See No Color
Transracial adoption is never oversimplified, airbrushed, or sentimentalized, but instead, it's portrayed with bracing honesty as the messy institution it is: rearranging families, blending cultural and biological DNA, loss and joy. An exceptionally accomplished debut. -- Kirkus, starred review
For as long as she can remember, sixteen-year-old Alex Kirtridge has known two things about herself: She's a stellar baseball player. She's adopted.
Alex has had a comfortable childhood in Madison, Wisconsin. Despite some teasing, being a biracial girl in a wealthy white family hasn't been that big a deal. What mattered was that she was a star on the diamond, where her father, a former Major Leaguer, coached her hard and counted on her to make him proud. But now, things are changing: she meets Reggie, the first black guy who's wanted to get to know her; she discovers the letters from her biological father that her adoptive parents have kept from her; and her changing body starts to affect her game. Suddenly, Alex begins to question who she really is. She's always dreamed of playing pro baseball just like her father, but can she really do it? Does she truly fit in with her white family? Who were her biological parents? What does it mean to be black? If she's going to find answers, Alex has to come to terms with her adoption, her race, and the dreams she thought would always guide her.
- Winner of the Minnesota Book Award
- A Kirkus Reviews Best Teen book of the Year
- A Bank Street College Best Children's Book of the Year
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About the Author
Shannon Gibney is a professor of English and African diaspora studies at Minneapolis Community and Technical College. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and son.
"In See No Color, Shannon Gibney introduces us to a protagonist who is familiar, textured, and real. In an adult world still struggling to explore its terrifying relationship to gender, race, love, sexuality, and sports, Gibney shows us that young adult literature, when crafted by curious genius, is the site of transformative narrative courage. I can't wait to get a copy for all of my friends and all of their children. It's the kind of book that should be mandatory reading for all Americans."―Kiese Laymon, author of Long Division and How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America
"Biracial adoptee Alex Kirtridge's life revolves around baseball. Her adoptive father, a former pro ballplayer and high-school coach, glories in her athletic aptitude, far superior to that of his birth children. But though Alex's family loves her, they continue to ignore the obvious, important fact of her African American heritage; her father describes her as 'half white, ' and her mother never learned to care for Alex's hair. But when Alex meets Reggie, a sweet and sexy black ballplayer from another team, and discovers a trove of letters from her birth father, she is faced with a classic teen conundrum: who is she, really, and what is she going to do about it? Though the ending feels a bit rushed, the details ring true, due at least in part to the fact that Gibney is herself a transracial adoptee. As much about character and human dynamics as it is about baseball, this makes an excellent pick for fans of Mike Lupica and Catherine Gilbert Murdock."--Booklist--Journal
"Baseball. Family secrets. First love. Hard truths. See No Color hits all this and more. Gibney presents a smooth-flowing narrative, complicated questions, and a powerful protagonist who finds her own real answers."―Pat Schmatz, author of Bluefish--Other Print
"Sixteen-year-old Alex worships her baseball-obsessed dad; after brief success as a pro player before a career-ending injury, he now coaches his kids, and Alex is a tough and competitive player. She's also a biracial adoptee, the only dark-skinned member of her white family, and she's begun to think more about her identity and her family's awkward avoidance of the topic of race ('We don't even see color, ' her mother says defensively). Gibney, herself adopted into a white family, writes with keen understanding of a girl's negotiating the tension between her family's denial of her skin color and the outside world's intense focus on it. Alex is credibly envious of her new boyfriend Reggie's culturally embedded African-American household and she's believably worried about their view of her family. Unfortunately, though the narrative vignettes are dramatic, they chop up the emotional trajectory and give events and relationships little chance to build; there's also contrivance in the character of Alex's gadfly little sister and in Alex's meeting with her birth father. There's not much written about transracial adoption, especially transracial domestic adoption, though, and Gibney's exploration may ring a bell for readers with their own familial identity challenges."--The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books--Journal
"Debut novelist Gibney offers an unflinching look at the complexities of racial identity in the story of a black teenager trying to understand her place in the white family who adopted her. Gibney, herself a transracial adoptee, creates a visceral sense of isolation for 16-year-old Alex. Despite the love of baseball that unites her family (Alex and her brother are excellent players, and their father is their coach), she has almost no one to confide in: friends are nearly absent, and she doesn't know any adoptees who share her situation. When Alex finds hidden letters from her birth father, her questions mount. Should she contact him? Alex's uneasiness with the body beneath her skin is just as powerfully felt as she wonders whether she can continue to keep up with the boys on the diamond, gets unexpected romantic attention from a fellow player, and visits a black hairdresser for the first time. While not all of Alex's questions are answered by book's end, readers will finish this engaging, layered novel confident that she's ready to face whatever comes next, and with plenty to think about themselves."--starred, Publishers Weekly--Journal
"Biracial Alex, 16, high school baseball star and pride of her white, adoptive father and coach, sidesteps thinking about her parentage and racial identity, lying to finesse uncomfortable issues--but hiding her adoptive status from Reggie, an attractive, black player on an opposing team, troubles her. At dinner, her younger sister, Kit, demolishes their parents' insistence that they don't (and shouldn't) see race. Kit brings Alex a letter from her black birth father, one their parents have kept secret, feeling Alex is too young to read them. (The gentle content suggests the adoptive parents' motives for withholding them may be mixed.) Forced to confront long-suppressed questions, Alex seeks to locate, nail down, and inhabit the unitary, undivided identity expected of her, but she gradually realizes the jigsaw pieces of her identity, drawn from different puzzles, may never fit neatly in one harmonious whole. Visiting a black hair salon isn't a joyful marker of identity reclaimed ('finally someone knows what do with my hair!'); it's just another ordeal. Her hair reflects her mixed heritage and requires treatment as such. Reggie and Kit want to know Alex for who she is, but how, when she doesn't know herself? Gibney, herself transracially adopted, honors the complexities of her diverse, appealing characters. Transracial adoption is never oversimplified, airbrushed, or sentimentalized, but instead, it's portrayed with bracing honesty as the messy institution it is: rearranging families, blending cultural and biological DNA, loss and joy. An exceptionally accomplished debut."--starred, Kirkus Reviews--Journal
"For Alex Kirtridge, a 16-year-old transracial adoptee in Madison, WI, the topic of race has always been off-limits. Her white adoptive parents valiantly pretend not to see her as different in any way from their two biological children, yet she is treated as 'other' by both black and white classmates. Alex tacitly agrees not to rock the boat, avoiding uncomfortable questions and devoting herself to being the star of the baseball team coached by her father, a former minor league player. But a stash of secret letters and a romance with an African American boy precipitate a journey of cultural and emotional exploration for Alex, forcing her to confront difficult truths about her adoptive and birth parents. The honest emotions in this coming-of-age novel will resonate with many readers who are grappling with finding a sense of belonging. Without lecturing readers, Gibney clearly elucidates many issues particular to transracial adoption and biracial identity while also making this a universal story about the need for acceptance. The sports content offers added appeal and a meaningful framework for the plot. At times the book seems to be taking on too much, but both major and secondary characters are well drawn and engaging. This thoughtful novel adds a much-needed perspective on a subject that affects many families but is rarely covered in YA fiction. VERDICT: Recommended for purchase, particularly by libraries serving less diverse communities, where it will provide welcome education and support."--School Library Journal--Journal
"See No Color by Shannon Gibney is a groundbreaking coming-of-age story whose appealing heroine, Alex, will have you rooting for her from the beginning. Alex's previously (mostly) coherent sense of identity and family begins to crack, shift, and open up as she explores various secrets and silences, most importantly the silences that have been growing within her. Alex, in fits and starts, begins to take charge of who she is, which is thrilling to witness. The deftly drawn trials and tender triumphs of this black biracial adoptee will resonate with all readers."―Sun Yung Shin, poet and co-editor of Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption--Other Print
"See No Color provides a close look into one transracially adopted Black teen's life around the time she begins to think more reflectively about her blackness and adoptee-ness. While many would like to believe that adoption is a universally wonderful way to build a family, author Shannon Gibney makes plain through her protagonist Alex that being both black and adopted is complicated, especially in a world where competing voices and interests try to control representations of adoption in the media and adoption discourse itself. Gibney does not sugarcoat any of hardships that transracially adopted teens may face: she lays out the microaggressive and racist comments that family members say to Alex; explains why black children are considered 'special needs' and therefore are cheaper to adopt; and has Alex honestly and unapologetically describe both the shame and sense of wonderment she feels when she starts spending time with more black people. As the story unfolds, Alex comes to a better understanding of who she is as a black teenager in a white family and white world, but the journey is not easy, nor is it over by the book's end ('...I began to contemplate that things might never coalesce, and I wondered if there was a way that this could be okay' page 161). Because this novel grapples with many of the complexities, nuances, and realities that transracially adopted black persons face on a sometimes daily basis, and given that few young adult adoption narratives are written by adopted persons who can share from their own experiences, See No Color is a necessary read for any young person."―Sarah Park Dahlen, Assistant Professor of Library Science and co-editor of Diversity in Youth Literature: Opening Doors Through Reading--Other Print