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Multiracial Families in Recent Picture Books

Illustration by Lauren Tobia from Happy in Our Skin by Fran Manushkin

Since we began collecting and coding titles for the Diverse BookFinder in 2015, we've been keeping track of the appearances of bi/multiracial families -- that is, parents and/or children of different races and/or mixed-race people, including families built through transracial adoption. (We include titles with any depiction of multiracial families, including those shown only in illustrations who may not be main characters.)

More books!

The most striking finding about the representation of multiracial families in recent picture book is that there are more titles. A lot more titles.

Searching the collection for "Diverse Families" (in the sidebar under Content), I found 315 titles with a depiction of a bi/multiracial family in books published between 2002 and 2020. (We're constantly adding titles, so this number will keep increasing.)

That's approximately 10% of our picture book collection. (Interestingly, in 2010, the U.S. Census reported 10% of U.S. households were interethnic and interracial heterosexual married couples.)

Next I searched by year. Here's what I found:

  • 2002-2008: The numbers of books with depictions of multiracial families was in the single numbers each year.
  • 2009 - 2014: the number ranges from 7-14 books/year.
  • 2015: 25 titles!
  • 2016: 21
  • 2017: doubling to 42!
  • 2018: 69!!
  • 2019: 44 and counting. (We have many more books still to code for 2019 and 2020.)

In 10 years we've seen a 6-fold increase in the appearances of multiracial families in picture books! Now that's a trend.

Who is represented?

The second clear finding is that the majority of characters of mixed race depicted in picture books have one white parent. These white characters are most commonly paired with a Black or Brown parent.

It's still uncommon to see parents of different races who are both BIPOC. Here are two exceptions, each with one Black parent and one Asian:

Diversity of Multiracial Families

Though we still have room to grow, it's wonderful to see the range and variety of mixed-race families that appear in contemporary picture books. More and more, we're seeing that multiracial families and mixed-race characters are being featured in books that aren't about racial identity or family makeup.

With each new title published, chances increase that multiracial families will be seen as part of the organic fabric of our nation and their children will be able to open a book and say, "This looks like my family!"

A Crazy-Much love

2019

by Joy Jordan-Lake and Sonia Sánchez

"“How MUCH is the crazy-much love?” This simple question is answered as two parents recount the journey of adopting their daughter and the many milestone moments that follow. From the child’s first bath and first time riding a tricycle, all the way to her boarding that big yellow bus, the crazy-much love grows SO MUCH that it spills out the windows and busts down the doors. A warm, lyrical celebration of the deep love parents hold for their children, and a comforting message for kids about how there can be only one special YOU." -- publisher

Any Child

For more of our favorites, see this list of highlighted titles featuring multiracial families, published in the last five years.

Many of the cover images on this site are from Google Books.
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