At the Bar with Dora Love
~ Special Edition Post ~
Dora Love is an author who's married to popular Blasian writer Sam Cacas. They live together in Oakland, CA. She is currently working on two books, and she maintains a blog. It was great honor to complete this interview with her on September 26, 2010.
Ms. Love, it is always a great pleasure to interview an authoress. But before we talk shop, tell us a few things about you.
I’m in my fifties. I’ve been living in the San Francisco Bay Area for 18 years. I have a Masters in TESOL, Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.
How long have you been writing professionally? Who are your main influences?
I have been writing for some time, but have only been published since 1996. This is when I wrote my first published article for AsianWeek, a San Francisco paper. They assigned me my first interview with a Chinese American pianist. I loved going out to the venue and interviewing her, typing out my notes, and presenting it to the editor.
My main and closet influence was and is my husband, Sam Cacas. He mentored me when I wrote for AsianWeek and MultiCultural Review. He also edited my novel. He taught me the method of perusing novels and articles in order to write for different venues. This technique was extremely important for future writing projects, including my writings in the Masters program at San Francisco State University. Authors such as Alice Walker, bell hooks, Terry McMillan, Stephen King have influenced my writing style, process, and frequency of writing.
You’re currently working on a couple of books, one of which is Evolution of a Black Woman, and whose excerpts are available on your blog. What inspired this book?
My own and other women’s life experiences has inspired me to write this book. I think that my life lessons can be communicated through the characters in my novel and encourage women to help themselves. Author, bell hooks once said “with words we experience our deepest understands of what it means to be intimate.” I agree wholeheartedly. Reading other authors’ writings has given me an understanding of how we as women cope with life. In recent years, Terri McMillin, Toni Morrison, and Alice Walker captivated me with their words. Most recently, I’ve read younger authors that embrace interracial themes, such as Heidi Durrow, author of The Girl Who Fell From The Sky. In Durrow’s book, the main character overcomes a horrible incident in her mother’s life and assimilates into her grandmother’s world which is black. In Mixed: My Life In Black And White, Angela Nissel humorously looks at her life as a mixed child who copes with having black and white roots. Both generations of writers convey a much needed message to women, a message of encouragement. That’s the message I want to accomplish with my novel.
You and your husband have made quite a splash in the Blasian world, and on the international level, no less. What’s it like seeing yourself in various media?
It’s a good thing that people can see us or other Blasian couples globally. When people read about us they realize that it’s a perfect match. It’s not that we fell in love because we each wanted to date another race. It was because we had a lot in common and had some of the same goals. There are more Blasian relationships out there in the world than people realize. So, I hope our story resonates with people globally.
What does Blasian unity mean to you? Why do you think it is necessary?
I think Blasian unity means blacks and Asians living together in harmony, understanding each other’s history, and having an open communication for the social good of a community. This means that ideally those two groups would be able to use their commonalities to improve their political and social communications. For example, there was an April 2010 murder that occurred in Oakland, CA where two young black men beat a Chinese man and later died. If there was some social organization in place for these two young black men to vent their frustrations, maybe this tragic incident would not have happened. All I know is that the elder Chinese man should not have been beaten to death. One minority violating the rights of another minority is immoral. This is just one example of why Blasian unity is so important.
While pursuing Blasian unity, what types of criticism have you received?
In my early interracial dating days, I dated a man from Afghanistan. We received stares from black men at night clubs. I really didn’t let those stares get to me. As I recall, the women were more conciliatory as if they were in agreement with my dating choice.
When I have mentioned that I’m married to an Asian man, people of all colors just nod as to say they are acknowledging my answer. Immediately after that they always ask how we met. I wonder why they have to know how we met. What business is it of theirs? But, I’m polite and answer. After I tell them that we met from a personal ad, they say, “Oh” as if there couldn’t have been any other way that we met. I don’t get all bent out of shape by people’s reaction. It’s part of what I go through.
My husband and I have had societal criticisms from Chinese people who stared at us while we were in Chinatown, San Francisco or African American men in Oakland, who spat on the ground before while we passed them. That was a little uncomfortable to be around. In Oakland, this could have been dangerous depending on if the men wanted to cause bodily harm.
In addition, my husband and I lived near San Francisco’s Chinatown which is historically a city within a city. It has its own culture and remains a bit isolated from the rest of the city. So, when my husband and I would shop or walk around people would stare. Some would turn around after they passed us. (Sam would turn around to confirm this.) Many merchants would start talking to him in Cantonese or Mandarin. When they found out that he was Asian American, they apologized for making that mistake. When I’d go alone, no one cared whether I was black or female.
In general, we pay attention to people but don’t react to those who stare or try to mock us. We often hold hands while we are walking down the street. We show no shame. We love each other and are proud to show it.
What were your initial Blasian experiences like?
I had a few relationships with many Asian people in the Midwest, where I was raised. However, I didn’t have any Blasian experiences with men until I moved to California. That being said, my first experience was with a Vietnamese guy that I worked with in San Francisco. I liked that he was very open about his life. We talked all of the time during breaks at work. He even invited me to a party, but not as his date. Other work colleagues thought we were dating. We weren’t. The relationship never developed beyond work buddies. Soon after that, I posted a personal ad in a free newspaper in San Francisco where I met several men. Some of them were Asian. One in particular was a Chinese man who wasn’t more than 5’2” tall. He might have been short, but he was a very funny and generous man. That relationship didn’t go any further either.
Black women are notorious for not wanting interracial relationships. And yet, as I’ve been saying to others, I’m astounded at the way black women are responding to the Blasian world. What are your thoughts on that?
They are open, but not pursuing a Blasian relationships. I’m not surprised. The more black women read about or discuss the topic, the more they become informed and more curious. I think the amount of Blasian relationships are probably on the increase due to more blogs and social networks online.
What do you think may cause a black woman to hesitate from pursuing a Blasian relationship?
This is only my opinion, but it may be hard for a black woman from certain backgrounds (i.e., a preconceived notion of that Asian men don’t like black women) that prevents her from pursuing a relationship. Maybe they have self-esteem and/or body image issues that they think may keep Asian men from liking them. You can only know by getting to know Asian culture. Not by sitting on the sidelines guessing. You’ve got to get in the game, so to speak.
We recently mentioned issues with black female self-esteem. I mentioned Nita Hanson, and you brought up “Plain Jane.” Could you please expand your thoughts on this issue?
I’ll speak from my own background a little bit. I’ve always been attracted to all men until I was burned too many times by black men. When I decided to look elsewhere, men made themselves available to me. It took me some time to believe that I was beautiful because black kids that I grew up with always said that I talked funny (intelligent) and thought I acted too good for other black people. Just because I was very active in school, other black kids ridiculed me for my extracurricular activities (i.e. choir, orchestra, drama class, and debate teams.) With all of the positive activities going on with me, I felt inferior to other black kids. I came out of my cocoon after high school, had a few setbacks, and eventually straightened out and found my self-esteem again.
Conservative Jane on Plain Jane TV show and Nita Hanson should have surrounded themselves with people that truly loved them for themselves. Sometimes when a black woman hasn’t vetted her friends or loved ones enough, she experiences a surprise when she least expects it like Nita Hanson. All she had to do was pay attention when her future in-laws or friends make subtle or overt racist remarks about any minority. Don’t let it fester or think that it’s nothing. It may come back to haunt you. In Nita’s case, if her husband did not defend her, then it’s a very big problem that will eventually cause a divorce. That kind of behavior will only lower her self-esteem and maybe cause emotional heartache for her and her offspring.
In Conservative Jane’s case, maybe she wanted the publicity from a TV show to gain notoriety. One person that responded to my Facebook post about Plain Jane said that some of the challenges that girls go through takes them out of their emotional comfort zone, which may help the them gain confidence. This may be true, but what a prize they may pay—short-lived fame or long term shame.
What parting advice do you have for young black women traversing the tricky waters of dating?
There are two key questions that black women have to consider when dating. One question that comes to mind is: Are you comfortable in your own skin? This question has several levels of interpretation. Does the African American woman love her self—skin color, freckled face, big lips, kinky hair, big buttocks, no buttocks, etc? If she doesn’t love every aspect of her body, then her insecurity could be displayed in her slouching posture, shyness, hostility toward others, and co-dependency in relationships just to name a few.
Another question is: How high are your dating expectations? Do you expect a man of another race who professes to love African American women to accept your imperfections, your philosophy, your psychosis, your food, your culture, etc? This goes back to the first question. If a black woman isn’t comfortable in her skin, then don’t expect someone else to overcompensate for your insecurities.
What parting advice do you have for young black female writers?
Look to other female writers and African American women specifically to gain insight into their stories. Keep a journal. Daily tribulations may one day become a book. If women are attending universities, write your papers and keep them handy. They may one day become part of a mainstream publication. Write book reviews. Write on your own blog. Write on someone else’s blog or online magazines. Collaborate with other writers so that you gain writing experience and name recognition.
Go to your library and find books that you like to read. Someone told me to practice writing like your favorite authors. It’s alright to type word for word just to get a feel for how that author writes. Find writing books at the library or buy a few good ones. This will also give a writer more ideas. In other words, write and write some more.
Ms. Love, is has been the utmost pleasure. Thank you so very much for "stopping by".