Samira Mehta’s collection of essays, The Racism of People Who Love You: Essays on Mixed Race Belonging, was published early in 2023 and contains seven essays spanning just under 200 pages. Packed within this relatively slim collection are observations, stories, examples and conversations on the mixed race experience in our country, and how these experiences shape identity issues and the ongoing complexities of those who are bi-racial in the United States.

Mehta is half white and Jewish on her mom’s side and half South Asian on her dad’s side. She’s currently the Director of the Program in Jewish Studies and Associate Professor of Women and Gender Studies and Jewish Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder.

This collection of essays is a unique-feeling addition in the bibliography of necessary contemporary books on race in our country, because all essays focus heavily on confronting the racism of those in your life who not only love you, but who you love back.

It’s easy to polarize conversations around race when you can write someone off or dismiss them from your life. But what about those you love and who love you? Her essays focus on difficult conversations to be had with parents, other family members, best friends, colleagues, community leaders and also just society and every day settings at large. Throughout, Mehta works in highly personalized experiences, navigating spaces where she’s often questioned for her choices that often come down to her bi-racial identity and upbringing. In “Meat is Murder,” she talks in great detail about her decision and dedication to vegetarianism and how this played out with her white side of the family at one particular Thanksgiving dinner.

In “Appropriation,” Mehta attends a wedding in Cambridge as a young 20-something. She asks the bride if it’s okay if she wears a sari to the wedding, a part of her cultural heritage on her dad’s side of the family, and all she can afford at that point in her life, only to find out a group of white women attending will all be intentionally in saris, and in fact are having a sari party.

In the final essay and title essay for the book, “The Racism of People Who Love You,” she’s singled out by the TSA on a flight to visit her best friend and searched. She tells him about the experience, attributes it to her being brown and South Asian, and he, a white male, dismisses her experience of racism and tells her the search is for her own safety.

In each essay, the cringe is strong. These conversations and incidents in the essays don’t come to clean resolutions, and why would they? Who wants to be told they are being racist by someone they love, and who wants to start that conversation with someone they love?

What her writing does overall in this collection is to show how to approach the give and take of working through conflicts in conversations, coming from a bi-racial perspective and life experience.

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