Diversity In Children’s Books, Transracial Adoptive Families and MITZI TULANE by Lauren McLaughlin and Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Introduction from Debbie: 
It’s been wonderful to see more children’s books come out that embrace diversity in culture and lifestyle, especially those in which this diversity is accepted as an ordinary part of day-to-day life rather than an issue of discussion. This is one reason I was so delighted to be invited to illustrate Lauren McLaughlin’s Mitzi Tulane, Preschool Detective picture books. I loved the fact that Mitzi’s skin was a different color than her parents’ but this fact wasn’t explicitly discussed or explained or made into an ISSUE.
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When I heard that the author had been inspired by her own adopted daughter, I went online and found the story of Lauren McLaughlin’s adoptive journey (link: http://www.laurenmclaughlin.net/2014/11/19/our-adoption-journey/) and asked Lauren if she could send me other reference photos I could use in my illustrations. I fell in love with this photo:
I was chatting with Lauren recently about diversity in children’s books, and especially transracial adoptive families. I found her thoughts so interesting (and inspiring!) that I asked if she could share them with Nerdy Book Club readers. Here’s what she wrote….
From MITZI author, Lauren McLaughlin:
One of the biggest misconceptions people have about transracial adoptive families is the amount of time we spend thinking about it. When my husband and I adopted our daughter it was the happiest event in our lives, the culmination of a process that was grueling at times but mercifully short. Once we became a family, however, we were just that: a family. We didn’t spend any time considering what it meant to be a transracial adoptive family as opposed to a biological family. We were too busy with the ordinary day-to-day events of family life.
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But when I started reading to my daughter I couldn’t help but notice that the families depicted rarely looked anything like ours. If a transracial or adoptive family was depicted, it was usually because that was the topic of the book. Often adoption was presented as a problem to be solved or explained, as if the adopted child needed reassurance that he or she was “normal” and loved. But this didn’t describe our experience of adoption at all. To us adoption was a triumph to be celebrated, rather than a problem to be solved. Our daughter has never doubted that she is loved and has never needed reassurance that she is “normal.”
When I created Mitzi Tulane, Preschool Detective, one of the things I wanted to evoke was the ordinariness of transracial adoption. Mitzi may be an extraordinary detective, but her family, like ours, is perfectly ordinary–with an adoring baby brother, a dad with a scratchy face, and a mom who’s a terror in the kitchen. Their skin, like our skin, may be different shades of brown and beige, but they’re just like any other family. And like other families, they’re too busy with the day-to-day events of family life (like solving mysteries and baking lopsided birthday cakes) to think about being adoptive.
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Mitzi Tulane, Preschool Detective: WHAT’S THAT SMELL? comes out from Random House Children’s on July 12, 2016. You can find a Teacher’s Guide, a young reader’s guide to how the book was created and other bonus info at DebbieOhi.com/Mitzi.
Lauren McLaughlin is a YA and children’s book author. You can find her at LaurenMcLaughlin.net and on Twitter at @LaurenMcWoof.
Debbie Ridpath Ohi writes and illustrates books for young people. You can find her at DebbieOhi.com and on Twitter at @inkyelbows.