The cover story of the April National Geographic issue on race featured a set of biracial fraternal twins with a headline implying that they were of different races and a profile that did not go much beyond the (literal) surface to anything substantive, ironically in an issue that was intended to promote a deeper understanding of the topic. Meanwhile, young adult literature has been addressing race in clear and provocative ways for years, in ways that go far beyond superficial curiosity about appearances. Two upcoming titles are of particular note.
Mariam Sharma Hits the Roadby Sheba Karim follows three Muslim Pakistani-American teenagers on a road trip across the United States, their physical journey mirroring their internal progress as they explore family relationships and their place in a country that does not always fully embrace them. Many of the white Americans they meet are similarly struggling with recent demographic changes, trying to reconcile their fear of a group they feel subscribes to alien and threatening values with their liking for the individual members of the group who are standing in front of them.
In Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson, questions of the value society places on the lives of individuals depending on their gender and skin color are at the core of a story inspired by actual events. An eighth-grade African-American girl struggles in vain to bring adults’ attention to her missing friend, mirroring the fact that missing African-Americans get less intense media attention than whites. The mystery also talks about gentrification, a topic which strikes at the heart of many communities of color as historical forces pushed them into less desirable areas yet now conspire to price them out of these same neighborhoods. Laura Simeon is the young adult editor.