Being Bi-Racial in “Moon and the Mars” and Today

“Moon and the Mars” is a testament to what many bi-racial people have experienced at least once in their life: balancing the identity of two different races while only being one person. Oftentimes, people believe that bi-racial people take on the racial identities of their mothers. “Moon and the Mars” offers us a different perspective in which Theo takes on the racial identities of her mother and father and therefore, expands the idea of what it means to be Black in America. She has run into this issue several times with her mother’s side of the family, especially with Ciaran. For example, when she and Ciaran visit the minstrel show at the circus, Theo finds the show offensive and Ciaran says “it’s just a show” (Corthron, 271). This statement essentially minimized Theo’s legitimate concerns about the show and how it portrays Black people. Moreover, it speaks to how bi-racial people explain one-half of their identities to the other side, and the frustrations that come with it. Ciaran’s indifference towards the show makes Theo feel like her feelings do not matter to that side of her family. Especially when her Aunt Maryam was a former slave, Ciaran’s words show the indifference he has towards her bi-racial identity. Having to constantly explain half of your identity to another person can be frustrating, which is seen several times in “Moon and the Mars”. It demonstrates that balancing these identities is not easy, especially during a time when Black people when enslaved.

Furthermore, “Moon and the Mars” speaks to Gilroy’s idea of expanding the idea of what it means to be Black. Although his main argument was to expand the idea past “African American exceptionalism”, I would like to argue that this book demonstrates that an individual can be Black and bi-racial simultaneously. I take this idea very personally considering I am bi-racial and I too can speak Irish. We see that Theo can speak Irish, which is very uncommon in modern society. Yet, this book does not use that against her to make her seem less “Black”. Instead, “Moon and the Mars” shows how both identities can coexist at the same time. We see that Theo takes Black culture and Black politics just as seriously as the rest of her family members even though she is bi-racial. For example, she is concerned about her Aunt Maryam’s freedom status and is seriously upset at Ciaran working with people involved with slavery. This book spends considerable amounts of time recounting Theo’s time with her paternal family and showing the deep relationships she has with each of these relatives. She never denies the Black side of her family but instead, she embraces it. She proves that being bi-racial is an expansion of what it means to be Black instead of being separate from it just because her mother is Irish. 

2 Replies to “Being Bi-Racial in “Moon and the Mars” and Today”

  1. This is a really interesting commentary on Theo’s bi-racial identity in Moon and the Mars! I think that Corthron is doing something really unique by following Theo between her Irish and her Black family. We get a glimpse into both halves of her identity at each house and at the whole of her identity when her families come together. This book is a much more nuanced take on race than what is commonly presented in historical accounts. I agree with mtobias’s point (not sure who you are from your username — sorry!) that it connects to Gilroy’s attempts to complicate our conceptions of race in the Atlantic.

    Another thing that struck me when reading your post is how Ciaran did not seem to understand that Theo was bi-racial when he first met her. She explains that she is half-Irish and half-Black to him, and it “look like this be new information to Ciaran” (77). Even to her own cousin, Theo has to explain her identity, which connects to your point about Ciaran at the minstrel show. As the audience, we have a uniquely complete understanding of Theo’s bi-racial identity because we get to follow her all over New York.

  2. I think that this is a fascinating topic to focus on within the Moon and the Mars, especially considering how well that it fits into the other documents we have read in class.

    As somebody who is not bi-racial, I was interested to hear your perspective linked with Theo’s about how frustrating of an experience it can be. I think that this frustration really connects to Gilroy’s article in which he describes the all-to-common tendency for people to over-simplify/generalize race and racial identity.

    Additionally, I really like the point you made about how Theo does not sacrifice the expression of either of her racial identities and learns how to live with and express them in tandem. Despite her younger age, it exhibits what I consider to be an insane amount of maturity.

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