Looking Into the Mirror QUEENS COLLEGE OF THE CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK
Looking Into the Mirror: An Investigative Study of the Self-Esteem of Biracial Children and Adolescents in Youth Fiction
A RESEARCH PROJECT SUBMITTED TO DR. MARY K. CHELTON OF THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF LIBRARY AND INFORMATION STUDIES AS REQUIREMENT FOR COMPLETION OF THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF LIBRARY SCIENCE
BY ALFONSO COLASUONNO AND JUANA FLORES ([email protected]
; [email protected]
FLUSHING, QUEENS DECEMBER 2011
Looking Into the Mirror Table of Contents Cover Page Table of Contents Abstract Chapter I: The Problem The American Context Biracial Characters in Children’s and Adolescent Literature The Research Question Hypotheses Assumptions Guiding This Study Research Value Chapter II: Overview of Related Research Introduction Race and Biracial Individuals Biracial Individuals and the U.S. Census Biracial Individuals and Identity Biracial Identity Frameworks Monoracial v. Biracial Frameworks Biracial Individuals and Self-Esteem Ethnic Identity Family Support Appearance Sense of Belonging and Peer Relationships p. 6 p. 6 p. 7 p. 7 p. 10 p. 10 p. 12 p. 12 p. 13 p. 14 p. 16 p. 17 p. 18 p. 20 p. 21 p. 21 p. 22 p. 23 p. 1 p. 2 p. 5 p. 6
Looking Into the Mirror Resiliency and Discrimination Special Talents Diverse Schools and Neighborhoods Summary of All the Empirical Literature Chapter III: Methodology Restatement of the Research Question and Hypotheses Definition of Terms The Sample Evaluation of the Texts Grounds for Disqualification from the Sample The Checklist Evaluation Other Approaches Considered Limitations Chapter IV: Findings (Analysis & Evaluation) Research Problem and Hypotheses Organization of the Chapter Hypothesis 1: Predominance of Moderate Self-Esteem Hypothesis 2: Type of Book Influences Portrayal of Self-Esteem Hypothesis 3: Female Characters Will Have Lower Self-Esteem Hypothesis 4: Self-Esteem Will Vary Throughout the Text Hypothesis 5: Characters Who Accept Themselves Racially Have Higher Self-Esteem p. 33 p. 33 p. 35 p. 35 p. 36 p. 36 p. 37 p. 37 p. 41 p. 41 p. 24 p. 24 p. 24 p. 25 p. 26 p. 26 p. 27 p. 28 p. 29 p. 30 p. 30 p. 32
Looking Into the Mirror Hypothesis 6: Picture Books That Show Loving Support From Families Will Have Characters with Higher Self-Esteem Summary Chapter V: Summary of Project and Results Summary of Project and Results Conclusion Recommendations References Appendix 1: Annotated Bibliography Picture Books Children’s Chapter Books Young Adult Books Appendix 2: Racial Background of Characters in the Books Appendix 3: Checklist for Books p. 43 p. 46 p. 46 p. 47 p. 47 p. 50 p. 56 p. 56 p. 58 p. 61 p. 64 p. 65 p. 42
Looking Into the Mirror Abstract This study investigated the depictions of biracial characters’ self-esteem in children’s and
adolescent literature. A sample of 45 books was selected featuring fifteen picture books, fifteen children’s books and fifteen young adult books to investigate the topic. A checklist was created featuring fifteen statements that research stated led to high self-esteem; using this checklist as a basis for evaluation, the researchers’ assigned levels of self-esteem (high, medium, or low) to all the characters in the sample. The researchers’ found that in a majority of cases self-esteem was high for the characters in the study, that self-esteem varied by type of book (picture, children’s or young adult), that gender did not influence the level of self-esteem, and that adherence to a racial identity, whether biracial or monoracial led to high self-esteem for biracial characters.
Looking Into the Mirror Chapter I: The Problem
The American Context The United States of America is becoming an increasingly diverse nation. One way in which this is occurring is in the increasing number of individuals who self-identify as being of two or more races (i.e. biracial, multiracial) (Nuttgens, 2010; Saulny, 2011a; Stephan, 1991; Williams, 2009). Statistics from the Pew Research Center indicate that as of 2008, 14.6% of new marriages in the United States are between individuals of different races or ethnicities, including between Hispanics and non-Hispanics (Passel, Wang, & Taylor, 2010). Naturally, with an increasing percentage of marriages being between people of two different races in the last few decades (Passel et al., 2010), there are growing numbers of individuals in the United States of two or more racial backgrounds (Nuttgens, 2010; Saulny, 2011a; Stephan, 1991; Williams, 2009). Statistics show that multiracial Americans are one of the fastest growing demographic groups in America today (Saulny, 2011a). Biracial Characters in Children’s and Adolescent Literature Despite the increasing diversity in the American population, there remains a dearth of books featuring biracial characters (Lovett, 2002). Rudine Sims Bishop, as quoted in Lovett, (2002) states that: If literature is a mirror that reflects human life, then all children who read or are read to need to see themselves reflected as part of humanity. If they are not, or if their reflections are distorted and ridiculous, there is the danger that they will absorb negative messages about themselves and people like them. (pp. 6)
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That being said, there is still room for encouragement, as this generation of biracial children is the first generation that has access to books being written featuring characters of similar backgrounds (Lovett, 2002). As few in number as fictional accounts of biracial children and adolescents are, there has been a significant increase in books portraying these individuals in the last ten to fifteen years (Lovett, 2002). The Research Question The question investigated in this study was how do the authors of literature for youth construct the self-esteem of biracial characters (i.e. positively, negatively, or in-between) in their texts. To measure the concept of self-esteem, the researchers created their own instrument based on research within the field of biracial youth and general youth for concepts related to positive and negative self-esteem. All of the characters within the sample of 45 books (fifteen picture books, fifteen children’s books, and fifteen young adult books) were measured using this instrument to determine whether there are high levels of self-esteem portrayed amongst the biracial characters in these books. The researchers delved deeper in their analysis by looking for trends related to factors such as gender and type of book (picture, children’s, or young adult). Hypotheses The researchers came to different hypotheses as to the results they would encounter. One of them, a white male who has been in interracial relationships, believed that the results would fall into a bell curve. This researcher believed that there would be an overrepresentation of moderate self-esteem within the characters in these books, with fewer books presenting characters with low or high self-esteem. This was H1. This researcher believed this would happen because of the social activist nature of writing books with biracial characters. It is unlikely that the authors of such texts, in this researcher’s opinion, would present an overwhelmingly negative depiction of the self-
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esteem of biracial characters. However, an overwhelmingly positive depiction of the self-esteem of biracial characters also does not seem likely, as from a reader’s standpoint, a character without any struggles or flaws is generally an uninteresting character, particularly in realistic fiction. Furthermore, the literature shows that biracial youth face many issues related to their racial identity (Benedetto & Olisky, 2001; Courtney, 1995; Milan & Keiley, 1999; Poston, 1990; Udry, Li, & Hendrickson-Smith, 2003; Williams, 1999), so it was hypothesized that an overwhelmingly positive depiction would be unrealistic. Lastly, Bracey, Bámaca and Umaña-Taylor (2004) point out that research on the self-esteem of biracial adolescents compared to their monoracial counterparts has led to wildly different results. Some of the research has shown that biracial adolescents have higher self-esteem, some studies show similar levels of self-esteem, and some studies show lower self-esteem than their monoracial peers. This researcher believed that these wildly differing results would lead to a wide spectrum of results, but a general skew towards moderate self-esteem in the sample. The other researcher, a Latina who is in an interracial marriage and has a biracial daughter agreed with her colleague on this hypothesis. This researcher believed that there would be a predominant number of texts featuring a depiction of moderate self-esteem. H2 stated that depictions would generally skew most positive for the picture books, then the children’s books, and most negative for the young adult books. This assumption was based on the identity development models from such theorizers as Poston (1990) and Root (1999) who state that while young, there is relatively little conflict related to identity, but as youth grow older, identity conflicts intensify, peaking in adolescence. Likewise, the researcher believed this will show the same trend with the age of the characters. The other researcher further elaborated her ideas for what will be encountered by stating that age of the character will not significantly alter the results from the general sample. This researcher agreed with the other researcher that as the child gets
Looking Into the Mirror older they become more aware of race (Brown, 1990). However, this researcher believed that
biracial children will be probed regarding their appearance from an early age, leading to lower selfesteem (Brown, 1990). H3 is that female characters will have lower self-esteem than male characters. This hypothesis was shared by both researchers. The researchers believe that because of white women being seen as the ideal depiction of feminine beauty, biracial female characters would have lower self-esteem than their male counterparts (Phillips, 2004). H4 states that the characters in these texts will dramatically struggle with self-esteem as one of the texts’ core points; and that the characters personal self-esteem in these texts will vary dramatically throughout the course of the text. The researcher’s general opinion was that the characters will begin the texts generally with low self-esteem, and end with moderate self-esteem. This researcher also believed that the characters will, as a rule, not start out with high self-esteem. H5 states that in the texts where characters do reach a high level of self-esteem, it would be the result of self-acceptance of who they are racially. Once they reach self-acceptance they would then be on a quest of self-representation regardless of race. As to the type of book, one of the researchers believed that when analyzing picture books, a greater amount of information can be gleaned from the pictures rather than the sparse text in terms of depicting self-esteem. This researcher argued as H6 that the picture books might lead to more positive depictions of self-esteem when loving depictions of support from the parents are presented, which this researcher believed will lead to more resiliency against discrimination, a key factor in raising self-esteem.
Assumptions Guiding This Study
Looking Into the Mirror There are a number of major assumptions present in this study. The first is that it is
imperative for biracial youth, like all youngsters, to develop a high level of self-esteem (Bracey et al., 2004; Farruggia, Chen, Greenberger, Dmitrieva, & Macek, 2004). The second major assumption is that these books feature an inherent value to biracial youth and their families for identification purposes, boosting self-esteem, and resolving problems related to growing up biracial or multiracial (i.e. bibliotherapy) (Lovett, 2002). The third major assumption is that it is critical for publishing houses and authors to write books with believable biracial characters not prone to stereotypes to support this growing market in the United States. The fourth major assumption guiding this study is that libraries should have on their shelves a significant number of books with biracial characters for youth of all reading levels and ages, so as to best serve all the populations of the library (Du Mont, Buttlar, & Caynon, 1994; Lovett, 2002). Research Value This study is of critical importance for LIS professionals and publishing houses. We must ensure that all individuals are represented in the library’s collection. Libraries have a duty to stock these books, so that biracial children can have an opportunity to identify with characters from similar backgrounds and feel less alone or stigmatized. Similarly, publishing houses should recognize the lucrative market in this underserved population. With demographic trends showing significantly more interracial pairings and biracial children over the decades (Nuttgens, 2010; Saulny, 2011a; Stephan, 1991; Williams, 2009), it is vital not just from a socially responsible standpoint, but also from a financial standpoint for publishing houses to seek out authors who will write accurate, non-stereotypical portraits of biracial characters. This study, by analyzing biracial characters in youth literature will help promote the cause of books with biracial characters to these
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larger institutions that can possibly help influence the access biracial children have to books with characters resembling themselves. The actual heart of the study, the analysis of self-esteem in the depictions of biracial youth in these books, will be critical for bibliotherapy. Many of the books in the sample present specific challenges related to biracial identity that may prevent a high level of self-esteem. By using these books in programs or displays for biracial children, librarians and school professionals can best serve their students when they deal with issues that are likely to come up due to their unique status. By matching up the biracial youngster with a book featuring a fictional biracial character in the same or similar situation, it is likely that a significant amount of anxiety and issues related to racial identity may be alleviated (Brewster, 2008; Brewster, 2009).
Looking Into the Mirror Chapter II: Overview of Related Research
Introduction Literature on the children of interracial marriages often discusses issues of identity. Since these children are the product of more than one race, they often feel societal pressure to conform and adopt the cultural norms of the majority. That pressure is difficult to overcome since much of the pressure comes from adults. This is further complicated by the fact that biracial children often stand out because of their appearance. Trying to adhere to the expectations of adults can have many psychological implications. One example is the case of U.S. President Barack Obama. Obama, a byproduct of a biracial marriage between a Black African father and a white American mother, identified himself on the 2010 United States Census as Black. This was appalling for many people who share the same or similar background as President Obama. Many thought that he would be a role model and pave the way to giving legitimacy to biracial people through the symbolic act of marking the boxes for both white and Black on the Census. Obama had made his own reasoning clear in 2007 when 60 Minutes’ Steve Kroft asked him how he had decided he was Black. The president had a simple answer, “Well, I’m not sure I decided it. I think if you look African-American in this society, you’re treated as an African-American” (Serwer, 2011). Unfortunately, this is the reality of many biracial and ethnically mixed children. With the current surge in books featuring biracial characters, one has to ask whether authors accurately represent the daily struggle of biracial children with self-esteem issues. The researchers hope that this research can help define the scope in selecting books that accurately depict biracial children and their struggles with self-esteem, as well as the pressures that define their existence. Race and Biracial Individuals
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Race always finds its way into literature by denoting and distinguishing groups on the basis of physical appearance and biological characteristics (Scherman, 2010). Race has always been a salient factor in defining identity in America. For children and adolescents who are ethnically mixed and/or biracial, the issue of race is raised whenever they are asked to check a racial identity box each time they fill out a form for school. Race becomes preeminent during the Census every ten years. The ideology of race dates back to the era of European exploration and the expansion of colonization. Competition between European nations and their overt desire to dominate others affected the way Europeans perceived indigenous people (Smedley and Smedley, 2011). The concept of race has been embedded in human history. However, the terminology has not always been as rigid as it is in North America (Smedley and Smedley, 2011). The idea of race was first introduced in the United States by white Americans who wanted to maintain social and economic hierarchy over others. Smedley and Smedley (2011) stressed that race is about status, and inequality in wealth and power between groups is played out at the individual level. The institutionalized nature of racism trickles down into the individual’s life via the notion of race. Race has been a staple of defining one’s identity throughout history. Throughout the centuries, children of interracial marriages were identified as Black by the one-drop rule. Roth (2005) stated the one-drop rule—codified legally, socially and culturally— designated how people with African ancestry should be identified and how, over time, AfricanAmericans adopted and internalized the rules. Regardless of how light the complexion of one’s skin and how generationally removed a child might be, under the one-drop rule, they will be immediately categorized as Black if they have a Black ancestor (Rockquemore & Laszloffy, 2003). Because of race, history has conditioned society to constantly compartmentalize others according to their outward appearance, lineage, language, and surname; it formulates biases against those
Looking Into the Mirror who are different. These categorizations also give hierarchy to the dominant groups, allowing them to subjugate subdominant groups, making them feel inadequate.
Within this mono-racial existence, multiracial children have a difficult time legitimatizing their dual existence (Scherman, 2010; Williams, 2009). Saulny’s (2011b) article “In Strangers’ Glances at Family, Tension Lingers” features a mixed-race family in which the mother encapsulates the sentiments of many individuals who face constant queries about the racial status of her children. “People confront you, and it’s not once in a while, it’s all the time,” she said. She went on to say, “Each time it is like a little paper cut, and you might think, ‘Well, that’s not a big deal.’ But imagine a lifetime of that. It hurts!” The mother expressed her belief about how constant racial probing can have a ripple effect in the psyche of any biracial child. They are pressured by their family members, peers, and other outside groups to choose their identity. These pressures can result in children constantly questioning their self-worth and feeling like they have to substantiate themselves to everyone, leading them to having poor self-esteem. Biracial Individuals and the U.S. Census The U.S. Census began in 1790. At the time, America’s population was rapidly increasing due to natural growth, as well as immigration. The Constitution requires everyone to be counted in order to rebalance the number of Representatives each state is entitled to under the law in order to ensure that federal political representation is equal. The Census is taken every ten years and representation is regularly reapportioned. Although the Census was an instrument to ensure fairness of political representation within any area, it has also been used as a tool to socially divide the population by race. Throughout American history, biracial people were not counted in the Census. In 1850, the census excluded all mulattos (ethnically mixed people whose skin stratification was lighter than
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Blacks and who have Black and white lineage). According to the 1930 Census, there were clear guidelines on how to enumerate the different races and they applied the one-drop rule. This categorization of mixed-race individuals as “Negro” based on the existence of any Black ancestry reflected the bureau’s continued reliance on nineteenth century racial categories (Hendricks & Patterson, 2002). An increase in interracial marriages occurred during the late 1960s. During the 1960s through the 1990s interracial marriages grew rapidly from 150,000 to more than one million. (Roth, 2005) This was the direct result of the landmark civil rights case, Loving v. Virginia (1967), where a unanimous Supreme Court found that Virginia’s anti-miscegenation law was unconstitutional and ended all race-based restrictions on marriage. In the 1990s many multiracial individuals exhibited their discontent regarding the idea that they could only mark one race on the Census by disobeying the instruction (Roth, 2005). During this juncture many multiracial organizations were formed to change the way the federal government categorized race. Rockquemore & Laszloffy (2003) wrote that the multiracial advocates’ success in gaining legitimacy was in the “inclusion of all that apply” on the Census in regards to race. According to Smedley & Smedley (2011), more than fourteen million Americans identify themselves as having multiple racial ancestries. However, Americans still brand people with a mono-racial identity based on one’s physical attributes. Biracial people are often in constant flux regarding their selfrepresentation as a result. This is reflected by biracial people either submitting to the ideology of everyone being affixed a monoracial identity, or turning dramatically away from it. Biracial Individuals and Identity
We know of no people without names, no languages or cultures in which some manner of distinctions between self and other, we and they are not made…. Self-knowledge—always a construction no matter how much it feels like a discovery—is never altogether separable from claims to be known in specific ways by others.
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(Calhoun, 1994: pp. 9-10)
Calhoun’s quote is the epitome of what biracial children undergo on a continuous basis. Erik Erikson explained that development is a continuous process that begins in early childhood and continues throughout the life span (as cited in McClurg, 2004). McClurg (2004) elaborates that children are not able to formulate their own uniqueness and their own individuality from the onset of development. Children have the tendency to emulate the caregivers that surround them, which they naturally compare themselves to. Children are constantly assessing their family dynamic and trying to see how they fit in. McClurg (2004) explains that children often seek acceptance and companionship from those with whom they can most easily identify with. This is especially true when neither parent looks like them. In addition, children receive pressure when they live in a society obsessed with race. This fixation often forces biracial children to ascribe to one race over another. As a result, children may submit to the pressure and label themselves as one race which implies denial of their connection to the other. Once they affirm their identity, some children feel that they are not totally whole and may have a sense of guilt about rejecting a part of themselves and alienating one parent. These life decisions—selecting a racial identity—can have an adverse effect. Children do not have an idea of self-concept and therefore their self-esteem can be affected as a result. Within the course of normal adolescent self-exploration and defining themselves, biracial youth often feel that they have to select a particular racial identity. This pressure can result in various degrees of anxiety, social marginalization, and low self-esteem (Brown, 1990; McClurg, 2004; Root, 1992). Biracial Identity Frameworks Several researchers have done empirical studies to identify what phases one goes through in selecting an ethnic identity or a biracial identity. A majority of the frameworks derive from the
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work of John W. Berry, Joseph E. Trimble and Esteban L. Olmedo (1986) in which they theorized and developed techniques for measuring how much acculturation any group undergoes to assimilate into the dominant group. Acculturation is how one modifies their own cultural behavior by borrowing and adapting the traits of others. Berry et al. (1986) theorized that in order for a group to morph they have to be in direct and constant contact with another group. As a result, four occurrences can happen from the exchange of contact: 1) assimilation - in which one group totally morphs into the dominant group by losing any remnants of their initial culture; 2) separation where the person shifts away from the dominant group or other culture in order to preserve their culture and dismisses any of the societal norms of the dominant group; 3) marginalization - which is a state of constant flux where the individual has a difficult time deciding whether or not to submit the dominant group or to remain with the subdominant group; and 4) integration - the acceptance and absorption of traits of both the dominant and subdominant group. Berry et al. (1986) studied several cultures like the Biaka Pygmies and Bangudou Villagers and the length of contact each group had with outsiders and what variables influenced the culture in adapting. This underlying theory was what gave birth to different biracial framework theories about how someone who is biracial may decide how to identify themselves. Sociologists and psychologists believe that biracial people have difficulties in self-affirmation because they are constantly comparing themselves with the dominant culture or connecting with one aspect of the culture and not both. Depending on the circumstances, influences, and cultural variables, biracial people may identify with one race over the other. According to Rockquemore and Laszloffy (2003), this is a challenge often faced by mixed-race people, as it involves the struggle to define themselves racially within a society that conceptualizes race in a rigidly dichotomous manner and that attaches differential values to each of the dichotomies. They stressed that although there are a myriad of ways that
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mixed-race people choose to identify racially, a common challenge faced by members of the group involves essentialist notions of singular racial identity as an ideal. As a result, many biracial people routinely encounter social invalidation from others related to their chosen racial selfidentification (Rockquemore & Laszloffy, 2003). Monoracial v. Biracial Frameworks There are two schools of thought about how biracial identity develops. Researchers like W. E. Cross (1978) and J. E. Helms (1995) discuss the monoracial framework and believe that in order for a biracial person to feel a sense of self-worth they have to connect to only one of their ethnic identities which allows them to come to full volition of being (as cited in Gillem, Cohn & Thome, 2001; Phinney, 1990). Ethnic identity, sometimes described as racial identity, is the ethnic component of social identity. Ethnic identity is part of a person’s self-concepts which derives from the knowledge of their membership in a social group or groups, together with the value and emotional significance attached to that membership (Phinney, 1990). Cross’ (1978) model focused on Black identity formation. This model describes the racial identity development process as moving from a potential negative view of being Black, to a place in which personal acceptance of blackness (and other identities) is possible (as cited in Gillem et al., 2001 & Pedrotti, Edwards & Lopez, 2008). On the other hand, Helms’ (1995) model describes the development of a white identity. Helms recognized that people can be in multiple stages simultaneously; however, one stage is most descriptive of a person life. In addition, Helms feels that a positive racial identity is formed through abandoning racism and developing an identity as a white person that is not racist (as cited in Robinson, 2001). Other frameworks relating to biracial identity formation from other researchers (Kerwin & Ponterotto, 1995, as cited in Miville, Constantine, Baysden, & So-Loyd, 2005; Poston, 1990;
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Rockquemore and Brunsma, 2002) are centered on the duality aspect of the person but differ on what variables, experiences, and stages need to be achieved or overcome in order to select an identity. Poston’s (1990) model was based on clinical experience with support groups and other empirical research. According to Pedrotti et al. (2008), Poston’s models delineated a developmental progression through five stages for biracial individuals, and he stated that this process is a lot healthier for biracial individuals to advance through than the process put forth in other models. Poston’s model begins with a person identifying with a singular cultural group at first, be it solely Black, or solely white, etc., before integrating their separate identities into a biracial identity. Poston believes this biracial identity is healthier for biracial individuals in dealing with the individual’s struggles related to identity. Kerwin and Ponterotto’s (1995) model of biracial identity development uses age-based markers to illustrate progression in racial awareness. They stressed that there exists a variance in identity resolution (e.g., establishing a public racial identity that is separate and distinct from the private one) (as cited in Miville et al., 2005). Rockquemore and Brunsma’s (2002) model emphasizes the biracial self-selection process where the biracial person may choose from any of these four identities : singular identity (individuals who declare a single identity), border identity (individuals who identify with both sides of their racial heritage in an integrated way), protean identity (individuals whose racial identity shifts according to social context), and transcendent identity (individuals who see race as a false categorization of humanity and do not identify with any race) (as cited in Pedrotti et al., 2008; Roth, 2005). Many different models of biracial identity have developed. The consensus of most researchers is that biracial people can have a positive sense of self by integrating and accepting
Looking Into the Mirror both of their racial backgrounds (Gillem et al., 2001; Scherman, 2010). Furthermore, being
biculturally competent can help biracial individuals build resiliency in dealing with discrimination and awkward social situations. Bicultural competence is allowing oneself to have “psychological flexibility” in order to enhance that person’s adaptability in different situations (Scherman, 2010). Biracial Individuals and Self-Esteem Sociologists and psychologists believe that in order for any child to have a high self-esteem they must have a concept of self, self-worth and a sense of belonging. Rosenberg on the other hand, described a person with high self-esteem as follows: considers himself a person a worth; appreciating his own merits, he nonetheless recognizes his faults…The term “low self-esteem”… means that the individual lacks respect for himself, considers himself unworthy, inadequate, or otherwise seriously deficient as a person. (quoted in Gray-Little, Williams and Hancock, 1997, pp.444)
There are many predictors that can determine self-esteem levels of biracial children and adolescents. Ethnic Identity Who am I? Questions about self-identification are preeminent for people who are ethnically mixed. Often, biracial children and adolescents feel inadequate because of the treatment they receive from others because of their appearance. Children are often torn between submitting to the identification of others and admitting their full sense of self. Empirical research on ethnic identity found a significant relationship between the level of commitment to an ethnic identity and self-esteem (Bracey et al., 2004; Lusk, Taylor, Nanney & Austin, 2010; Scherman, 2010). Researchers believe that the inability to choose an ethnic identity can lead a child to feel marginalized, resulting in the child having low self-esteem. Children and adolescents with a strong
Looking Into the Mirror sense of self, combined with a strong sense of their biracial heritage, have a greater chance of successfully meeting the challenges of adolescence (McClurg, 2004). Family Support Brown (1990) specifies in his article that children’s identity can be formulated by significant environmental reactions and that cultural conditioning begins by screening out inconsistent cues from others. Children who are exposed to negative factors have a hard time
formulating their identity. According to Root (1992), families play a large role in the development of children. In order to counteract ongoing negativity or constant queries about the children’s identity, families need to play a supportive role. It is important for families to assist their children in understanding their heritage, background, and identity (Root, 1992). Supportive families can help their children to integrate the two identities of the parents and develop a self-concept. In addition, parents can help adolescents develop a good sense of self by allowing the teens to do age appropriate explorations of identity. Sheltering them from discrimination may have an adverse effect; they may become too dependent or too rebellious (Root, 1992). Parents who exhibit bias against the other parent’s race can cause confusion and resentment towards a particular race, leading to feelings of inadequacy in the biracial child. Williams (2009) recommended that parents of biracial children can exhibit their support by being open about racial differences, exposing the children to the cultural heritage of both parents and assisting the children as they fill out forms that want to identify them in terms of race. Appearance – Researchers on gender and self-esteem have found that physical self-esteem is the most significant predictor overall self-esteem, particularly for adolescent girls (Phillips, 2004). Girls are continuously exposed to images in the media which depict what the “ideal” body type and image
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should be. These images are usually portrayed by Anglo white women who are tall, thin and have long hair. Throughout contemporary history these images have been defined as “the” standard of beauty by the dominant society. Faced with trying to fit into society, adolescent girls are often focused on their own self-image. Phillips (2004) stressed that for biracial girls who have ambiguous physical features, fitting in and feeling good can be complicated by unique obstacles. Girls’ perceptions of their physical appearance – including body image, attractiveness, and sexual desirability – may influence not only their self-esteem but also their behavioral choices. Layli Phillips is an assistant professor of Women’s Studies at Georgia State University. She examined 463 adolescent biracial girls from three different racial backgrounds (Black-White, HispanicWhite, and Asian-White) and asked them how they view themselves when it comes to overall selfesteem, physical attractiveness and perceived social competence. She found that girls from Asian and White background who identified themselves as White had low self-esteem, whereas if they identify themselves as Asian their self-esteem was high. Girls from Hispanic and White backgrounds have a high self-esteem regardless of if they identify themselves as White or Hispanic, and felt they were socially accepted. Girls from Black and White backgrounds who identify themselves as Black had a higher self-esteem than those that identified themselves as white. Those who identified as white had low self-esteem and did not feel as if they really fit in socially. Phillips (2004) stressed that one of the reasons that determines whether a girl has high or low self-esteem has to do with social distance. She defines social distance as the: willingness or unwillingness to interact socially with others who are different. It is possible to conceive that a biracial adolescent who identifies with a group that feels a great deal of social distance from the race of one of the adolescent’s parents
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would be more likely to experience social neglect or even rejection by that group, which would consequently be reflected in her self-evaluation and psychological stress (Phillips, 2004, pp. 233). Sense of Belonging and Peer Relationships According to Bracey, Bámaca and Umaña-Taylor (2004), researchers who specialize in racial identity are divided on whether high self-esteem is derived from strong feelings of group belonging or low self-esteem is a result of being stigmatized by a social group. Being a member of a group provides an individual with a sense of belonging, which contributes to high self-esteem (Phinney, 1990). Successful peer relationships help children assimilate, adapt to their environment, master their aggressive impulses and become more socially effective in groups (Robins, Hendin & Trzesniewski, 2001; Root, 1992). Establishing a strong peer relationship is most important when peers are used as a support system in dealing with everyday struggles. Brown (1990) mentioned that relative levels of social acceptance or rejection deeply influences biracial identity not just in the early formative years, but throughout life. In the article “Raising Biracial Children to Be Well Adjusted,” the author, Nadra Kareem Nittle (2011), recommends that racially mixed families live in multicultural neighborhoods since it is likely the area would have higher number of diverse families. Therefore, it is more likely that the area would have more ethnically mixed and multicultural children and increase the likelihood that biracial child would find acceptance. Resiliency and Discrimination Bracey et al. (2004) discusses how discrimination against Black people helped to build a high self-esteem while in other cultures, the exact opposite was true. Therefore, one can infer that a biracial person develops a better sense of self if they are able to deal with racial slurs and queries
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about their existence. Poston (1990) warns that when outside prejudices are internalized, a host of negative behaviors affecting the development of self-esteem may occur. These include suicidal thoughts, delinquency, substance abuse, and alienation. Special Talents While not all children develop special talents in specific areas, the benefits of having an athletic, artistic, or academic talent cannot be discounted towards the development of high selfesteem. Robins et al. (2001) uses these three factors as one of their measures in their evaluation of self-esteem outcomes for college students. It is believed that these factors are able to be generalized to younger populations as key factors that can lead to positive self-esteem. Diverse Schools and Neighborhoods Living in multicultural neighborhoods has a positive effect for biracial children (Nittle, 2011; Williams, 2009). It is also important for biracial children to attend schools that are diverse (Williams, 2009). Schools that celebrate multicultural differences can highlight the uniqueness in every culture and can assist in helping a child build their self-esteem (Moss & Davis, 2008). McClurg (2004) describes how parents are not the sole influence in helping develop the racial identity of their children; teachers, peers, extended family, the media, and society as a whole all play significant roles in determining children’s acceptance and pride in their own racial identity. Summary of All the Empirical Literature Bracey et al. (2004) stated that the results of many researchers on self-esteem of biracial youth have been mixed. Some of the researchers suggest different reasons for high and low selfesteem in different biracial groups. The researchers in this study hope to find out whether the factors mentioned here can influence self-esteem through a thorough examination of fictional characters in children’s and young adult literature.
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Chapter III: Methodology
Restatement of the Research Question and Hypotheses This study sought to examine how the authors of literature for youth construct the selfesteem of biracial characters (i.e. positively, negatively, or in-between) in their texts. The secondary question that this study seeks to examine is whether specific factors (e.g. gender or type of book) lead to significantly different results on self-esteem than the sample as a whole. The hypotheses for the two researchers undertaking this study differed in some respects. One of the researchers, a white male who has been in interracial relationships, believes that there would be a general bell curve shaped distribution of the levels of self-esteem within the sample, with the majority falling in a moderate range, and less in the significantly high or low range. This
Looking Into the Mirror researcher also believed that as the age of the character and the age of the target audience (i.e.
picture, children’s, or young adult) increases, there will be a general trend towards more negative portrayals of self-esteem replacing more positive portrayals of self-esteem. This researcher believed that issues related to the idealization of white women as the beauty standard (Phillips, 2004) would cause biracial female characters to have lower self-esteem than biracial male characters. The other researcher, a Latina in an interracial marriage, concurred that there will be a predominance of texts depicting moderate self-esteem. This researcher believed that depictions will largely show low self-esteem at the beginning of the texts, as the characters’ will have to deal with issues related to self-esteem in the narrative. However, this researcher believed that the bulk of the sample will feature depictions of moderate self-esteem. In regards to the age of the characters, this researcher differed with her partner in that this researcher believed that age would not be as significant a factor in determining self-esteem. Regarding gender, the researchers agreed that there would be greater representation of high self-esteem for boys and greater representation of low self-esteem for girls due to physical appearance issues related to their status as biracial. This researcher also hypothesized that self-esteem will fluctuate throughout the text; connection to a specific identity, be it monoracial or biracial, will lead to higher self-esteem; and that picture books which have children with high self-esteem will show images of loving support from families. Definition of Terms As this study sought to explore the levels of self-esteem amongst biracial characters in books for youth, it is important to define the term “biracial.” For the purposes of this study, biracial refers only to characters with parents of two or more different races. Thus, the definition of biracial for this study will encompass the word “multiracial” – as in more than two races, so long as there
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is a racial difference between the characters’ two parents (e.g. A character may be included in this study if they have one white parent and one parent who is half Black and half Latino, but a character may not have two parents who are both half white and half Asian/Black). Similarly, people from two different ethnic groups will not be counted as biracial for the purposes of this study (e.g. a character who has one parent who is Chinese and one parent who is Korean does not qualify for this study). Likewise, children in intercultural adoptions will not count as biracial; unless they have two parents of different races (e.g. a youth who was born in Ethiopia to two Ethiopian parents and adopted by two white American parents or by a white parent and a Black parent falls outside of the scope of this study). Grouping of races for the study will be inclusive of four different racial groups and an ethnic group. The races will be defined as: white, Black, Asian/Pacific Islander, Native American, and Hispanic/Latino. The Sample The researchers read the 45 books in the sample. Both researchers read ten picture, children’s, and young adult works that are fictional and feature biracial characters under the age of eighteen. Five books of each type (e.g. picture, children’s, and young adult) were read by both researchers to ensure consistency in reporting and the accuracy of the research instrument. The sample of texts selected for this study was largely a convenience sample; though one that represents a significant portion of the fictional accounts of biracial youth. The sample was selected using a mixture of NoveList Plus and the catalogs of the Brooklyn Public Library and the New York Public Library. NoveList Plus was used as the starting point and the terms “biracial” and “racially mixed people” were searched and limited to only fiction and works for ages 0-8, ages 9-12, and teens. Using the results of the search, the researchers found a number of books to potentially acquire for
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the sample. NoveList Plus came up with a total number of books matching that criteria as 79 for biracial and six for racially mixed people. A search for “biracial” on the Brooklyn Public Library’s catalog revealed 38 results, not limited to fiction or to any specific age group. A search for “racially mixed people,” not limited to fiction or any specific age group revealed 354 results. A search for “biracial” on the New York Public Library catalog, not limited to fiction, revealed six books for children and three for teens. A search for “racially mixed people” on the New York Public Library catalog, not limited to fiction, revealed 87 books for children and 58 books for teens. An overview of the content of the book was examined to make sure the work featured biracial characters as defined by the nature of our study. This was deemed reasonably accurate, as all books in the sample featured explicitly biracial characters, with the exception of three works. Books were acquired until fifteen total picture, children’s, and young adult books were selected. The process of determining whether a book was a picture book, children’s book, or young adult book was determined by the spine label or call number assigned to the work by the Brooklyn Public Library or the New York Public Library. One last point of note is that some books in the sample were part of a series. These books were evaluated as one text. However, though the entirety of the sample was evaluated as one book, for the purposes of counting towards fifteen of each type of book, each book in a series was counted individually. Evaluation of the Texts To proceed with the evaluation of the texts, a checklist was formulated with fifteen specific points that lead to positive self-esteem outcomes. Evaluation using this checklist was determined based on the researchers’ notes on, and the texts themselves. All answers were based on
Looking Into the Mirror information procured from the text. For consistency, books in the subsample were assessed independently by both researchers and any disagreements were discussed to see if a consensus
could be reached. One key point to note is that if the question was in flux throughout the book (e.g. A character early on asserts a singular race identity, but by the end of the book asserts a biracial identity), the answer was determined based on the result at the end of the book. This was a logical step to allow for the nature of literature in showcasing conflicts and their resolution. One book in the sample was tested by both researchers, as well as an outside party to ensure the reliability of the research instrument as a pilot study. This ensured the reliability of the evaluation method. Consistency was solid, as between the two characters in the text that were biracial, 80% of the answers between the three participants in the pilot study were consistent. Minor deviance could be explained by the fact that the checklist used has some degree of subjectivity in its application. Grounds for Disqualification from the Sample It must be noted that certain books or characters from books in the original sample were disqualified. The main reason for disqualification of three of the texts in the sample was that the researchers could not determine an explicit mention of the protagonist being biracial. One example was Camo Girl by Kekla Magoon, which was classified as a book featuring a biracial character by NoveList Plus, yet throughout the entirety of the book there were no explicit references to any character being biracial found by either researcher. Therefore, this book was disqualified from the study. The second reason for disqualification from the sample proposed at the beginning of the study did not actually result in any disqualifications. This was if answers to at least half of the checklist statements could not be procured as a result of logical exposition from the book. The third reason for disqualification was if the character was simply not developed well enough to
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acquire an accurate perspective on their self-esteem. This resulted in a number of minor characters from various texts being excluded, despite the fact that they were under eighteen and biracial. The Checklist To assess the sample, a checklist was created for the measurement of self-esteem of the biracial youth within the books that were chosen for the sample. Traits leading to high self-esteem were gathered from an extensive literature review of content regarding biracial youth and youth in general, and a checklist was created to measure self-esteem consisting of a list of behaviors leading to high self-esteem. There were fifteen statements in the checklist used to assess self-esteem. Evaluation of the statements came from examining notes taken on all the books in the sample related to race and self-esteem. The more statements that are true for the character in the text, the higher the self-esteem level. The checklist’s statements are as follows:
1. The character verbally or through thought in the text expresses the fact that they identify as
biracial (Gillem et al., 2001; Poston, 1990; Williams, 2009). 2. The character comes from a home with supportive adults providing guidance and love (i.e. they endure no abuse from parents/guardians, parents/guardians take an interest in their life) (Williams, 2009). 3. The character lives in a neighborhood that is not exclusive to one race (Williams, 2009).
4. The character never expresses verbally or through thought in the text any indecision in
choosing an identity (Nuttgens, 2010). 5. The character verbally or through thought in the text expresses pride in all of their racial/cultural identities (Poston, 1990).
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6. The character is shown in the text to have engaged in a cultural practice or tradition of the culture of both parents (Benedetto & Olisky, 2001).
7. The character never faces a lack of acceptance from any character in the text for any reason
(Miville et al., 2005). 8. The character’s parents/guardians are never shown in the text stereotyping each other by race (Moss & Davis, 2008). 9. The character’s school is shown to have multicultural programs (Moss & Davis, 2008).
10. The character does not express feelings of hatred or depression when faced with racial
discrimination (Bracey et al., 2004). 11. The character attends a school with characters of at least two separate racial backgrounds, not counting the character her/himself (Williams, 2009).
12. The character does not display any incidents of delinquency, substance abuse, suicidal
thoughts, or alienation (Poston, 1990).
13. The character is explicitly stated as having artistic, athletic, or academic ability in the text
(Robins et al., 2001). 14. The character her/himself or other characters explicitly express that the character is physically attractive (Robins et al., 2001). 15. The character is shown in the text interacting with at least one friend (Robins et al., 2001). It is believed that these fifteen statements that make up the checklist are significant determinants of the level of self-esteem for children of biracial backgrounds, as explained by various researchers. It is the logic of the researchers that these statements will translate from reality to fiction as a tool for assessment of the self-esteem of the characters in the sample.
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After the checklist was completed for the characters in the sample, a subjective evaluation of the self-esteem of the character was utilized. This was done using the checklist as a guide. The researchers assigned values of high, moderate, or low in reference to the character’s self-esteem in the book. If the researchers thought that the self-esteem level varied in the text, the researchers noted any fluctuations. A profile of every character was completed. The profiles emphasized selfesteem, and were used to compare the different issues the various characters faced relating to high or low self-esteem. Other Approaches Considered Though other methods were considered for this particular research endeavor, it was decided by both researchers that a traditional content analysis was the best method. One method considered but rejected was creating an instrument based on the literature review and postulating a series of questions that were assigned positive and negative values. The method would have led to evaluation by the percentage of positive or negative responses to determine self-esteem. The attempt to execute this study was met with flaws in the research design of the instrument when conducting a pilot study. The questions appeared to be subjective and the instrument far too quantitative for a study of self-esteem in literature. Another approach was considered that was deemed flawed due to the time limitations of the study. The approach would be to recruit a small sample of students working towards MLS degrees and assign each of them a small random sample of books with biracial characters controlled for even representation of gender and type of book. They would read each book in the sample and take notes related to race and self-esteem. Then they would meet for a large round table discussion and come to a consensus, along with the researchers, on whether the characters in
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the books had a high level of self-esteem. It was deemed that this approach would be inconvenient due to the demands on MLS students. Also, it would limit the sample size of the books considerably, likely reducing the ability to generalize on the subject. Therefore, the approach undertaken was deemed the most effective for this particular study. Limitations There are a number of limitations for this study. The most significant is that there is a definite skew towards books released in the last fifteen years. Studies have shown that there are a few books with biracial characters from earlier eras (Lovett, 2002), but they are hard to find, and due to the fact that this study is not funded, they were unable to be part of the sample. Another limitation for this study is that the researchers sample was not random, again, due to a lack of funding. Lastly, the hypotheses related to age were not able to be assessed accurately because of a lack of reporting exact ages or age ranges in many of the texts. However, the researchers are confident that the results of this study are sound enough to withstand these limitations. In addition, there were a number of self-administered limitations to the study. One was that adult fiction was not examined. Another was that non-fiction works were not examined. Lastly, within the sample, biracial characters over the age of eighteen were not analyzed, as this study sought to explore only the levels of self-esteem during the critical years of childhood and adolescence.
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Chapter IV: Findings (Analysis and Evaluation)
Research Problem and Hypotheses For the purposes of this study, the researchers sought to examine how self-esteem is portrayed in biracial characters in books written for youth. A sample was chosen of fifteen picture books, fifteen children’s books, and fifteen young adult books. The researchers desired to find out the overall level of self-esteem amongst characters in these books, as well as differences based on gender of the characters and the type of book. As this was a study conducted by two separate researchers with their own ideas colored by their own life experiences, the researchers arrived at different hypotheses. H1 was shared by both researchers. H1 states that the researchers believed there would be an overrepresentation of moderate self-esteem in the characters in the sample, and few books would portray high or low self-esteem. H2 from one of the researchers states that the older the target audience of the books, the lower the self-esteem of the characters portrayed. Thus, young adult books would have more negative depictions of self-esteem than children’s books, and children’s books would have more
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negative depictions of self-esteem than picture books. H3 was shared by both researchers. H3 stated that because of physical appearance concerns, biracial female characters will have lower selfesteem than their biracial male counterparts in these books. The second researcher presented additional hypotheses about what the results of the study would yield. H4 was that self-esteem would change dramatically throughout the text. This researcher believed that as problems and solutions to such arose in the text, the self-esteem of the character would vary. H5 stated that achieving a high level of self-esteem for the characters in the sample would be a result of accepting who they are racially. The last hypothesis presented in the research was H6, which stated that picture books that have high depictions of self-esteem would show images of a loving family providing support. This would be clearly presented in the pictures, which this researcher believed are as important as the text, if not more so, considering the age demographic reached by picture books. Organization of the Chapter The chapter is organized in a fashion that simplifies the multi-faceted approach to this topic that the researchers have undertaken. This section analyzes each hypothesis put forth by the researchers in the order presented, and extrapolates on whether the hypothesis was proven valid or invalid. Each section based on the hypotheses begins with a brief summary of whether the hypothesis was found valid or invalid. Graphs are used to clearly show the results. Any special factor that altered the general rule was explained through quotes from the texts and summaries of the character in question. The chapter concludes with a summary of the results and speculation as to the reason for why this result was observed. Hypothesis 1: Predominance of Moderate Self-Esteem
Looking Into the Mirror Both researchers concurred on H1. The researchers believed that there would be an
overrepresentation of moderate self-esteem amongst the characters in the texts of the sample. It is important to note that the answers to the instrument were based on the character’s final actions, thoughts, and words. If self-esteem varied throughout the text, the answer given was based on the end of the text. The researchers found through analysis of the data, that they had been proven wrong. The data shows that a majority of the texts feature characters with high self-esteem. Interestingly, part of the hypothesis was correct, as there were few books portraying characters with low self-esteem. It is important to note that any differences between the researchers in marking of self-esteem for a character were placed in both results. Table 1: Self-Esteem Level of Characters at the End of the Book
Level of Self Esteem for Characters at the End of the Book
High Moderate Low
Number of Characters
30 17 9
Hypothesis 2: Type of Book Influences Portrayal of Self-Esteem The second hypothesis put forth by the researchers was that the type of book (picture, children’s, or young adult) would influence the portrayal of self-esteem amongst the biracial characters. It was believed that with the increasing sophistication of the audience, there would be a greater allowance of books with lower self-esteem. The researchers found that this hypothesis was backed up by the data. It is important to note that any differences between the researchers in marking of self-esteem for a character were placed in both results. Table 2: Self-Esteem Levels of Characters at the End of the Book by Type of Book
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Level of Self Esteem for Characters at the End of the Book
High Moderate Low
Number of Characters by Type
Picture Children’s 15 8 0 8 1 2 YA 7 9 6
Hypothesis 3: Female Characters Will Have Lower Self-Esteem H3 stated that biracial female characters will have lower self-esteem than biracial male characters, believing that a major reason for this will be because of concerns over appearance. To analyze H3, first an overall comparison of self-esteem and gender will be shown; second, a comparison of self-esteem and gender at the beginning of the book (many characters in the study’s self-esteem was shown to fluctuate throughout the book); third, a comparison of girls who are thought of as physically attractive, unattractive, and with no data to see how appearance impacts biracial girls’ self-esteem. Overall, the data showed that there is no significant difference between male characters and female characters in terms of level of self-esteem at the end of the book. It is important to note that any differences between the researchers in marking of self-esteem for a character were placed in both results. Table 3: Type of Book and Self-Esteem Levels at the End of the Book by Gender
Type of Book
Pictures Children YA
High SelfModerate Esteem at the SelfEnd of the Esteem at Book the End of the Book F M F M 9 5 0 0 4 4 5 3 4 3 5 4
Low SelfEsteem at the End of the Book F 0 2 4 M 1 0 2
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17 Total of F/M
However, it must be noted that if male and female characters’ self-esteem are compared at the beginning of the book, there are differences. Overall, there was a slight advantage in selfesteem at the beginning of text for male characters. This was extremely pronounced in the children’s books; yet the reverse was true for the young adult books. There was no difference in the picture books. It is important to note that any differences between the researchers in marking of self-esteem for a character were placed in both results.
Table 4: Type of Book and Self-Esteem Levels at the Beginning of the Book by Gender
Type of Book
High SelfEsteem at the Beginning of the Book
Pictures Children YA Total of F/M
F 8 3 7 18
M 5 5 3 13
Moderate Low SelfSelfEsteem at Esteem at the the Beginning of Beginning the Book of the Book F M F M 0 0 1 1 1 1 7 1 2 3 3 3 3 4 11 5
The last factor that had to be analyzed to fully understand this question is whether appearance impacts self-esteem for girls. The findings appeared to signify that there was a significant correlation between appearance and self-esteem for biracial girls. High self-esteem was much more likely to occur in biracial female characters that had a positive feeling towards their
Looking Into the Mirror appearance, or in which appearance was not mentioned in the text, than in those who were perceived or perceived themselves as unattractive. Table 5: Appearance and Self-Esteem for Female Characters Perceived as Unattractive Appearance Not Mentioned in Text Perceived as Attractive Low Self-Esteem 1 2 3 Moderate Self-Esteem 6 0 4 High Self-Esteem 2 10 5
One point to mention is that many of the picture books, all of which the female characters had high self-esteem, were marked as N/A except for one, Black, White, Just Right. This might skew the data, so included also is the table for only the picture and young adult books, where appearance begins to play a more significant part in the story. Table 6: Appearance and Self-Esteem for Female Characters (Without Picture Books)
Low Self-Esteem Perceived as Unattractive Appearance Not Mentioned in Text Perceived as Attractive 1 2 3
Moderate SelfEsteem 6 0 4
High Self-Esteem 2 2 4
Interestingly, there were more depictions of low self-esteem for characters perceived as attractive than for characters perceived as unattractive. This can be explained. The character Nancy in Cobwebs believes herself to be physically attractive, but her self-esteem is quite low because she does not possess the innate spider powers of her parents. The character Eliza in Send One Angel
Looking Into the Mirror Down believes herself to be physically attractive, but in this work of historical fiction, she is a
slave. Her situation impacts her low self-esteem. Lastly, the character Cameron in Off-Color was marked differently by the two researchers. One depicted her as having low self-esteem at the end of the text; the other depicted her as having moderate self-esteem (for the purposes of the chart, deviances such as this were listed in both categories). While both researchers marked her as perceiving herself as physically attractive, the shock of finding out her father was a Black man, coupled with the move to a completely new environment racially, from an all-white to all-Black neighborhood, impacted her self-esteem. Overall, it can be stated that there were relatively few differences based on gender regarding self-esteem in the sample of texts studied. However, a salient factor was the impact of appearance on female characters. The results clearly show that the perception from others of being attractive, or believing yourself to be attractive has a strong link towards improving the self-esteem outcomes of female characters. Hypothesis 4: Self-Esteem Will Vary Throughout the Text H4 states that the self-esteem of the characters will vary throughout the text. Whether this hypothesis was true or false is subjective, as roughly one-third of the characters in the sample’s level of self-esteem fluctuated at least once. Data was collected from both researchers’ depictions of self-esteem, including their subsamples, which at times varied in subjective opinion of selfesteem of the characters overall, or throughout the text. Table 7: Fluctuations of Characters Self-Esteem Levels Throughout the Book
Number of Fluctuations of Self-Esteem 0 Changes 1 Change 2 Changes
Number of Characters Fitting This Criteria According to the Researchers 45 17 4
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Hypothesis 5: Characters Who Accept Themselves Racially Have Higher Self-Esteem While there were many ways this could have been measured, perhaps the best method to measure racial acceptance of the characters in this study was through statement 4 from the instrument used to measure the self-esteem of the characters in the text. That statement is: “The character never expresses verbally or through thought in the text any indecision in choosing an identity.” Research has shown that biracial youth who have a sense of identity - whether it is with one group, or as biracial - tend to have higher self-esteem (Bracey et al, 2004). The results of analyzing the data clearly show that this hypothesis was true. It is important to note that any differences between the researchers in marking of self-esteem or question 4 for a character were placed in both results. Table 8: Identity Indicator and Self-Esteem Levels
High Self-Esteem Yes to Question 4 No to Question 4 N/A to Question 4 27 3 0
Moderate SelfEsteem 11 8 0
Low Self-Esteem 3 6 1
Hypothesis 6: Picture Books That Show Loving Support from Families Will Have Characters with Higher Self-Esteem All of the picture books in the researchers’ sample showed families that showed loving support for their biracial children. Families show support in the texts through embracing their children in the images in the book, or through explicit text showcasing their love for the child. This was likely one of the reasons why picture books showed near unanimous levels of high self-esteem for their characters. The only notable exception was the character Cooper from Cooper’s Lesson.
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Another factor to analyze in these picture books was how culture is depicted. Some of the books, through text or images, showcased both cultures being an active part of their child’s life. Works like Hope, Jalapeño Bagels, and I Love Saturdays y Domingos all feature both cultures as actively a part of the biracial child’s life. This appreciation for both cultures was instilled from their families. This was particularly important when analyzing books with questions of identity. Comparing Hope and Cooper’s Lesson provides a vivid example. Hope’s aunt Prudence bolsters the title character’s self-esteem when faced with discrimination by explaining that she is the child of both sides of her family and then concluding by stating, “So when someone asks, ‘My goodness, is the child mixed?’ you can say in a clear voice, ‘Yes, I am generations of faith ‘mixed’ with lots of love! I AM HOPE!’” (Monk, 1999). Comparatively, in Cooper’s Lesson, when faced with discrimination, Cooper feels alienated. Interestingly, the only interaction with people outside his family that he has in this text is with Mr. Lee, a Korean grocer who tries to help him accept his identity. Cooper’s white father and his family are not shown in the text, and Cooper has a sense of trying to fit in to both sides but feeling a part of neither. This is likely a sign of a lack of parental support and instilling of both cultures in Cooper. Summary It appears that authors are writing biracial characters with high self-esteem. Overall, the results showed a strong majority of characters had high self-esteem amongst the books in the sample. The researchers believe that the high level of resiliency when faced with discrimination among the biracial characters in the sample was one of the factors leading to high self-esteem outcomes for most of the characters. The researchers also believe that the declaration of a racial identity from most of the characters in the texts helped the characters have or develop high selfesteem. Lastly, the lack of major crises (deaths, suicides, abandonment, etc.) other than those
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typical of normal age-appropriate development for youth in many of the books was believed to be a factor leading to higher self-esteem. This was especially pronounced in the picture books, and to a lesser extent in the children’s books. The researchers found that picture books showcased the greatest level of high self-esteem, followed by children’s books. Young adult books had the lowest self-esteem. The researchers believe this to be the case because of the crises relating to adolescence as a transitional period between childhood and adulthood. Likewise, characters in picture books had higher self-esteem because many of the racial identity development models indicate race is not, or is less of, a salient factor in young children’s life compared to older children or adolescents. However, there are exceptions, such as when children experience discrimination at an early age, which accounted for the lack of unanimous high self-esteem among picture and children’s books. The researchers found little difference between the self-esteem outcomes based on the gender of the characters. With some generality, it can be stated that the biggest obstacle for biracial girls in self-esteem was appearance concerns for those with low self-esteem, while for biracial boys it was discrimination. The fact that both female and male characters faced obstacles to high self-esteem in many of the texts most likely is the reason why similar results were observed. The researchers also found that a positive perspective on their appearance is correlated with high self-esteem for biracial female characters. Phillips (2004) found that appearance is a strong factor in the self-esteem of biracial girls of Asian or Black backgrounds, often leading to low selfesteem. This is likely due to internalizing ideologies present in mainstream societies about what constitutes beauty. When female characters believed themselves to be attractive, it led to significantly higher self-esteem outcomes.
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Interestingly, the researchers found that most of the self-esteem concerns for biracial male characters started in the young adult books. In the case of the two male characters with low selfesteem at the end of the young adult books, Danny in Mexican Whiteboy and Manz in Border Crossing, there were different reasons for their low self-esteem. Danny feels that he is not authentically Mexican enough due to his biracial (half Mexican, half white) status. He resents his white mother and white background. Manz from Border Crossing’s low self-esteem is largely brought about due to the onset of schizophrenia, coupled with racial issues. In many of the other texts with moderate self-esteem, such as Clifton Carlson in Gray Baby or Jace Adams in Stringz, race also is a salient issue for the characters in their adolescence. It can therefore be concluded that with the significance of dealing with racism and the issue of racial identity forefront for biracial male characters in their adolescence, self-esteem begins to lower for biracial males during this period. The researchers found that in about one-third of the books, self-esteem varied throughout the text. It can be speculated that a big reason for the fluctuations is the nature of conflict and resolution in fictional works. This can be spurred on by help from supporting characters or changes in situation. Not surprisingly, the researchers that found that not having a crisis of identity can lead to much higher self-esteem. In cases where the character was torn over their identity, self-esteem was much lower. Bracey et al. (2004) mentioned that having a stable identity is critical for high selfesteem. If the character vacillated between different identities or had trouble choosing an identity, it was likely a sign of poor self-esteem, as shown in the data. Lastly, the researchers found that the picture books showcased strong support from families. It can be speculated that the reason for this is the fact that children are more dependent on
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their families at a younger age. Many children read these books with assistance from their parents. Also, many of the racial identity development models explain that it is not until around the age when children begin reading chapter books that identity conflicts begin. Thus, the positive depictions of family and culture are likely a reflection of the realities of early childhood.
Summary of Project and Results The overarching research question that this paper sought to answer was how self-esteem is portrayed in biracial characters in children’s and adolescent fiction. A variety of sub-questions were asked. The researchers formulated six different hypotheses. H1 was shared by both researchers. The researchers believed the texts would show characters with moderate self-esteem more than characters with high or low self-esteem. The results of the study showed that there was actually a slight majority of texts featuring characters with high self-esteem. H2 indicated that the type of book would influence the level of self-esteem. It was believed that picture books would have the most positive depiction of self-esteem, followed by children’s books, and young adult books would have the characters with the lowest self-esteem. This was backed up by the data. H3 declared that the gender of the character would impact self-esteem. It was believed that biracial male characters would have higher self-esteem than biracial female characters. This was proven false, as there was no significant difference between these groups in terms of levels of selfesteem. What was found was that biracial female characters that have positive conceptions of their
Looking Into the Mirror appearance had higher self-esteem than those who did not have a positive conception of their appearance.
H4 stated that there would be fluctuations in level of self-esteem throughout the text. The results of analyzing this hypothesis showed that about one-third of the characters’ self-esteem levels varied throughout the text. H5 stated that the lack of conflict over identity would lead to higher self-esteem. This was proved true by the data. This was one of the stronger confirmations of any hypothesis in the study. There was a strong majority of characters who had high self-esteem when not faced with a conflict of identity, but when faced with a conflict of identity, moderate or low self-esteem was quite common. H6 stated that picture books would show loving depictions of family support. This was also proved true in the data. Conclusion The researchers found that overall depictions of self-esteem were fairly high in the texts in the sample. Type of book played a significant factor in levels of self-esteem of the characters. Gender did not play a significant role in levels of self-esteem. Having a strong racial identity, whether singular or biracial was strongly correlated with high self-esteem. The researchers do not believe this study should be generalizable to anything other than the current fictional works for children and adolescents featuring well-developed biracial characters. It is not believed that one should gather from this study that biracial children and adolescents generally have high self-esteem and rarely have low self-esteem. These are all works of fiction and any generalization towards actual levels of self-esteem amongst biracial youth would be foolish. Recommendations
Looking Into the Mirror One of the best ways the research in this study can be applied is through a practical approach to collection development for librarians, teachers, and counselors in stocking which books to place on their shelves. Rudine Sims Bishop, as quoted in Lovett (2002) stated that all
children want to see a mirror of themselves in the texts they read (Lovett, 2002). Sometimes this will be a character of high self-esteem. Other times it will be a character with moderate or low selfesteem. Utilizing the checklist in the appendix to this paper, or using the checklist from this paper on newer works or works not mentioned can help stock a variety of texts in a collection featuring characters with different levels of self-esteem. Additionally, reading the brief summaries of the works in the other appendix can help librarians and others interested in building a diverse collection of works featuring biracial children and adolescents. The researchers have a few helpful suggestions for future research on this topic. The first is that there are a number of texts where there are discrepancies between the assigned level of selfesteem and the checklist chart. Factors such as issues relating to sexuality, mental health, or other factors should be implemented in a revised checklist to better address all factors that can challenge youth’s self-esteem. This can be illustrated in the fact that in the text Border Crossing, while race factors into the self-esteem issues of the protagonist, mental health issues relating to the onset of schizophrenia affect him in a more pronounced way than race. Another example was the character Straggerlee from The House You Pass By. Again, race was an issue for her low self-esteem, but the bigger issue was her sexual orientation. The researchers have two ideas for future research on this topic. The researchers believe it would be interesting to correlate the racial background of the authors and/or their marital status (interracial union or not) with the authenticity of the biracial characters. In general observation, many of the books which yielded the most profound insight into the biracial condition were written
Looking Into the Mirror by biracial authors. Additionally, many books with little racial content (conflict over identity, dealing with racism) were written by white authors. It would be interesting to note if there is a general consensus about whether the author’s situation impacts the level of authenticity of the characters. Perhaps this can be done through a reader’s study by biracial youth.
Another interesting study the researchers propose for future research is the use of various frameworks such as Berry et al. (1986), Poston (1990), and Rockquemore & Brunsma (2002) to determine where the biracial characters are on the racial identity development models. The study would see which model best correlates to the actual development of racial identity in the biracial characters. Using the variables put forth by the racial identity development theorizers, future researchers could see whether variables leading towards monoracial or biracial identity correlate with an actual monoracial or biracial identity from the characters in the texts.
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References Benedetto, A. E., & Olisky, T. (2001). Biracial youth: The role of the school counselor in racial identity development. Professional School Counseling, 5(1), 66-69. Retrieved from ERIC. Berry, J. W., Trimble, J. E., & Olmedo, E. L. (1986). Assessment of acculturation. In W.J. Lonner & J.W. Berry (Eds.), Field Methods in Cross-Cultural Research (pp. 291-324). Newbury Park, CA: Sage. Bracey, J. R., Bámaca, M. Y., & Umaña -Taylor, A. J. (2004). Examining ethnic identity and self-esteem among biracial and monoracial adolescents. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 33(2), 123-132. doi: 10.1023/B:JOYO.0000013424.93635.68 Brewster, L. (2008). Medicine for the soul: Bibliotherapy. APLIS, 21(3), 115-119. Retrieved from LISTA. Brewster, L. (2009). Books on prescription: Bibliotherapy in the United Kingdom. Journal of Hospital Librarianship, 9(4), 399-407. doi: 10.1080/15323260903253456 Brown, P. M. (1990). Biracial identity and social marginality. Child & Adolescent Social Work Journal, 7(4), 319-337. Retrieved from PsycInfo. Calhoun, C. (1994). Social Theory and Politics of Identity. Oxford: Blackwell. Courtney, B. A. (1995, February). Freedom from choice. Newsweek, 125(7), 16. Du Mont, R. R., Buttlar, L., & Caynon, W. Multiculturalism in libraries. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press.
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Farruggia, S. P., Chen, C., Greenberger, E., Dmitrieva, J., & Macek, P. (2004). Adolescent selfesteem in cross-cultural perspective: Testing measurement equivalence and a mediation model. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 35(6), 719-733. Retrieved from Sage Premier. Gillem, A. R., Cohn, L. R., & Thome, C. (2001). Black identity in biracial Black/White people: A comparison of Jacqueline who refuses to be exclusively Black and Adolphus who wishes he were. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 7(2), 182-196. doi: 10.1037/1099-9809.7.2.182 Gray-Little, B., Williams, V.S.L., & Hancock, T.D (1997). An item response theory analysis of the Rosenberg self-esteem scale. Personality and Social Bulletin, 23, 443-451. doi: 10.1177/0146167297235001 Hendricks, D. & Patterson, A. (2002). U.S. Census History. Prologue, 34(2). Retrieved from http://www.1930census.com/us_census_history.php Lovett, S. S. (2002). Do you see your family? : An examination of racially mixed characters & families in children’s picture books available in school media centers (Unpublished master’s thesis). University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Loving v. Virginia, 1967 388 U.S. 1 (June 12, 1967). Lusk, E. A., Taylor, M. J., Nanney, J. T., & Austin, C. (2010) Biracial identity and its relation to self-esteem and depression in mixed black/white biracial individuals. Journal of Ethnic & Cultural Diversity in Social Work, 19(2), 109-126. doi: 10.1080/153120103771783
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Milan, S., & Keiley, M. K. (2000). Biracial youth and families in therapy: Issues and interventions. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 26(3), 305-315. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete. Miville, M. L., Constantine, M. G., Baysden, M. F., & So-Loyd, G. (2005). Chameleon changes: An exploration of racial identity themes of multiracial people. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 52(4), 507-516. doi: 10.1037/0022-022.214.171.1247 Moss, R. C., & Davis, D. (2008). Counseling biracial students: A review of issues of interventions. Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 36(4), 219-230. Retrieved from Ethnic Newswatch. Nittle, N.K. (2011). Raising biracial children to be well adjusted. About.com. Retrieved from http://racerelations.about.com/od/raceconsciousparenting/a/RaisingBirac ialChildrentoBeWellAdjusted.htm Nuttgens, S. (2010). Biracial identity theory and research juxtaposed with narrative accounts of a biracial individual. Child & Adolescent Social Work Journal, 27(5), 355-364. doi: 10.1007/s10560-010-0209-6 Passel, J. S., Wang, W., & Taylor, P. (2010, June 4). One-in-seven new U.S. marriages is interracial or interethnic. Retrieved from http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1616/american-
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therapy: Bridging theory, research, and practice. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 39(2), 192-201. doi: 10.1037/0735-7028.39.2.192
Phillips, L. (2004). Fitting in and feeling good: Patterns of self evaluation and psychological stress among biracial adolescent girls. Women & Therapy, 27(1-2), 217-236. doi: 10.1300/J015v27no1_15 Phinney, J. S. (1990). Ethnic identity in adolescents and adults: Review of research. Psychological Bulletin, 108(3), 499-514. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.108.3.499 Poston, W. S. C. (1990). The biracial identity development model: A needed solution. Journal of Counseling & Development, 69(2), 152-155. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete. Robins, R.W., Hendin, H. M. & Trzesniewski, K. H. (2001) Measuring global self-esteem: Construct validation of a single-item measure and the Rosenberg self-esteem scale. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, (27)2, 151-161. Retrieved from Sage Premier. Robinson, T. L. (2001). White mothers of non-white children. Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education and Development, 40(2), 171-184. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete. Rockquemore, K. A., & Brunsma, D. L. (2002). Socially embedded identities: Theories, typologies, and processes of racial identity among Black/White biracials. The Sociological Quarterly, 43(3), 335-356. doi: 10.1111/j.1533-8525.2002.tb00052.x
Looking Into the Mirror Rockquemore, K.A., & Laszloffy, T.A. (2003). Multiple realities: A relational narrative
approach in therapy with Black-White mixed-race clients. Family Relations, 52(2), 119. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete. Root, M. P. P. (1992). Racially mixed people in America. Newbury Park: Sage Publications.
Root, M. P. P. (1999). The biracial baby boom: Understanding ecological constructions of racial identity in the 21st century. In R. H. Sheets & E. R. Hollins (Eds.), Racial and ethnic identity in school practices: Aspects of human development (pp. 67-89). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Roth, W. (2005). The end of the one-drop rule? Labeling of multiracial children in Black intermarriages. Sociological Forum, 20(1), 35-67. doi:10.1007/s11206-005-1897-0 Saulny, S. (2011, January 30). Black? White? Asian? More young Americans choose all of the above. The New York Times, pp. A1. Saulny, S (2011, October 13). In strangers’ glances at family, tension lingers. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/13/us/for-mixed-family-oldracial-tensions-remain-part-of-life.html?ref=raceremixed Scherman, R. M. (2010). A theoretical look at biculturalism in intercountry adoption. Journal of Ethnic & Cultural Diversity in Social Work, 19(2), 127-142. doi: 10.1080/1513201002771742 Serwer, A. (May, 2011) In the mix: Being biracial in America. Ebony Magazine. Smedley, A., & Smedley, B. (2011). Race in North America: Origin and evolution of a
Looking Into the Mirror worldview. New York: Westview. Stephan, C. W. (1991). Ethnic identity among mixed-heritage people in Hawaii. Symbolic Interaction, 14(3), 261-277. Retrieved from JSTOR. Udry, R., Li, R. M., & Hendrickson-Smith, J. (2003). Health and behavior risks of adolescents with mixed-race identity. American Journal of Public Health, 93(11), 1865-1870. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete.
Williams, C. B. (1999). Claiming a biracial identity: Resisting social constructions of race and culture. Journal of Counseling & Development, 77(1), 32-35. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete. Williams, R. F. (2009). Black-White biracial students in American schools: A review of the literature. Review of Educational Research, 79(2), 776-804. doi: 10.3102/0034654309331561
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Appendix 1: Annotated Bibliography Picture Books Alko, S. (2009). I'm your peanut butter big brother. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. A young boy speculates on what his sister will look like when she is born. Ada, A. F., & Savadier, E. (2002). I love saturdays y domingos. New York: Aladdin Paperback. A young girl explains why she loves Saturdays y domingos because on those two different days she spends it with two different sets of grandparents from two different backgrounds who share their heritage and customs with her. Adoff, A., & McCully, E. A. (1992). Black is brown is tan. New York: HarperCollins. The book presents a beautiful poem demonstrating the wonders of an interracial family. Cheng, A., & Zhang, A. (2000). Grandfather counts. New York: Lee & Low Books. A young girl thought that her Chinese grandfather did not accept her, but later realized it was because there was a language barrier; they are then able to bond through teaching
Looking Into the Mirror each other how to count in Chinese and English. Coy, J., & Fisher, C. (2003). Two old potatoes and me. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. A father shows his daughter how to grow potatoes. Davol, M. W., & Trivas, I. (1993). Black, white, just right! Morton Grove, Ill.: A. Whitman.
A young girl is shown to be the “just right” mix of her white father and Black mother in personality and appearance. Friedman, I. R., & Say, A. (1984). How my parents learned to eat. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. This book tells the story of how a biracial girl’s parents met in Japan. Graham, B. (2005). Oscar's half birthday. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press. A family celebrates a baby’s birthday. Igus, T., & Wells, D. (1996). Two Mrs. Gibsons. San Francisco, CA: Children’s Book Press. A young girl shares how she is blessed by the two Mrs. Gibson’s, her mother and her grandmother, in her life while learning each of their customs. Johnson, A., & Soman, D. (1996). The aunt in our house. New York: Orchard Books. A woman moves into her brother’s house after her house was destroyed and integrates into the family unit. Monk, I., & Porter, J. L. (1999). Hope. Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books.
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Hope, a biracial child faced with discrimination, learns from her Aunt Prudence how to overcome discrimination by explaining the significance of Hope’s name. Monk, I., & Porter, J. L. (2001). Family. Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books. Hope learns more about the Black side of her family while vising her Aunt in this sequel to Hope. Shin, S. Y., & Cogan, K. (2004). Cooper's lesson. San Francisco, CA: Children’s Book Press A young boy is caught stealing by a Korean shop owner and is then helped by the shop owner towards accepting his biracial status. Wing, N. (1996). Jalapeño bagels. (1996). New York: Atheneum Books For Young Readers. Pablo is initially confused on which food of his parents’ cultures he is going to bring for International Day at his school since he is part Jewish and Mexican; to resolve the conflict he brings a jalapeño bagel, a perfect fusion of both cultures. Winstanley, N., & Nadeau, J. (2011). Cinnamon baby. Toronto: Kids Can Press. An interracial couple does everything they can to help their colicky baby; the only thing that is able to calm the baby is the scent from the loaf of cinnamon bread from the mother’s bakery. Children’s Chapter Books Chang, M. S. (2009). Celia's robot. New York: Holiday House. Celia’s father has made a prototype of a robot as a companion for her when both parents are caught up in their careers, but finally they realize that their daughter is worth a lot
Looking Into the Mirror more than their careers when Celia is almost killed trying to recover the stolen robot. Chocolate, D. (1994). Elizabeth's wish. Orange, N.J.: Just Us Books.
A biracial girl who is being bullied learns to accept herself as Black through the help of her African-American friends. Curry, J. L. (2005). The black canary. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books. A boy is transported back in time to England in 1600 where he is largely accepted, but is treated as a bit of a curiosity due to his biracial heritage. Frazier, S. T. (2007). Brendan Buckley's universe and everything in it. New York: Delacorte Press. Through his love of discovery and studying minerals, Brendan Buckley discovers his identity and in the process helps his grandfather come to terms in accepting a biracial grandson and his daughter in an interracial marriage. Frazier, S. T. (2010). The other half of my heart. New York: Delacorte Press. Two twin sisters with different skin complexions and personalities discover who they are as biracial teenagers while participating in the Ms. Black Pearl Program. Grimes, N. (2006). The road to Paris. New York: G.P. Putnam. Paris, feeling abandoned in foster care, finally feels a sense of belonging when she sees people who appreciate her for who she is.
Magoon, K. (2011). Camo girl. New York: Aladdin. A girl who is an outcast at her school has to decide whether popularity or loyalty to her friend is more important to her after a popular new boy takes an interest in her. Marsden, C. (2010). Take me with you. Somerville, Mass.: Candlewick Press. Susanna, an orphan in an Italian convent, discovers her biracial identity.
Looking Into the Mirror Namioka, L. (2003). Half and half. New York: Delacorte Press.
Fiona, unsure of what racial identity she should declare herself after the question is posed on a school form, becomes further torn when trying to placate her Scottish grandparents and Chinese grandmother at a folk festival. Partridge, E. (2011). Dogtag summer. New York: Bloomsbury Books for Young Readers. A biracial girl born in Vietnam to a GI father and a Vietnamese mother reflects on how the past influences her present status as an adopted child in California. Riordan, R. (2010). The red pyramid. New York: Disney/Hyperion. A fantastical tale of an orphan brother and sister who have to save the world from the Egyptian god Set’s plans for doomsday. Schwartz, V. F. (2000). Send one angel down. New York: Holiday House. Being born into slavery, Eliza faces more hardships when the slave owner and others become aware that she is a byproduct of the owner having relationships with slaves. Stauffacher, S. (2010). Animal rescue team: Hide and seek. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. The Carter family, an interracial family, devotes their life to rescuing distressed animals. Stauffacher, S. (2010). Animal rescue team: Special delivery! New York: Alfred A. Knopf. The Carter family, an interracial family, comes to the aid of a distressed deer.
Woodson, J. (2000). Miracle's boys. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons. Three inner-city brothers go through the trials and tribulations of trying to cope with the loss of their mother and their internal issues.
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Young Adult Books Anderson, J. L. (2009). Border crossing. Minneapolis, Minn.: Milkweed Editions. Manz, a byproduct of a Mexican father and a white mother, becomes obsessed about “the man” who is coming after him due to his being part Mexican. Bruchac, J., & Comport, S. W. (2005). Whisper in the dark. New York: HarperCollins.
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Maddy, who is part Native American, begins to notice that the legend of whispering in the dark is coming to haunt her because of her family’s lineage. Crutcher, C. (2001). Whale talk. New York: Greenwillow Books. A well-adjusted teenage boy seeks to help the school’s outcasts gain self-esteem through the formation of a swim team. De La Peña, M. (2008). Mexican whiteboy. New York: Delacorte Press. A summer in a Mexican neighborhood in San Diego with his father’s side of the family spurs feelings of self-hatred and cultural inauthenticity for a half-white, half-Mexican teenage boy. Easton, K. (2007). Hiroshima dreams. New York: Dutton Juvenile. Lin is conscious that she does not look like the other popular girls but learns to finally accept who she is through the Koan (riddles) that her Japanese grandmother taught her. Hamilton, V. (1993). Plain City. New York: Blue Sky Press. Buhlaire feels incomplete over not having a father, until the principal at her school reveals that her father is still alive and well; once she meets him she begins to feel whole again.
McDonald, J. (2007). Off-color. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Cameron, a teenage girl who believes herself to be white and who mocked Black people sees her pristine world collapse when she discovers that she is part Black. Meyer, C. (1997). Jubilee journey. San Diego: Harcourt Brace. Living in a diverse community with acceptance for biracial individuals, Emily Rose Cartier and her brothers learn what it mean to be Black when they get invited by their great-
Looking Into the Mirror grandmother to attend Juneteenth Jubilee in Texas. Ostow, M. (2006). Emily Goldberg learns to salsa. New York: Razorbill. Growing up Jewish, Emily was not aware of her Puerto Rican heritage until after her
grandmother’s death, where in Puerto Rico she learns not only her roots but how to dance salsa. Reynolds, M. (1999). If you loved me. Buena Park, Calif.: Morning Glory Press. A hot-headed teenage girl has to make decisions about whether to forgive her cheating boyfriend and her formerly drug-addicted father. Sanders, S. L. (2009). Gray baby: a novel. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. A coming of age story of a teenage boy going through a complicated period in his life; he meets his estranged grandfather, he confronts past demons about the racist police officers who killed his father, and he helps pursue a kidnapper of the sister of a girl he likes. Smith, S. L. (2008). Hot, sour, salty, sweet. New York: Delacorte Press. A high-achieving biracial girl worries over inviting her crush to a middle school graduation party, believing he would prefer to date a white girl over her.
Wenberg, M. (2010). Stringz. Lodi, N.J.: WestSide Books. Jace Adams, feeling abandoned by his parents and living in a new city, finds solace in his cello. Woodson, J. (1997). The house you pass on the way. New York: Delacorte Press Straggerlee is constantly being stung with the whispers that the town people have about her interracial family, but the sting that hurts the worst is the whisper she has within herself. Young, K. R. (2004). Cobwebs. New York: Greenwillow Books.
Looking Into the Mirror A teenage girl worries that her spider powers will not develop to the extent that her parents’ powers did.
Appendix 2: Racial Background of Characters in the Books Racial Pairings Asian and Black Asian, Black, and White Asian and White Pictures 1. Two Mrs. Gibsons Type of Books and Names Children’s Chapter Young Adult 1.Hot , Sour, Salty, Sweet 1. Whale Talk 2. If You Loved Me 1. Hiroshima Dreams 1. Mexican Whiteboy
1.Grandfather Counts 2. Cooper’s Lesson 3. How My Parents Learned to Eat
1. Celia’s Robot 2. Half and Half 3. Dogtag Summer 1. Miracle’s Boys
Black and Hispanic
Looking Into the Mirror Black and White 1. Cinnamon Baby 2. Oscar’s Half Birthday 3. Hope and Family 4. Black, White, Just Right! 5.The Aunt in Our House 6. I’m Your Peanut Butter Big Brother 7. Black is Brown is Tan 1. Take Me With You 2. Road to Paris 3. The Black Canary 4. The Red Pyramid 5. Send One Angel Down 6. Elizabeth’s Wish 7. The Other Half of My Heart 8. Animal Rescue Team (Special Delivery! and Hide and Seek). 9. Brendan Buckley’s Universe
64 1. Off-Color 2. Stringz 3. Whale Talk 4. Jubilee Journey 5. Cobwebs 6. The House You Pass On the Way 7. Gray Baby
Hispanic and White
1. Jalapeño Bagels 2. I Love Saturdays y Domingos
Native American and White
1. Mexican Whiteboy 2. Emily Goldberg Learns to Salsa 3. Border Crossing 1. Whisper in the Dark 2.Cobwebs.
Appendix 3: Checklist for Books
1. The character verbally or through thought in the text expresses the fact that they identify as
biracial (Gillem et al, 2001; Poston, 1990; Williams, 2009). 2. The character comes from a home with supportive adults providing guidance and love (i.e. they endure no abuse from parents/guardians, parents/guardians take an interest in their life) (Williams, 2009). 3. The character lives in a neighborhood that is not exclusive to one race (Williams, 2009). 4. The character never expresses verbally or through thought in the text any indecision in choosing an identity (Nuttgens, 2010).
Looking Into the Mirror 5. The character verbally or through thought in the text expresses pride in all of their racial/cultural identities (Poston, 1990).
6. The character is shown in the text to have engaged in a cultural practice or tradition of the culture of both parents (Benedetto & Olisky, 2001). 7. The character never faces a lack of acceptance from any character in the text for any reason (Miville et al., 2005). 8. The character’s parents/guardians are never shown in the text stereotyping each other by race (Moss & Davis, 2008). 9. The character’s school is shown to have multicultural programs (Moss & Davis, 2008). 10. The character does not express feelings of hatred or depression when faced with racial discrimination (Bracey et al., 2004) 11. The character attends a school with characters of at least two separate racial backgrounds, not counting the character her/himself (Williams, 2009). 12. The character does not display any incidents of delinquency, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts, or alienation (Poston, 1990). 13. The character is explicitly stated as having artistic, athletic, or academic ability in the text (Robins et al., 2001). 14. The character her/himself or other characters explicitly express that the character is physically attractive (Robins et al., 2001). 15. The character is shown in the text interacting with at least one friend (Robins et al., 2001).