By Audrey Ng
It can be quite daunting and difficult to talk about interracial relationships because just the topic itself can raise questions on whether we should have a name for people who are in a relationship with individuals of different race, ethnicities or cultures. Despite the straightforward and honest label, interracial relationships can signify more than a relationship between two people of different race. Indeed, sometimes looking beyond people’s outward appearance is just as important: interracial relationships can also be relationships between individuals of different ethnicities and cultural backgrounds.
I have always believed that books are an amazing and enlightening way to learn more about a topic, allowing us to become more empathetic about a subject through a fictional lens. Here are four books that are easy and heart-warming reads but also give us an important insight into and a realistic portrayal of the nature and highs and lows of interracial relationships.
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell is a much-loved YA classic centred on a high school relationship between a shy mixed-race Korean boy and an awkward white girl, two of them bonding over their similar musical tastes and the feeling of being an outcast in school in the 1980s. While the book is heartbreaking, it demonstrates how tender and special love can be, beyond the acknowledgement of interraciality.
Another Country by James Baldwin is a modern classic that not only highlights the oftentimes painful realities of interracial relationships. Set in America in 1950s to 1960s, it not only touches on the subject of interracial romance, but explores sexuality, cultural and personal identity and reveals the very core of the human experience.
Anna K – A Love Story by Jenny Lee is, as the name suggests, is a modern, young-adult reimagination of Tolstoy’s famous novel Anna Karenina. Anna K is a tale of the experiences of the eponymous character, a Korean-American girl living in the Upper East Side of New York City whose perfect and structured life is thrown into a loop after meeting American bad boy Alexia ‘Count’ Vronsky. This is fun, heart-warming and extremely romantic, but most importantly, illuminates the mundane lives of interracial relationships – or as mundane as they get when the characters live Gossip Girl-style lives.
The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon is a story of two extremely different teenagers who meet accidentally and decide to spend one single day together to see if 12 hours is enough for two people to fall in love with each other. The book tells the story of Jamaican American Natasha Kingsley, who has 24 hours until her family of four is deported to their native Jamaica, and Korean American Daniel Bae who desperately wants to escape the pressures of becoming a ‘stereotypically’ successful Asian American from his conventional parents. Adapted into a lovely film starring Yara Shahidi and Charles Melton as the two protagonists, this is a simple yet beautiful love story likely to charm the hearts of teenagers for years to come.
All these books might have different characters or be centred on relationships between people of different races and cultures, but a central theme to all of them is the exploration of a love that might seem unconventional, even wrong to others, but that is fundamentally love.
Image: Anna Kuptsova