Wren and Miriam, two anthropology majors studying abroad in
Australia, are selected for a trip to the Kimberley Desert to study aboriginal
culture. While Miriam is overly enthusiastic and gung ho about the trip and
meeting aboriginal people, Wren seems ambivalent about the trip and unsure of
what she will learn. Miriam’s fascination with foreign societies reads like cultural
tourism, which clearly makes Wren uncomfortable. While Miriam is blonde and
white, Wren is of mixed heritage, which leads to a few awkward confrontations,
as when one of the aboriginal guides asks Wren offhand, “So what are ya?” In a
society in which there doesn’t seem to be much cultural or racial overlap, Wren
is somewhat of an oddity. Miriam is clearly an outsider, but Wren is more
different to categorize. When a different guide later asks about her racial
background, she replies that she’s black, part Native American, and part white.
“It can be confusing, you know, defining yourself. Sometimes I don’t feel like
I fit in,” she concludes. These conversations act as microcosms of Wren’s
ambivalence about her mixed cultural and racial heritage in a society that
prefers things to fall into distinct categories.
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