Blending Families by Shona Kambarami
In Blending Families by Shona Kambarami we have the theme of racism, prejudice, connection, ignorance and acceptance. Narrated in the first person by Kambarami herself the reader realizes from the opening sentence of the story that Kambarami may be exploring the theme of racism. Kambarami feels as though Ben (Him’s father) is a racist even if he has never said he is, this is the feeling that Kambarami gets. Something that the reader may also believe considering that Ben does not want to see Kambarami when he is ill. She can’t seem to shake off the fact that Ben is prejudicial towards her because of her skin colour. This is interesting as Kambarami lives in a predominately white country and she may not be the only black person of African descent who feels as though they are being judged by their skin colour. Africans, like Aboriginals, are not necessarily accepted by white people in Australia.
Him’s character is important as throughout the story he stands up for Kambarami and confronts his father about his racism towards Kambarami. Something that Ben does not admit to. He blames the fact that there are cultural and religious differences between Kambarami and Him that he cannot accept. In Ben’s eyes or at least he says, colour for him is not an issue. Though this is not something that Kambarami believes or necessarily accepts herself. It is only as the story ends that Kambarami, because Ben is so ill, let’s go of the fact that Ben may be a racist. Though this still causes a lot of hurt to Kambarami who only wants to connect with Ben and have some sort of healthy relationship with him. She wants to be a full part of Ben’s life. For him to see her as more than just a black woman who loves his son.
There may be some symbolism in the story that might be important. Ben’s daughter’s marriage should act as a perfect time for Ben to connect with Kambarami but it only leads Kambarami to the realization that Ben is a racist. Something which only leads to Kambarami feeling ostracized. The fact that Kambarami will not apologize for falling in love with Him symbolically suggests the strong bond that comes when one person loves another. In reality we cannot choose who we fall in love with. Two people may fall in love and can only hope that both of their families will accept their respective partners. Something Kambarami’s family does. However it is clear that Ben can’t. The fact that Ben becomes ill is also symbolically important as he has the opportunity to embrace Kambarami. Though he never takes this opportunity. His illness is serious enough to concern his family, possibly life-threatening, and he still can’t bring himself to trying to understand or accept Kambarami’s skin colour, culture or religion.
The end of the story is interesting as without being accepted by Ben. Kambarami still accepts Ben for who he is. She holds no bad feeling towards him even though events are painful to her. She may have reached a point in her life that she accepts that because of her skin colour there are some people, through their own ignorance, who will not like or accept her. Such narrow-minded people should not be allowed to inflict any concern onto a person just because of their irrational views. Ben has used culture and religion as his defending blocks when in reality he is simply another white person in Australia who is a die-hard racist. Who can’t seem to get past someone’s skin colour? Though the reader is left after reading the story hoping that Ben will eventually see past skin colour and embrace Kambarami as the woman who loves his son.