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In a world that struggles to understand biraciality, the experience of being two races in one body can be an isolating one. For mixed people that don’t resemble their families and for those whose races have tension with one another, there are layers of complication to what is already a unique identity. These 7 novels with biracial protagonists share stories of love, mystery, heartbreak, and coming of age all while discussing mixed-race identity and how it looks for each character.
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Caucasia by Danzy Senna
Birdie and Cole are the biracial daughters of a Black father and white mother, both of whom were intellectuals active in the Civil Rights Movement. Although the sisters couldn’t be closer, the world couldn’t see them as more different—one is perceived as Black, the other as white. When their parents’ marriage disintegrates and their father starts seeing a Black woman, she won’t even look at Birdie, the white-passing child. Their mother’s new life brings complications of its own—she remains entrenched in the movement and mysterious men bring what appear to be weapons to their home in the cloak of night. When their father takes his girlfriend and Cole to Brazil in the hopes of living freely as Black people, Birdie and their mother take on new identities as the relatives of a deceased Jewish professor, making a new life in New Hampshire. Desperate to be reunited with her other half, Birdie learns to pass while doing whatever it takes to find Cole.
Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley
Daunis Fontaine is a biracial, unenrolled tribal member born at the center of a scandal. Because of the controversy surrounding her very existence and her biracial identity, Daunis struggles to fit in both at school and on the local Ojibwe reservation. When her mother falls ill, Daunis delays her own dreams to be a caregiver. Living in the tension of unfulfilled dreams and witnessing her mother’s pain, Daunis finds unexpected happiness when she meets Jamie, the new recruit to her brother’s hockey team. One day, when Daunis witnesses a murder, she agrees to help authorities by going undercover. As more people disappear, Daunis must decide what she’s willing to lose in order to do what’s right.
The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi Durrow
Rachel is the daughter of a Black American G.I. and a Danish woman. When tragedy strikes and she loses those she loves most, Rachel moves to a Black community to live with her paternal grandmother. With her light brown skin and blue eyes, she draws attention in droves, simultaneously an outsider and part of the community. As she comes of age in the 1980s, Rachel must not only confront her immeasurable grief, but also determine who she truly is in a world that sees her as Black or white, but not both.
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To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
This first installment in a young adult romance trilogy centers Lara Jean, a Korean and white teenage girl who writes a letter to every boy she’s loved before. Lara Jean’s life changes forever when her younger sister, Kitty, mails the letters. Suddenly, Lara Jean’s secrets are out in the light of day. When Peter Kavinsky receives his letter, he has a proposition for Lara Jean that will either backfire on both of them or unexpectedly bring them together. An integral part of Lara Jean’s story is her mother’s premature death from illness, and her father tries his best to keep her Korean tradition alive in his own grief. Intertwined with the exhilaration of young love is the challenge Lara Jean faces to learn who she is after loss.
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
In small-town Ohio of the 1970s, Lydia Lee’s body is unexpectedly found after her tragic death. Born to James Lee, a Chinese-American man, and Marilyn, a white woman, Lydia is the middle and favorite child destined to a life her parents only dreamed for themselves. Those dreams all come crashing down, along with the tensions of the Lee family dynamic, when Lydia is found in a nearby lake. Intertwined with the mystery of what happened to Lydia, Everything I Never Told You examines the relationships between parent and child, husband and wife, and the ramifications of secrets amongst loved ones.
The Other Half of My Heart by Sundee Frazier
Minerva and Keira King are biracial twin sisters whose differing looks make media headlines: Keira is Black, like their mother, while Minerva is white like their father. When their grandmother enters them into an African-American pageant, their close bond is tested by an unrelenting culture that categorizes them as Black or white instead of seeing who they fully are. As they spend time with their grandma in the South, her disdain for Keira becomes apparent. When she experiences this tension with her own kin disliking who she is, Keira withdraws from her twin. Minerva always believed nothing could compromise the deep bond the twins share, but their true relationship will reveal itself before the last page.
Mexican White Boy by Matt de la Peña
Danny is a half-Mexican, half-white teenage boy whose tall, skinny frame lends to a promising future in baseball. Even though he can throw a ninety-five mile per hour fastball, his nerves get the best of him when spectators are watching. Living in San Diego, so close to the border, people assume who he is from just one glance. They don’t know he can’t speak Spanish, or that his mother is blonde with blue eyes. What makes his life even more complicated is his lingering guilt that his own whiteness got his father sent back to Mexico. As part of his journey to self-discovery, Danny spends the summer with his father’s family. To find the answers he seeks, Danny must face the truths he tries not to see and make friends in unexpected places.
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