book review: See No Color

+-+132197954_140title: See No Color
author: Shannon Gibney
date: 2015 CarolRhoda Lab
main character: Alex Kirtridge

See No Color is a coming of age story about a young biracial girl (White/African American), a transracial adoptee, who is trying to figure out her identity. Alex is a gifted athlete with hopes of building a career in baseball. When the story begins, Alex is narrating her father’s life. This is off-putting in YA, where we typically hear little from or about parents. In this instance, Gibney is using Alex’s voice to indicate how little self-confidence the character has. Alex’s hair also brings this point across. Her hair is wild and untamed. I would imagine it to be long, curly and very dry; tough to comb and impossible to style. Alex has been adopted by a white family who denies Alex’s racial identity and their blindness leads Alex to wonder just who she really is, and how to manage her hair. When she begins to date a young man who is African American, she begins to realize that she doesn’t relate to her own blackness. Where does she fit in?

When I finished reading the book, it didn’t sit well with me and I believe this is simply because I didn’t take the time to relate to the character. There are many things that Alex does as she stumbles through her search for identity that come across as signs of weakness. Well, of course this young girl was weak in some sense, but in another sense she was had the strength to undertake this journey by herself. I’ve come to admire her strength.

I enjoyed the language in this book.

I touched the base and then took a reasonable lead as my teammate stepped up to the plate. The black kid on the mound looked back at me once, over his glove, but I was confident that he wouldn’t try to pick me off. He knew exactly how fast I was now. Today, anyway, I was stronger that he was. (p. 10)

No doubt Alex that wasn’t only talking about baseball. Here, she was foreshadowing the doubt and confusion that would soon overtake her.

The key to Alex discovering who she is lies in how she manages her relationships with the young African American man she’s dating and with her African American father. While this book wants to empower this young women, it fails to do so in two instances. First, it lets her development rest upon relationships with males. Second, the story has her physical ability decline as her body to develops. I wasn’t an athlete, so I don’t know that my rounding hips would prevent me from running at high speeds and I tend to thing that Venus and Serena Williams tend to disprove this logic.

I’d be remiss in my duties as a librarian if I didn’t remark on how well written the scene is when the librarian relates an abundance of information about transracial adoptions. Rather than hearing the voice of the author as often happens in thee moments, I felt the librarian’s passion and emotion. This debut author did a very skillful job of creating a complex and believable story.

See No Color is a rare gem in that little else is written for teens about transracial adoptions, biracial teens or female athletes. Here, in this book it all intersects quite nicely.

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2 thoughts on “book review: See No Color

  1. I just finished this book and was led to first think of the situation with my friend who is the mother of 2 bi-racial adults who never identified themselves as nothing other than black Americans basically due to the imprinting they were able to experience growing up. The language is very authentic and the confusion and yearning to connect is too.

    The most critical move a transracial adoptive parent can do is allow the connections to happen and not be in denial of their child’s blackness. As an educator I have witnessed so many bi-racial children in so much angst way beyond the regular adolescent teen self esteem issues and it has always been due to a white parent telling their child they are neither black or white but both, due to the parent not wanting their own race ignored. I have almost lost my job on several occasions trying to help the parents understand the importance of helping a child of color make connections.

    Shannon’s lived this experience and cans definitely write from the perspective. I like that she didn’t sugar coat the confusion and l am really impressed with how her parents didn’t play denial games with her as a child and how she has embraced her ethnicity in the choices she not only made in her post grad fellowships and higher ed career, but in her personal life as well. I am sure the writing of this was not an easy journey. Oh and for the identifying and connecting through men…unfortunately many young girls so just that.

    • It’s fortunate for young readers when authors are able to authentically write something that so many can connect with. I think many mixed race children will relate with this book.

      Yes, too many women (of all ages!) expect men to save them. I think too many books reinforce this expectations instead of doing what a good story can do. I don’t think this flaw will distract most readers, but I would like to see books change this narrative.

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