Saturday, March 5, 2016

See No Color by Shannon Gibney

Alex has always know she is adopted.  It's not hard to tell since she is a biracial girl with white parents and siblings.  Her father was a professional baseball player and Alex is following in his footsteps, beating the boys on her team.  But several things are starting to change for Alex.  Alex's body is maturing which is affecting her ability on the diamond.  Her younger sister, always the family's rabble-rouser, shows Alex a stack of letters from her biological father - letters her parents have kept hidden from her for years.  If that weren't enough to throw off her equilibrium, Alex meets Reggie, a black boy who makes her start thinking about who she really is.

I wish I had a lot of positive things to say about this book but it rubbed me the wrong way in several areas.  Before I get to those issues I will say that it is fine and I have no problem with it in my collection, but it's not the great biracial character book I thought it was going to be.  It's also not that great of a story, in my opinion.  

So, a couple of the problems I have involve Alex's adopted parents.  I can sort of buy their reasons for keeping the letters from her but when she finds the letters I don't understand their outright anger and refusal to talk to her about her biological parents.  In a different section Alex is talking to Reggie's mom and gets the idea to go to a black hairdresser.  Alex's mom takes her without an issue and doesn't embarrass her so that's all okay, I guess.  But both of these incidents bother me for this reason:  Alex's parents know she is not white.  As people who have adopted a baby from another race, why didn't they do anything to find out more about her heritage or unique needs?  I can't say that wouldn't possibly happen, but based on several conversations in the book I would say that Alex's parents are racists.  The kind of racists who don't believe they are, but racists nonetheless.  

Having said that, perhaps my next complaint shouldn't be an issue, but I also had a problem with the way in which Alex completely turns her back on her adopted parents.  Once she begins to discover more about being transracial and the African-American community she basically doesn't seem to care about her parents at all anymore.  That's hard for me to swallow since I've worked with students who have abusive, drug-addicted parents yet will still defend them tooth and nail.  

Finally, I have a concern about the physical relationship between Reggie and Alex.  I don't care that their relationship gets physical, it's the description of what happens between them. They don't have intercourse, but while they are heavy petting (is that even a term now?!), the author describes how Reggie puts a finger inside Alex.  I've defended a lot of books where teens have sex so it's not the sexual contact in and of itself that bothers me, it's the graphic, and in my opinion, completely unnecessary description of what exactly happens.  Now I will say that the scene is quite a ways into the book which means that only a pretty good reader is going to get there so that doesn't usually cause a problem, but why do I need that particular detail?

I just wish the book had stayed focused more narrowly on Alex disappointing her adopted father in terms of baseball and her growing identity as an African-American young woman.

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