Children and Parenting
Does Anybody Else Look Like Me? A
Parent’s Guide to Raising Multiracial Children
by Donna Jackson Nakazawa Perseus Publishing
of parenting seems beset with unknowns and controversies even for the
experts. For example, Roger
Sugarman in his review (on this site) of the five volume, eight-inch thick
Handbook of Parenting, 2nd Edition, edited by Marc H.
Bornstein, states: “So it
is with much of the book chapters; despite the vitally important nature of
the subject matter overall, most conclude that we still simply do not
Donna Jackson Nakazawa sets out to find some answers to the even more
complex questions faced by the parents of multiracial children.
In preparing her multifaceted study, she examined her own parenting
of two children, she approached the experts, reviewed the literature, and
gathered information from more than sixty interviews that she conducted
with families of multiracial children.
She seeks answers for her own children and for other multiracial
children, sharing her information in the personal style of one parent
speaking to another. Her
passion for children is in her words and in the depth and sophistication
of her thoughts and feelings as she searches for what is best for the
children. She speaks at once
from personal experience and from the ideas gained from her
Nakazawa’s multi-layered study yields many fine insights.
At the core of her book are three sections covering three stages of
development in the life of children: the years before grammar school, the
middle childhood years, and adolescence. In each section she summarizes
those facets, in that stage of development, that have the greatest bearing
on how a multiracial child might be reacting and assimilating the
information about race, culture, and their own self-worth coming to him or
her both from concerned parents and from the often callous society beyond
the family. Children two to
five years of age, for instance, have strict rules of categorization, the
author explains. Things can
only belong to one category; a ball cannot be both round and red. At this point, she relates the story of a mother and a
daughter who were out shopping when the biracial daughter observed: “Oh,
look, mommy! There are some black people!”
The mother who was black herself stared in surprise at her child
who was half black.. The
story demonstrates that the child conceived of her mother simply as a
mother and belonging to no other category.
Race as an adult concept or misconception is perhaps indiscernible
to younger children; it follows that the recognition of one’s self as
multiracial is very difficult for a multiracial child.
is not forced into young minds until the second stage when children are
about five years of age. This is the point in the life of a multiracial child that the
author describes as a “pressure point”—a time when things can be
especially difficult. Another
such time is adolescence when each multiracial child’s unique appearance
and nature collides with that teenager’s desire to fit in and not stand
out. For each of the stages
of the child’s life, the author offers suggestions, stories, insights,
and ideas of the multiracial parents she interviewed. In addition, stories
from multiracial adults about their own childhood and what they missed or
appreciated about their parents add even more depth.
Their stories represent yet another layer of information that she
weaves throughout her book along with her own stories about her son, named
“Christian,” a name that reflects both his Scandinavian heritage and
his Japanese heritage wherein “Chris-chan” means “dear beloved child
the challenges facing parent and child, Donna Nakazawa consistently
encourages. She's not one to
wait until a child has a problem at school or elsewhere and decide what to
do then. Her approach is proactive. Throughout her book she emphasizes
that multiracial children, especially, need a sense of self-worth and
security in order to confront the difficulties they will face. Raising them “color blind,” as if race doesn’t matter,
may reflect an ideal, but it does not reflect reality. Multiracial children should be well prepared for a world
where race matters. The
author suggests giving children scripts on how to answer or deal with the
“What are you?” questions they are asked over and over and
role-playing with them to prepare them for difficult encounters.
She urges that parents help their children understand their own
heritage and provides lists of books that feature biracial and
transracially adopted children; she offers honest, accurate, and specific
information to guide parents in helping to make their
children secure enough to face the challenges; at the same time she
presents discussions on the influence of community and school on
Nakazawa concludes her study on another encouraging note, that along with
the challenges of being multiracial come the possible advantages of a
unique perspective and life experience.
As they mature, these multiracial children may come to love their
multiracial nature and feel it provides them with a very special
perspective. As one of them
probably had to think more about who I am than most people my age have,
but I think that's given me a kind of strength. I feel like a lot of my
friends admire that in me.
There's also a wonderful dialog between the author and her young
son who is related to Stonewall and Davey Jackson as well as the samurai
clan of Lord Nakazawa.
know Mom, today when they were teasing me, I felt all weird and little
inside, like I wanted to cry but I didn't want to cry. But then I
thought of my three selves and I felt really strong.
I said very curious. "What do you mean by your three
selves?" I hadn't a clue and had some small vestige of concern at the
concept, to be truthful.
he said, very matter-of-factly. "my Davey and Stonewall Jackson self,
and there's my Samurai self, and then my third self - the me that's
both of them mixed together!" My heart leapt. The concept of being
mixed had not only clicked, it had clicked as a source of strength.
R. (2002). Review of Handbook of Parenting, 2nd Edition,
Volumes 1-5 edited by Marc H. Bornstein. Human Nature Review.