Swirl Girl: Coming of Race in the USA


5.00 out of 5
11 reviews
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SWIRL GIRL: Coming of Race in the USA reveals how a hard-headed Mixed-race “Black Power Flower Child” battles society—and sometimes her closest loved ones—to forge her identity on her own terms.

As the USA undergoes its own racial growing pains, from the 1968 riots after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, to the historic 2008 election of the nation’s first Biracially Black president, TaRessa Stovall challenges popular stereotypes and fights nonstop pressures to contort, disguise, or deny her uncomfortable truths.

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11 reviews for Swirl Girl: Coming of Race in the USA

  1. :

    The book was absolutely fabulous. Kudos and congrats!

  2. (verified owner):

    As an older person, one who grew up in the 50’s looking every bit as “mixed race” as I did, I resonated strongly with many of the complications TaRessa explores in Swirl Girl. I was particularly pleased at the way she wove political happenings and social history seamlessly into her experiences of life; it really added to the depth of her story, grounding it in such a manner that I found myself vividly recalling where I was and what I was doing at the time… it drew me in.
    (I give Swirl Girl 5 stars! even though the graphic below may not show it. It doesn’t seem to want to go past 3.5)

  3. (verified owner):

    TaRessa Stovall’s SWIRL GIRL: Coming of Race in the USA is a juicy must-read memoir that hits all the touch points of growing up as a mixed-race person in America, especially a mixed-race woman. This work should actually be required reading for interracial parents or prospective parents. It is both a preparatory and cautionary tale that seeks to navigate the potential difficulties and obstacles that unsuspecting parents can’t even envision for the future of their biracial offspring. While Stovall recognizes that no story will be identical to hers, she nevertheless offers an unbridled examination and expose’ of complexities related to racial and cultural identities; hence, the work can serve as an understanding companion to biracial youth seeking to find their way through the maze of prejudice, biases, confusion and/or plain misunderstanding. But the memoir is also relevant for us “single-race” folks who likely never had a clue what it was REALLY like to be a ”mulatto”, a “half-breed”, a “mongrel”, a “mutt” in such a hyper-bigoted environment as the US of A. Whether we are on the white or the black side of the racial divide, we leave the book with a more sympathetic understanding of what it’s like to straddle that racial fence in a society that is almost as racially polarized in the 21st century as it was in the 19th. Stovall’s language is lyrical and tight with crisp images of people, places and things that have affected her own development as a politically conscious AND Afrocentric biracial woman. While being laser-specific to the realities of the mixed-race population, Stovall’s messages throughout the book are also applicable to all of us who are forging stronger identity politics in our respective communities, be they racial, ageist, cultural, gender or whatever. This is likely a personal confrontation with these issues that is long over-due.

  4. (verified owner):

    Where do I begin!? I started to do my normal speed-read, but stopped after page 101 an hour later. I had to go back and read every word. Page 101 spoke to me as a white person. It should speak to everyone, no matter their color. Now, after reading the whole 202 pages, one word at a time, I have so much praise for this book and its author, that I cannot write it all here. It would take another book to comment on it all!! So, whether it’s Auntie Ozzie (Rosalyn), Kelly (Dad), Auntie Shirley, Big Ernie, Ms. Gonzalez, Greg, et.al., I was mesmerized! I lived in and out of that world. Of course, I’m TaRessa’s white cousin, but that doesn’t mean I only felt emotions because we’re related. I could not miss the message to all of humanity, and the help this book could bring to people of all skin tones! To summarize, TaRessa nailed it … cousin or not!

  5. (verified owner):

    This insightful and delightful memoir is a must- read. It speaks of a struggle and a truth that is lived daily by so many. I was intrigued to visit with the author the very neighborhoods I lived in a few years later, and raised my daughters. But my experience as a white person with white kids was so very different. My best friend at the time had mixed race kids who today identify as black. I remember having to fill out forms.. for schools, for census, for our kids, and scratching out the “race” categories and writing in ” human” only to find out later someone else put in what they perceived was the race of our kids.

    It never seems to end, does it? Anyway, anyone can learn from this author’s narrative. But it’s not a dry recitation of facts, it brings to life people and places, some still with us, some long gone, and makes them breathe and live and immerses one not just in memory but in sound and sights again.

    And, hopefully, with the author, with more confidence in our own identities as well as empathy for others’.

    Read the book. You won’t be disappointed.

  6. (verified owner):

    TaRessa Stovall, thank you for baring your soul, telling your story…and concentrically, the story of so many others…of us.
    You grabbed our hands and hearts, and with unwavering and unabashed conviction, traversed the turbulent and often unrelenting waters of racial identity, racism, discrimination, self actualization, externalized self loath of others, forgiveness, and transparent self reflection.
    It was an emotional roller coaster; but it was so worth it!

    EVERYONE: If you have not read this book as of yet, I strongly suggest you click the link, and get you some. You will not regret it!

  7. (verified owner):

    SWIRL GIRL: Coming of Race in the USA is clearly a book TaRessa Stovall was born to write. A dynamic memoir and page-turning read, it vividly paints a coming-of-age picture that closely mirrors my own life’s timeline, for I, too, was a child in the 1950s and 60s. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the detailed memories she shares, particularly those from her school days. Focusing primarily on the period between Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination in April 1968, when she was in the eighth grade, to the historic election of President Barack Obama forty years later, Stovall’s storytelling captures plenty of family school and community-based events that illuminate her intellectual and social development, as the daughter of a Jewish mother and African American father living in Seattle, Washington. Her first social circle was her immediate neighborhood, populated with other Mixed children. Like her, they were offspring of Mixed-race couples in which the men were jazz musicians. In this community, the “jazz babies,” as Stovall calls them, considered themselves quite normal, not the curiosities the larger world judged.
    SWIRL GIRL’s resonant, insightful writing, including several of the author’s poems, frequently delivers touching, sometimes hilarious interpretations of her experiences. From early on, she was determined to deny the labels other people wanted to assign her, and to name herself.
    I heard the idea for this book before it was written and am hugely impressed by the results. Stovall has woven a marvelous tapestry of her social, literary and political experiences here. Anyone sincerely wishing to more thoroughly understand and work to heal our racially explosive times, including parents of Mixed-race children, has much to learn from SWIRL GIRL, as I did. There is no “tragic mulatto” here, just the witness of a gifted writer.

  8. (verified owner):

    AWESOME HONESTY!! As I read Swirl Girl I laughed, cried and remembered those days. I remembered the first time I realized you and my best friend had become friends over the summer. Although we only lived a block apart I did not like you because you were “mixed.” I had that preconceived attitude, since you were “half white,” you had not endured any racial injustice. I am so glad when I had to make the choice of ending my friendship with my best friend or embracing you as a friend, I chose to embrace you as a friend. I remembered when you stated, “”Michelle, I am not accepted by white or black people.”” That statement made me realize I was being just as bias towards you as society was being towards black people. You taught me so much about your journey as a “mulatto” and changed my preconceived attitude. Reading Swirl Girl brought back all the discussions we had and the short stories and poetry you wrote and encouraged me to read. I always enjoyed reading your writings and Swirl Girl was no different 50 years later.
    The method in which TaRessa brings the reality of how the Consensus Reports assist in maintaining the power and control of minorities was powerful and awakening. The raw honesty in which TaRessa has been treated throughout her life is a true testament to her strength. Unfortunately, the negative experiences TaRessa encountered continues to occur in 2020. Swirl Girl should be required reading in the educational system. This was the perfect time for this book to be published. All I have to say is “TaRessa, you just keep right on Swirling Girl!!

    I rate this book 5 stars!!

  9. (verified owner):

    If there were another name for “Enlightenment” it would be TaRessa Stovall. In her beautifully written, warm, witty, bold memoir, TaRessa gives us a look at American herstory/history in a way that one can no longer ignore “the dynamics of racial identity”. SWIRL GIRL – Coming of Race in the USA illuminates the life of a mixed race woman who bridges two worlds, black and white, where she has been befriended and been rejected in both simply because of her skin color or (as she describes herself), because she is “ambiguous looking”. TaRessa’s memoir has led me to ask the vulnerable, valid question: Where Am I on the spectrum of racial dynamics. SWIRL GIRL – Coming of Race in the USA should be Required Reading for all middle schools and beyond.

  10. (verified owner):

    TaRessa took us by the hand and led us down the path of growing up a mixed raced child. I found it very thought provoking. I couldn’t stop reading. I was even heard laughing out loud at the end of Chapter 26. Thank you TaRessa for bearing it all.

  11. (verified owner):

    Thank you TaRessa Stovall for this enlightening memoir! As a White Montclair sister-friend we have danced and discussed in many contexts. I always knew there were multi-faceted depths to TaRessa’s life, but SWIRL GIRL revealed to me realities, perspectives, processes and truths about mixed-race experience that I will carry with me as a deeper understanding and compassion. I found the brilliant and concise descriptions of Whiteness and Blackness on page 80 to ring true. I loved the excerpt from Malcolm X on page 100, and I was intrigued by the resulting rumination about Blackness and Whiteness being states of mind. And on page 139 I deeply identified with the idea of feeling “a strong connection to a people and culture that aren’t part of (my) bloodline”. After 202 pages of poignant revelations and insights I can wholeheartedly affirm TaRessa’s thought in the wake of receiving accolades for her undergrad poem TWILIGHT CHILD … “There was nothing better than feeling like my words could reach people and help us all understand each other a little better”. T, you can ride on that feeling for the rest of your life, because I know of no life purpose more noble than that!

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