Growing up half Japanese and half-Jamaican in Hawaii, 19-year-old Kiana Khansmith quietly struggled with misconceptions about being mixed race.
“A lot of people seemed to know who I was more than I did,” the animation student at the California College of the Arts told HuffPost. “They would tell me what to be or how I should act based on my heritage.”
When a professor in a race and comics course told the class to create a series based off personal experience, Khansmith knew exactly what to draw: a comic strip about the complexities of growing up multiracial in the U.S., as told by a character named Puppitty.
Half-dog, half-cat, Puppity looks a little different than others and doesn’t always feel like she fits in, like many of multiracial descent:
Some try to put Puppitty into boxes based off stereotypes ― something Khansmith said she dealt with often while growing up.
“I would get a lot of stereotypes about being black or being Asian that would discredit my achievements,” the animation student told HufffPost. “Others would come up and say, ‘Just ignore them. You’re you!’”
That latter was a “nice thought,” but not the easiest message to absorb as a little kid, Khansmith said.
In the comic, Puppitty often has to explain her mixed identity to others in simple terms they’ll understand:
Khansmith used animals as her characters so people of all mixed backgrounds could relate ― and so far, they have.
Since posting the series on Tumblr last week, she’s received a ton of positive feedback and even requests from parents to turn Puppitty into a printed picture book.
“It’s been amazing. I’ve had a lot of people message me and tell me how much the comic meant to them and how happy they were to have their story told,” she said.
Despite the confusing parts, being mixed race in America is “an equally unique and beautiful experience as well,” Khansmith said.
And as Puppitty finds out, being mixed race means you’re far more likely to relate to others who feel “different” ― and that’s always a good thing:
To read “Puppitty” in its entirety, head over to Khansmith’s Tumblr page.