See No Color by Shannon Gibney. November 1, 2015. Carolrhoda Lab. 192 pages. Ages 14 to adult.
Sixteen-year old baseball phenom Alex Kirtridge is having a major crisis of identity. Not only is she bi-racial; she was adopted by a white family and has two blonde-haired, blue-eyed siblings. Thanks to bullying from the black kids at school and comments from strangers, she is now acutely aware that not only does she look very different from her family, she is also not accepted by others who look like her because she does not act "black" enough. Her well-meaning parents make things worse by refusing to even acknowledge that Alex is black and refusing any discussion of the subject.
To make matters worse, she can no longer find solace or redemption in the game of baseball. Baseball has been practically her whole life, thanks to her former minor-leaguer father who is obsessed with turning his kids into baseball stars. But Alex finds that her maturing body is throwing off her game and realizes that she will probably never be the star her father wants her to be. At first she is upset, and worried about her father's disappointment, but eventually begins to realize she really doesn't love the game anymore anyway.
As all this is going on, two things happen to bring the all her issues with race and adoption to a head. First, her sister shows her letters from her biological black father that she never knew about, and then, she begins dating Reggie, the pitcher for an opposing team. Reggie is the first black boy who has ever shown an interest in her, and she constantly feels afraid he will realize how "white" she is and walk away.
This is a poignant coming-of-age novel that might resonate with anyone who feels they don't fit in with their family, community, or peers for any reason, but obviously it would be of particular interest to children or parents of interracial and/or adoptive families. Another book that might be of interest is Black, White, Other by Joan Stenauer Lester. This book tell the story of Sara, the daughter of a Jewish-Irish mother and black father, who are now divorcing.
I have to say, I was a little disappointed in this book. I think is an important topic and that there is probably a definite need for stories like this considering the increasing number of interracial families, formed with or without adoption. But for me, the story fell a little flat and was too short and superficial. I didn't feel very connected to any of the characters and thought they, and their relationships, could have been more well-developed. I felt like the story ended prematurely, just when Alex was starting to deal with her identity issues. I would have liked for the book to be longer, and delve deeper into Alex's thoughts and relationships, and follow her as she began to form a relationship with her biological father and to see her force her family to stop being in denial about racial issues and begin to be more open and honest about it and deal with it rather than ignoring it.
I also felt that the whole baseball story with the domineering father obsessed with his kids becoming star athletes was a distraction. It was like two separate stories mashed together into one book. Of course real life is complicated and people often have more than one issue going on in their lives, but the two stories in this book did not seem integrated very well and I think it would have been better to focus on one issue or the other. Or perhaps a longer book would have allowed the story to encompass both issues in a more cohesive, integrated way, especially if one was made more of a backstory rather than fighting for equal focus.
One thing I did particularly like, which should come as no surprise, is that it showed Alex going to the public library and successfully getting help finding information about interracial adoptions, both books and online resources, showing that the library is indeed still relevant.
See No Color appears to be Shannon Gibney's first book.