Raising A Multicultural 4-Year-Old

I've been known to be awkward about kissing. I have literally written a guide to the bizarre kissing experiences I've had. And yet our family is often in situations where kissing is expected.

I'm happy to report that Gabriella has adopted her father's flawless ability to greet and say good-bye with a kiss, and she's acquired my ability to make people uncomfortable. What a gift! 

Today, I'm writing at Brain, Child about her kissing and the journey we're on to raise multicultural kids. Here's a sneak peak:

“Mom, we do not kiss kids at school.” My four-year-old stared up at me as I covered her with a blanket.

Oh good. The before bedtime conversation every mother wants to have. Of course I’m the mom of the classroom kisser.

“Um… were you kissing kids at school?” Please say no. Please say no.

“Yes.” There it is!

My daughter went on to explain how she was playing with a friend when his dad came to pick him up from preschool. So she gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek to say goodbye.

“Ms. Terri was laughing and laughing,” my little girl said. “And then she told me, ‘We do not kiss kids at school.'”

What I Learned From My Black History Teacher

There's a scene in the movie Roots, the television miniseries based on Alex Haley's 1976 novel, Roots: The Saga of an American Family, that has stayed with me all my life. A mother and her child are being separated by the slave trade. They are reaching for each other and sobbing as one is carried away from the other.

I sat in my seat in my 8th grade history/geography/social studies (middle school is weird) class, watching and crying. In fact, I cried almost every day that semester as we watched all 9.5 hours of Roots in 50 minute segments.

My teacher was an African American man. And in our class, he leaned the curriculum towards black history.

And as you might imagine, some people complained. I complained. Students mumbled among ourselves and said the same things that white folks often say when the black experience is highlighted.

Why are we focused just on black history? We should be learning all history.

The assumption in our 8th grade minds, of course, was that if we studied all history, black history would be included. What I didn't know then was that most of what I learned in my 8th grade history class, I would never hear again throughout high school or college.

When I attended "regular" history classes, the attention to black history was cliched and repetitive: Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks. There is nothing wrong with these historical figures and their impact, of course. But when it is the extent of the lessons, it's easy to assume that their accomplishments were the main (or only) contributions of black folks in our history. And that their impact is primarily related to the freedom and rights of African American people.

I will be honest, though. Besides that heart-breaking film sequence, I remember very few specifics from my 8th grade history class. (Do you?) But especially because much of the material was never reinforced in later years.

However, thanks to his unique focus, I learned something very important:

Black History exists.
Black History matters.
And Black History is often ignored.

If I have never been exposed to the breadth of black history in that class, I would never have recognized how much I was missing later on in my education.

It's why I always feel myself bristle when people grumble or push back on Black History Month. If you've never studied it, you don't know what you're missing. Because too often our "general" history education skirts past the contributions of African Americans in our history.

I'm thankful for that teacher and the seed he planted. And I'm thankful that we highlight Black History Month, as well as other minority groups throughout the year. My hope is that as we turn our attention to highlight others' experiences, we will actually be studying all of history.

What's your favorite resource or site for Black History Month? Feel free to share in the comments! 

[VIDEO] Words We Can't Say In A Bilingual Marriage

Living a bilingual life has its joys and its challenges. But we always get a kick out of listening to each other speak our second languages. Here's a short video of some of our favorite mispronunciations. Enjoy!

(If you're reading via email or RSS, you may need to click here to view.)

Do you speak a second language? (Or have you tried?) What are those words you just can't say?

[Interview + Giveaway] Dream Things True

Do you love YA fiction? Do you love a love story? Do you love immigrants? Well friends, I have the book for you: Dream Things True.

I received this book as a Christmas gift, and I simply had so much fun reading it. The basic premise is a high school romance between a young, white Southern boy and an undocumented Mexican girl. The story is set in Georgia and unlocks the different worlds in which these two characters live.

It was surprisingly touching to read a story that hit so close to home, having dated (and then married) an undocumented immigrant myself. It's very rare that we recognize snippets of our own experiences in broader stories. And I felt very connected to young Alma and Evan.

I am delighted that author Marie Marquardt agreed to an interview. Keep reading to check out our conversation, and enter to win a copy of Dream Things True at the end!

Q: What inspired you to write this book? What's your connection to immigration in Georgia?

Marie: I am a sociologist of religion by training, and for almost two decades my academic research has been with Latin American immigrants to the U.S. South. Through that work, I developed many great friendships with Latino/a immigrants, most of whom were (and still are) living undocumented in the United States.

I was inspired by these relationships to work in service and advocacy with immigrant communities. I currently co-chair a small non-profit called El Refugio Ministries, which serves immigrants in detention and their families.

It has been a great privilege to be a part of the lives of so many undocumented immigrant families – and to watch their extraordinary, resilient kids grow up. When I hear so much misinformation and politicized rhetoric around undocumented immigration, it all seems so far from the everyday realities of the families I know.

I wrote this story because I wanted to affirm the experience of these undocumented families. I wanted for more people to get those “snippets of our own experience” that you recognized, and I also wanted to give people who haven’t had these experiences a chance to understand them more intimately.

Q: One powerful moment for me in the book was highlighting the role of churches around issues of social justice. After immigration raids, Ms. King, the African-American guidance counselor, the Latina protagonist Alma, and white American boyfriend Evan all acknowledge how their churches will respond. Can you share a little about why you included that section?

I’m fascinated by religion, and I’ve spent much time researching religious social movements and the role that religious beliefs and organizations play in the lives of immigrants.

It was inevitable, I guess, that this interest would shape the way I wrote Dream Things True. Everything I write about the role of churches is very realistic, and based on my own experience in similar communities.

Q: I found the anger and confusion of the white boyfriend Evan to be so relateable. He is a generally nice kid who is totally unaware of the experiences of others in his community. What did you draw on to write his awareness journey?

Marie: I have spent a good deal of time with U.S. citizen students, taking them on trips to the U.S./Mexico border and also working with them as volunteers at El Refugio, where they visit with detained immigrants.

It breaks my heart to have to accompany them on a journey of growing awareness and understanding. Often, they – like Evan – have the (not unreasonable!) expectation that a solution can be found to just about any problem, as long as you have smart people seeking it, or you have the right connections. As Evan does in the story, they have to come to the painful realization that this isn’t always the case.

Q: Race and ethnicity is of course a major player in this story. I'd love to hear more about the dynamics you wanted to explore with the characters.

Marie: I wanted for this story to reflect the complicated and rapidly-changing realities of Southern communities. For this reason, I wrote a very diverse cast of characters.

It also was important to me that the story at least make reference to some of the parallels between what is happening in the South now and what happened during the civil rights era. Since Mrs. King is an older woman who has lived through a great deal, she’s able to bring out that comparison for readers (and for Evan and Alma).

Q: You've written several academic/non-fiction books on immigration. What inspired you to write a YA novel?

Marie: Because I’ve written non-fiction books about undocumented immigration, I often get asked to talk with groups of non-immigrants about these issues. I know a lot of facts and figures, and sharing these can help people think about immigration in new ways, but I find that what’s really important is relationship.

Knowing and loving a person who faces these complicated issues is what makes us care to understand them better. Not everyone gets the chance to know and love an undocumented immigrant, but fiction can give us all the opportunity to step into their lives – the lives of immigrants and the lives of people who love them.

This is powerful, and I believe it is so important – it helps us to overcome all of the heated political rhetoric, and simply to see each other as human beings deserving of love and respect.


I couldn't agree more. I think relationship and story are some of the most powerful ways to help us see different viewpoints about important topics. And I'm grateful for Dream Things True and the ways it may be helping young adults (and those of us who love YA fiction) to talk about and learn about immigration.

UPDATE: Giveaway ended Monday, February 15, 2016.

LIKE TO READ? Check out some of my other favorite multicultural books here.

Note: This post includes Amazon Affiliate links. Your purchase via these links supports A Life with Subtitles. Thank you!

The Double Click: Prayer, Jane the Virgin, and Passports

Sometimes time zones, laundry, and the algorithms of social media mean we miss each other online. So I'm sharing my recent, favorite links for you to read when you get a chance. Here's some fun articles (and pics) to make you laugh and to make you think.

Five Prompts For Praying The News || The High Calling

As current events serve to polarize people further and further from one another, let’s consider how we, as people of faith might respond. What if, when engaging the news in our context, we first create space to meet with God in the midst of a hurting world?

14 Beautiful Experiences That Make Your Cross-Cultural Relationship Truly Special || HuffPost Weddings

There are many defining moments in inter-cultural relationships that allow you to both appreciate each other's differences... and just how thrilling those differences can turn out to be. For those of you who are already in the cultural thick of it (so to speak), you probably know these moments all too well.

Jane the Virgin Proves Diversity Is More Than Skin Deep || The Atlantic

As the only show currently on network television with a predominantly Latino cast, Jane the Virgin matters. The CW’s comedy-drama, loosely adapted from a Venezuelan telenovela and now in its second season, coincides with a reinvigorated debate about immigration, citizenship, and Latinos in America. At a time when getting people of color into more colorblind roles is widely viewed as the end goal for diversity on TV, the show stands out by going in the opposite direction—by fully drawing on the complexity of its characters’ Latino culture.

The department anticipates a surge in passport demand throughout this year, and officials hope to avoid a crush that could leave some Americans fuming in frustration with no passport in hand on the day they planned to travel outside the country.

The Rainy Winter Vacation {On Practicing Gratitude} || Addie Zierman

In a Brené Brown talk I listened to recently, she talked about the research she’d done around gratitude. That it’s not an attitude like the old platitude goes – Have an attitude of gratitude! Rather, it’s a practice. The people who have integrated gratitude into their lives are people who are intentional about it. Who practice it like scales, every day: I am grateful for…and I am grateful for…and I am grateful.

When Little Girls Do Brave Things {Black History Month}

"Tell your mama who that is," she told Gabriella from across the room.

Gabriella looked down at her coloring sheet. A young girl's face looked back. I could read the factual blurbs surrounding the African American girl's head. Gabriella had colored her face bright orange.

"Umm..." she hesitated while the childcare worker waited.

"Ruby," the worker offered slowly.

"Bridges!" Gabriella exclaimed.

"That's right! Next time you come here, I'm going to ask you her name. So you remember it, okay?"

"Okay! Bye!"

We shuffled out of the gym childcare, wrangling coats and hats and coloring pages. I held Gabriella's rendition of Ruby Bridge's profile.

One benefit of living in a predominately black neighborhood is that black history isn't contained by February. Gabriella has brought home coloring sheets of Thurgood Marshall and Rosa Parks, and of course, little Ruby Bridges.

I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit that though her name was familiar, I needed to refresh my memory of this 6-year old's role in the Civil Rights movement. A little reading revealed that her act of bravery was to go to school.

She became the first young black child to attend an all-white school in the New Orleans school district. Grown-ups screamed at her and threatened to poison her. One woman protested outside the institution carrying a small coffin with a black baby doll inside.

Ruby's mom taught her to pray on her walks to school.

As the mother of a 5-year old, I think about Ruby's mom. She was the one who spear-headed Ruby's attendance at the school. She felt convicted of its importance for her daughter's education and for the future of all black children. I admire Ruby's mom.

I also think about the other white parents at that school. They pulled their kids out. But on the second day, a 34-year old Methodist pastor walked his 5 year old white daughter into her class.

All the teachers - except for one - refused to teach young Ruby. Barbara Henry taught Ruby alone for over a year, but she taught as if a whole class was present. Can you imagine?

One young African American girl walking into school.

One white minister taking his daughter to class.

One rebellious teacher educating her student.

Being "the one" is lonely. It's scary. It's brave.

My daughter is 5. So close to the age of Ruby Bridges. We've talked about school segregation and Martin Luther King Jr and Ruby Bridges. I'm thankful for this brave little girl who pushed forward school integration in the South. My daughter benefits today.

And I'm reminded that my daughter will likely be in the minority at whichever school the Atlanta lottery lands on for her. As a white child, and certainly as a mixed Guatemala-American girl. I am grateful that she will not be subjected to the vitriol and violence Ruby Bridges faced. And I am encouraged that brave little girls are still participating in the vision of a diverse world.

51 Thoughts You Have Going Through U.S. Immigration & Customs

1. Whew. Finally. We landed.
2. Let the party begin!
3 .Oh no. Immigration.
4. Am I citizen here or a visitor?
5. Why am I having to think about that?
6. Can I blame jet lag?
7. Okay, I think I'm in the right line.
8. Why do I feel nervous?
9. Yay! My turn!
10. Why am I carrying so much stuff?
11. And what on earth happened to my passport?
12. Whew! Got it.
13. Um.. yes, sir. I was gone 7 days.. I mean 9 days. 9 DAYS!
14. I'm going to jail.
15. Well, my dear friend from college lives there. She moved there about 3 years ago....
16. Oh, you don't really care.
17. Why do you need to know what I do for a living?
18. Are we chitchatting or are you trying to trick me?
19. Am I babbling now? Stop talking.
20. Now I'm sweating. WHAT IS HAPPENING??
21. I've done nothing wrong!
22. Retinal scan? Sure, why not? Check out those peepers, baby!
23. Digital fingerprint?
24. Okay, do I need a lawyer?
25. I'm definitely going to jail.
26. Oh ok, welcome home. Thanks? That's oddly friendly now that I'm shaking.
27. Customs, here I come!
28. Wow. This form is intense.
29. What on earth IS in my suitcase?
30. Fruits, Vegetables, Plants, seeds, yada, yada...
31. I have a tres leches cake in my backpack. Does that count?
32. Ok, livestock.
33. Did I actually touch any of those chickens or stray dogs?
34. I don't think so, so no...
35. Hmmm... AM I carrying more than $10,000 USD?
36. Wait. Why am I calculating? I seriously brought like $200 on this trip.
37. Almost done.
38. Commercial merchandise.
39. My sister is planning to reimburse me for a shirt.
40. But I guess that's not what they're talking about.
41. Total value of merchandise I purchased abroad? Souvenirs, gifts...
42. Wow. I feel like I'm a kinda cheap gift-giver.
43. Okay, signed. Done.
44. Let's do this, America!
45. Hi there, kind customs agent. Here's my form.
46. Oh geez. More questions.
47. Can't you see I'm shaky and sweaty and clearly should not be questioned?
48. Fine. Yeah, my suitcase is mostly clothes and shoes and miniature toiletries.
49. Oh, and this cake.
50. Cake's okay? Score!
51. Thank you. Have a nice day.

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