Multi-racial families, created by biology or adoption, have no doubt been around since some of the earliest travelers set out to meet and explore, to war and conquer, to learn and love. Yet it wasn't until 1967, the year I was born, that laws against mixed race marriages were struck down by the United States Supreme Court.
Today, at least two million American children are of mixed racial descent, and mixed-race marriages are on the rise. According to a 1996 article in the Seattle Times, the number of interracial couples has jumped by 275 percent since 1970 (compare to 16 percent increase in the number of same-race couples during same time period). And that was almost ten years ago.
Some children of mixed-racial descent identify themselves as members of one group or another (socialized perhaps by appearance, their parents, or racism). Some proudly proclaim their multi-racial identities. And still others switch their declarations at different times in their lives.
When you think about it, even those who aren't of mixed descent have diversity somewhere in their family. At most, it's just a question of degree.
And ever more families are adopting children of different hues, both from their own home countries and internationally.Many of these parents and grandparents make that extra effort to offer children the gifts and insights of their own cultures while respecting and fostering a sense of appreciation for the child's own ethnic culture and country of birth. As the population increases, we've seen a slight growth in the number of children's and young adult books published that explore mixed-race family themes.
However, the need persists and will grow with each passing generation.
I'm always reluctant to say something like that because sometimes publishers and writers rush to fill such needs, and the market floods with less than outstanding work. So, to clarify, what I mean is that: we need to open our hearts to excellent stories that reflect related experiences, and I hope to see more of them in the years to come.
Guess what School Library Journal said about RAIN IS NOT MY INDIAN NAME by Cynthia Leitich Smith (your site author)?!
"It is one of the best portrayals around of kids whose heritage is mixed but still very important in their lives. It's Rain's story and she cannot be reduced to simple labels. A wonderful novel of a present-day teen and her 'patch-work tribe.'"—SLJ
Don't miss Smith, Cynthia. "Interracial Themes in Children's and Young Adult Fiction." Library Talk 14:1 2001 January/February. p. 14-16.
Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu are an interracial husband-wife children's book illustration team from New York City. He is African American and she is Chinese American. Their work includes: THE LEGEND OF FREEDOM HILL by Linda Jacobs Altman (Lee and Low, 2000) and SNOW IN JERUSALEM by Deborah Da Costa (Albert Whitman, 2001). Neil and Ying are also the illustrator of Cynthia's first book, JINGLE DANCER, which includes biracial characters. Read An Interview With Children's Book Illustrators Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu.