Thursday, March 16, 2006

Beyond FACTS: DOES ANYBODY ELSE LOOK LIKE ME? by Donna Jackson Nakazawa

I’m not sure how I missed this book until now. Published in 2003, Does Anybody Else Look Like Me? A Parent's Guide to Raising Multiracial Children is exactly the type of book parents of mixed-race children need. We identify with true anecdotes and quotes from people in families like ours, not statistics. We seek specific insights into what our children feel and what they need from us, not generalities and overviews of typical crises children of mixed race supposedly are doomed to endure.

My first-grade daughter recently asked, “Am I black, or am I white? I don’t know.” When we talked more she revealed a friend had asked about her skin color and she hadn’t known how to answer. I thought we’d covered this issue enough to prepare her for such questions, but apparently reading a few books and talking about her parents’ backgrounds hadn’t been enough. She wanted to know specific details regarding her, not anyone else in our family. Ultimately she decided that rather than saying she’s “in between” being black and white, she prefers to say she’s “both”—she’s black and white and (I assured her many times!) she’s wonderful. I explained that it’s fine for her to offer friends details about her family if she wants to, but she shouldn’t ever feel obligated. My daughter returned home from school the next day to report that she’d told all this to her friend and her friend had understood. I’d assumed things would work out fine, but I have to admit I was relieved to see how happy my daughter was with the current outcome. I knew we’d face many more challenges down the road, but at least this immediate challenge had been addressed and put to rest...for now.

I’ll be reading Donna Jackson Nakazawa’s book soon in hopes of learning many more strategies for approaching this tricky subject with my children. Does Anybody Else Look Like Me? features chapters that cover special issues for all age groups, recommended reading lists for children and teens, and chapter titles such as “Who Do I Match—Mom or Dad or Anyone?” Boy, do those words sound familiar…!


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