This excellent novel about understanding identity focuses on 16 year-old Alexandra Kirtridge – a baseball phenom and a transracial adoptee, a person of color adopted into a white family. Up until now, her life has been focused on baseball, encouraged by her father, who is also her coach, but a series of events, precipitated by her 11 year-old sister asking “What do you all make of Alex being the only black person in our family?” causes her to examine deeply who she is.
Her parents have done what they feel is their best for her, but once Alex begins to explore who she is, she comes to believe that they have tried to make her white, like them. Instead of celebrating her blackness they proclaim that “We don’t even see color.”. She feels unmoored – the black kids at school bully her for her white clothes and speech, and her skin color separates from the white community. As Alex gropes towards understanding and owning herself, her first visit to a black hairdresser brilliantly encapsulates her and her family’s struggles.
Along her journey, she starts dating a black boy, seeks out her birth father and her physical development threatens her baseball star status. Each of these way markers brings Alex closer to understanding her present and future identity.
Alex is a well-written confused and searching teen, maybe somewhat autobiographical judging by the author’s blurb. There are no easy answers for her, and what she believes are solutions may not turn out to be. I found her emotional journey a little unsatisfying and somewhat muddled – it did not seem to evolve organically but rather was a series of plot points. But there is a wholly realistic feel to the resolution and Alex’s conviction that she knows her direction if not the endpoint.
There are few books for teens about transracial adoptees, so this culturally significant book should definitely be on the shelves of public and middle/high school libraries.