First Person Singular

Sunday, February 4, 2007

My mom and my dad studied at Johns Hopkins University. My mother was in the chemistry department, and my father was getting his PhD. On the first date, they tried to go to dinner, but no place would serve them. My mother is black; my father is white. My mother is from Cuba, and my father is Australian. And in 1957, interracial dating was frowned upon. [The staff] told my dad that they would serve him but not my mother. They'd go to restaurant after restaurant, and they would be turned away. They couldn't sit together. So, my mother took my father back to her apartment and whipped up an amazing meal. The moral of the story, I always felt for her girls, was: If you could learn to cook, you could snag a man. I can cook, sort of. I don't enjoy it. I like to say, "I may not make it, but I'll make it happen." Meaning, we like to eat out a lot.

I am the poster child for "multi-culti," for sure. Every group kind of sees in me what resonates with them. I think that people like to define me. I think it makes them more comfortable. I sent my uncle in Australia a tape once of me doing the news, and he's like, "Oh, my gosh, you're so Irish-looking. It just kills me." I'm just this light-skinned, middle class black girl with nappy hair.

As an adult, there's something very nice about operating as you want and not internalizing everybody's hopes and dreams for you. And that's who I am. My husband likes to say: "Wow. Your parents gave you a lot of confidence. Sometimes, misguided confidence."

Interview by Cathy Areu

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