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.
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.
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.
INFO ABOUT OUR BOOK:
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.
I love this peek into Lauren MacLaughlin’s life. I was lucky enough to raise 2 children (both adopted, although we were not biracial). I agree with everything Lauren said. I just want to add that before we were approved to be adoptive parents, although we never met the biological parents, we were taught to appreciate and honor those who created the biggest gifts in our lives (our children). I hadn’t really thought about that before. In my mind, I thank these wonderful young men and women who blessed me with two amazing, wonderful and loving children.
This is fantastic!
I had to share this amazing resource on my blog – http://drpepinlemmer.weebly.com/blog/diversity-in-childrens-books This post is close to my heart – both transracial adoption and literacy. My sister and her husband have 2 young, beautiful boys that they have adopted. They are just as much a part of our family …as they are theirs. She traded in her law degree and high heels to work part-time for an adoption agency to help other families find their dream families. I am also a Reading Specialist in several elementary buildings – and an online instructor for M.Ed. Reading courses. I will be sharing this exceptional resource!!!
What a wonderful post! Would you be interested in sharing your post with the Diverse Children’s Books Link-up? You can find it at http://pagesandmargins.wordpress.com/2016/07/02/diverse-childrens-books-link-up-july-2-15/. Thanks!
I think that diversity is a topic that needs to be covered way more than it is now. It is great to find which books are out there, but I hope to find even more in the future. Diversity is reality, and I think it is so sad to not find enough diversity in mainstream media, books, movies, songs and so on.
Books like this series is what the world desperately needs, and it is wonderful to read this post.