Thursday, March 12, 2015

A Giant Shadow



Aaron Levi wanted to know who he was, where he came from, where he belonged. His curiosity was born of a feeling that he was different. He was a biracial child adopted by a white couple when he was six months old. Taller than his schoolmates at almost every age, he was 6' 5" by the time he left high school. He was also gay—and, he said, desperately trying to hide it.

At South Eugene (Ore.) High in the early 1980s he passed himself off as a New Waver, shaping his hair into a flattop, listening to British reggae. He loved to draw, and he began to identify as an artist. Because of his height and color, he said people assumed that he played basketball. But he had little interest in sports.

Classmates often asked him, “What are you?” Some figured he was Greek, Italian or Middle Eastern. When he grew older and moved to Northern California to attend art school, a few people spoke to him in Spanish, assuming he was Latino. He noticed how African-Americans gave him a brotherly nod.

He imagined his biological parents as romantic partners happy to have given him flesh and blood. He learned later, through his own experience, the pain of the adoption process, both for himself and for his birth mother. “When you are adopted,” he said, “rejection is woven into your DNA.”

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