MIXED-RACE SUPERMAN

Book Cover

A concise, mindful discussion of race, culture, and the politics
of celebrity.

In his chapbook-length essay, London-based poet and critic
Harris (All This Is Implied, 2017) brings two well-known personalities
into vivid focus to compare and contrast their experiences as biracial
“supermen” within their own separate arenas. The author explores the lives and
legacies of Barack Obama and Keanu Reeves from the perspective of their
mixed-race heritages and how that particular aspect drew power, honor, and
visibility to their work and to their names. The author believes many
mixed-race people approach society with hesitation and perpetual confusion,
much like he does as a lifelong Londoner of mixed Indonesian and Dutch
heritage. Harris envisions mixed-race supermen, embodied by Obama and Reeves,
as those who manage to defy simplistic stereotyping and have figured out “how
to make their confusion heroic, to embody contradiction.” The author recalls
his fascination with the former president as a proud, intelligent politician
who “not only looked different, but talked beautifully—and knowingly—of his
mixed-race upbringing. Here was a story that was long and painful but seemed to
bend implacably toward justice.” As the iconic Neo character in the Matrix
films, Reeves can also be considered a mixed-race superhero, fending off
multiplying CGI agents of doom and attempting to survive amid legions of detractors.
Where Harris shines brightest and is most convincing is when he integrates into
the discussion his personal history, heritage, and racial impressions and
experiences. He cites violent crimes occurring in the 1980s and ’90s whose
investigations were hindered and ultimately mishandled due to racial profiling
as well as his frustrations with his parents’ indifference when confronted with
racial bias in various scenarios. An observant writer, Harris shares
illuminating intellectual analysis that incorporates philosophical
introspection (he notes Reeves’ “Nietzschean streak”), references to Greek
mythology, and American politics in a stimulating narrative of civil rights
activism, pop-culture heroism, and the multilayered, heroic struggle of people
of color.

A swift, inspired, and thought-provoking examination of the
intersections of heroism, racial identity, and diversity.

kirkusreviews.com

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