Reflections on Family, Ethnicity & the Sacred Work of Belonging
This is the year that my book will make its way into the world.
It’s been a little over two years since I signed the contract for a book deal for this book. Like most things, stories cannot be rushed or controlled.
I wrote about the cover for my newsletter community, Shalomsick Notes, a couple of months ago. If you aren’t already subscribed there, that’s where I share book news first, along with regular thoughts on being shalomsick.
For those of you who haven’t had a chance to see the cover, here it is!
Isn’t it beautiful? I can’t wait to hold it in my hands.
Tell Me the Dream Again releases in May, but is now available for pre-order wherever books are sold!
I count the white, wiry hairs poking from the part in my scalp. There are too many. I give up and measure the length from root to where the color changes. These markers are comforting to me right now. I’ve never been a numbers person, but lately, I cling to what feels measurable.
I stare at graphs, trying to grasp the invisible movement of a global pandemic. I print and cut out guides for measuring my kids’ ever-growing feet. I check the ratio of water to rice in our rice cooker, making sure it comes to a round curve in just the right place close to my flattened knuckles, before closing the lid and pressing start. I number each page of a letter I wrote and count how many sticks of butter we have left in the fridge. I add up how many days it’s been since Breonna Taylor was murdered, and the days since stack up without justice: 154.
My son begs me to check the weather again, asking me exactly how long the on-going summer storm will last. Irritated, I give him the same answer I’ve given him ten times in the last hour, “It looks like it will last for most of the night, but I don’t really know.” I tell him he’s safe, and I feel like a liar. The muscles in his shoulders and forehead stay clamped together at my response. I recognize my own stress in the creases above his brow. I see the stress of a nation and world in his small, light brown shoulders.
I want to know how long things will be the way they are too, but the things I want to measure most are immeasurable.
After inspecting the skin on his forearm, my son looks up and announces, “My skin isn’t white, but it’s not as dark as my friend Sam’s.” I nod in affirmation. He cocks his head to one side and asks, “So what color am I?”
As a mixed race, transracial, part Asian American family, it’s impossible to avoid the subject of skin color, race, and ethnicity. Noticing difference has always been normal for me and my kids.
Whenever we can, we affirm our kids’ noticing skin color and tone. Whether it’s their own, a friend’s, a stranger’s, a toy’s, or a book character’s, we talk about what we see and note how beautiful the variations are. Every moment of noticing is an opportunity to tell the truth.
We can’t celebrate, know, or grow alongside what we pretend not to see.
In college, I did a Bible study with a group of friends about the life and ministry of Jesus. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, sandwiched between two afternoon classes — “Literature of the Holocaust” and “Blacks and Jews in the National Imagination” — I walked to a local coffee shop and spent time poring over Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. For hours on those days, my mind was filled with stories of systemically oppressed people groups from the books in my literature classes and the stories of Jesus’ life and ministry told through the gospels.
One particular afternoon, in-between sips of my coffee, I read a paragraph in the study that emphasized how Jesus might’ve looked. It said that based on where He was from, He likely had very dark skin, and course, black hair, like me. Before this, I had never heard anyone describe Jesus as anything other than white. As I considered His face and skin, I cried right into my coffee cup.