SWIRL GIRL: Coming of Race in the USA reveals how a hard-headed Mixed-race “Black Power Flower Child” battles society—and sometimes her closest loved ones—to forge her identity on her own terms.
As the USA undergoes its own racial growing pains, from the 1968 riots after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, to the historic 2008 election of the nation’s first Biracially Black president, TaRessa Stovall challenges popular stereotypes and fights nonstop pressures to contort, disguise, or deny her uncomfortable truths.
Stovall is a truth-telling “Black Power Flower Child” destined to resist the world’s attempts to define her.
“I am passionate about not allowing another Mixed-race child to grow up limited to the ‘single story’ that characterizes our lives,” Stovall says. “I wrote SWIRL GIRL to better reflect the diversity of people who are ‘And’ in a world of ‘Either/Or.’”
Early Praise for Swirl Girl: Coming of Race in the USA by TaRessa Stovall
Zjien Relician says:
TaRessa Stovall, thank you for baring your soul, telling your story…and concentrically, the story of so many others…of us.
You grabbed our hands and hearts, and with unwavering and unabashed conviction, traversed the turbulent and often unrelenting waters of racial identity, racism, discrimination, self actualization, externalized self loath of others, forgiveness, and transparent self reflection. It was an emotional roller coaster; but it was so worth it! EVERYONE: If you have not read this book as of yet, I strongly suggest you click the link, and get you some. You will not regret it!
Janice Liddell says:
TaRessa Stovall’s SWIRL GIRL: Coming of Race in the USA is a juicy must-read memoir that hits all the touch points of growing up as a mixed-race person in America, especially a mixed-race woman. This work should actually be required reading for interracial parents or prospective parents. It is both a preparatory and cautionary tale that seeks to navigate the potential difficulties and obstacles that unsuspecting parents can’t even envision for the future of their biracial offspring.
While Stovall recognizes that no story will be identical to hers, she nevertheless offers an unbridled examination and expose’ of complexities related to racial and cultural identities; hence, the work can serve as an understanding companion to biracial youth seeking to find their way through the maze of prejudice, biases, confusion and/or plain misunderstanding. But the memoir is also relevant for us “single-race” folks who likely never had a clue what it was REALLY like to be a ”mulatto”, a “half-breed”, a “mongrel”, a “mutt” in such a hyper-bigoted environment as the US of A.
Whether we are on the white or the black side of the racial divide, we leave the book with a more sympathetic understanding of what it’s like to straddle that racial fence in a society that is almost as racially polarized in the 21st century as it was in the 19th. Stovall’s language is lyrical and tight with crisp images of people, places and things that have affected her own development as a politically conscious AND Afrocentric biracial woman.
While being laser-specific to the realities of the mixed-race population, Stovall’s messages throughout the book are also applicable to all of us who are forging stronger identity politics in our respective communities, be they racial, ageist, cultural, gender or whatever. This is likely a personal confrontation with these issues that is long over-due.
Howard Weisberg says:
Where do I begin!? I started to do my normal speed-read, but stopped after page 101 an hour later. I had to go back and read every word. Page 101 spoke to me as a white person. It should speak to everyone, no matter their color. Now, after reading the whole 202 pages, one word at a time, I have so much praise for this book and its author, that I cannot write it all here. It would take another book to comment on it all!!
So, whether it’s Auntie Ozzie (Rosalyn), Kelly (Dad), Auntie Shirley, Big Ernie, Ms. Gonzalez, Greg, et.al., I was mesmerized! I lived in and out of that world. Of course, I’m TaRessa’s white cousin, but that doesn’t mean I only felt emotions because we’re related. I could not miss the message to all of humanity, and the help this book could bring to people of all skin tones! To summarize, TaRessa nailed it!
S.M. Delacroix says:
One of the things that I really enjoyed about this book was the fact that Ms. Stovall wove information about the census into almost every chapter. But I am getting ahead of myself. First of all, I have to stop calling the book Swirl Girl. The proper name of the book is Swirl Girl: Coming of Race in the USA. This is important because the book is about more than people being “down with the swirl” or being of mixed parentage/heritage.
Ms. Stovall expertly discusses the social, political and sometime economic ramifications of being Black and Jewish (or “Blewish”) as a child, a teenager, and as an adult. She talks about what happens to her as she attempts (and ultimately succeeds) to define herself, for herself.
The information about the U.S. Census intrigued me because I am fascinated by how people’s identity (both outwardly defined and self-described) are altered by societal events. I anticipated seeing how the census changed over time and how those changes connected to the author’s experiences.
I was impressed by the honestly and bluntness of her writing. I appreciated the fact that she called the U.S. and all of us folks (Black, white, Latinx and otherwise) on our MESS tied to being members of the identity police.
The short of it is that I love the book and I will use it in my sociology courses when possible. I will recommend it everyone, but especially to people who have children and grandchildren who are mixed, because whether Ms. Stovall knows it or not, she offers a blueprint for us “outsiders” into the world of the Swirl Girl (and boy) who are Coming of Race in the USA.
Excerpt of SWIRL GIRL: Coming of Race in the USA
Chapter 1: SUMTHIN’
The first Thursday in April, 1968 unfolded without any indication that the world was about to turn inside out.
I jerked awake, silenced the alarm clock and scrambled to my feet. Jerked my bedclothes into some kind of order. Mumbled a greeting to Mom, washed, brushed, yanked on my clothes and shoes. Tried to coax my five-textured hair into a single direction. Gulped down breakfast, kissed Mom, bopped my little brother Greg lightly on the forehead for luck, then ran up the hill to grab my friend Dawn for the trek to another day of eighth grade at Meany Middle School.
Dawn was golden, tall, willowy, and stylish with trendy hairstyles, a mischievous smile, and an easy grace in response to male attention. I was pale, short, round and awkward with wild dark hair, uneasy with my rapidly-changing body, and tongue-tied around boys. Classmates sometimes compared us to the comic strip characters, Mutt and Jeff.
As always, we joined the multi-colored mass of students rushing to our lockers, then to our homerooms before the bell. I stared into space, Otis Redding’s new hit, “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay,” relegating the teachers’ voices to background static.
A perfectly unremarkable day.
After lunch, I made my normal mid-day visit to the girls’ bathroom. While washing my hands, three chic Black girls—ninth graders who were infinitely cooler and more sophisticated—crowded around me at the mirror. We’d fallen into this periodic ritual without knowing each other’s’ names or backgrounds.
They normally tried to help make my hair more stylish. But today, the tallest one opened with the question that hovered over my life. I couldn’t forget that the juxtaposition of my skin, hair, and features caused an itch in some people’s brains that demanded to be scratched. It shouldn’t have surprised me, but still managed to catch me off guard.
“What you mixed with?” she asked, her hand skimming my hair from the crown to the flip that grazed my shoulder.
“See? I told you she was sumthin,’” a shorter, browner girl said, reaching to gently move my bangs from my eyes.
“Oooooooh,” breathed the third girl, a chubby beauty who popped her gum with the precision of a metronome. “Do you know what I’d do with all that hair? I could show you some boss styles,” she offered.
Before I could respond, the bell blared, sending us rushing out the door.
I struggled to move through the crush of brown, beige, and yellow bodies packing the hallway. I held my books high on my chest to shield my breasts from groping hands while pressing against the wall to keep from getting pulled into the boys’ bathroom where rumor had it that girls yanked inside could be gang-raped. We called it running trains.
The day passed in a blur. After school, I found Dawn and we decided to go to Mr. Wong’s corner store to buy some candy. As we walked, Dawn chattered about some new “fine as wine” boy in her math class.
We were joined by a short, skinny, Mixed girl with light brown hair I thought of as Green Eyes. As usual, she ignored me and walked next to Dawn. She got on my nerves, always chasing after Dawn like they were tight.
I got my candy and stepped outside to wait for them.
I looked up to see Willie eyeballing me. He sat in front of me in English class and was forever feeling on my legs. Since we couldn’t wear pants to school and our desks were so close together, there wasn’t much I could do to stop him.
“What?” I snapped, cutting my eyes.
He laughed, white teeth flashing against dark skin. He’d be cute if he wasn’t so nasty, I thought, popping another sweet-hot candy into my mouth.
His eyes slid down to my legs. “You know what,” he said, moving his gaze up to my breasts.
I stepped back, bumping into Dawn as she and Green Eyes exited the store.
“Hey Willie,” Green Eyes flirted, giving her hips an extra twitch as she passed him. “I didn’t know you were diggin’ on Willie,” she said to me when we’d moved out of his earshot.
I pretended to choke on my Red Hot. “Not my type,” I said. “He’s too—”
“Black?” Green Eyes asked, a sneer edging her words.
“No,” I snapped. “He’s a nasty poot butt, always feelin’ on me. I can’t stand him.”
“Sure, sure, that’s what you say,” Green Eyes singsonged, turning the corner towards her house.
At the next corner, Dawn turned to me, her normally jovial face suddenly serious. “What kind of guy do you want to marry? Black or White?”
My mind raced, trying to decode her sudden riddle. “One who’s not nasty, okay?”
“That doesn’t count. You need to choose,” she insisted, her jaw all tight like she was mad with me.
Dawn’s strange request made me feel like I was being forced to decide between two flavors I’d never even tasted. I was frustrated by my inability to answer. Fighting back tears, I shrugged, turned my back and hurried home to bury myself in the poetry of Langston Hughes.
I’d had enough of being sumthin’ for one day.
( Continued… )
© Copyright TaRessa Stovall 2020 All Rights Reserved. Excerpt of SWIRL GIRL: Coming of Race in the USA. Alchemy Media Publishing Company