Beyond Black and White: Writing about the Multiracial Experience
The "multicultural" novel has been on a long, strange trip in American literature. The story of the black and white experience, the "mixed" experience, can be traced back to writers like James Weldon Johnson and Nella Larsen, but that was a long time ago. What do such stories look like in the 21st century? Where the old stories might've suggested tragedy or doom, the tales of a new age aren't always so simple. Malcolm Hansen '14 and Professor Victor LaValle '98, both mixed race authors, will tackle questions of authenticity and inclusion; self-policing in the black community and exceptionalism in the white community. The importance of owning one's own multicultural experience and how that experience has changed over the past 50 years. Hansen and LaValle may not agree on every point, but they promise to keep the shouting to a minimum. Probably.
This conversation is part of an ongoing series of dialogues and lectures, hosted by Columbia University’s Our Word, that challenge and explore how identity, in particular racial identity, impacts readers and writers.
Our Word is a student organization whose mission is to enrich the Columbia University School of the Arts, and the literary community in general, with outreach, advocacy, and inclusion of new and old literary voices.
Organized Columbia University School of the Arts Our Word and Columbia Artist/Teachers (CA/T).
Malcolm Hansen '14 was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Adopted by two Civil Rights activists, he grew up in Morocco, Spain, Germany, and various parts of the United States. Malcolm left home as a teenager and, after two years of high school education, went to Stanford, earning a BA in philosophy. He worked for a few years in the software industry in California before setting off for what turned out to be a decade of living, working, and traveling throughout Central America, South America, and Europe. Malcolm returned to the US to complete an MFA in Fiction at Columbia University. His debut novel, They Come in All Colors, won the First Novel Award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association and was nominated for a NAACP Image Award.
Victor LaValle’s '98 most recent novel is The Changeling. It has been named one of the 10 Best Books of 2017 by Time Magazine and USA Today and was a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle and more. He is also the author is Slapboxing with Jesus, The Ecstatic, Big Machine, The Devil in Silver, and The Ballad of Black Tom. He is also the writer/creator of a comic book, Destroyer. His awards include the Whiting Writers Award, a USA Ford Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Shirley Jackson Award and a British World Fantasy Award among others.