Owning Difference In Mixed Race America

By Terra Trevor

In Southeast Los Angeles, I grew up as a mixed-blood urban American Indian in racially mixed working-class neighborhoods. Over the years the inner-city communities of Compton, Paramount and South Downey where I lived and shaped my values, have evolved from mixed race to Black, then Asian and now Hispanic.

I'm the granddaughter of mixed-blood sharecroppers, a musician, and the daughter of an auto mechanic and a children's librarian assistant. 
Diversity is the norm for me, and always has been. It influences the people I become friends with, the foods I eat, the music I listen to, and the books I read and write.
I read all the time. I can't remember ever not reading. Listen to my mother and you will hear tales about me in diapers with a book in my lap. The only goal I had for my children was for them to love reading as much as I do. And I've achieved that success. All three were avid readers. As adults each time they move to a new city they get a library card, and they buy books from their local bookstores.
TODAY I am a writer who has published a diverse body of work. I place a high value on ethnicity, race and culture and I appreciate multiracial and multi ethnic themes in literature.

There is also a great need for more diversity allowing readers to see themselves in a multiplicity of ways of living and being. Within my family members and circle of friends we have disabilities large and small. Some are LGBTQ. We are different sizes and shapes. Some of us are elders, and others we've loved have lived short lives.
We need more books and writing offering scenes that are familiar and will remind us of sisters, brothers and aunties, and friends. Characters that for some reason we recognize and see something of ourselves in the story, a validation of our experience as human beings, and an acknowledgment of being valued by someone who has lived a similar life and understands who we are. 

Books with diverse themes can also serve as a passport, allowing us to glimpse into peoples and a terrain unknown to us, so that we can learn and grow and better understand and see through the eyes of someone who has lived different than we have.
As a writer, with 35-plus years of publishing behind me, I've reached an age at which I find myself thinking about how I will pass the baton so that the type of authors and diversity in writing I find important will continue.
I was pleased when a path surfaced when award-winning author Linda Rodriguez invited me to join the growing number of  writers and editors calling for more diversity in publishing, and inviting us to answer the following questions:

Q. What are you working on?

Terra Trevor: 
The quote "a single bracelet does not jangle alonebest describes me. 
I'm a contributing editor here at River, Blood, And Corn. And I've recently completed a chapter for a book published by Johns Hopkins University Press, in the symposium: Voices Confronting Pediatric Brain Tumors, containing lived experience stories. I'm preparing for a talk I will give on a panel with the editor and two other contributors. I also have another conference workshop session ahead that I participate in yearly on the topic of racism and white privilege discussions for adoptive parents of children of color. 

Nextafter I shut down my computer for a week and give myself time to watch the sun rise, and set, to daydream, putter, pray to the earth, rest and renew my spirit, I will begin writing a chapter for a forthcoming anthology. In addition to my solo work I collaborate with other writers and I'm a contributing author to more than a dozen books in a variety of genres.

Q. How does your work differ from others of its genre?
I'm an essayist, memoirist and nonfiction writer, and I value the collective experience. My single story, article or memoir will add a twist, a richness, a remembering or telling of that story in a manner that only I can provide. I never aim to be different, always reaching for a universal theme, asking myself, how can I get closer to my story? What can I do to achieve greater intimacy with my readers?

Q. Why do you write what you do?
Anyone who has read my memoir Pushing up the Sky, knows I have already faced every mother's worst nightmare. Having survived my worst fear gives me the confidence of knowing no matter what happens I'll be able to deal with it. Of course I still have a basic fear of knowing that I will need to meet other life altering experiences. Yet the gift I've received from the heartache I've endured gives me faith in knowing I will be able to find my way though, and my job on earth is to write down what I know.

Q. How does your writing process work? 
I listen to what my characters are telling me, even when I'm writing memoir, and they always surprise me. Often a few
ancestors are hovering about, reminding me to pay attention. 

I always begin each new writing project with pages of raw, rough draft writing. I write the first draft to find the meaning. In the second, third and fourth draft I put in everything I left out. And then in the fifth and sixth draft I take out everything that doesn't fit, in order to make it sound like I just thought it up. 

I'm known for my lean writing. I strive to use the fewest words possible with a goal of inviting the reader's brain to participate. Readers are like submarines, trying to sink your ship, you have to be sneaky. A good story is pure strategy, and it's the brass ring I'm always reaching for. 

Many thanks to Linda Rodriguez, author and River, Blood, And Corn contributing writer, for inviting me to take part in this venue to bring attention to the need for a wider variety of diversity in writing and publishing. 

Terra Trevor (left) and River, Blood, And Corn contributing writers, Sook Wilkinson and Dawn Downey (right)

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