I had the opportunity to interview Christelyn Russell-Karazin about her exciting new book on interracial relationships entitled Swirling: How to Date, Mate and Relate, Mixing Race, Culture, and Creed! With a release date right around the corner, I wanted to get the scoop and be one of the first bloggers to interview the bubbly first-time author. Besides writing what is sure to be one of the hottest new books this year for Black women, she is also the owner/operator of BeyondBlackWhite.Com, a popular website which focuses on interracial relationships. Recently she and her husband celebrated their 10-year, four babies interracial marriage with a romantic get-away for two. I saw the pictures - they look truly happy and in love after a decade together.
The interview on Swirling follows.
Deborrah: Where did the idea for the book come from? Why did you decide to write it?
Christelyn: I first pitched the idea as a magazine article to Elle on why I decided to marry a white guy. It was accepted but got caught up in some kind of editorial labyrinth and was never published. But I’d kept reading these statistics about how black women were the least likely of any racial or gender group to date and marry outside of their race – and yet 70% of black women, compared to 45% of white women, would never marry at all…and the pool of eligible black men had now shrunk to a mere puddle.
I had the opportunity to pitch the idea again, as a book, to agents at a conference in New York of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and there was a lot of interest in the subject. In fact, three agents wanted to see the book proposal – which I had not yet written. I came home, back to California, and called my college mentor, Janice Littlejohn, who has been a longtime journalist, and asked her if she’d be interested in writing the book with me. She, too, had dated outside her race and culture and was interested in tackling this idea as well. And like me, she was tired of these statistics and wanted to give black women the tools to find love beyond black men.
Deborrah: Is Swirling intended for a particular audience or age group?
Christelyn: Although the book was written for single, adult black women, we’ve found that young adult women, women of color – and even men who want to learn more about dating women of other races and cultures – are interested in this book. We have women pre-ordering this book for their divorced girlfriends, their daughters, granddaughters and nieces; their sisters. It seems to be a book that transcends age, gender, race and culture, which is kind of unexpected, but absolutely fantastic.
Deborrah: What would you say is the overriding theme for Swirling?
Christelyn: Stay open to the possibilities. One of the things that Janice and I write in the introduction is that we want women to grab hold of love in whatever color or cultural package he’s wrapped in.
Deborrah: How is Swirling different from some of the other interracial dating books recently released that target black women?
Christelyn: Swirling is the FIRST handbook that lays out the exciting, thought-provoking, titillating, happy, sad, tricky, thorny and potentially disastrous scenarios unique to intercultural, interracial and interfaith dating and relationships with tips and recommendations from experts on how to make the bumpy ride a bit smoother. While many books look at this as a sociological issue, Swirling goes beyond the “why” and to teach black women how to step outside their segregated love lives and into their happily ever afters with real talk and real advice from two women who have been there and done that – and a whole lot of other women and couples that we interviewed who are stalwart swirlers.
Deborrah: Most relationship books are written for women. Why would it be beneficial for a male to read this particular book... and what type of male might you be talking about?
Christelyn: This book offers insight to men who have been interested in dating black women – and for whatever reason have been afraid or uninitiated to pursue such a relationship. Too often we have found that Asian men, white men, and even some European men don’t think black women are attracted to them – but we are! With Swirling, men now have an opportunity to see that there are many, many, many black women who are open to and welcoming of what they have to offer in a romantic partnership. Plus, with the hundreds of interviews we’ve done for the book, it gives men a little insight into the minds of black women; some of the fears and issues that will enable men to be more sensitive to some of the cultural and societal mores – and also personal taboos -- that black women contend with and have to address when they decide to swirl.
Author with galley of her new book on interracial dating - Swirling
Deborrah: I realize that you have been involved in an interracial marriage for a number of years and have a wonderful family. Though black women with other races of men has been promoted since 2010, you’re somewhat of an OG at this! Did you experience any trepidation before getting involved in a swirl relationship?
Christelyn: I did. The same feelings many black women have—about somehow “betraying the race” tickled at the back of my mind at times. But then I realized, “the race” isn’t paying my bills, so…
Deborrah: LOL! Makes sense to me. But let me ask you a tough question I've been asking myself lately... do you think the issues in black women/non-black men relationships are different than those of black men with non-black women? If so, how?
Christelyn: They’re different in how they’re perceived within the African American culture which is by and large more accepting of black men with non-black women than black women with men of other races and culture. As a matrilineal culture, the black woman is the keeper of the oral histories; the food and religious traditions; and for some, the very existence of the African American culture. But to say that black women cannot maintain her “blackness – or raise their bi-racial, bi-cultural or mixed-faith children – is a bunch of sexist, misogynistic bull crap. In fact, more often than not, black women who are connected to their African American heritage likely to feel more connected to their cultural roots and heritage – a pride which they pass along to their children -- when in mixed relationships.
Deborrah: I’ve noticed that a lot of black women that decide to date interracially seem to have adopted a “white is right” attitude about non-black men. Does dating interracially really remove the need to vet and screen men? Aren’t men in a certain sense all the same?
Christelyn: We’re definitely not saying that non-black men are in any way “better” than black men – both Janice and I have black fathers and black brothers -- who are raising black sons whom we adore. What we’re saying is black women have more options than they’re allowing themselves to explore when it comes to relationships. Dating outside one’s race does not mean you no longer need to vet or screen potential partners – in some respects, a woman may need to do more of a C.S.I. (as in Compatibility Scenario Investigation) exploration of her partner to make sure she’s in a relationship with someone who values her for who she is, and not someone looking to have his exotic sexual fantasy or a freaky fetish fulfilled.
Deborrah: How important do you feel it is for black parents to discuss issues of interracial dating with their children? And what things would you recommend that parents say?
Christelyn: This is a great question. What I tell my three girls and my boy is very simple: choose character above color. Color is just a shell that holds the essence. It’s the essence that’s most important. This isn’t a new idea—Martin Luther King Jr. had it right 50 years ago.
Deborrah: What are the top oh, 2-3 takeaways you want black women to get from Swirling?
(1) Be open to the possibilities. You never know what wonderful surprises are in store unless you allow yourself to live outside of your bubble.
(2) Stop worrying about what other people think about your interracial or mixed culture romance. You don’t need anyone else’s permission to have the happiness you deserve.
(3) Remember it’s what you have in common with your “rainbeau” that counts, not your differences.
Deborrah: This is so great, and I'm very excited for you! Do you ladies have a tour planned? Will you be doing any speaking engagements that we should know about? Where can SurvivingDating.Com readers find out when you will be in their area?
Christelyn: We’re currently working with our publisher to map out engagements and tours, but check in frequently on the blog at beyondblackwhite.com and on Twitter for updates on appearances and events!
Category: Women's Issues