Sooo, I’m reading SEE NO COLOR, by Shannon Gibney, and I’ve already had to stop a couple of times and just… think.
This is a deeply personal book for me, because it’s about transracial adoptions – in this case, how a nonwhite person might feel in a white family. In my family, I worry a lot about my sister, who is Cambodian, in a black family. Not the same, no, and we certainly didn’t deal with her ethnic background the same way, either. She had supervised visits which as much family as we could find, frequently, when she was small, until she rebelled and said, “No.” We took her to Tet when she was small. We got her books from Lee & Low, story dolls, cut out pictures from magazines. Here is the country of your origin. This is where your birth mother lived until she was two or three. This is the fabric worn there, these are the foods, these are the faces… We took her culture, and served it up on a platter, garnished. And she was interested, as a wee tad, then, as she grew into tweendom, utterly indifferent. To our culture, too. Eventually, to family culture — family at all.
So, the familial juggernaut to acquaint our youngest with part of her cultural heritage ran into her teenhood and ran out of steam. Still, I find myself wondering what she, at nineteen now, feels about being a lone Asian face in a sea of dark brown. When she was small, she still chose a white avatar in any game we played – and then, those were usually the only options, black or white, and she was neither. How alienated have we made her?
And this book pokes me, and prods me, makes me uncomfortable all over again — as it should. What could we have done differently? What should we still do? I’m not even halfway through this, but I want to talk to my sister, and am having trouble waiting ’til her class is over. Read this book I text her. This is the mark of a successful novel; I want to press it into her hands.