I’m sure you’ve all seen it by now. The terrific video of kids reacting to the recent Cheerios ad featuring a multi-ethnic family.
Despite the racist backlash the commercial (which features a white mother and African American father) initially garnered, what these children so eloquently express is the sheer ordinariness of multi-ethnic families in their world. What I love about this video is the “um, yea, so what?” quality of most of the kids’ reactions. There’s a lot we adults can learn there.
And indeed, that is the strength of stories — be they in the media or in middle grade books — which make race and ethnicity a real factor in characters’ lives but not necessarily a central ‘problem’ to be ‘addressed.’ Such stories represent the real faces of real families, and reflect the beauty of our diverse world. More importantly, they allow all our children to see themselves in the stories around them.
The U.S. is becoming and increasing multicultural place – and multiethnic families are everywhere — from East to West Coast, from Topeka to Tallahassee. It is the reality of my children’s lives and so many other children from families like ours. It’s a joy to find increasing images of multi-ethnic families in the media, and of course increasing numbers of books where having multiple languages, multiple types of food, multiple skin colors, and multiple histories in one family aren’t an anomaly, but a given.
So I thought I would dedicate this post to middle grade stories which celebrate multi-ethnic families. For more great titles check out these posts at Shen’s books , Cynthia Leitich Smith’s great blog and this blog by me at Three Sisters Moving Village on multi-ethnic characters in children’s and YA novels.
Bobby vs. Girls (Accidentally) by Lisa Yee: Whose hero, Robert Carver Ellis-Chan, has a Chinese American mother and white, ex-pro-football player father. Race is an incidental in this fantastic story, hardly a central ‘problem.’
Wonder by RJ Palacio: August Pullman’s mother is Brazilian and father is Jewish of Eastern European descent. Dealing with his facial deformity is far more pressing in the story than his mixed ethnic identity.
The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan: In Riordan’s popular Kane series, Carter and Sadie Kane are the children of an African American archaeologist father and white British mother. While Riordan explicitly discusses how the children (one of whom looks more white, the other more African American) are differentially treated by society, the adventure is the driving force of this story!
What are some of your favorite stories featuring multi-ethnic families?