For Jennifer Ho, associate professor of English and comparative literature, being Chinese-Jamaican-American has always been a part of her identity.
This identity shaped her latest book, "Racial Ambiguity in Asian American Culture," from which Ho will read today at Bull's Head Bookshop.
Ho said she was always aware of being Chinese-Jamaican-American, but she noticed how others’ interpretations of her race changed throughout elementary, middle and high school.
“Kids start to recognize racial difference in a sense that they are associating it with different values," she said. "It wasn’t until middle school or high school when I really started to put it together, when I started to understand that what they’re saying is I don’t look black.”
Ho’s book focuses on interpretations of Asian-American identity in the United States, exploring the ideas of identity through prominent figures such as Tiger Woods, whose racial identity sparked her exploration.
"I knew he was half Thai and half black, but he was only being talked about as a black golfer,” Ho said.
Woods fought the erasure of his identity as a mixed-race man, which black activists interpreted as denying his blackness.
Ho says that this disconnect between peoples’ interpretation of race and racial identity is reflected in her own experiences and also in her students’ experiences.
“I’ll have students say, ‘I know I look Latino, but I’m actually mixed race.’ Or I’ll have a white-appearing student say, ‘I’m actually Colombian, but I look white.’ And I also have students who are Asian or black say, ‘I know I look Asian,’ or, ‘I know I look black, but I was adopted by white parents.’”