Avan Jogia discussed his experience as a multiracial actor at the Penn Bookstore Friday evening.
Jogia, a Canadian-British actor known for his role as Beck Oliver in Nickelodeon’s TV show "Victorious," read and discussed excerpts of "Mixed Feelings," his new book that explores race and identity through poems and imagery. He also shared personal experiences and stories from multiracial friends and strangers he interviewed.
“I think that much is made about our nationality, our racial background, or the language we speak,” said Jogia, who is half Indian and half Irish. "Mixed Feelings" explores how multiracial people feel pressure to “pick a side” to conform to society, he added.
At the event, Jogia read the first poem from his book and shared his experience interviewing the poem's subject, a man named Mohammed Omar Atif.
“It was really interesting to talk to him about his experiences being mixed and how he would have to dilute his brownness — the thing that made him scary to people — in order to pass,” Jogia said. He added that "Mixed Feelings" aims to explore this issue of "the dilution that we do to integrate into this society.”
Jogia also spoke about how the question “Where are you really from?” can offend people of color.
“It’s like asking a woman if she’s pregnant. You could do that. But if you’re wrong…," he said as the audience laughed.
Jogia also touched on the issue of intercultural understanding, suggesting that people living in monoracial communities may have a hard time identifying with other cultures.
“It’s really important to see different faces as you grow up, as a child developing your empathy,” he said.
College freshman Racquelle Moxey said she went to Jogia’s book talk to hear his perspective on multiculturalism.
“Penn is predominantly white, so it’s important to talk about diversity on campus,” Moxey said.
Nursing junior Ime Etokebe, a member of the Vietnamese Students’ Association, said she attended because she wanted to find solidarity in the story of another mixed-race person.
“I am a mixed person — half-Nigerian, half-Vietnamese — pulled between cultures,” Etokebe said. “Sometimes [being mixed] makes you feel confused, like you have to prove yourself.”
As Penn attempts to become more ethnically diverse, with 51% of the admitted Class of 2023 self-identifying as students of color, there could be an increase in intercultural dialogue and learning in the near future.
“That’s what college is for, too,” Jogia said. “A lot of people who lived in the same communities, they go to university, and now it’s like all these different people with all these different existences and backgrounds, and so, there’s a lot of learning to be done.”