Avan Jogia’s “Mixed Feelings” Collages Culture, Art, Poetry, and Memory
“I have always felt out of place in this world. A world, it seems, that is increasingly polarised,” Avan Jogia writes on the first page of Mixed Feelings, his new poetry collection published Sept. 17 by Andrews McMeel.
Best known for his acting career, which has spanned lead roles in Nickelodeon’s Victorious and ABC Family’s Twisted, 27-year-old Jogia’s life might seem glamorous and unrelatable. However, as he reflects on his experiences as the son of an Indian-British father and English-Irish mother, Jogia gives voice to the common, yet highly personal feeling of “mixedness.” He states, “I discovered that the further you zoom on that feeling . . . the more it includes everyone.”
That explains why Jogia focused not only on conveying his own story but also on incorporating the perspectives of others. Throughout the book, readers see what being mixed race means and feels like to Jogia. He describes himself as an astronaut, floating above the world and observing its interconnectedness. He also depicts himself as both the audience and singer of a “storm song,” a chorus combining facets like race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and religion into a multilayered voice.
Alongside these specific and individual metaphors, work from other mixed-race writers employs diverse imagery. A gold, hand-me-down watch that reminds a poet of his jeweler father, a sari worn to an Indian wedding, and government housing that a poet reimagines as a medieval castle all add to the collection’s sweeping landscape. Juxtaposed pictures and sketches bring these items, memories, and settings to life.
But the book also illuminates the general, everyday realities with which many mixed-race people live. Jogia recounts people not being able to pronounce his name. Another poet captures the frustration of being asked where they’re really from. Muslim poets remember being assaulted after 9/11 and the fear of wearing a hijab in public, while black poets contend with police brutality.
Despite these dark and honest themes, Jogia reinforces a familiar, sparkling undercurrent: pride and appreciation for his mixed-race identity. He sums it up like this: “I am not half of anything. I am a full being.” Jogia emphasizes this full identity with old family photos, paying tribute to a vibrant heritage and history that still informs his life today.
According to the book’s description, “Mixed Feelings serves as a dialogue starter for difficult topics that now, more than ever, need to be discussed.” Mixed race readers will appreciate seeing themselves reflected, while people outside of the experience can hopefully gain empathy and understanding.
As found by a 2015 study conducted by Pew Research Center, about 7 percent of United States citizens are mixed race, representing a figure of more than 18 million people. This number grows daily, and it’s been predicted that the country will be “minority white” by 2045. It’s far past the time to deeply examine and admire the work of Jogia and other mixed-race writers, but Mixed Feelings serves as a strong, multidimensional introduction.