Being the best (and, at times, the worst) of two people at the same time.
Being from two different cultures and two different races.
I, myself, do not have personal knowledge about being biracial, however, earlier this year, I became a first-time mother to my Vietnamese-Black son. I know I’m biased, but he’s perfect. He’s absolutely everything I’ve ever dreamed of and so much more, and I don’t know how I got so lucky to be his mom.
His olive skin, sweet curls, and eyes that brighten my world easily make me melt every time I look at him. These are only a few of his physical attributes that I adore and know make him unique. However, I also know that when beauty is present, there is also ugliness. Particularly, ugly glances, ugly comments, ugly jokes (that aren’t funny at all), and ugly actions toward people that do not understand or even try to understand.
Being a person of color can already present its challenges, however, being a person of two different races and cultures can potentially add another layer.
My husband and I decided before we decided to become parents that we would raise our future child to celebrate both sides of his heritage and learn about the history of both cultures and races. It has always been important to us that our son knows for certain that he is of value, and that being a person of color and, specifically, a biracial person, will never make him less than. However, we do know that our child will face moments when he comes across individuals that try to diminish his racial identity and make him feel that he does not belong.
One way that I try to gain empathy and understanding about the lives of people that are different from me is by reading, and I also like to encourage others to gain empathy and understanding about others by reading, as well. This is where windows and mirrors come in. There is the idea that books can create the opportunity for readers to view another’s life through the pages (or window) of a book, particularly if the author and/or characters within the book are from a different background from you.
The other idea is that books can also create space for readers to see themselves on the pages (or, in this case, mirror) of a book. It is of great importance that readers of all ages are exposed to books that grant us the opportunities to see others’ experiences, hopes, and dreams, as well as books that provide the chance to see recognizable faces that remind them that they, too, will always belong and should always take up space.
I also want to note that while it is important for books to discuss or highlight the possible struggles that a marginalized character might face, it is just as important for people to read or hear books that just simply feature a marginalized character simply living their lives, whether that be going on a whirlwind vacation, leading their team to win the scoring point, or even falling in love.
The list below is by no means an extensive list but a starting point for youth (and adults!) to begin to listen to the voices of and look into the lives of biracial individuals and multicultural families:
12 Books Featuring Multicultural Families and Biracial Characters:
For Babies and Toddlers:
- You Were the First by Patricia MacLachlan
- Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers
- “More More More,” Said the Baby! by Vera Williams
For Elementary School Children:
- Black is Brown is Tan by Arnold Adoff
- The Two Mrs. Gibsons by Toyomi Igus
- The Hello Goodbye Window by Norton Juster
For Middle Grade:
- Blended by Sharon Draper
- Brenden Buckley’s Universe and Everything in It by Sundee Tucker Frazier
- The Whole Story of Half a Girl by Veera Hiranandani
- Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley **
- Color Me In by Natasha Diaz
- Mexican Whiteboy by Matt de la Peña
These are great titles that can be purchased to build your home library, or you can always check these titles out from your local library.
In addition to reading stories and literature about the biracial experience and multicultural families, in order to gain knowledge and perspective, below are valuable online resources that dive deeper into the meaning of race, diversity, inclusion, and equity with children.
These resources also include booklists, webinars, and other great ways to start meaningful conversations with children and teens:
One of my greatest hopes for my son is that he grows up to be comfortable in his skin and that he cherishes his heritage. I also hope that the world that he lives in will continue to progress, celebrate differences, and make space for him and others.
How do you celebrate your biracial family and culture?
**Please note, while Firekeepers Daughter does touch on being biracial and is a great book, it does contain teen suicide, rape, drug use, and murder.**