By Jennifer Sunami
Now that a new mixed race baby has joined the British royal family, questions of race and identity are once more percolating through the news. Having a prominent and public lineage means that everyone pretty much knows, or think they know, your family history. There are already articles talking about this baby as an important symbol for people hoping for full cultural representation for mixed race kids. However, as comments about Meghan Markle’s racial identity have showed, knowing that someone has a particular racial background still leaves open the question of what being mixed race really means, and no baby, no matter how famous, can answer that.
We’ve talked about raising mixed race kids on this blog before, and also discussed what it feels like as parents to confront the issues that multiracial kids might face. However, one of the best ways to come to an understanding of what it means to be mixed race is to read and listen to stories about multiracial people. In that spirit, here’s a list to engage kids and adults in the conversation about mixed race identity:
For Younger Readers:
• I Love Saturdays y Domingos by Alma Flor Ada
A young child visits her White grandparents on Saturday and her Mexican-American grandparents on Sundays. As she alternates between her two cultural heritages she explores the similarities and differences they share.
• Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match by Monica Brown
The energetic girl at the center of this book may have two halves that don’t “match,” but they still go together. Inspired in part by the experiences of the author, Marisol knits together the different pieces of her identity with verve and confidence. Several books are available in this series.
• Anna Hibiscus’ Song by Atinuke
Anna Hibiscus is the protagonist of this light-hearted yet substantive series of books, based on the Nigerian childhood of the author. Telling specific and engaging stories about a young girl living in an unnamed African city with her interracial family, Anna Hibiscus makes you want to get to know her better as she embarks on her various adventures. These books are available in both picture book and young reader editions.
• Oreo by Fran Ross
Funky and fun, this satiric novel is a comedic romp through questions of race, identity, codeswitching, and more. Rejecting the stereotype of the tragic mulatto, the title character embarks on a picaresque journey to search for her father through the streets of 1970’s New York.
• Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
A collection of personal essays by comedian Trevor Noah, this book underscores the importance of having a strong sense of family identity and familial love in the face of deep societal racism. Also available in a young readers’ edition.
• Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama
Perhaps one of the most famous biracial figures of our time, this classic memoir by Barack Obama is a moving personal story that also provides an accessible introduction to questions of racial identity in the United States.
• A Prescription For "Racial Imposter Syndrome" - Codeswitch podcast
NPR’s Codeswitch podcast asks how it feels to be in-between identities.
• "Being Biracial" - Still Processing podcast (start at 11:00)
A free-ranging discussion about how biracial identity shows up in pop culture, from the New York Times’ podcast Still Processing.
As human beings, we like organizing the world, and race is one way we do that. Even people who don’t fit into a single box can struggle with the desire to have an easy-to-understand label for their identity. However, by exploring a multitude of stories and perspectives we can find ways to better understand ourselves and others, and assert our humanity outside of the narrow constraints of categories. With that, best wishes to the Duke and Duchess!