When I was a little black girl growing up in Detroit, I drooled over the works of R.L. Stein, C.S. Lewis, and J.K. Rowling. My childhood was loving yet tumultuous to say the least and these white characters and fictional lands transported me somewhere else… I was free when I read YA novels. And I loved that feeling of freeness and excitement. Never knowing what would happen next.
I was seventeen when I decided to write my very own sci-fi novel. It was horrible, but at the time, I thought it was the shit! All I knew was that I was going to be a writer just like my favorite authors and allow kids and teens to have a healthy escape through words like I had. I finished the novel and sent it to agents in New York and LA. Some of them took the bait and asked for more chapters, but ultimately, every single one rejected my manuscript.
What was wrong with my story? There weren’t any protagonists of color in any of the mainstream novels that I’d read. No strong black females on alien territory. No Asian or Latino superheroes. I was trying to bring diversity to a whitewashed industry by submitting my book. And they just said NO.
I was hurt. That hurt turned into self-doubt. Who was I to try and change an industry that didn’t want to represent marginalized voices? So, I got discouraged and stopped…
Fast forward. Life taught me courage. It taught me to take chances and stick by them no matter what. I finally got my writing mojo back. I wrote three more novels, countless short stories, and took every craft class on creative writing that I could.
In 2013, I got accepted into a creative writing program where I was paired up with a mentor that’d been published by one of the top publishing houses. This is where I got my idea for my debut novel, IMPURE.
One day, I was listening to Coldplay featuring Rihanna and this amazing idea came to me. What if I wrote a story about a young black girl or boy who reigned over an entire civilization in the future? How would the world be if the tables were turned? From that, I started developing my teenaged female protagonists, Saige and Avi.
In this world, we are five hundred years into the future. America has two regions: the North, where primitives reside and the South, where highly technological Blacks rule. The majority of this story takes place in the Southern Region where Blacks have enslaved Whites.
Saige is a very gritty and complex character. She’s an Impure (mixed with Black and White) and categorized as a Lower Resident like the other slaves and forced to work until she expires. Both her parents were executed for producing her, so she drifts through life alone, bitter, and seeking freedom. Her goal is to escape from the region, which is nearly impossible.
Avi is the General’s daughter and next succeeding general. She is smart, intuitive, but sometimes emotional and naïve. She doesn’t agree with the slave system her forefathers have set up and wishes to change it when she becomes ruler. The problem is her father isn’t having it and does whatever he can to keep her in line. Even if that means marrying her off to a boy she hates.
There is a third character, Leo, a white farm worker who has underdeveloped telekinetic abilities. White rebels want to use him to overthrow the government.
These three teens from different castes are in search of their own identities in a world where everything is set in stone.
But together, they start to make waves in an unequal system.
I want IMPURE to be a conversation starter. And most importantly, I want it to be an adventure for the reader. It has strong underline themes like racial equality, government control, and feminism, but it’s a book that a girl of color could read and enjoy just as much as a young White boy could.
This isn’t a Black against White story or vice versa. This is a whoever-has-power-will-probably-misuse-it story. It makes you wonder who’s good and who’s bad. The lines are very much so blurred. Just like in real life. And I think that’s pretty freakin’ cool!
Leah Vernon is a twenty-something African American and a proud Muslim from Metro Detroit. She loves Sailor Moon and X-Men and always tries to incorporate mystical elements into her fictional worlds. Her main focus is bringing diversity to commercial YA/NA fiction. Well, because it’s needed. Badly. She also has a B.S. in management, an M.A. in creative writing/fiction, and an MFA in publishing from Wilkes University. When she isn’t writing or eating tasty foods, she’s modeling and tending to her body positive style blog.
I cannot believe they cast another light skinned biracial woman to play storm.
Storm is not biracial or mixed. She is African and African-American in ethnicity.
SHE HAS DARK SKIN. Just because she has grey eyes doesn’t mean anything. Honestly, I’m tired of Hollywood hiring biracial light skinned women to play dark skinned non biracial characters.
I’m also just so disrespected that for both storm roles (old and young) they chose the WORST actors. Yeah you heard me there are better actresses than Halle AND definitely there are better actors than Alexandra.
Author C.J. Omololu stopped by DiYA to talk about her most recent novel, Transcendence, and the reactions to having a boy of color on the cover of a book that isn’t about race.
My YA novel Transcendence came out last June, and one of the first industry reviews I read liked the fact that there was a biracial character on the cover, but commented that “there was no textual follow-up.” Many other reviewers felt the same way — that because there was a person of color on the cover, that fact should be addressed somewhere in the text. Comments generally came in two versions — “why is there a brown boy on the cover when the book isn’t about race?” or “I didn’t pick it up because I thought it was a ‘race’ book.”
It seems that for many readers, it’s confusing to have a brown character on the cover of a book just because.
I didn’t set out to write a diverse YA book. I wanted to write a fun, romantic book about a group of people who remember their past lives — the fact that the love interest was biracial was just part of the story, and honestly, I didn’t think about it very much. The characters in the book are a reflection of the community where I live in Northern California and people who know me will testify that I’d rather borrow from real life than make things up.
I was thrilled when my publisher Bloomsbury/Walker decided to put Griffon on the cover of Transcendence — not because he’s brown, but because he’s cute, and the cover reflected the story perfectly. There is no discussion of race in the book, no questioning by Cole’s parents when they’re introduced to Griffon, no commentary on their interracial relationship. Griffon’s dad is white and we meet him in the very first chapter, and his mom is African American and plays a large part in the story. All of this is just because these were the characters who fit the story I was telling.
It was only in the eleventh hour as we dove into copyedits that the question came up at all — my editor and I realized that we’d never addressed the “race issue” in the story and unanimously decided to leave it that way. I live in an interesting community — our high school is 40% Hispanic, 25% Asian, 17% White, 15% Black and 2% Multi-Racial. My boys have friends and have liked girls who are part of each of these communities and it’s never been an issue.
My family is a crazy study in genetics. My background is a mix of Swedish and Scottish while my husband is Nigerian. Our oldest has brown skin, brown eyes and curly brown hair (at 15, he looks remarkably like Griffon on the cover of the book — a fact that he doesn’t love), while our youngest son is very fair with green eyes and blonde curly hair.
(Photo: The Omololu family, with C.J. on the left, her two sons, and her husband on the right.)
If you ask either of them who they are, they’ll answer: baseball player, track runner, trampoline master, guitar player, honor student, etc. I’m not sure that “biracial” would even come up in the top ten. I think that like most families, we’re just going about the business of our daily lives — we don’t sit around the dining room table talking about race, and that’s the idea I wanted to carry into my story.
I think that there is a big need in today’s society for books that are about race or coming out. I also think that there is a big need for books that have gay or racially diverse characters just because these are the people who are present in our daily lives.
I have to say, I’ve been thrilled with the reaction from both Barnes and Noble and indie booksellers — all of them have placed Transcendence face-out in the regular YA section, which to me is a big win. Only by normalizing diverse characters into our stories can we honestly reflect the lives of all of our readers.
Please take this opportunity to give us insight to Cassandra’s race/ethnicity beyond “Eurasian”. It’s awesome that we have a beautiful and amazing biracial character, but you have a terrible habit of treating all East Asian countries as interchangeable and they’re not. So if you could give us the actual heritage of Lady Shiva/Sandra Wusan (along with official spelling for her last name as you changed that a lot) and Cassandra Cain it would be really great.
Please also take this opportunity to get Cassandra’s eye color correctly because that’s a bare minimum thing that actually matters a lot more than you’d initially think considering comic’s (and specifically Gotham’s) diversity woes.
Please also also do not remove Cassandra’s status as a woman with speech and learning disabilities. This defined her character and was a remarkable point of representation for your comics in the early 2000s, a time that was not very kind in presentation of various disabilities.
Many discussions on diversity in books center on so-called issue stories vs. non-issue ones. Issue books, like you’d expect, focus on a particular social issue: a gay protagonist, for example, comes to terms with his sexuality or struggles with the aftereffects of coming out; an interracial romance where the major roadblock is the interracial-ness of the romance; a poor, inner-city black girl struggles to escape the awful social history that sees her born into a troubled family in a crime-ridden neighborhood.
Issue books are important. I’ll say that again for emphasis. Issue books, especially the ones written for marginalized young adults struggling to come of age in a world that too often tells them they are deviant in some way, are crucial. It is important for a young gay boy to be able to locate himself in a book, to see that there are others like him, to know in his bones that he is normal, his feelings are valid, his sexuality is good and true. If a book can do that for him then it’s worth its weight in gold. Similarly, it’s important for that little black girl to know that life can be better, that you can find your own place in the world on your own terms.
But there’s another kind of book too: the non-issue book. This is the book where the gay protagonist isn’t struggling at all. He’s already come out. The people that matter have accepted him, everyone else be damned. Maybe he has a boyfriend, or a long time crush. Maybe he’s also about to discover that he’s a wizard, and that’s what the book is about: an adventure story about love, friendship and believing in yourself. This imagined book, this non-issue book, is not firstly about being gay. It’s about magic.
When I started writing Everything, Everything, the protagonist was always going to be of mixed race — not because there was a particular racial issue I wanted to address, but because that is simply who she is. We live in a world where diversity is a fact of life. Diversity is the natural state of things. There are about 20,000 species of butterflies on our planet. 23,000 different kinds of trees. The idea of a single homogenous anything, let alone “race” is a construct of culture that goes against everything in nature, and our books should reflect that. We breathe oxygen. The sun rises and also sets. We are diverse.
Issue books are important. And non-issue books are just as important. I don’t spend the majority of my days thinking about race and where the color of my skin locates me in the world. I spend my days as most people do: I work, I laugh, I worry, I dream, I strive to be happy. I believe in love. And magic. I hope that my mixed race daughter will be able to spend less time than I do thinking about race. I hope she will read stories about people that are just like her and stories about people who are not. I hope that she’ll read scary stories, issue stories, funny stories, romantic stories and fantastical stories with dragons and beasts that need slaying.
And I hope that the heroine of some of these stories will look just like her.
Nicola Yoon grew up in Jamaica (the island) and Brooklyn (part of Long Island). She currently resides in Los Angeles, CA with her husband and daughter, both of whom she loves beyond all reason.
Everything, Everything is available for purchase here.
One of my favorite people in the world is Claudia Kishi. Maybe you’ve heard of her?
She has a killer fashion sense.
She’s super talented at art.
And oh … she’s not exactly real.
Claudia happens to be a character from The Babysitter’s Club series, which I devoured like Snickers bars when I was elementary school. (And I can eat a lot of Snickers bars!) But do you know what’s funny? I actually don’t have very much in common with Claudia. She has a real gift for art whereas I struggle to mix paint. She doesn’t like studying for school whereas I was that annoying kid who hyperventilated over getting a B in biology. But none of that mattered to my childhood self. What mattered to me was that I saw myself in Claudia.
She was Asian-American.
I was Asian-American.
Here was a girl who looked like me! In a book that I loved!
When I read my very first BSC novel, my 9-year-old mind was honestly blown. I had never come across an Asian American character in a novel before. It felt as if Ann M. Martin had pointed a finger at my nose and said, “Hey, you! Yeah, you, I see you. And you matter.”
Over twenty years later, I hope that my own book might have the same impact on a young reader. And maybe it’ll impact a biracial reader in particular because the main character of my novel The Only Thing to Fear is half-Japanese and half-Caucasian. I can’t seem to find very many children’s novels with biracial protagonists, which makes me sad because the multiracial population has increased 50 percent — that’s right, 50! — since the year 2000 in America. These children are craving to find faces like their own in the books that they read. They’re yearning to find their own Claudias.
That’s one of the reasons why I created Zara St. James, the main character of my debut. She lives in a world very different from our own — one where the Nazis won WWII and colonized the United States — but she’s up against many of the same issues that multiracial people face in our society. For instance, Zara battles racism and bullying in her homogenous town in the Shenandoah valley because her face sticks out from the crowd. And she feels split between her two halves because she’s deemed not “white enough” or “Asian enough” to fit in with anyone else. She’s biracial and she has no problem with this fact, but some people make her feel like an outsider anyway. But Zara refuses to let these people get to her and, as the novel progresses, she’s ready to show everyone in her town and all of the Nazis in the US — even the Führer himself— that she won’t be underestimated.
It’s my humble hope that one day we won’t have to pore over the shelves at the bookstore and library to find books that feature diverse characters. I really want to read these books — and I want my biracial daughter to read them too. After all, doesn’t she deserve her own Claudia Kishi?
I think so.
And together, we’re going to find her.
* * *
Caroline Tung Richmond is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the Baltimore Sun, Highlights for Children, and USAToday.com, among other publications. The Only Thing to Fear is her debut novel and will be published by Scholastic Press on 9/30/14. A self-proclaimed history nerd, Caroline lives in the Washington, DC area with her husband; their daughter; and the family dog Otto von Bismarck.
The close relationship of a pair of biracial twins is tested when their grandmother enters them in a pageant for African American girls in this new story from Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award winner Sundee T. Frazier.
When Minerva and Keira King were born, they made headlines: Keira is black like Mama, but Minni is white like Daddy. Together the family might look like part of a chessboard row, but they are first and foremost the close-knit Kings. Then Grandmother Johnson calls, to invite the twins down South to compete for the title of Miss Black Pearl Preteen of America.
Minni dreads the spotlight, but Keira assures her that together they’ll get through their stay with Grandmother Johnson. But when grandmother’s bias against Keira reveals itself, Keira pulls away from her twin. Minni has always believed that no matter how different she and Keira are, they share a deep bond of the heart. Now she’ll find out the truth.
“I’m first and foremost a writer for kids, because I think kids are fantastic, amazing, wonderful and a whole bunch of other great things. But that doesn’t mean that my stories are for kids only. Every story has a gift for the one who comes to it with an open heart, no matter that person’s age.“ ~ Sundee T. Frazier
For the sake of my mental health, I’m trying not to track the reviews of my debut novel (Seven Ways We Lie) too obsessively. This is difficult for me. I have the curiosity of the proverbial dead cat, and Goodreads—Jesus Christ—Goodreads is right there. On the internet. My very own internet.
These days, I’m better about staying away from reviews. Still, I’ve perused quite a few, and one thing I’ve seen cropping up has me curious, maybe a little frustrated. I’d like to address it.
One of the narrators in Seven Ways We Lie is a pansexual guy. In reviews, I’ve seen him referred to as gay a couple times; he’s also been described by phrases along the lines of “figuring out/confused about his sexuality.” This keeps pawing at the back of my mind. This character says specifically that he’s not gay, he’s not bi: he’s pan. He’s not at all confused about it. He figured it out before the narrative begins.
So, if the character is clear about the way he labels himself—and I wrote it in as very deliberate—why is it getting misconstrued?
I think it’s the simple fact that our society has a binary problem. This isn’t exactly news. I’m biracial and bisexual, so I’ve lived through this continuous problem of “rounding.” Example: I’m half-Chinese and half-Irish, but I don’t really pass as white, so people often round me up to simply “Asian.” On the other hand, my sister, who can pass as white, often gets rounded up to white instead. Let’s say I have a boyfriend: on sight, people would round me up to straight. Let’s say I have a girlfriend: people would round me up to lesbian.
The problem of being in the middle of a spectrum rather than out at the ends is a curious one. I think we’ve largely reached a point in our society where being gay or lesbian makes sense to the general public. In contrast, for people whose identities exist in this sort of liminal space—e.g.: pan, bi, trans, non-binary, gray-ace, and demi people—others start to view our self-definition as murky or undefined.
This perception needs to change. Liminal identities are fully-formed and whole, not mix-and-match grab bags of other identities tossed together. As someone both Chinese and Irish, I joke about being “Chirish,” but in all seriousness, it feels more accurate than “half-Chinese, half-Irish.” I don’t feel cut down the middle. The experience of being mixed-race is itself unique. Similarly, the experience of being bisexual is itself unique: bisexuality is not straightness with a couple of alterations chucked in; nor is it gayness with a few straight-person decorations on top. It’s its own thing. It is more, as they say, than the sum of its parts.
Rounding, as I see it, comes from the larger problem of defaulting. The phrase “default to white” describes a pervasive reading habit in which many readers assume characters are white when their race isn’t textually listed. Unfortunately, defaulting isn’t confined to fiction. If, for instance, someone meets a white-passing, masculine-presenting genderqueer person, they may very well assume, “white dude!” This comes down to a problem of history. We can’t know what’s hiding in other people’s heads. We don’t know their pasts; we don’t know their struggles; we don’t know their identities. In this way, fiction affords us a wonderful opportunity. Unlike with strangers on the street, readers can—in just a few pages!—peel back characters’ outside layers and get a full portrait of history. We can meet and understand characters who live in the interstices between majorities. No rounding required.
Identity politics can get kind of tangled, but the central focus seems to be on respecting people exactly as they are, with no exceptions. The first step to that is getting it all right. Pure factual accuracy. This begins with an internal mandate to challenge assumptions: Not to assume that people in hetero relationships are themselves heterosexual, or that a guy who likes another guy is gay. Not to assume race, creed, or gender identity. Not to assume that someone is neurotypical or fully abled just because they have no outward sign of disability. On the most basic and fundamental level, our square-one mission (should we choose to accept it) is to challenge the assumption that other people can be defaulted into any particular mold. There is no “default person.” The spectrum of human identity is too full for us to ignore all that happens in the middle.
Riley Redgate is the author of Seven Ways We Lie, a contemporary YA novel with seven narrators, one for each of the seven deadly sins, out March 8th from Abrams/Amulet. Riley loves horror movies, heavy rain, and the Atonement soundtrack. She often feels, when writing author bios, as if she is writing some sort of weirdly formal Tinder profile. You can follow her on Tumblr at http://batmansymbol.tumblr.com and on Twitter @RileyRedgate.
A biracial student questions her identity in this contemporary novel
from the author of the Coretta Scott King/John Steptor Award–winning The Rock and the River.
and Z have been friends forever, both of them middle-school outsiders
in their Las Vegas suburb. Ella is the only black girl in her grade and
gets teased for the mottled colors of her face. (Her deceased father was
white.) Z is the classic “weird kid” who maintains an elaborate—and
public—fantasy life, starring himself as a brave knight. Though Z is
content with his imagined world, Ella wishes for a larger group of
friends, so she’s thrilled when Bailey, another black kid, arrives at
their school. He’s popular and wants to befriend Ella—but to join the
cool crowd, Ella would have to ditch Z. Does she stay loyal to the boy
who has been her best and only friend for years, or jump at the chance
to realize her dream of popularity?
Author Kekla Magoon deftly
navigates the muddy waters of racial and cultural identities in this
contemporary exploration of one girl’s attempt to find herself.
is the author of four young adult novels: Camo Girl, 37 Things I Love, Fire in the Streets, and The Rock and the River, for which she received the ALA Coretta Scott King New Talent Award and an NAACP Image Award nomination. She also writes non-fiction on historical topics…continue reading
Alright, let's look at the diversity in Big Hero 6:
Edit: This is a VERY old post that I did when it was only concept art and a few shots released, so don’t take this too seriously! For instance, Honey was confirmed to be Latina after u made this. However, few of the concepts are different from the final product
And I’m not just talking about racial diversity. There’s more to this film than just that.
Here are our main 7 + 1 characters… imagine Baymax is there:
gif credit to disneyismyescape because I’m too lazy to make my own gifs right now
First, let’s talk about racial diversity, and I will be including Tadashi and Aunt Cass in this because they are related to Hiro, and I’m sure they’ll be in about 1/3 to half of the film. Plus, they’ve been talked about as being part of the main cast, so why not?
We have two Asian-Caucasian males- biracial characters, that’s not something you see in every animation- one white male, one white female- although, people seem to think she might be Latino? I mean, look at her action figure, you never know, but we’ll see- one Japanese female, and one black male.
That’s a pretty racially diverse group. 4/6- 2/3- are POC’s.
The team is 1/3 women, that’s more than I can say for certain franchises…. AHEM The Avengers and the Justice League AHEM
Ethnically? Can’t say much yet since the film hasn’t been released.
Personality-wise? Not yet.
Now, let’s talk about character design. Let’s start with these amazing ladies:
Let’s start with Aunt Cass:
I freaking love this design. It’s so simple, but she looks like a middle-aged parent, even though she is not Hiro and Tadashi’s biological mother. She’s wearing clothes that anyone, especially mothers, wear. She a nice size and is not stick thin, creating even more diversity among the ladies.
I know this is concept art, but it’s basically exactly what she looks like now, so I’ll use it.
GoGo is an extremely rare design in animation. She’s a short, muscled, and average-sized female. She has thick thighs and calves with hips to match and curves that makes sense. Most Disney ladies are pretty skinny with unusually large hips that give them curves to make them look just a bit too exaggerated for most tastes. For example, Elsa, and even Merida. Just look at a picture of them and I think it’s obvious that their hips are a bit too big for the small body that they have, but Merida is closest to realistic.
I’m just happy to see a design like GoGo’s finally in an animated movie that will be pretty popular. Kids need representation for body type, and GoGo’s body-type is one that isn’t really represented a lot in entertainment and media, and that’s pretty ridiculous since a significant percentage of women on this earth are GoGo’s body-type
I’m not even going to go into the argument of her looking like Rapunzel or Anna or Elsa because, honestly, that’s just what happens with CGI. Disney has a style of character with CGI and they’ll stick with it until they completely revamp the way they design CGI characters. The only thing they have in common is long blonde (honey-blonde…. haha) hair and maybe the eyes. Honey Lemon’s face is pointer, and not to mention, she is tall. Thank you, Disney, for giving us a tall female character- that’s not something you see every day, either.
Besides, what does her design really have to do with how well you might like the character? A character is almost completely their personality, their design is just the vessel in which they convey their personality and their thoughts and ideas. You can like a character without enjoying their designs- depending on the person.
Also, I would just like to say, to anyone complaining about redesigns and how bad she looks to them, this is her look from the comics:
Yeah… what a great design. It’s definitely better than the armor that Disney is giving her that covers her whole body and face with material that will protect her and give her better mobility…. totally better. And who doesn’t want a sexualized Disney character? …. yeah, most everyone doesn’t, especially Disney. At least, not like this; they had their fun with Elsa, but this is way different.
And to anyone complaining about if she’s white in this, please read the comics- preferably the awkward 2008 comics. She was pretty obsessed with American culture and did everything she could to look white, she even changed her eye colour; it was a bit… weird. So, if she is white in this, I really don’t see the problem since, if she had been Japanese, people would have been angry with her looking white. If she’s the rumoured Latino? Cool.
The new design for Honey is practical and makes sense. You have a short and curvy girl compared to a tall and wiry girl- two body-types that do exist, but don’t get a lot of attention. Representation for female body-types is important, and I think they movie is doing a great job at it.
Now, on to the boys.
I can honestly say that this is a great design. He’s a tall stalky guy that is very obsessed with keeping things clean. I just think it will be a great mix. It’s a pretty normal design, but I think that it works in the character’s favor. Some people are complaining about his hair, but I see no problem with it since I’ve seen people with hair like that before and it’s not that uncommon.
This is the character that’s caused the most “controversy”, but I really don’t see why. He’s white, yes, but the original character wasn’t a POC. Barely anything is known about his character in the comics, so this shouldn’t be a big deal. If you’re going to have a diverse cast, and a big part of the audience will be white, you might want to have a white person. I’m just saying, that’s a thing.
The fangirls love this design, and I can’t say that I disagree because I love it, too. His large ears stand out, and his clothing is very much like the engineering students I see at the college in my town; it’s a familiar design, but Disney hasn’t really done anything like this. You can tell that he’s mixed race, and that’s just awesome.
And, finally, the fandom favorite… Hiro:
Disney really hit the mark with this design. Hiro’s short, wears baggy clothes to make him seem even smaller, and he has a tooth gap. Fan’s fell for his adorable design, and who can blame them? Disney is good at making cute characters (remember Up’s Russell? It’s still Disney). He has the wild hair that calls back to his original manga style, and anime in general, unlike Tadashi who got the “plain” hair.
Dang it, Disney. Stop making cute characters, it’s not fair to your audience.
I think the great thing about this design is that it will kind of foil Hiro’s personality. He seems like he will be a pretty sarcastic, defensive, and forward kid- like any kid. He won’t be the old wide-eyed innocent character that Disney used to always have.
And just a short mention:
No, Baymax’s design is not racist. He is white because he is white in the comics, and it is easier to put a white robot with his design in environments than a dark colour. The racist argument is not valid here.
All in all, there is a lot of diversity in Big Hero 6, be it body-type or race. People need to take off their critical goggles and realize that Disney did not race-bend and change the environment simply because they thought that an all Asian cast wouldn’t sell- do you remember Mulan at all? They did it because they wanted the movie to be in a place that seems like it could be anywhere and so that their audience could relate. They took the original city and combined it with one of the most diverse cities in the world to make their own city.
So that’s my hopefully okay “analysis”… I hope you liked it!
Destiny And Faith Go To Twincentric Academy is now available as an eBook on Amazon. I am super excited to announce this!
Destiny and Faith are going into second grade and their mom has a great idea. She’s going to send them to a school for twins! They’re not sure whether to be excited or terrified. Come join them and see what happens!
“ I was delighted by Destiny and Faith, who are mixed race/bi-racial, perfect for some children very close to me. However, let me quickly say that this is a story for all children.” - Mary Josefina Cade, author of The Magician’s Fire
“What Destiny learns teaches the little girl a whole lot about human nature itself.” - Linda Cargill, author of Key To Lawrence
“This is one for Ms. O'Malley’s target audience, I would highly recommend.” - Monty Wheeler, author of Fifty Shades Of Dark
One humid August afternoon many years ago, a 12-year-old girl huddled in the corner of a staircase, weeping. She was waiting for her parents to come home and comfort her, although she didn’t know if they could do it. A voracious reader, the girl had just found a copy of a book on transracial adoption – that is, a book about children of color adopted into white families – on the top shelf of her parents’ bookcase. Excited to finally find a book that spoke directly to her experience, the girl settled onto the family couch and dug into the worn paperback, devouring narrative after narrative on adult adoptees. After awhile, she began to notice her body heating up, as she read stories of black adults who had been raised in white environments. These grown adoptees stated that they would never fit in with white culture because they were not white, nor black culture, because they could not perform blackness. This is what will happen to me, the girl thought, and an alarm sounded in her brain. This is what has happened to me already. There is nothing I can do.
Of course, that girl was me, crouched, alone, and desperate for hope and some sort of recognition, on that step in my house as a teenager. Although it took me years to do it, I wrote See No Color for her. This coming-of-age young adult novel is for that scared 12-year-old mixed black girl, and all the other transracial adoptees out there, growing up alone withoutcommunity, feeling like they will never really fit in anywhere and be “normal.” More universally, it is for anyone who has ever been outside the mainstream, and anyone who yearns to find a tribe where they can be truly accepted. It is for all those who have looked for themselves in the books and stories around them, and instead have only found a blank space, or something that scared them.
In telling the story of Alexandra Kirtridge, a mixed black girl adopted into a loving if somewhat misguided family, I wanted to offer that girl I was something else to pick up off that bookshelf. I wanted her to know that there are also stories of healing through the complexity of negotiating a multifaceted identity, not just stories of breaking under the weight of it. I wanted that girl to see herself years from then, as part of both black and white communities as well as others, standing right in the middle of that messiness and feeling all of it: the belonging, the not belonging, the shame, the joy, the endless questioning.
Now an adult with my own family, to me, this is the beauty of what Chicana feminist Gloria Anzaldua has termed the borderlands/la frontera: It is a place where one’s shifting identity and multicultural fluencies and deficiencies are assets – simply because one does not demand that the world make them feel safe or legible. There is a freedom to being misread, or not read at all. There is also a freedom in not being at the center all the time. I hope this is one message that See No Color conveys.EndFragment
Shannon Gibney is a writer, educator, activist, and the author of See No Color, a young adult novel. Her writing has appeared in Al Jazeera America Magazine, The Crisis, Gawker, and other venues. A Bush Artist and McKnight Writing Fellow, she lives with her husband and children in Minneapolis.