#WeNeedMixedBooks

#WeNeedMixedBooks

Today is Father’s Day, and just last week, it was the 50th anniversary of the Loving decision. The anniversary gave me some time reflect on my mixed heritage. My dad is white and originally from Arkansas (he moved to CA in the 1970s), and my mom came to the U.S. from Mexico as a young adult. (My mom has been a citizen since the 1980s.) My parents got married in 1979. Here is one of their wedding photos.

Parents' wedding photo

Growing up, I didn’t know many mixed families, just mine, but that appears to be changing! It dawned on me recently that I have several friends raising children who are of mixed heritage. Here are some relevant articles on Loving, as well as the growing numbers of Americans who are mixed:

My sister and I started our school experience as Spanish-speakers; as the youngest, my brother didn’t have the same challenge. I didn’t realize we were “different” until elementary school, when kids didn’t believe some of my first cousins and I were related. Or worse, this woman who asked my mom if I was adopted. There is nothing wrong with adoption, but the question was to point out difference, and it was a terrible position to put her in, as well as for her child who was old enough to understand. I’ve seen and heard a lot from folks who are comfortable in addressing their fellow white person, as well as those who are comfortable speaking in Spanish as though I’m not there or can understand, not to mention the feeling that you don’t fit into neatly arranged categories. (This is just meant as a summary, and I’m also not going to get into my privilege as a very white and now graduate-educated Latina; I’m well aware.)

Books would have definitely helped with my identity issues, and, fortunately, times seem to be changing a bit. Prior to becoming an academic librarian, I worked as a bilingual (Spanish/English) library assistant in the children’s department of the Stanislaus County Library, and I about cried when I came across a picture called Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match. With the Loving anniversary, a friend of mine tagged all her friends in interracial marriages and partnerships, which prompted a very cool string of comments and photos. Our mutual friend made a special tribute about her marriage and family, and, from our exchange,  I found out that she had shown photos of my family to her daughter who is also half-Latina and half-white. I mentioned the Marisol McDonald book, and I let my friend know I would do a search for some more kids’ books. Although there is a disparity in representing children from a variety of backgrounds in children’s books in general (see the #weneediversebooks campaign), The Washington Post‘s “Where Are All the Interracial Children’s Books? points out that there aren’t many picture books that feature mixed children. I started doing some searching for pictures books about mixed families and children, and I was surprised to find a small but growing body of books (note that the lists below often share titles).

Now, this is somewhat of a side note, but I think Mixed Remixed, which is “a film, book & performance festival celebrating stories of the mixed-race and multiracial experience,” is so interesting! I had never heard of it before. I took a peek at some resources, I found this really cool list of TED Talks linked on the Mixed Remixed website, “6 TED Talks, By, For, and About Biracial and Mixed-Race Folks.”

I’m also glad to have found an online community of librarians who identify as POC that I can reach out to thanks to a librarian friend. Some members of the group mentioned that I ought to listen to The Mash-Up Americans podcast and the  Other: Mixed Race in America podcast. Code Switch also recently had an episode called A Prescription for ‘Racial Imposter Syndrome,'” which another librarian mentioned that she really identified with as a mixed person who grew up with her white parent. It has been great to hear about the multicultural families some of these librarians are raising, as well.

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “#WeNeedMixedBooks

  1. This is wonderful, Lindsay! I’ll definitely take a look at those lists and find some good books for my own little Irish-looking, half-Mexican 5 year old. 🙂 I struggle with really wanting him to understand and identify with his Chicano heritage, but also wanting him to form his own identity as he grows into himself. I just want him to know where he comes from and feel like despite his Irish-sounding name, dirty blonde hair and light golden skin, he’s Latino, too. It’s such a huge part of my own identity and one I’m really proud of.

    I’m sorry your mom had that experience (being asked if you were adopted). I worry sometimes when I’m out with my son and my mom that I’ll get some kind of odd/awkward comment like that. So far we just get a lot of “oh, he must look a lot like dad” comments, but nothing more than that. I feel like I’m always bracing myself for something more, though.

    Thanks for sharing your experience 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for your comments, Veronica!

    It’s only been in my 20s and 30s that I have started to feel more comfortable in my mixed identity. It’s a struggle, especially if you happen to look a little more like the white parent like I do. 😉 I grew up with my mom’s side, so I do feel more connected to the Mexican side. I think it’s great to show your son that he is both sides and doesn’t have to choose a nice and neat box about where to fit.

    I’m also interested in going through these book lists. My sister married a man from Peru, and their daughter is also a mixed baby. She is going to need these books, too! I also need to share what I’ve found so far with my friends who are raising kids with mixed heritage.

    I’m not sure what else people must have assumed/asked when I was little, but one of my mom’s cousins has a daughter whose children are half white and half Latino (Mexican and Puerto Rican). While I feel like the two kids look alike, one is very blonde and blue-eyed, while the other is brunette with brown eyes. She gets weird looks, and I told my mom’s cousin that I definitely understood how it feels to be in that awful situation. I’m so glad to hear that no one has said anything awful to you or your family…yet! I hope it stays that way.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s