Yasmin Alibhai-Brown's previous book to Mixed Feelings
, Who Do We Think We Are
dealt with the history of race-relations, immigration policy, education, liberal politics and feminism. The guiding focus was upon the creation of a historically aware sense of citizenship. In After Multiculturalism
Brown exposed the worn-out rhetoric of multiculturalism and argued that we need new ways of thinking and talking in order to capture the political, economic and social realities of the 21st century. Brown's latest book, Mixed Feelings: The Complex Lives of Mixed-Race Britons
is, as its title suggests, about mixed-race Britons and interracial relationships and, like After Multiculturalism
, it questions the ways in which these topics and issues have been discussed and framed in this country. It is effective in this because the breadth of experience revealed in her interviews across a wide spectrum of class, gender, age and history shows up the absurdity of any generalisation in the field of human relationships.
The book divides into six chapters--History up to 1900, History after 1900, The Current Landscape, Identity, Family and Relationships and Social Policy--and, apart from the rather hurried first chapter it makes for a fascinating and highly informative read. Among the more interesting assumptions and questions the book sets out to test through the innumerable interviews are: Is it really possible to overcome indefatigable historical prejudices through a defiant/romantic act? Or is this simply dismissed as an "exception" by those bonded to their ideas of racial separation? Is the increase in mixed relationships in fact deepening prejudice as people see their imagined "pollution" of the pure races becoming a reality? Do age-old fears, taboos and fantasies still weave themselves around the private lives of those interracial relationships? And how through this forest of experiences can better social policies be devised which can take account of difference as well as commonality? What makes Brown important is an across-the-board expertise, a knack for sweeping away old theoretical rubbish and, most importantly, the fact that she is a cosmopolitan, pragmatic and humanistic thinker with a sense of vision and a overarching regard for workable social policies. --Larry Brown