Heidi W. Durrow//The Girl Who Fell from the Sky//Response 1

Heidi W. Durrow’s new book The Girl Who Fell from the Sky is an evocative tour and witness to and of the mixed experience. I am currently reading it with my Grandmother and I am forcing myself to take it slow.

The Girl Who Fell from the Sky follows the coming up of Rachel a biracial/mixed/danish/american/black girl in the 80s. Saying that Rachel has a pluralized identity would be reductive to all that could be. Maybe this is safe to say for anyone with mixed heritage. Maybe not. Being this and not that. The operative word is, in actuality, Or. You can be Black or White. Indian or Black. White or Native American. Chinese or Spanish.

Suddenly it isn’t about being Guatemalan or Chippewa or Black or Cuban. Suddenly it is about Representing or Mis-Representing. Your day to day existence is more about Critical Race Theory than ever before. the minute you try to place yourself as something in this wide, wide world. The Great American Melodrama extends its tender double cheek slap once more. (wake up) You could say it is between Good and Evil. I say there are many coexisting, somehow in peaceful cooperation. Lines being drawn all the time. The world hasn’t ended yet, is what I’m saying by peaceful.

Durrow’s well spun narrative reminds me of the wealth of the mixed experience: it’s richness and diversity. It reminds me of the bi-racial imprint’s sturdy mark on my childhood. My young adult hood. My nowhood. My then was something spattered with Anthony Millers and Tanyas and Lakieshas. There is Grandma. There is Mor. This something of a past and constant questions of a present. With this book I feel allowed to say, There are Rachels.

The structure of the book allows for the space between the characters ( both in the fictive and literal senses) to create a sense of humanity, a sense of common breath. It is really quite beautiful. It taps into the pain of the non-American mother, Mor, as she attempts to grapple with a new taxonomy and stratified racial system. It makes her experience real and tangible. This character’s fullness has fundamentally given me permission to look at the role of white mother/ white natural mother as really a second student in the construction of the world and it’s fictive enterprises of race as it intersects with our reality as a social construct.

After all, there is more than one way to skin a cat. And believe it or not there can be diversity without an inherent value judgment: at least I hope so.

Then there is the nagging freedom to Name something into existence. Language being plastic. Identity being… identity. If I call myself Italian, how good will my spaghetti sauce measure up to Mama Guisseppe’s down the street. If I call myself a Russian Pole can I recite Pushkin on cue and do I know whether it went Stalin Lenin Yeltsin or Lenin Stalin Yeltsin. If I consider myself Irish am I a Jameson or Bushmills drinker. It makes a difference.

If I say I am Black… you might ask me about Mos Def’s new album, or Leroi Jones, or Langston, or Coltrane (Alice or John) or Roy Hargrove, Jimi Hendrix, Paul Robeson.

Our reality is not only what we believe it to be. It is what others believe as well.

The emperor has no clothes.

We Mixed Folk get to explain a lot. Maybe that makes us more interesting. Definitely makes it more difficult to be well informed. Still we can tid-bit you from here till Tuesday.

Can our identity be found in the real world we experience if we do not experience the real world and its symbols the way everyone else does? Or we imagine them to. As part of something? If you are comfortable in your self-considered government assigned box of white/Caucasian, black/African-American, Hispanic whatever. What does this talk of mixed identity mean to you. The thought of representing/misrepresenting. Comfort breeds complacency. Isn’t it possible that we are glorifying some sense of self/security that is really unacknowledged ignorance? These words are strong but think about them. I may not have as many identity issues with my multiple identities as an individual that considers themselves to be a monochrome.

A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.

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1 Comment

  1. Hey, I have to catch up to you…on this book. I started it and saw that Durrow writes well. Our connection, about which I always knew, is also very interesting for me to … ponder. I’m pleased and happy to know you, and suddenly want to know more, learn more about skin and its quantifying, identifying effect on the outside.

    I found myself telling the census taker (who came to our house, one of only 4 communities in the US where the census will be taken in person) that I had a biracial granddaughter. And he said: My mother was West Indian, my father is Irish…and we both smiled.


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