Mavin: A Brave New Magazine for a Mixed-Race World

Matt Kelley's Mavin reaches a new generation of mixed-race readers


| September-October 1999



Matt Kelley doesn't speak much Korean, and his grandmother, Jin Hyang Lee, doesn't speak much English. Still, they eat dinner together in her tiny Seattle apartment four times a week. Lee, 82, cooks, and Kelley, 20, eats (and eats).

"If you don't eat a lot of what she makes, she gets mad," he says, gesturing toward his grandmother, who's busy deep-frying pieces of battered squid. "She always makes a lot, too, so usually after a meal I'm all bloated and full." He rubs his stomach, rolls his eyes, and mock-groans. "It's a test of my loyalty, I think."

Not that any test is needed. Since he left Wesleyan University and moved home a little over a year ago, Kelley has been a regular grandma's boy. He rented an apartment just blocks away from Lee's place, and the two have spent hours together, eating, watching TV (the PBS series Nature is one of her favorites), and talking—after a fashion.

But Kelley didn't leave college just to know his grandmother better. He came home to start Mavin, a magazine for young people from mixed-race backgrounds. Spending more time with his halmuhnee (Korean for mother's mother) is a fringe benefit, one that's helped him understand why he wanted to start a magazine in the first place.

"All my life, I've straddled two cultures," says Kelley, who grew up on nearby Bainbridge Island with his Korean-born mother and Midwestern American father. "For a long time when I was younger, I didn't think about it, but as I got older I realized I was different, and that being different is a big part of who I am. I'm still trying to sort it all out, but knowing that I'm not alone is important. The magazine does that for me and for the people who read it, and also for our families."

In magazine-speak, those people are a big, untapped market. While the concept of race is difficult to quantify using traditional survey methods, and mixed race even harder, statisticians have been working to define the demographic trend. The number of mixed-race marriages in the United States today has been estimated at more than 1.6 million—a tenfold increase since 1960. About one in 25 married couples today is interracial, and there are more than 3 million children of mixed-race parentage living in the United States.