By Nancy Thalia Reynolds
This booklet is a severe exploration of ways mixed-heritage characters (those of combined race, ethnicity, faith, and/or adoption) and real-life humans were portrayed in younger grownup fiction and nonfiction. It opens up the dialogue of young-adult racial and ethnic identification in literature to acknowledge, and concentrate on, these whose historical past straddles obstacles.
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Additional info for Mixed Heritage In Young Adult Literature (Scarecrow Studies in Young Adult Literature)
Unlike the tragic mulatto, he isn’t much affected by his mixed status. He enjoys good relationships with his parents. They may be happily married or, if they have split up, the custodial parent may have remarried, often monoracially. One parent (always representing the missing heritage) may be deceased. Whatever the nuclear family configuration, one parent is estranged from his or her family, so the hero is being raised without access to half his racial/ethnic heritage. The estrangement is total; there is no contact with the parent’s siblings, aunts, cousins.
Together, they leave for the Everglades. Tea Cake is never utterly reliable or the patriarchal provider Joe was, but Janie does not want to be provided for. She wants to be happy and, by and large, she is—willing to make her own choices and live with the consequences, joyous or sorrowful. It’s the value that Janie places on freedom and selfsustained independence that makes this novel truly contemporary. Repeatedly, Janie weighs what her heart longs for against safety and security. Her heart always wins, but Hurston never downplays the costs of the road Janie chooses to follow.
This explanation needs an explanation. The author’s squeamish discomfort with the topic of race is almost palpable. Kiara’s experience of her racial identity is raised in order to be dismissed. Apart from brief expository flashbacks, we don’t see Kiara negotiate her way through daily life, among her peers, at school. If Rodowsky had envisioned such scenes, she might have produced a more authentic character. Her cousin Maddie asks if Kiara likes being half black. “‘I don’t know—I never think about it,’ I said” (161).