The Hybrid Life (aka the perpetual existential crisis)

I’m not sure if this counts as a blog post, because it’s not really relevant to the book (but I have to do another one for my presentation anyways so I figured may as well). I was looking at essay topic number four “In what ways does the novel address hybridity? For example, you could discuss the significance of having a protagonist for this novel be partly Cherokee, a “hybrid” like her car”, and it made me think about the significance of being a “hybrid” in my own life. I’m half Filipino, part Métis, and part ‘white conglomeration’. I’ve never actually met anyone with my exact mix other than my sister. Being such an unusual mix causes me to think a lot about race and culture, and how they define a person.

I feel like I can’t fully embrace any of my backgrounds because while I did have some Filipino influence from my relatives, and we learned a lot about indigenous people in school, I was raised in a totally ‘westernized’ environment. I never learned to speak Tagalog or cook Filipino foods. I wouldn’t even know where to go to learn anything (other than the Philippines), because it’s pretty irrelevant to the grander Asian history, and isn’t really considered in the department of Asian studies.

I know next to nothing about my Métis side. I mean, I know a little bit of history, and I’ve got a family tree to tell me how I’m related to Louis Riel, but I don’t know anything about their culture or way of life. Having grown up in Squamish, I was very involved in the aboriginal community, but I was only ever able to learn about the Coast Salish people, which is amazing and interesting, but not my history.

Like I mentioned before, I was raised in a very ‘western’ way, and just by looking at me I’m totally “white-passing” even though I’m less than half. This always gets me wondering about white privilege (which I know is a totally different issue) but whenever it comes up I’m confused about whether I benefit from it or not. I still have experienced racism, but only really if I’ve told them that I’m not actually white. But like Tallulah says, “What the hell is whiteness anyway?” (147)

You know, I guess I can connect this to Tallulah after all. When she was a child, her father pretended that she didn’t even have any Cherokee grandparents- so she was probably raised as a ‘white’ kid too. But (even though it’s through TREPP which is a li’l messed up) she does manage to find a connection to that part of her culture- maybe I’ll eventually find the same with all aspects of mine.

One thought on “The Hybrid Life (aka the perpetual existential crisis)

  1. Christina Hendricks

    Thanks for this thought-provoking post! You’re right at the end here that it does connect to Tallulah. I think she starts to feel more connected to the indigenous part of her identity after her father dies and she meets his parents who have I can’t remember what connection to indigenous heritage (one of them Cherokee or both? I can’t recall). Then she studies Cherokee history in college, paid for by TREPP. But yes, by the end I think she does connect to it more; before she just had a more limited connection I think. She wasn’t really tuned into the TREPP and was very much immune to it emotionally. It was just a job. But I think the scene with the bear at the end of that day’s “ride” links her more closely to her father and to her indigenous identity through him. That’s when she herself goes to North Carolina, which she says early on in the novel is the Cherokee motherland.

    Going back to your own story, I do think on at least one meaning of “white privilege” the fact that you only experience racism when people hear that you’re “not actually white” suggests white privilege. Not to say this is a bad thing for you; it just suggests that if one is white then that makes one immune, and all one has to do to be considered white is to look that way. Looking a certain way and not experiencing racism because of that shows the privilege of appearing (or being) white. And it’s something that I, as a Caucasian/European ancestry person experience all the time and don’t even realize it. I am always wanting to hear what life is like for others who don’t experience this so I can recognize that how things seem to me is not how they are to all.

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