Lists, Reviews and Your Recommendations
Here’s the thing about “diverse” children’s books: some of them… not so great. You know, the books about Native Americans that lump them together, idealize them, put everybody in teepees, get the history wrong, and more. Books about Asian Americans in which everyone’s an alike-looking, broken-English-speaking foreigner. And the huge disproportion of books about black and Latino families in which everyone’s poor and life’s a never-ending struggle! Many are good, quite good. But the near single-storying of black and brown people also feeds harmful stereotypes and denies the diversity of our experiences and the fullness of our humanity.
And then there’s this: many parents confirm and kids report that too many “multicultural” offerings are straight-up boring.
All to say: yep, We Need Diverse Books AND we might need help distinguishing the wheat from the chaff in what we already have. Let’s do this!
In which an alien inspires reflections on transracial adoption
As I noted in my previous Embrace Race post about Mike Jung’s middle grade science fiction novel, Unidentified Suburban Object, I hope many child readers will discover its major plot twist on their own. But even if they find out that protagonist Chloe Cho is an extraterrestrial alien (and not Korean American as her parents raised her to believe) before reading the book for themselves, there’s much more to be savored and appreciated about Jung’s book beyond its stunning reveal. During our shared reading, my ten- and eleven-year-old kids, Caroline and Stevie, and I ended up talking about children’s rights to their own stories and histories and the work we need to do as a society to promote and protect those rights. These conversations were informed by my children’s experiences as transracial adoptees.
Inspired by an article by Rumaan Alum’s article We Don’t Only Need Diverse Books. We Need Diverse Books Like A Snowy Day, many of you in the EmbraceRace community posted or messaged us your favorite books featuring kids of color NOT fighting bigotry, discrimination or enslavement. We’ll continue to add your suggestions to this completely crowdsourced list, so continue adding to the thread on Facebook.
Racial profiling - and white privilege?! - in my all-american multiracial family.
We meet my parents every Sunday, either for brunch at their retirement community or dinner at our house. We usually focus on Krishna and his latest antics. From the positives, like beginning to learn soccer and swimming, to the not-so-positive, like making himself burp — loudly, and often. We are political animals, and we often discuss current events, especially in an election season.
We talk freely about race and racism, which they experience acutely in their overwhelmingly white community in some of the same ways as when they first immigrated to this country from India over 50 years ago. Maybe it’s true about any generationally specific space, it seems kind of trapped in time.
With my heart breaking throughout the day, learning more and more about #KorrynGaines, the latest Black women, the 9th this year, murdered by the police, I began preparing for my kids’ bed time routines.
I sat in our rocking chair, feeding August, who is about to turn 1, and I kept running through the details: A SWAT team sent in to serve a warrant on someone with outstanding traffic violations. A confident, empowered Black woman who repeatedly documented her unjust racist encounters with law enforcement, as well as her spoken word poetry denouncing anti-Black racism. The police, fearing a repeat of a Facebook live stream of their actions, gets Facebook to deactivate her account, where she was posting videos about what was happening. Her recording, still up on Instagram, of her conversation with her 5 year old son, asking him why he thought the police were there, and his response, “to kill us”. And then they killed her, shooting and injuring her son as well.
In which we talk about confronting “weird questions” (or racial microagressions) with a little help from … an alien
When I started hearing buzz about Mike Jung’s middle-grade novel, Unidentified Suburban Object, I moved it to the top of my list of books to read with my eleven- and ten-year-old children, Stevie and Caroline. It ended up giving us one of the most meaningful shared readings I’ve ever had as a mom. A favorite moment occurred at the big reveal (spoiler alert) when middle-school-aged protagonist Chloe Cho discovers that her parents did not emigrate to the United States from Korea as they’d always told her; they escaped from a doomed planet and are … aliens. When I read the scene with Chloe’s revelation about her extraterrestrial heritage with my kids, Stevie shook his head back and forth as if rattling his brain around in his skull and said:
Experts in conversation with parents and educators
Listen to the full conversation or read an edited transcript below. EmbraceRace co-founders Andrew Grant-Thomas and Melissa Giraud frame and moderate this discussion between child psychologist Dr. Allison Briscoe-Smith, educator Dr. Sandra “Chap” Chapman, and a group of parents, teachers, and other caregivers concerned about black and brown children.
Spanish is not only our language, it’s how we express our love for each other.
My four-year-old is still “color blind,” but Yuvasi knows she’s different. She speaks two languages, Spanish at home and English when we step outside the door, although there are precious moments when she gets to use her Spanish with other bilingual kids and parents, as well as with people who want to practice the few phrases they learned in high school.
My daughter knows being bilingual is super special, and she’ll tell you so. We have taught her she’s special to be able to speak two languages, and that mom and dad understand four or five. It is our way of trying desperately to ingrain our ancestors’ language in her identity because, for our Latino family, language is everything. It’s more important than our arroz con pollo, and that’s saying a lot!
While being a person of multiracial or “mixed” background can be highly idiosyncratic, there are some common themes across our experiences. I’d like to share some of these commonalities as a way to support parents, family members, teachers and others who want to understand what mixed kids in a racially obsessed society might go through.
These examples are drawn from my life and from my conversations with other racially mixed people over the years.
A mother reflects on homeschooling amazing brown boys
According to the National Home Education Research Institute, about 2.3 million kids are homeschooled in the United States, as many as 1-in-3 of them kids of color. The 1-in-3 figure is smaller than the slightly more than half of K-12 students who are nonwhite, but, if close to accurate, still points to much greater racial and ethnic diversity in the homeschooled population than many of us suppose.
This much we know: the number of homeschoolers is growing and becoming more racially and ethnically diverse. We also know that many parents and guardians who choose to homeschool their kids of color do so, at least in part, for reasons related to race.
EmbraceRace asked a few such parents to take no more than 1,000 words to reflect on how their child’s (children’s) racial identity shaped either the decision to homeschool or how they homeschool.