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Multiracial Child Resource Book: Living Complex Identities

Edited by Maria P. P. Root and Matt KelleyMavin Foundation; $39.00

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Phew. Finally, somebody has wrestled the unwieldy, complicated, sound-bite-resistant subject of multiracial identity into a format that’s both comprehensive and manageable. Actually, two somebodies: psychologist and author Maria P. P. Root and MAVIN magazine founder Matt Kelley, co-editors of The Multiracial Child Resource Book.

Root and Kelley, both notable figures in the public discourse on multiracial identity, have combined scholarly essays, U.S. census analyses, and first-person testimonials into 30 chapters that chart the history, politics, and social and psychological implications of multiracial America.

The book is crammed with information targeted primarily toward educators and therapists, although parents will also find it useful. The back contains exhaustive lists of Web sites, films, and books on related topics. Many of the contributors have been in their fields for years, giving the book a resonance and weight.

The writing ranges from stiff to fluid, the typefaces are small, there’s a lot of repetition, and a number of testimonials could have been more tightly edited. But the format of the book is intrinsically dynamic, each chapter interweaving scholarly pieces with oral histories and snappy factoids. (Among the inevitable celebrity role models, Tiger Woods and Greg Louganis show up repeatedly, in stiff competition for the title of Most Multiracial.)

One of the longstanding debates inside and outside the multiracial experience has been about how much people from different mixed backgrounds have in common. Are they one group or are they loosely kindred spirits? This rich guide navigates the debate beautifully, especially in chapters focused on specific combinations such as Black/Latino or Asian/ Latino.

Also long overdue is the inclusion of the transracial adoptee experience. Formative issues about covert vs. overt identity come into play for that population, and they are appropriately placed under the broad umbrella of the book’s subtitle, Living Complex Identities.

As the editors point out in their introduction, mixed-race people have a tremendous opportunity to contribute to a border-crossing world. Identifying with more than one group may naturally lead them “to recognize that all of us hold a stake in each other’s future.” I suspect multiracial readers will be curious to read about groups to which they do not belong, to see where and when the paths cross; but all readers are likely to find points of connection with the basic humanity that the book celebrates.

For more information or to order, see

Reviewed by Lise Funderburg, author of Black, White, Other: Biracial Americans Talk About Race and Identity (Morrow, 1994).

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