Advanced Essay #2 : Ambiguous Like Me


I wrote this piece so that I could reflect on my childhood and think about what place reading had in my life. A large part of my childhood, my parents spent trying to make my sister and I comfortable in being what we were through books. This didn’t really work for me and my essay speaks on that.


Dad couldn’t have been less excited to see this movie, but he put on a brave face for me. I had been begging him to take me to see The Princess and the Frog for a solid two weeks, which had finally paid off. He pulled out his worn black leather wallet with our pre printed tickets, handing them to the boy working the door. He let us through, giving us directions to theater four. Dad held my hand as we walked up the steps to sit down in the very top of the theater. I sat eagerly in my pleather seat, trying to ignore the stench of spilled nachos and dropped Icees. The movie faded in, revealing a little black girl staring out into the New Orleans sky. The beginning scene, she’s cooking gumbo for her whole block, laughing her toothy child smile. In that scene, the smile that had been plastered on my face for weeks started to fade. Tiana was a black girl, but she wasn’t black like me. No one was black the way I was.

Feeling like an outsider was a constant throughout my childhood. I never really that anything about me was similiar to anyone who was just black or just white. Like Stephanie Georgopoulos said in her essay Biracial girl problems, “Were invalidated because we’re expected to identify within pre-existing confines that aren’t relevant to us. Everyone is quick to assign us to one ‘side,’”. I never felt like anyone I knew or anyone in my family understood.I felt very different from my parents,from my friends, everyone . Noticing this, they did what they thought would help : black children’s books. Books with black main characters, centered on their stories. I liked them, I definitely liked the books. Having my white mother read Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters, talking about these beautiful African girls with skin the color of coffee I felt still strangely at odds. In all my books, I didn’t see a single face that reminded me of my own. A big part of my only learning to read at the tail end of first grade was because I had turned my back on trying to understand a world that refused to understand me. Everywhere I looked in books there they were the happy white family. All the kids had blonde hair and blue eyes just like their parents. On the flip side all of the black families I saw had a variation of color, but none were as light as my sister and I. Reading or evening looking at a drawing of a family of any race made me a mixture of angry and upset. I wasn’t them but then again I was, a feeling that I didn’t like to have. My relationship with books and therefore my own literacy was limited to fantasy books about animals that my parents read. I hated feeling like some weird thing so I stayed away from books. A big thing that a lot of multiracial children go through in this country is not feeling like you have anyone in your corner. On Identity by Stephanie Georgopulos talks about her experience growing up as a mixed person. “My early years were rife with familial racial tension that I was acutely unaware of.” Having to experience that in my journey to literacy was hard. My literacy suffered greatly because of this. It wasn’t until later in my life that I started to realize that I had to create those spaces for myself. Literacy, learning how to read, doesn’t mean that you have to find something that is just for you. It means that you can learn from the stories of others, all you have to do is understand them. It took me until the second month of first grade to realize just how much reading meant to me, to be able to read and discover things of my own. I wouldn’t have to rely on parents to tell me stories, I could find them myself. The happy families didn’t bother me after a while, that was their story. I just had to figure out mine.