Wednesday, December 9, 2009

(Auto-) Biography of a Saudi Fraud: “Non-Original” Saudis and Cultural Identity-- Part I Surviving

By Chiara




Maha Noor Elahi, of A Saudi Woman’s Voice, seems to have burst into the Saudi-themed blogosphere with her intelligent, insightful, and articulate comments on a number of blogs, and with the introduction of her own blog. In her About section, she gives a detailed profile of herself. A Saudi national, she was born in 1971, and is now married with 3 children. She puts her Masters degree in English Literature (Drama) to good use as a Lecturer in the English Department at Dar Al-Hekma College, Jeddah. Her interests include reading, writing in English and in Arabic, music, fine art, cooking, and sports.
The Dedication to her blog is a poem that transmits well her view of Saudi women:

Dedication
To all the struggling and intellectual Saudi women,
You gave me the strength and the vision that I needed.
To all women in the world,
An average Saudi woman is a being who
Loves
Hates
Laughs
Cries
Cares
And has all the paradoxes in the world within her heart;
A Saudi woman is simply just a regular woman even though she wears a veil!

However, the most striking aspect of my first visit to her blog--to congratulate her on her mastery of both Saudi and Western culture that makes her articulate contributions such welcome additions to the dialogues elsewhere--was the tab entitled: “The Biography of a Saudi Fraud”. There, I discovered a much deeper introduction to her own cultural identity, and to a projected book about Saudi cultural identity. This stunning portrait of herself and Saudi inspired me to invite her to share her personal story. Maha kindly agreed to do so, and to share here that striking biography, slighted edited, before updating us from its June 8, 2007 promise, in Part II of this post.




The Biography of a Saudi Fraud

According to deep-rooted Saudi standards, beliefs, and traces of family trees, I am not an original Saudi as I do not belong to any Bedouin or Najdi tribe of the Arabian Peninsula--nor any other Arabian tribe. So far, I am not complaining; actually, I see it as a blessing sometimes. Matters of borders and limitations of nationality and origins have never been of my concern. I have been raised by my so-called Saudi family upon believing that Islam has no nationality. I’ve always seen myself as a Muslim woman who belongs to the Holy Lands of Makkah and Madinah along with millions of Muslims from all over the world. That is enough for nourishing my humanity, spirituality, and humble mentality.

Yet the bitter fact about me, despite my rejection of any “passport discrimination” among people, is that (by law and birthplace) I am a Saudi. It is a fact that I cannot deny, but at the same time I cannot utter with pride. I am definite that at this very moment my words are being approved by many unoriginal Saudis like myself, and applauded by some Saudi secularists who will use my words against Saudi Arabia. And I won’t be alarmed if some prejudiced Saudis are ruling me out at this instant as an ungrateful outcast who does not deserve the estimable Saudi nationality.

Also, at this very moment all my plans are being put on “pause” for I have suddenly decided to reveal to the world some mysteries of a Saudi fraud; of me and a few others who share the same untraditional Saudi background. To those who applauded, cursed, or raised an eyebrow while reading my words, I say: “You all got me very wrong!” This is not going to be a book against Saudi Arabia. I want to be proud of being a Saudi, but I can never feel proud of my Saudi nationality until I live in a united Saudi Arabia; a country that has a true Islamic identity with no prejudice and judgmental nature.




Although I am considered a fraud by Saudis because of being a descendant of an ancient Indian family who emigrated to the Holy Land of Makkah in the nineteenth century, I am still respected by every Indian I meet. I’ve been told by some of them that I am a descendant of a royal family in New Delhi who ruled some regions of India four hundred years ago. “So that’s why we’re so dignified and beautiful!” commented one of my brothers sarcastically when he heard the story of the New Delhi ancient rulers. Whether this piece of information is true or not, it doesn’t matter to me, and I am still considered a fraud according to Saudi standards.

The word “fraud” might seem harsh or irrelevant to some non-Arab readers who don’t know much about the Saudi culture, but I’d rather be called a fraud than called “tarsh bahar” or “pilgrims’ remains”. “Tarsh al-bahar” is the most commonly used Saudi taboo to insult an unoriginal Saudi. If a person is described as a “tarsh bahar”, it means that he/she has no origins and no roots; he/she is like “vomit” that has come from the sea! And since many Saudis are originally pilgrims who arrived in the Holy Land by sea to perform “Hajj” or to make a living, half of the country is being stigmatized as being “sea vomit” and “pilgrims’ remains”.




My ancestors crossed oceans and seas to reside in the Holy Land of Makkah; not in Saudi Arabia. It was not just my Indian ancestors who suffered to reach Makkah two hundred years ago; it was also thousands of immigrants from Egypt, Palestine, Indonesia, Syria, Pakistan, Yemen, Turkey, Morocco, and many other countries. All those people with all their historical honorable backgrounds are simply called in Saudi Arabia “tarsh bahar”-- the vomit of the sea--just because they came to Makkah by sea to perform the fifth pillar of Islam. Ironically, a fact remains; all these “tarsh bahar” or unreal Saudis are ones who contributed to building the Saudi Arabia that we know today.

I am not going to bore readers by historical facts about the old Saudi Arabia, and I don’t want to offend anyone. This is not my point, and I hereby state that I have no prejudices against any tribe, region, or nationality mentioned in this biography. Observations and facts are the cornerstones of my book; no judgment is going to be committed. I aim at finding roots and I am not ashamed to say so. I am not considered a Saudi by many original Saudis, and I cannot go back to India from whence my grandfathers had come, for I know no home but Saudi Arabia, no accent but the Makkan one, and no languages but Arabic and English. Now, if I say this in the presence of typical Saudis, they will think that I am joking or that I am crazy. Some might pity me for (inevitably) admitting the undeniable truth about my Indian origins, but I look at the issue merely as a simple fact, one which an attempt to hide or deny would only make a fool of me, or worse: a liar.



I was born in Jeddah and lived my early childhood in Makkah of which I have faded yet valued memories. When I reached school age, I traveled to Denver, Colorado and lived there for a few years with my parents who were resuming their higher education. Those were the best of years. I can never deny this even if it annoys many anti-American Saudis. Later, I returned to Makkah with my family and started to live alternatively between Makkah and Jeddah until I finally got married and settled in Jeddah. These “cultural” shifts--Makkah-Denver-Makkah-Jeddah--have broadened my vision, added a lot, and also confused me a great deal. It might seem to some readers that Jeddah and Makkah are almost the same, but I must emphasize a fact about the two cities: Jeddah and Makkah are as different as Paris and Dublin.

To those of you who think I’m going to share my secrets with the world, I must remind them that this is a “biography” of a people; it is not an autobiography. However, it might be a different type of biography, maybe the first of its kind, as it records incidents in the lives of a variety of people. What I’m going to share is more important than the secrets of an unknown woman like myself. It reveals an aspect of Saudis’ lives that is usually overlooked, either because it is taboo or because, as some might feel, ineffectual. In fact, some Saudis believe that discussing the nature of this country’s peoples is a wasted effort. That’s where they fail to see the real Saudi Arabia, and the essence of the problems that threaten its stability, dignity, and unity.



Some might think that this book is going to record the life of an oppressed Saudi woman. Some might think I am another version of Rania Al-Baz calling for help from America’s number one lady, Oprah Winfry. “Being a woman in Saudi Arabia” is definitely an attractive interesting topic, yet this is not my objective. My primary goal is not to decipher the mystery of the Saudi woman; I will attempt that worn-out task only where it is relevant.

I don’t want to completely undertake such a mission because other writers’ books won’t sell if I do this. Maintaining some level of suspense is always useful in order to keep the Arabian enigma burning and alive. Arabian women, especially women of the Arabian Gulf area have been viewed by the most narrowing stereotypical vision. The world looks at Arabian Gulf women as either submissive humiliated beings, oppressed lustful females, or modern rebellious women who scorn traditions and rebuff religion altogether. The whole universe of Arabian women is confined to such a partial portrait.

As I will explain in this book, the real picture is not the one mentioned above. However, I would like to confirm to the reader that this is not one of those “women’s issue” books. The Saudi man concerns me as well. The search for the Saudi identity is the goal of this biography. I hope I can answer the everlasting contemporary questions: “Who are Saudis? What is Saudi Arabia?” Through answering these questions, I wish I could find a category that fits me, a world to belong to, and a root to cling to.
June 8,2007



Maha has raised some key issues about cultural identity, and gender identity as well. Although she relates them to Saudi culture, and its particularities, they also apply more broadly.

How important is a sense of a coherent cultural category to self-identification? What constitutes coherence? Who decides on one’s cultural identity? How important is the perception of the “Other”?
How important are roots? How far back do they need to go?
At what point does someone become an original? Ever? How?
What particularities of Saudi culture complicate these cultural identities?

Is there an average Saudi woman? How would you define her? (Be careful how you answer! LOL :) )
Is there an average any type of woman? How would you define her? (Be REALLY careful how you answer! LOL :) )

Any other comments, thoughts, experiences?

Coming Next…Part II Thriving

18 comments:

single4now said...

The following really caught my attention:
- "I want to be proud of being a Saudi, but I can never feel proud of my Saudi nationality until I live in a united Saudi Arabia; a country that has a true Islamic identity with no prejudice and judgmental nature."
and
- "All those people with all their historical honorable backgrounds are simply called in Saudi Arabia “tarsh bahar”-- the vomit of the sea--just because they came to Makkah by sea to perform the fifth pillar of Islam."

I've never heard about this and it's really sad to hear. Perhaps this is why Prophet Muhammad (saw) mentioned in his last sermon:
All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action.
And Allah (swt) says in the Quran:
O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things). [Al-Hujurat 49:13]

If only we kept these in our mind at all times.

Chiara said...

Single4now--thank you for the comment. It is a very harsh term and this is the most literal translation (according to a Saudi linguist friend). The Prophet's Last Sermon is one of my favourites, too, and it should be quoted often, and recalled to mind more often!

Maha Noor Elahi said...

Single4now
Thank you so much for your comment and for the quotes..
It's very sad that many people pray and fast and maybe insist on growing their beards, but they never ponder about the way they deal with others...

NidalM said...

I remember reading a blog post on http://sandgetsinmyeyes.blogspot.com about how a recent study done on the genetics of Saudis has shown that the majority of Saudis have roots in African and other Asian countries. It's no surprise. As the center of Islam and a major trading region, the Hejaz province has very likely imported people from all cultures back before there were strict emigration laws.

In the end, we ourselves define who we are, whether or not we choose to project our understanding of ourselves to others. A coherent cultural identity is not needed for self-identification. It is used to identify yourselves with others who share a similar genealogy.

I assume its a form of narcissism when you only choose to associate with people who share your genetic code ;P Something akin to talking to yourself :D
December 6, 2009 1:08 PM

Susanne said...

Vomit of the sea? Oh wow, how sad to be called such a thing. Are people really that cruel? :-/

Loved your questions at the end and the warning to be very careful how you answer those....ha!

I don't think roots are that important. It's fine if you know how far back your ancestry goes, but in the grand scheme of things...who really cares? Just because you had someone great in your ancestry doesn't mean YOU are great. Likewise if your ancestry is made up of prostitutes, robbers and murderers. Doesn't mean you have thievery running in your blood.

I like diversity and think if I only hung around people exactly like me, life would be very, verrrry boring. Besides many Americans are a mixture of a great number of ethnicities and nationalities. Some may say they are 100% this or that (German or Irish or Greek), but even among the European and Middle Eastern nations, you've had invaders and conquerors throughout the history of the world. So, in reality, we are all mixtures to some degree or another. Why not get along? Why not appreciate people for the great combination of genes that they are? For the individuals that they are and what they can contribute in life and to your life?


To sum it all up, I hate people who think they are better than others because they have some sort of ancestry or skin color or type of hair or any other stupid thing of which they had no control over. None of us asked to be born where we were with white or brown or black or yellow skin. Or with blue or green or brown or hazel or black eyes. We are all God's creation so why make fun or belittle others? When we do this and esteem ourselves greater because we have certain looks are we not putting down what God has made?

Btw, I like this comment format better. I sometimes have a hard time pulling up the other one.

I enjoy your posts even though I don't always comment. Happy Sunday! :)
December 6, 2009 4:28 PM

Qusay said...

"Vomit of the sea" is used by the same type of racist people who call people of African decent "nigger" I have never been called that to my face, but I've heard of the word... I am happy that it is not ingrained in any government agency, but only in the minds of the simple people (finishing school does not qualify) who came to the cities and had to compete with the locals... and like any xenophobe, had to call people around them names so they can make themselves feel better about their situations.

If she was a fraud, then I am a fraud... and guess what, every immigrant that went to America or Australia is a fraud, since only the native americans or aboriginal qualify to be called owners of the land...

I've seen it before and still see it... "bogans" with stickers on their windshield that say "Australia is full... go back" or heard it in America where they told African Americans "go back to Africa" ... it is the same mentality... locations change, but people... well, they are people...

Oh well...
December 6, 2009 5:34 PM

Hanan said...

As a Saudi woman I approve this article as well as agreeing about what Maha said , sadly this is the case if you are not from a known tribe or ironically your "fifth" grandfather was not a Saudi then some are going to eliminate you from their "Saudi community" and will consider you as a vomit of the sea ..! let alone that , they relate ethics to root thus the more you stray from your Saudi roots ,the more your ethics will decline to zero. On the other hand, being from a tribe unfortunately tied you up to unfair traditions and force you to follow the tribe or else you are going to end up alone, and even if you decide to rebel for once in your life, you will hurt the ppl you love so dear cause doing something in a tribe will affect your whole family. To explain it , consider it as a ship which you are all on board going together and one day you decide to jump and "wow" u did it …! Remember what you left behind? Yes you left your whole extended family with them? Guess what will happen! They won't be able to jump like you did and they won't be able to cope with the surrounding.. Moreover, Insults like "vomit of the sea" should be vanished cause we all are human beings and a root won't define us by any means! I trust that the new generation will carry equality, understanding, and open minded mentality..
December 7, 2009 5:48 PM

Chiara said...

Thank you all for the excellent comments. I am glad you found Maha's words as stirring as I did.

NidalM-I remember that post as well. It fits in with the broader studies that are being done with advanced techniques of genetics, which show that most populations and individuals are far more heterogeneous than they think they are. The more homogenous ones are in a distinct minority.

A friend and I have a running joke, "Not with that face", as in "You think you are 100% Arab? Not with that subsaharan African face you're not"; "You think you are 100% semitic sephardic Jew expelled from Spain in 1492, and settled in Mumbai for generations? Not with that South Asian face, you're not". We find this a hilarious game to play, since he is North Indian Hindu, and is routine discriminated for being something else: Paki (growing up in Toronto the Good, where he formed an alliance with another 6 year old so they could fight their way off the school playground each end of day in an upscale neighbourhood); Arab ie terrorist (about 2 years ago pelted with eggs from a passing car whose occupants made it clear why the eggs were coming their way, ie his and his Arab friends' way; recent immigrant (can't they hear the North Toronto accent he retains despite living overseas for years?).

Since I look European, and often French, I have suffered less directly, eg. being sent to the back of the "line" aka bunch by Moroccan ladies who made it clear that my boarding the bus in turn would be tantamount to French neo-colonialism, and they weren't about to allow that to happen. Or standing by waiting to intervene if needed while assorted Arab and mixed friends and relatives were getting extra attention--at borders, mostly.

I agree fully that self-identification is key, but it must receive some resonance from others for it to have any suasion to self or others, which is why it is so important to have positive and realistic feedback from others.

I also think that a coherent sense of cultural identity can be fashioned from more that one original or chosen identification, and I have the theory and case examples to prove it! LOL :)
I also have the student audience to indoctrinate with it. Alas they don't have to memorize and regurgite for marks, and so may just possibly be harbouring other ideas! LOL :) :P

I agree that your definition would form one aspect of narcissism. It reminds me of a French song: "Parlez-moi de moi, il n'y a que ça qui m'intéresse..." [Speak to me only of myself, it is the only thing that interests me...] LOL :)
December 7, 2009 7:55 PM

Chiara said...

Susanne--yes that struck me as one of the most odious epithets I have ever heard/read, and since I spend alot of time reading literature of decolonization and post-colonialism I have read or heard a number in a number of languages.

Hmmm, maybe my warnings were too daunting, a lot of shying away from gender issues...maybe for Part II comments!

I agree with you that people seem to forget their own religious teachings and find false categories to create hierarchies of others (ones that usually conveniently put themselves at or near the top).

I think your perspective also reflects a rather typical New World one, where being 3rd generation or more makes one old stock, and there is a lot of mixing, sometimes for lack of sufficient others in the same category, or sharing a category with others of a different ethnicity, eg, Irish Catholics and French Catholics in Quebec under the Brits. Eastern Europeans and Portuguese all at the same parochial school. This happens in the Old World too but less often, and is in some circumstances more likely to be hidden.

I certainly agree that one's heritage doesn't not fully determine outcome, and that one should be judged on one's own actions in life. Sadly that doesn't always happen.

Glad the comment jinn is treating you better, and that you are enjoying the posts. I hope you will comment on Part II!
December 7, 2009 8:12 PM

Chiara said...

Qusay-thank you for contextualizing the term, both within and outside of Saudi, and providing the psychological dimensions of its use.

You have also touched on some Old World/ New World differences. Whites tend to forget their status as frauds or interlopers in North and South America, and in Australia, unless reminded by "native unrest". Our First Nations Peoples prefer to be called that as a reminded that they were here first, and comprised/comprise a number of different nations. They are also racially distinct from one another though related. Their own rivalries were exploited by the Europeans of various nations to divide and conquer, or at least conquer by all means necessary.

It is interesting that Canadian natives associations (they use "native" in this instance) are making common cause with other occupied peoples, specifically Palestinians. Each group cosponsors each others' events, and they often hold demonstrations together in solidarity of one another.

Thank you for adding "bogan" (red neck) to my limited collection of Aussie slang, though it is one I hope not to have much occasion to use. On the other hand, I find asking someone "How're you going?" still makes me laugh, since the first time I was asked that (by a displaced Perth resident) my immediate reaction was "Are we discussing travel arrangements?" "Is this a question about preferred modes of transportation?". However, I did perceive her meaning, which left me with the quandry "What could possibly be the correct formulation of a response to that--I am going well? by bus? It is going well?" No worries, by the time my Irish GP (via Melbourne) asked the same question as the opening to her medical assessment I was able to launch right into my "Patient's Presenting Complaint". LOL :)

Thanks again for your enlightening comment.
December 7, 2009 8:53 PM

Chiara said...

Hanan--Welcome! I love the name Hanan, because it reminds me of the articulateness and intelligence of Hanan Ashrawi and your comment didn't disappoint.

You capture well how remote or narrow an ancestral tie can make one an unoriginal. Rather like the American "one drop rule" for deciding blackness, and having actual words up to 1/32 and 1/64th black. This was used for legal and official social purposes, and to make sure one was marrying "the right kind of folk".

If I understand correctly the ethical lapses go both ways: one is considered to have lower ethics because of one's origins; and, one is treated in a less ethical manner because of one's origins. Is that correct?

As you point out, one may suffer the worst rather than the best of both worlds, being held to tribal norms without the full recognition by the tribe. Your ship analogy reminded me of the original "ship of fools", in Europe in the 18th century where one way of dealing with the deranged or "crazy" was to pack them onto ships which then roamed the seas, docking but never fully landing.

Michel Foucault addresses them at length in his "Histoire de la folie à l'âge classique" where he also develops the notions that the "insane" are those who do not conform to social norms, the norms themselves being constucted by different societies at different times and places. In that sense the innovators or courageously different are easily labelled crazy, insane, out of their minds, by rigid others who are not willing to accept greater diversity. Not "normal" and not moral are intricately connected in most psychosocial views.
This means that those with the courage to jump are often "alienated" or isolated from a group with whom they would wish to maintain a connection, albeit a looser one.

I agree that such epithets should be "rooted out", and share your hope for future generations. Unfortunately it does seem that establishing such hierarchies is a part of human behaviour, that must be constantly battled.

Thank you again for your comment.
December 7, 2009 9:43 PM

Chiara said...

Hmmm seems as if I have rather a lot to say on this topic. I do hope others will comment copiously, and all will comment on Part II as well.
December 7, 2009 9:44 PM

Oby said...

I do think in today's world when there is so much mixing and exchanging of genetic material through marriage that where you are from is getting to be less and less important.100 years ago it could be more certain that you were Irish or German or Indian with little influx of outside nationalities but even then as Susanne said, people had been conquered so it seems very few people are pure. Perhaps it matters more how you see yourself and identify yourself. My husband is Indian and I am of white European descent. Our daughter now has a very different mix that neither one of us have. Physically she has a really neat look...looking neither Indian or white european, but perhaps mildly hispanic being the closest ethnic group she would physically fit. When people try to guess her nationality NO ONE ever gets it right...I have even heard Hawaiian. On a physical level I find her "look" neat since it is such a complete mix of our two lineages and I have always had a fascination with genetics...

How will she see herself in the future. Right now she thinks of herself as white probably because she identifies with me so closely and hasn't yet quite found her "ethnic voice" (she's 10) Or maybe, and hopefully, she will be able to be proud of all the little pieces that make her unique and won't have an issue identifying herself. It might actually be more difficult to deal with the outside forces (other racist people) who will try to pigeonhole her in the future.

I think what people need to recognize is that the world is getting smaller in terms of ethnicity and it is a fact that we all, at one time or another, are going to have to face.
December 8, 2009 2:42 AM

Maha Noor Elahi said...

NidalM
Thank you very much for your valuable comment.

"we ourselves define who we are"
I can't agree more, but in Saudi Arabia it's a struggle to define who you are without being asked about your origin. If you are strong and determined enough, eventually they will start respecting you for what you really are.

Unfortunately, some people in Saudi Arabia are so obssessed with the idea of origin that some of them carry their family tree wherever they go as an evidence to their pure origin :) and this is something I am going to shed light on in the first chapter of my book.

I think the identity we choose for ourselves is somehow affected by our origin, but it shouldn't be influenced by it to the extent that we forget what we are living for and what we are capable of doing.

Thank you very much for your addition.
December 8, 2009 2:17 PM

Maha Noor Elahi said...

Susanne
Unfortunately, the roots in Saudi Arabia are over-rated. However, Saudis are not cruel to the extent that they insult you at your face, yet it is cruel enough to know their attitude and how they think of you if you are not an original Saudi.
Allah created us all equal; there is no question about that, but in practice, you are judged because of your color, position, or wealth, which makes us shift focus from our mission on Earth to the "things" God has given us to fulfill this mission.
As you said it very well, just because you have a great person in the family, doesn't make you great. Sadly, some people and Saudi Arabia feed on that. This is actually the heart of the problem; they take pride in their ancestors more than they take pride in themselves or what they are doing.
I hope my book changes this mindset of my country, which I love.

Thank you so much for your excellent addition.
December 8, 2009 2:31 PM

Maha Noor Elahi said...

Qusay
You are lucky that you've never been called that to my face, but I have been twice or more I guess when I was at school...and if you open some Saudi forums or online newspapers, you would see people insulting each other using that name..
For instance, in the famous case of "Yara" who is said to be Saudi (but is not by the way), people commented in almost the same way "what do you expect from a Tarsh Bahr..May Allah help us get rid of those pilgrims' remains..."

One might be shocked to see that this mentality prevails, but they still do think themselves better than anyone else.

Through my experience, I just learned to ignore whatever people think about origins and focus on the positive things in my life. Yet, some non-original Saudis still feel as second class citizins because of this, and that is why I started writing the book.

Thanks for your interesting comment.
December 8, 2009 2:44 PM

Maha Noor Elahi said...

Hanan
You put it so well my dear...it's the tribal (unheavenly) rules and standards that are killing the Saudi society...Sadly, very few admit this even to themselves..
The worst thing is what you mentioned about morals and ethics...if you are a non-original Saudi, you are "expected" to have no or less morals...A rotten mentality indeed!

Living as an individula with your own choices makes you an outcast or a rebel in some tribes and families because they are afraid of change and of losing the hertiage of the family, but they careless about the love among the family members.

Thanks a lot, Hanan..you tackled part of what I am going to deal with in the book...it's good to see that some are with me at the same page :)
December 8, 2009 2:54 PM

Chiara said...

Oby--thanks for sharing your (and your daughter's) experience and perspective. I am sure she will find a cohesive sense of identity whether unique or combined. A woman I know is of mixed Afro-Caribbean and English background raised in Canada. She looks Portuguese but I met 7 of her 8 brothers as well as their parents, and there is an immense range. The one with the most African features is naturally blond, with fairer skin than the others, and green eyes. The rest look mostly Portuguese with varying heights and body types.

I agree that the challenge is often more with those who need a narrow label or to pigeon hole others so they can make sense of their world.

My nephew is also 10 and enjoys the idea of his Italian heritage (and Italian food and singing in Italian), perhaps because he is in a school with many races and ethnicities, and so wants to be more than "just Canadian".

Maha--thank you for your comprehensive comments and for sharing more of your insights. I, for one, am looking forward to the book. I agree that "either/or" people are more limiting than those who are able to handle "both/and".

I look forward to more of yours and others comments on Part II.
December 8, 2009 7:07 PM

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