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Diane Farr's 'Kissing Outside the Lines' a guide to interracial romance for 21st century

Whatever prejudices you have about actors-turned-authors, know this: Diane Farr is right there with you.

As a steadily working but not yet household name in the TV biz (Rescue Me, Californication, Numb3rs), Farr nevertheless is the first to lampoon any Hollywood phoniness — often during sidesplitting turns on the radio show Loveline, in her syndicated column on motherhood, or in magazine pieces in GQ, Esquire and Cosmopolitan.

But Farr has rejoined the actors' writing club again for an important cause, penning a new book on interracial relationships, Kissing Outside the Lines: A True Story of Love and Race and Happily Ever After.

Crunching the data from the latest U.S. census, experts say America is entering a "pivot decade" of explosive growth in ethnic diversity.

In 2008, the number of interracial marriages stood at 14.6 percent (double the level in 1980). Today, one in seven marriages is interracial or interethnic. By 2015, racial and ethnic minorities are expected to be the majority of young people.

The simple conclusion: We're going to see a lot more kissing outside the lines very soon.

Farr had personal reasons for writing this book, which documents her romance and marriage to the love of her life, a Korean-born man who immigrated to the United States with his parents. As a second-generation American child of Irish and Italian heritage, she wasn't quite prepared for what happened after her then-boyfriend, Seung Chung, admitted, "This is going to be a problem for my parents."

Kissing Outside the Lines documents her efforts to cope with resistance among Chung's relatives, salted with stories from other multiracial couples she consulted to help strategize on how to navigate these tricky cultural and emotional waters.

We're in a unique cultural moment here.

What's so funny is in this exact moment of time, Asians are having, like, a moment in the sun, between the Tiger Mom and the cover of New York magazine, and they're being portrayed as either Nazi-like parents who have no sense of humor or meek, short, sheltered cattle. It seems everything about being biracial in America is about black and white. Sometimes I even feel funny to say I'm in a biracial marriage because people are like, "Oh, he's Asian?" The subtext is, "Who cares? You didn't marry a black person." So for the first moment that we're paying attention to Asians, we're putting them down.

You may have written the first handbook for romance in the 21st century.

In truth, more than 50 percent of me was writing the book for our parents. I was writing it so that if you were on the verge of marrying (someone from another race or culture), you could give it to her parents or yours because nobody's a bad guy. I tried so hard not to really portray anybody as a cartoon character, as evil, because it's (nonsense) to think we all don't judge people. I judge preschool teachers and actresses shamelessly. The first five minutes I meet them.

I loved when you described your mother telling Seung she was so happy you didn't marry outside your race. To her, there are only two races: black and white.

The posit of the book was that love is the last prejudice parents openly teach at home. My parents really did believe that all people should be treated equally. But really, secretly, behind it, they had no problem telling me who I couldn't marry.

You made a lot of effort to win your husband's family over, then many of them didn't attend the wedding.

I think so much of the time when parents are saying, no, I don't want you to marry outside your race, they're worried about either the death of their own culture or what's going to happen to their kid because it's out of their realm of knowledge. And if we can keep it in that idea that it's from fear, it's not from hate . . .

What advice would you give interracial couples?

Let everybody else figure out how to get around you. It's not your job to accommodate them, but we still work on this. Seung has a cultural, ingrained reflex to do anything an elder relative asks him. It's not racism anymore; it's like claiming turf for culture.

You also describe your therapist pointing out how many of your past relationships were outside of your culture.

I know! . . . I've interviewed probably 15 kids that were born between 1972 and 1985 for the next half of the book, which is raising biracial kids. So to be half Iranian and half Jewish in Arizona is a whole different experience than my kids being half Korean in L.A. But one of those guys, his dad was a Shiite Iranian and his mom was a red-headed Jewish woman from New York, and (laughter) he was raised in Arizona.

That's a sitcom.

He's like, "I'm a walking holy war." And he said, "In high school, I never got the cheerleader. I had to like the left-of-center girl who was interested in the fact that I was all these things." And I'm looking at him and thinking, "I was that girl — and I was a cheerleader. Like you shouldn't have written me off."

Kissing Outside the Lines: A True Story of Love and Race and Happily Ever After

By Diane Farr

Seal Press, 296 pages, $24.95

Diane Farr's 'Kissing Outside the Lines' a guide to interracial romance for 21st century 06/11/11 [Last modified: Saturday, June 11, 2011 4:30am]
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