Mixed: Portraits of Multiracial Kids

By Melissa Bollow Tempel

Illustrator: Kip Fulbeck

Mixed : Portraits of Multiracial Kids
Photos: Kip Fulbeck

Mixed • Portraits of Multiracial Kids By Kip Fulbeck
(Chronicle Books, 2010)
264 pp. $19.95

Mixed is a beautiful collection of photographs. The children pictured have one thing in common: They are all multiracial. Fulbeck, who is an artist, author, lifeguard, and professor of art at UC Santa Barbara, begins with an introduction about race in America:

Yes, we have made progress. But the pace has been dawdling and we have not come far enough . . . . We are nowhere remotely near where we need to be.

The book is filled with simple yet meaningful full-page photographs of multiracial children as themselves, not posed or directed. Next to each photo is the child’s first name and ethnic background. A drawing or note from the child or a letter from the parent accompanies some photos.

Fulbeck says checking one box for race is like asking us to pick one of our parents over another, one part of ourselves over another. As a teacher, I’m always looking for a way to help my students feel good about who they are and where they came from, especially when they don’t fit into society’s boxes. Mixed validates the identities of students who may not look like anyone else they know, students who cannot easily answer the question “What are you?”

In my own 1st-grade classroom I pass the book out during silent reading time and watch as students examine the photos, turning each page as if they anticipate a new surprise on the other side. Children like to compare themselves to the photos and try to find the child who looks the most like them. For many students, this is the first time they see a child who resembles them in a book. I see children connect with the book and begin to feel a sense of pride about the color of their skin, the texture and color of their hair. Since parents aren’t pictured, the reader is left to imagine what they might look like. Mixed combines art and literature, and is an essential piece for any classroom library at any grade level.

Fulbeck’s first book, Part Asian, 100% Hapa , created in the same format, was a great conversation piece in my family. Mixed is the new family favorite. After reading it, my 7-year-old went to our own photo album, pulled out a photo of herself and her little sister, and taped it to the last page of the book. With a marker she wrote the caption “Masami and Maya. Korean, German, Irish, Dutch.”

Melissa Bollow Tempel is a Rethinking Schools editor.