Interracial Children's
and Young Adult Novels

Black Mirror by Nancy WerlinBLACK MIRROR by Nancy Werlin (Dial, 2001). Frances has always felt isolated at her New England prep school, but more so now that her brother has killed himself by overdosing on heroin. When Frances joins the social services charity her brother belonged to, she discovers that all is not as it seems, and realizes how little she really knew him. In this story, Frances is Japanese/white American and Jewish. Ages 12-up.

Dust From Old BonesDUST FROM OLD BONES by Sandra Forrester (Morrow, 1999). Simone Racine at first envies her lighter cousin Claire-Marie. But then Claire-Marie's Creole father leaves her and her mother in sudden poverty. This triggers Simone's realization that their lighter coloring is at best a mixed blessing. Throughout, Simone struggles with her heritage -- black and white -- and the contrary rules for those living in between. A fascinating period in New Orleans history. Ages 10-up.

THE HOUSE YOU PASS ALONG THE WAY by Jacqueline Woodson (Delacorte, 1997). Staggerlee has always known she's different, not just because her mother is white and her father is African American, not just because of her civil rights champion grandparents. When her adopted cousin Tyler, who calls herself "Trout" comes to visit, will Staggerlee better come to terms with questions of sexuality and identity? Winner of the 1998 Lambda Literary Award for Children's/Young Adult. Ages 14-up.

IN THE SHADE OF THE NISPERO TREE by Carmen Bernier-Grand (Orchard, 1999). Teresa, 9, is caught between the mother who wants her to attend an exclusive school as a member of high society, and her father, who doesn't want her to become a snob. Because of her own lies, she runs from her old life, following her mother's wishes, and losing the friend who is dearest to her. This poignant novel, set in 1960s Puerto Rico, is at once the story of one very realized girl and an exploration of the complexity of class and ethnicity. Ages 8-up. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

IT'S AN AARDVARK-EAT-TURTLE WORLD by Paula Danziger (Delacorte, 1985). Rosie's African-American father has remarried to an African-American woman. Her white mother has moved in with her white boyfriend. From Rosie's point of view, that means neither of them have to continue dealing with having been members of a mixed-race family although she still does. She also has to deal with a "slug slime" telling Rosie and her new white boyfriend to "stick to" their "own kind." That said, the main theme of this story is that it takes hard work to be a happy family, whatever hues may be involved. Much of the plot revolves around Rosie and her stepsister Phoebe whose parents have had an informal and impromptu commitment ceremony and moved in together. This book is a sequel to THE DIVORCE EXPRESS, which is told from Phoebe's point of view. Ages 8-up.

MUSIC FROM A PLACE CALLED HALF MOON by Jerrie Oughton (Houghton Mifflin, 1995). Edie Jo Houp lives in a small town called Half Moon, North Carolina during the 1950s. Edie Jo is not sure about her father's controversial suggestion that Native children be invited to participate in the Vacation Bible School program at the Vine Street Baptist Church. But a slowly-developing friendship with a boy named Cherokee Fish helps change her mind. This is a multi-layered story with no easy solutions. Winner of the Bank Street Award. Ages 8-up.

Ninjas, Piranhas, and GalileoNINJAS, PIRANHAS, AND GALILEO by Greg Leitich Smith (Little Brown, 2003). From the flap copy: Elias, Shohei, and Honoria have always been a trio united against That Which Is The Peshtigo School. But suddenly it seems that understanding and sticking up for a best friend isn’t as easy as it used to be. Elias, reluctant science fair participant, finds himself defying the authority of Mr. Ethan Eden, teacher king of chem lab. Shohei, all-around slacker, is approaching a showdown with his transracially adoptive parents, who have decided that he needs to start “hearing” his ancestors. And Honoria, legal counsel extraordinaire, discovers that telling a best friend you like him, without actually telling him, is a lot harder than battling Goliath Reed or getting a piranha to become vegetarian. What three best friends find out about the Land of the Rising Sun, Pygocentrus nattereri, and Galileo’s choice, among other things, makes for a hilarious and intelligent read filled with wit, wisdom, and a little bit of science. Ages 10-up. Read The Story Behind The Story from Greg Leitich Smith. Don’t miss the companion book, TOFU AND T. REX (Little Brown, 2005).

A Place To Call Home by Jackie French KollerA PLACE TO CALL HOME by Jackie French Koller (Atheneum, 1995). "Raggedy Anna" is the way Anna O’Dell thinks others see her. And Anna feels ragged from watching out for Mama’s moods and taking care of her younger sister and brother. But when Mama doesn’t come home, Anna fights to watch out for her siblings and, along the way, finds out the story behind Mama’s pain. An emotionally evocative book unafraid to address Anna’s concerns about her African American and white heritage ' especially as they relate to her caring for her siblings and her shifting vision of her parents. Courageous and inspiring. Ages 8-up.

Rain Is Not My Indian NameRAIN IS NOT MY INDIAN NAME by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee)(HarperCollins, 2001). Cassidy Rain Berghoff didn’t know that the very night she decided to get a life would be the night that Galen would lose his. It’s been six months since her best friend died, and up until now, Rain has succeeded in shutting herself off from the world. But when controversy arises around her aunt Georgia’s Indian Camp in their mostly white Kansas community, Rain decides to face the world again—at least through the lens of a camera. (Features interracial individuals, families and relationships, overlapping between African, European, and Native Americans). Ages 10-up.

REVOLUTIONS OF THE HEART by Marsha Qualey (Houghton Mifflin, 1993). Seventeen-year-old Cory faces her mother’s death and tensions between both her step-father and brother. Meanwhile, she encounters racism at school when she begins dating Mac, an Ojibwe-Cree. An interracial romance that is hopeful but not romanticized.Ages 12-up.

TAE’S SONATA by Haemi Balgassi (Clarion, 1997). Tae has to sort out her feelings when she is assigned to do a school report on South Korea with a popular guy. An interracial romance and a sweet look at Korean American family life that also deals with what it’s like to feel spotlighted for your race. Ages 12-up.

Thief of Hearts by Laurence YepTHIEF OF HEARTS by Laurence Yep (HarperCollins, 1995). In this sequel to CHILD OF THE OWL (1977), Stacy is called a "half-breed," and both her loyalties and identity are challenged when Hong Ch’un moves from China to Stacy’s suburban California school. When Hong Ch’un is accused of stealing, Stacy is forced to carefully consider her own reaction and find out what has really happened. Much of this novel centers around Stacy’s struggle to reconcile her Chinese and white American heritage and related communities. Ages 8-up.

WHALE TALK by Chris Crutcher (HarperCollins, 2001). Popular YA author Crutcher presents T.J. Jones (a.k.a. The Tao), a black Eurasian whose biological mother abandoned him in large part due to the influence of drugs and whose white hippie parents are a treasure. T.J. takes on the school's outcasts as a cause, and he helps to form a swim team to give them an outlet, a safe place, and a forum to triumph on their own terms. Meanwhile T.J.'s father, plagued by guilt over a tragic accident, faces another bully. Dark, funny, sarcastic, thought-provoking. A rare interracial YA for older teens. Ages 12-up.

THE WINDOW by Michael Dorris (Modoc) (Hyperion, 1997). In this story, the late Michael Dorris returned his attention to Rayona Taylor, the hero of two of his books for adults, A YELLOW RAFT IN BLUE RIVER (1987) and CLOUD CHAMBER (1997). THE WINDOW is set earlier than the other two and features Rayona at age 11, whose Native mother is preoccupied with her own problems, including drinking, and whose African American father eventually ships her to live with his mother, sister, and grandmother. Ray has never met these relatives before and is surprised to discover that they are white. This is a quiet story, one in which the action is in the heart. Dorris’s writing is perceptive and evocative. Ages 8-up.

THE WORLD OF DAUGHTER MCGUIRE by Sharon Dennis Wyeth (Delacorte, 1994). Daughter McGuire, 11, is facing a new school, her parents’ marital troubles, and a group of kids whose leader calls her a "zebra." But by completing a school assignment on the history of her family, she gains pride, courage, and a sense of identity by drawing on the many gifts of her diverse heritage (African, Italian, Irish, Jewish, Russian, and American) and on the story of the brave ancestor for whom she is named. Ages 8-up.