The story of a multi-racial woman coming to understand her identity
As the child of African-American and Native American parents, Kaylynn TwoTrees grew up hearing herself called "half breed" and "mixed blood," terms which now, after many transforming experiences, have positive and powerful meanings for her. This book spanning the first fifty years of her life is the account of her extraordinary journey into an understanding of her rich and complex heritage.
TwoTrees's poignant, honest memoir tells of her birth to a Lakota father from a South Dakota reservation and a black mother from an urban neighborhood in Des Moines. She spent summers during her early childhood visiting the Pine Ridge reservation. Her grandmother's teachings from those days sustained her throughout the subsequent years. She always has remembered her grandmother's saying "You going/coming back being. Grandmothers always singing you going. Grandchildren always singing you coming back. Somebody always singing you."
After the murder of her mother, she was adopted by her black grandparents, who had worked hard to achieve a middle-class life. TwoTrees was later sent to a Catholic boarding school where she was the only person of color. After she gave birth to a baby girl, whom she released to the care of relatives, she set out on her own. The ensuing journey took her from Chicago to a life in Europe, where she lived for some years as a dancer and a manager of dance companies. Returning to the United States, she lived first in New York, and then in the Southwest, where she spent recent years learning about the landscape and the indigenous cultures and giving workshops and performances.
TwoTrees, whose fascinating life journey has been filled with exhilarating as well as painful moments, writes movingly of her efforts to incorporate the diverse strands of her identity. Always carrying with her the love and lessons from her Indian grandmother and many others, she has come to understand the value of her multiple heritages.
Kaylynn TwoTrees, scholar in residence in the schools of fine arts and business at Miami University, has studied with elders of many indigenous cultures, including Lakota, Kiowa, Choctaw (North America); Bakonga, Yoruba (Africa); and Maori (New Zealand).