Name: Sarah Grace Gladstone
J.: You are the creator of a zine called White Dads. What are zines, and how long have they been around?
Sarah Grace Gladstone: Zines started in the 1990s, but they’re having a comeback right now. They are self-published work, art, writing, photos or anything that you feel you want to produce and share. The main thing is that you are publishing it yourself, it’s a do-it-yourself project. There’s a whole community of people who make them and it’s accessible to anyone, and that was really appealing to me.
It’s interesting that zines are still around when the internet seems to have given writers a much easier platform, such as blogging. Why do you prefer that medium?
I don’t see them as being in opposition. There are zines that are online only. But with Tumblr pages, the internet has made them accessible to more people. People around the country have found me and my work from me posting something on Tumblr. When I’m at a zine fest, I give people my website; they can purchase the zine and hear about it from me in person, and then share with others online.
Upon first hearing the name of the zine, one might mistake it as a place for white men to talk about raising children of color. But rather it’s from the children’s perspective. Why was this topic resonant for you?
I chose it intentionally because I feel that 90 percent of mixed-race experiences are told from the white dad’s perspective, compared to that of a person of color. White men are the gatekeepers and the decision-makers and I had no desire to add to that. The title was meant to be provocative because people do assume it’s about centering our identities around our whiteness and our fathers, specifically when that’s not the case. If I had called this something like “Thoughts from Brown Children” it wouldn’t get anywhere near this much attention. White men take up the most space and I wanted to use that to my advantage. And I have a white dad.
You’ve had the White Dads blog up for a couple of years, and you published the first zine in June. Is this an ongoing project for you?
Yes, the second one just came out. There are around 15 pieces from different contributors in it.
What was your dad’s reaction to your embarking on this project?
He loves it; on multiple occasions, my dad will go up to people and say, “I’m the white dad.”
You have written several essays about being a Jew of color, and how tired you are of talking about that, yet clearly you have a lot to say about it. Do you think the Jewish community has become more inclusive over your lifetime? Or does it still have a long way to go?
Both. I grew up in a Reform temple in Sacramento; I describe it as very California, where we had a woman rabbi and an LGBT brown man as a cantor. But my sister and I were the only black people at our temple, and there were only two other people of color, two siblings who had been adopted from Korea. I had a bat mitzvah and went to Israel and Camp Newman and was active with my youth group, and got to a point with my temple friends where they just knew me, but I was always starting over with anyone new. Like at camp or in Israel, I’d be the only brown person in a group of 45 teenagers and have to field a lot of questions. I’d also get a lot of “you’re not really Jewish because your mom isn’t,” when there are plenty of people who don’t have a Jewish mom, but because they have two white parents, they don’t get that comment anywhere nearly as much as I do. I’d also get comments from my non-Jewish friends sometimes, saying things like “I look more Jewish than you do.”
Are you connected to the Jewish community now?
After high school, I took a step away from the Jewish community to connect more with my black identity. I was tired of the comments, and of having to be a bridge between white people and the brown experience, so they can gain access. But in the past couple of years I’ve realized I miss the Jewish community. Right now I’m trying to incorporate more mindfulness and prayers into my life, and sometimes that means listening to [singer-songwriter] Debbie Friedman. I’m also talking to more Jewish people as a way of figuring out how I want to connect with it.