We started The Blend in July 2017 with the modest intention to give people who claim more than one identity as their own a place to call home on the internet. But in doing so, we unknowingly began to weave a tapestry, or rather a map, comprised of stories that uncover the mixed experience from angles both big and small. Some of these narratives look at the complexities of mothering mixed children, some delve into how ethnic foods (or even tea) can offer an entryway into the mixed soul, and some simply address the ever-present “What are you?” question, in its many different iterations. The Blend’s current map takes you to faraway islands, cultural hideaways (like Japanese grocery store Marukai), large cities like New York and smaller ones like Austin, and places as vast and amorphous as Facebook and Twitter.
Here are select excerpts from the map of our vertical’s first year. We hope you find yourself in these stories, and another space to call your own.
Uncovering my queer Latinx identity through literature
Location: The library
A few weeks before my thirteenth birthday, as I hoped for some insight into what I thought would be the amazing beginning of my teen years, I stumbled upon 13: Thirteen Stories That Capture the Agony and Ecstasy of Being Thirteen. I was reading the book only a few feet from my mother by our kitchen table when one surprised me—the protagonist realizes he’s gay after kissing a boy at the movies. I always remembered how that kiss was described, one they’d shared after drinking soda and eating popcorn: a “Coca-Cola kiss.”
That was me, 12, attending a private Catholic school. Every day, I’d sit in class wearing a black-and-blue plaid uniform, listening in on religion classes that often reminded us of our place (as, specifically, young women and young men) in the world. At that point, I’d already gone through after-school chastity lessons where I’d learned that one of the key components of a healthy marriage was “fruitfulness.” This did not connote sexual knowledge; I imagined babies like giant pears in my stomach.
For Jen Hewett, becoming a successful artist of color meant letting go of perfectionism
Location: Blick Art Materials, West Los Angeles
Inside Blick Art Materials in West L.A., Jen Hewett led a block-printing demonstration at a cluster of folding tables. From her new book, Print, Pattern, Sew, she used a pencil to trace one of her design templates, a crocus plant with four blossoming stalks. When she finished, she turned the tracing graphite-side down on a soft rubber block (think an eraser the size of a small greeting card) and rubbed her finger across the top to transfer the image. Then she picked up a carving tool, and after a brief explanation of how to change the blades, hold the tool (the butt end in the center of your palm, your index finger resting across the top), and carve (almost parallel to the block), she started cutting. White bits of block came away in shavings and crumbles. All of us in the small audience watched, and two people said exactly what I was thinking: “You make it look so easy.”
My mother is Black—but doesn’t want me to be
Location: Arizona and Chicago
A cup of black tea is the perfect metaphor for my mixedness. It is at once so Asian and so British. It is something, as we know it now, rooted in colonialism. It is as much Downton Abbey as it is Yangon. Loaded with cream and sweetener it is so Burmese and yet something other, something in between.
Location: Wakayama Prefecture, Japan
My mom has only gone back to Japan a handful of times, the last time more than a decade ago, when the second of her parents died. Her younger brother lives there still, and when I studied abroad for a year in college, I got to know him, his wife, and my two then-little cousins. My uncle took me to our furusato, our homeland, on the coast of Wakayama, where the cliffs reminded me of those surrounding the beach town my family finally settled in after all those years of moving. He told me that, due to a shipwreck in the early 1900s, our family is part Turkish, making my great-grandmother as mixed as I am, and my mom and uncle’s eyes a light honey brown. I wonder what else I don’t know. I hope my mom and I can go to Japan together, for what will be the first time since I was a toddler. What will she be like there? Will I see a side of her I’ve never seen? Will she feel at home, like a plant in its natural climate?
A letter to the biracial sister I never knew I had
My cousin Alyce recently sent me your baby picture, unaware that I didn’t already know of your existence. In the faded Polaroid, which she later sends by mail, you’re staring at your young, blonde mother with my eyes, my widow’s peak, and my long, narrow feet. On the cardboard back is conveniently investigable information—your birth name, birthdate, and address, likely written in your mother’s hand. Our father didn’t think you were his, but you’re one hundred percent mine. It’s a strange feeling to know you’re walking around with half my face, part of my DNA, and no knowledge of your little sister—your biracial double.