Pearl Fuyo Gaskins, What Are You

What: A collection of stories from mixed race youth, interspersed with comments on the psycological and sociological impacts of these experiences from Gaskins. It’s pretty interesting- the titles of the chapters are a big clue to the themes Gaskins believes are most important in the experience of these youth: “I Don’t Think of Being Biracial as a Burden,” “Check One Box,” “Who’s That White Lady” (referring to the experience of having one white parent as a dark-skinned child), “My So-Called Identity,” “Are You Dating Me or My Hair,” and “Are You This? Are You That?”


  • “I never encountered outright prejudice from people, but I always knew there was something different about me. There were just these comments here and there. There were these things I experienced and knew about that they just didn’t” (33).
  • “People say, ‘Oh, I wish I was biracial because biracial people are the most beautiful people’. Biracial people are just really objectified, you know” (38).
  • “If you’re dark, or can get dark, you don’t really have to deal with that- that physicality of not being able to look like who you are” (41).
  • “In the United States, you can’t just be a little black, concludes G. Reginald Daniel [UC Santa Barbara]…you either are or you aren’t” (63).
  • “I hoped that my hair would tell me which way to ‘swing,’ and even more secretly, I hoped it would swing towards the brown-black straightness of my father’s Japanese head” (168).
  • “There are a whole bunch of issues around dating that multiracial people deal with. Like who you date can be viewed by other people as reflecting who you align yourself with.people percieve it as making a choice” (221).
  • “It’s the watering down of the exotic so it’s palatable. I realize the politics of it now” (237)

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