StepSisters by Jacinda Aytch unravels the dynamics of a biracial/multiracial family. This webcomic contains complex characters and an unflinching look at racism, anti-blackness, and privilege.
Mariya Kato, Black and Japanese, copes with her mother’s passing years ago, but now she has to deal with her stepmother, Celia, and stepsister, Amy. And let’s not forget high school where Mariya takes Japanese class and participates in Judo after school. Mariya one day gets into a fight at school, which leads to a heated confrontation with her stepmother.
Mariya shoulders her burdens on top of family drama. She’s afraid of driving because of the accident that killed her mother. Her stepmother at one point seemingly tries to flirt with Mariya’s childhood friend Ren. Mariya doesn’t understand what her father sees in Celia, a privileged white woman. It doesn’t help that her father and stepmother expect her to watch over Amy, including picking her up after school.
The webcomic doesn’t shy away from the dynamics of a biracial and bicultural family. Amy attends therapy sessions to help her adjust to her new school. Interactions with her therapist (a Nigerian woman) show her implicit bias about classmates who instigate school fights (i.e., anyone who isn’t white.) The stepmother also holds biased views that rightfully unnerves Mariya. During the dinner scene (after Mariya’s school fight) with her family, her stepmother makes a degrading comment about her Afro-Dominican best friend Seni. Afterward, Celia and Mariya’s father have a private conversation, where Celia calls Mariya a “thug.” His response confuses Celia. She insists that she’s only disciplining her stepchild. Jacinda does an excellent job with the well-nuanced discussions of racism and anti-blackness in biracial/multiracial families and relationships.
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Author: Brahidaliz Martinez
Brahidaliz (pronounced Bra-da-leez) is a 2019 graduate of American University’s MFA in creative writing program. Their cross-genre chapbook, Coquí’s Song, is forthcoming (2023) from Mason Jar Press.
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