenges to reified notions of race. Similarly faced with millennial anxieties and the unforeseeable meanings race will assume, many late twentieth century intellectuals tum to discourses of mixed race-for the ideals of harmony and wholeness mixed race often supports, for the insulation between oppositional poles mixed race is thought to allow, and for the co optation and containment of difference that celebration of mixed race often masks. As in the nineteenth century, many contemporary intellectuals use understandings of mixed race to challenge notions of race and difference to highlight similarities, and to undermine the bases of racism. According to G. Reginald Daniel Although embodied in individuals, the new multiracial identity is perhaps best characterized as a cluster of new possibilities in the nation's collective racial consciousness that seeks to transform traditional racial categories and boundaries by expanding definitions of blackness and whiteness" (189). Certainly with the proliferation of postmodern theories into the mainstream notions of mixture and hybridity have been popularized and celebrated within socia l discourse Members of the mixed race movement have posited such mixture as the means to end racism, asserting that misce ge nation problematizes any claims to

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208 racial difference and could potentially move social understanding of difference beyond race. Such claims, of course, echo eugenicist notions earlier in the century that asserted race mixture would result in a universal human who would embody the best of both "types." Others hesitate to readily accept mixed race as a separate and distinct category, recognizing that notions of mixed race necessarily base themselves in theories of race ; accepting mixed race, they argue, is parallel to earlier efforts in the United States and current efforts in other countries that used mixed race as a buffer to maintain hierarchies of whiteness and blackness. As David Parker and Miri Song summarize: Critics of the "post-racial" aspiration see it as na'ive at best, at worst willfully dismissive of how anti-racist initiatives depend on the pragmatic recognition and monitoring of social outcomes along racialized lines. Amidst racial discrimination, hatred and violence, is it not premature to already proclaim the end of anti-racism and the arrival of a post-racial" world? (12) Indeed, the ideologies of "post-race" and "post-racism" that have accompanied late twentieth century discol!rses of mixed race obscure the social, political and economic realities of racism as they still function in the United States. This trend interestingly, coincides with efforts to dismantle affirmative action programs and reverse civil rights gains, a fact that problematizes assumptions that acceptance and celebration of mixed race naturally signals a decline in personal and institutional racism. On the contrary, as Suzanne Bost notes, the re-emergence of mixed race in public discourse may mask the ways in which race mixture is used to uphold racism and race-based hierarchies: "Both in the nineteenth century and in the 1990s, a rhetoric of confusion, tragedy groundlessness, and futurism inflects popular representations of mixture. In both periods fear and celebration work in tandem: the fascination with mixture corresponds to (and potentially masks) racist efforts to contain fluidity and to r e institute categories" (185). Although

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209 some celebrations of mixed race encourage utopian visions of social harmony, other discussions of mixed race hide anxieties about the distribution of power and the meanings and significance of race in the new millennium Changes within the social imagination, though not necessarily within social reality have allowed a climate that celebrates diverse heritages Problematically of course this celebration often obscures the ways in which white supremacy and patriarchy still function to co-opt and oppress many of these diverse groups. Thus although notions of mixed race do challenge historical understandings of race, this challenge is neither new nor unproblematically celebratory, as some would have us believe. Recent interest in mixed race reflects tensions between celebration and anxiety. Facing not only a new century but also a new millennium, Americans again find it necessary to confront questions of history and origins and to attempt to deal with anxieties over the future of race Race becomes a focal point for anxieties and is used to supplant other anxieties linked to change, uncertainty, and romantic nostalgia for an idealized past. As postmodern efforts deconstruct definitions of race, as demographic studies predict whites will be a minority in the U.S by 2050 and as Americans assess social and political race progress over the century discourse turns to questions of mixture in order to contain anxieties over an unknowable future. Suzanne Bost writes, Anxiety about the breakdown of racial categories has led to an increased interest in mixture The rhetoric surrounding this new obsession often recalls that of an earlier American race drama, the anxiety surrounding racial definition that came with the abolition of slavery. Today as in the nineteenth century, Americans are unsure about how race will matter in the future distribution of power. People of mixed race are targeted-studied celebrated, or maligned-for challenging the terms of the debate. ( 185)

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210 The terms of the debate have long relied on oppositional and hierarchical notions of race, and postmodern visions of race often acknowledge the ways in which mixed race both maintains and challenges these constructions. The late twentieth century texts that have been the main objects of study here are products of their postmodern era, concerned as they are with deconstructions and destabilizations of race and gender that attempt to acknowledge the history of race mixture. If we imagine the postmodern as "an attempt to think the present historically" (Jameson ix), then these texts' approaches to race and mixed race are in keeping with postmodern efforts and ideology as they attempt to negotiate the history of race mixture into present and future definitions of race. Additionally, the current insistence of much mixed race discourse on deconstructing race and allowing identification through multiple heritages-allowing what has historically been deemed contradiction-also reflects postmodern sensibilities. Yet modernism and postmodernism overlap or interweave themselves throughout what we linearly think of as time, refusing to allow easy categorization of texts such as Ross' s Oreo or Senna's Caucasia Undeniably as Fredric Jameson notes, there is a "powerful alternative position that postmodernism is itself little more than one more stage of modernism proper (if not, indeed of the even older romanticism); it may indeed be conceded that all the features of postmodernism ... can be detected, full-blown, in this or that preceding modernism (4). Ideological links between Jean Toomer's Cane and Jenoyne Adams's Resurrecting Mingus-two texts that initially seem too dissimilar for juxtaposition-suggest that the questions and concerns of modernism do, indeed, continue to warrant attention in what is called a postmodern age. Although long Jameson's distinction between modernism and postmodernism is worth quoting at length:

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Postmodemism, postmodern consciousness, may then amount to not much more than theorizing its own condition of possibility, which consists primarily in the sheer enumeration of changes and modifications. Modernism also thought compulsively about the New and tried to watch its coming into being ... but the postmodern looks for breaks, for events rather than new worlds, for the telltale instant after which it is no longer the same .. for the shifts and irrevocable changes in the representation of things and of the way they change. The modems were interested in what was likely to come of such changes and their general tendency : they thought about the thing itself substantively in Utopian or essential fashion. Postmodemism is more formal in that sense, and more "distracted, ... it only clocks the variations themselves and knows only too well that the contents are just images. In modernism ... some residual zones of "nature or "being," of the old, the older, the archaic, still exist. (ix) Given Jameson s distinctions between the two, it would seem that the texts that have 211 been studied here clearly illustrate modernist tendencies-through their concern with the results of shifts in racial definitions, with imagining a utopian space in which racial harmony and gender equity may be realized-as well as postmodern tendencies-through their attention to the ways in which race and gender are represented and the way such representations shift as notions of race and gender are deconstructed. Based on my preceding analysis it is clear that social anxieties regarding race and the bodies on which these anxieties are displaced have not changed significantly between Toomer's era and the new millennium as society continues to confront wide-scale shifts in industry technology demographics, and other realities of globalization, leading one to question both the extent of social progress and the categorization of social and literary periods Nearly a century later, society still confronts many concerns that have been labeled as modernist even though we may have added new responses to our repertoire; we have not escaped modernity but have carried modernist problems and responses into the postmodern age, altering our context without significantly changing our concerns

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212 Society presents an illusion of progress-technological, social, even racial-without having met the demands that would allow present realities to correspond with these present representations. As the texts here illustrate, we continue to face challenges regarding race relations-including how to acknowledge the history of race within the present moment-and, as the texts also show, these challenges continue to be met with many of the same responses. These responses encompass part of what marks this group of texts as significant within their given eras: the struggle between their utopian ideologies and the social realities of their moment of production. These texts dealing with mixed race, more so than many others, are caught firmly in the middle of the pull within race relations between reality and representation, between real lives and the longing for social utopia. The texts utopian longings are clearly illustrated through their spatial metaphors of mixed race; simultaneously these metaphors reflect the limitations imposed upon progressive visions of race and gender by social factors even as they attempt to decrystallize concepts of social race in the United States. My notion of decrystallization relies on the archetypal theory of C. G. Jung and uses his notion of 'crystallization as a metaphor to discuss race. I use Jung because he, like Toomer and others in the early part of the twentieth century, sought to link the seemingly disparate notions of his time Concerned with balancing opposites as necessary poles in any structure of duality Jung theorized the sacred marriage that would unite dualities as complements. This Jungian romance suggests the importance of uniting opposites in a sacred marriage that depends upon a relinquishment of hierarchy in favor of balance. Although this metaphor of marriage and the suggestion of balance imply the retention of duality Jung s dualism

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213 being horizontal rather than vertical, merely suggests a continuum on a line of difference in which no part can claim more importance or worth than the others. This continuum allows for heterogeneity and multiplicity, rather than hierarchy and singularity. Alternatively, we might imagine Jung's sacred marriage not as a horizontal line but as an encompassing sphere, which suggests wholeness multiplicity, the unlikelihood of hierarchy and the room for play. Thus although oppositions are inherent in Jungian theory, hierarchy is not. Furthermore, each end of the opposition is understood as essential in a balance rather than in a way that implies one pole must conquer and dominate the other. Such a metaphor is consistent with recent discourse on mixed race identity Like Jean Toomer at the beginning of the twentieth century many mixed race people currently articulate their desire to identify based on recognition of their numerous heritages. Like Toomer, they resist identification based on hypodescent and they also insist that broader identifications needn t prevent them from building coalitions with oppressed groups who share similar experiences negotiating the world. These experiences may be understood through the metaphor of archetypes, which according to Jung are universal patterns of being and knowing that inform any attempt to understand or interact with the world The form of an archetype "might perhaps be compared to the axial system of a crystal, which as it were, preforms the crystalline structure in the mother liquid although it has no material existence of its own" (Jung CW9 I 79). Jung's idea of crystallization of archetypes becomes a useful metaphor for thinking about race. In the United States, notions of social race and social gender crystallize many understandings of difference, and mixed race often crystallizes into an oppositional difference; mixed race becomes, to use Rebecca Meacham's terms the

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214 "archetype of the opposite," neither black nor white but the crystallized opposition of the two A more useful description-one more in keeping with the identities many mixed race people currently hope to articulate-might be "archetype of duality since duality more easily implies complementarity symmetry, the necessity of each part, and the ways in which these parts must "play" off of each other. This term, then, allows us to imagine difference-an archetypal reality-without hierarchy and without opposition (in the sense of conflict). Gendered ideas of race and raced ideas of gender are in essence being decrystallized through metaphors of mixed race that seek to present an archetype of duality, to understand racial and gender differences beyond hierarchy and opposition As my study illustrates recent texts dealing with discourses of mixed race reflect tensions between the longing to privilege unity and create utopia and the confines of historical and present realities. These texts nevertheless, respond to what appears as a celebratory social space by attempting to reassess mixed race identities and the possibilities that may be fostered by non-traditional visions of difference. The texts under discussion here are successful to varying degrees in articulating metaphors that recognize the play within identity and that resist the impulse to form hierarchies The spatial metaphors of houses and homes in Resurr e cting Mingus, of course, are both limiting and limited by traditional stereotypes of gender that restrict women's identities to the domestic and familial. Metaphors of paradise lost and psychological utopia in Caucasia while allowing more mobility, still imply an ideal space in which identity could be fixed and necessarily, play would cease. The text imagines a futile search for an ideal that never existed; a utopian "Mix-land is juxtaposed against the Caucasia of reality and shown to be unreachable. Oreo's metaphor of quest also encourages more mobility, but

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215 its reference to a predetermined goal suggests an endpoint of stability, a space where the mixed race holy grail of identity-wholeness-will be captured. Cane, like the other texts under discussion, offers metaphors linked to and therefore problematized by, a particular time and space; metaphors in Cane reflect eugenicist ideologies and anxieties regarding race mixture and the potential for racial progress. "The Blue Meridian," perhaps more than any other text discussed here recognizes mobility and play and suggests a metaphor that attempts to abandon notions of conflict in favor of unity to forego hierarchy and encourage complementarity. Given the necessarily elusive nature of utopia all of the texts under discussion here fail to reach what they're hoping for ; they are unsuccessful in solving the problems of racial unrest which becomes in part a struggle over history and how history might be incorporated into the present and into possibilities for the future. Toomer's work in Cane and "The Blue Meridian ," both working decidedly against the grain, were destined to fail at their social moments when the forces of Jim Crow segregation necessitated political alliances based on race a basis that Toomer rejected. The other texts similarly, are implicated by the historical contexts in which they were written. These texts, being flawed first novels are valuable through their flaws, indicative as these flaws are of the ways in which contemporary ideologies of race and gender are limited by historical and generic forces. Analysis of these texts in what Jonathan Brennan calls the "field of mixed race studies" aids in "developing a framework for the discussion of contemporary multiple identities and for the analysis of the historical development of these identities in a sociological and psychological framework (Brennan 17). This field, if it may be defined as suc h, exhibits parallels with the black feminist critique of the women's

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216 movement's push to organize around only one marker of identity ; in other words, mixed race discourses problematize notions of hypodescent and question the possibilities for valuing equally several markers for identity Metaphors of mixed race in the texts under consideration here exhibit this pu s h for broadened definitions of identity, for allowing individuals to map out the contours of their identities and identifications in ways that challenge the traditionally firm demarcations of race and that problematize oppositional, hierarchical notions of difference. These metaphors, which span the twentieth century rely on utopian visions for social progress that are problematized by social realities, both those of the past as well as those of the present. Still these metaphors attempt with varying degrees of success-to suggest possibilities for greater racial and gender harmony in the future Many of them portray mixed race individual s as meridians between black and whit e, between male and female between past and future Such mappings of mixed race as a meridian as a metaphor for non-oppositional and non-hierarchical v isions of difference seek to provide the language necessary to move our reality closer to these utopian representations of it.

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Toomer, Jean. Cane. 1923. New York: W.W. Norton, 1988. --. Essentials. Ed. Rudolph P. Byrd. Athens: University of Georgia Press 1991 --. The Collected Po ems of J ean Toom er, Ed. Robert B. 223 Jones and Margery Toomer Latimer. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Pres 1988. ---. The Wayward and the Seeking: A Collection of Writings by J ean Toomer. Ed. Darwin T. Turner. Washington D.C.: Howard UP, 1980. Van Deburg, William L. New Da y in Bab y lon: the Black Power Movement and American Culture, 1965-1975. Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1992. Va concelos, Jose. The Cosmic Race. 1925 Baltimore: The John Hopkins UP, 1979 Vauthier Simone. "Of African Queens and Afro-American Princes and Prince sses : Miscegenation in Old H epsey." Int erracialism: Black-Whit e Int ermarriage in American History Literature, and Law. R egards sur la litterature noire americaine, 1980 Ed. Werner Sollors. New York: Oxford UP, 2000. 330-56. Walker, Rebecca. Bla ck, White, and Jewish : Autobiography of a Shifting Self New York: Riverhead Books, 2001. West Camel. Ra ce Matters. New York: Vintage Book 1993 Wiegman, Robyn. "Whitene Studies and the Paradox of Particularity." boundary 2 (1999): 115 -50. William on, Joel. New P eople: Miscegenation and Mulattos in the United States. Baton Rouge: Loui iana State UP, 1995. Zack, Naomi Ra ce and Mixed Ra ce. Philadelphia: Temple UP 1993. Zanger Jules. "The 'Tragic Octoroon in Pre -Civi l War Fiction." Int erracialism: Bla ck White Intermarriag e in American History Literature, and Law. American Quarterl y, 1966. Ed. Werner Sollors. New York: Oxford UP 2000. 284-91.

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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Shane Willow Trudell received her doctorate in English at the University of Florida with an emphasis in twentieth century African-American literature and women's studies. Specific areas of research include race, mixed race, and gender in literature and culture, interracial romance, and the inter sec tion s of race and gender in discourses of mixed race. She ha s publi s hed sc holarly work in Meridians: Feminism Ra ce Transnationalism and a book review in Feminist Teacher. Currently s he works as a Profe ssor of English at Florida Community College at Jacksonville and as an Adjunct Lecturer of African-American Studies at the University of Florida. In addition to i ss ues of race gender, peace and diver s ity Shane enjoys nature fitness, travel spirituality, and activism and would welcome conversations with peopl e interested in these and other topics. She can be contacted at willowtru@hotmail.com. 224

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I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conform to acceptable tandards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality as a di sertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. J< < Tace Hedrick, Chair Associate Professor of Engli h and Women's Studies I certify that I have read thi study and that in my opinion it conforms to acceptab l e tandards of schol a rl y presentation and i fully adequate, in scope and quality a a di e rtation for the degree of Doctor of Philo so ph y J.6ke2~gdq A ociate Professor of Engli h I certify that I have read thi s study and that in my opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of schol arly presentation and i fully adequate, in sco pe and qualit y, as a dis e rtation for the degree of Doctor of Phil ~ hy -l-_.__+---'-'-------4'=-=-----'----l.___,,_ _____ ark Reid Profe so r of English I certify that I have r ead thi s study and that in my opinion it conform to accep tabl e tandards of c holarl y presentation a nd is fully adequate, in cope a nd quality a a di e rt a tion for the degree of Doctor of Philo ophy. ? Milagr s PeAsso ate Professor of Sociology and Women's Studies

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This dissertation was submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the Department of English in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and to the Graduate School and was accepted as partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. August 2004 Dean Graduate School

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