I'm looking for something else.
People of mixed races float between cultures. There’s usually one side of our heritage we identify more with, and then there’s the other side. It’s like a custody visit when I experience the food, art, people and spaces associated with my other half. It’s a relationship. It’s fluid. There are negotiated terms and there’s an agenda for each interaction.
Consider my dismay when I was recently handed a fork while saddling up to a sushi bar. Not a big deal if you’re a non-Asian person who’s actually capable of using chopsticks — you just ask for chopsticks. For me, however, the mere presentation of a fork, specifically to me after seeing my face, is a disappointment. The gesture communicates that I’m not capable of handling this simple Asian thing, regardless of my ethnicity.
EmbraceRace talks with an expert about multicultural children’s books, diversity, and developing critical reading skills in kids.
Jennifer Manak is Associate Professor of Elementary Education and Coordinator of the Graduate Reading Program at Bridgewater State University in Bridgewater, Massachusetts. She teaches pre-service and in-service teachers how to teach literacy (reading, writing, speaking, and listening). Multicultural children’s literature and a concern for how to support all students are threads throughout her work.
If you have a young child in your life, be sure to check out Jenn’s K-5 Reading About Diversity curriculum.
Life on the reservationFor most of my childhood, I grew up on the Duck Valley Indian Reservation on the Nevada-Idaho border, a beautiful and pristine piece of land removed from luxuries like fast food restaurants, grocery stores, shopping centers, movie theaters, and most other urban comforts. Of course, we had some amenities and businesses on the reservation: a school, a post office, a hospital, a couple of cafes, and tribal government offices.
My childhood home on the reservation stands in the wide-open country, encircled by our family ranch. I grew up riding horses and branding cows, with open fields and dirt roads in all directions. I had a privileged childhood, rich with cultural expression, ranch lessons, and a strong sense of family and community.
An interview with Jeremy Whitley about his race-positive, gender-bending, subversive series for kids, Princeless.
Princeless series [recommended for ages 8+] by Jeremy Whitley (Action Lab Entertainment)
Synopsis: As a young girl Princess Adrienne was already critical of the princess stories her mother read to her. What kind of parents imprison their daughter in a tower? she scoffed. Until one day her parents do imprison her in a tower, as is the custom, so that the brave knight who slays the dragon guarding her can win her hand. But Princess Adrienne doesnât want to be saved or belong to a prince. So she decides to save herself and her seven sisters who are also trapped in towers. When her ruthless father, the king, hears about the âshort knightâ trying to free the princesses he calls for âhisâ head. Adventure, suspense and fun ensue. Along the way, we meet others (like her brother, Prince Devon!) who need to go against convention and expectations just to be themselves.
Melissa: Thanks so much for writing the Princeless series! What were you trying to do in regard to race with the story?