Sunday, June 16, 2013

Book Review: "Does Anybody Else Look Like Me? A Parent's Guide To Raising Multiracial Children"



 ©  Sharon Chang and Multiracial Asian Families Blog, Jun 16 2013

Being a multiracial woman myself (and mother to a multiracial child), I was very excited about this book. As the author adeptly points out, there's really very little out there - practically nothing - speaking to the task of raising multiracial children. It is important and significant that Nakazawa tackled this subject and gave it presence. She clearly did her research and has included an incredible amount of good information.

However.


By the time I finished reading this book, I had a weird, uncomfortable feeling. Something seemed off. If a monoracial parent asked me to recommend a book on multiraciality - I'm not sure I would recommend this one. The actual, authentic voices of multiracial peoples are not well represented here. And an instruction manual written by a White woman on how to raise children of color is ultimately very treacherous. For instance, Nakazawa offers specific race wording and phrasing for interacting with children, often citing herself as a role model/example. But putting words in someone's mouth robs them of their own unique voice. It denies them the opportunity to discover their own language and potentially invalidates their specific cultures/worldview. And I have to say, as a woman of color, I reacted poorly to being given race scripts by a member of the dominant racial class.

Unfortunately there is also some misinformation about early learning and race. "Race," Nakazawa claims, "Is really a grown-up notion that is meaningless to the vast majority of preschoolers" (page 12). In fact, this is not true. There is more and more research indicating young children are actually very aware of race and often masters of racial relationships by as young as 3 years (See "The First R: How Children Learn Race and Racism" by Debra Van Ausdale & Joe R. Feagin, also "Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves" by Louise Derman-Sparks & Julie Olsen Edwards).

And finally, I don't think Nakazawa addresses in a poignant way the reality of race and the necessity of parents addressing their own biases/stereotypes. How can we expect our children to converse intelligently on race and feel good about their racial identities if we cannot do so ourselves? For example, she is very optimistic about the future suggesting multiracial children are the end of race. This is a view that has come into great question these days as symptomatic of a "Postracial Era" apathy. Now that we have a Black multiracial president, we must not be racist anymore, right? She doesn't mention the troublesome trend of school resegregation that has unfolded in the last couple decades (see "Can We Talk about Race?" by Beverly Daniel Tatum, PhD). Also, she tiptoes around the need for White parents to address and acknowledge the painful truth of White privilege. Possibly because this would bring into deep question her authority in writing a book on the experience of multiracial people in the first place.

If this book had been entitled, "Does Anybody Else Look Like Me? A White Parent's Guide to Raising Multiracial Children", I would have been a lot happier with it. I still would have bought it (I have a White mother) AND I would have recommended it. I certainly think Nakazawa has offered us something here. But I am critical of her perspective. As it stands, I would highly suggest to parents of multiracial children seeking guidance to look for texts written by multiracial people themselves. Here are some great examples:

"Multiracial Child Resource Book: Living Complex Identities" (MAVIN) ed. Maria P. P. Root & Matt Kelley

"Half Asian 100% Hapa" & "Mixed" by Kip Fulbeck

"What Are You? Voices of Mixed Race Young People" ed. Pearl Fuyo Gaskins

"Half + Half: Writers on Biracial and Bicultural" by Claudine C. O'Hearn

"Mixed: An Anthology of Short Fiction on the Multiracial Experince" ed. Chandra Prassad


"Standing on Both Feet: Voices of Older Mixed-Race Americans" by Cathy J. Tashiro

"When Half Is Whole" by Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu
 

There you will learn about the real, lived lives of multiracial peoples. Hearing their testimonials will inform you and help you understand your children better. 

2 comments :

  1. Hi Sharon, I love reading your blog. I may have missed it somewhere, but what do you think of the acronym "hapa"? I have major issues with it being that the last letter stands for "American" not white or Caucasian. It feeds the misconception that Americans are white or Caucasian only. I think the hapa term needs to be thrown out the window. Could you please point me to somewhere online that supports my stance?
    Thank you.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Betty. You make a very important observation here. Many have challenged the use of "hapa" for multiple reasons including the ones you mention. I have been planning a piece on it for a while, hopefully this month. Look for it soon...

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