“Black, White, Other: In search of Nina Armstrong” Joan Steinau Lester

Zondervan, 2011. 222 pp. Includes “Discussion Questions,” “Follow-up Actions,” a “Glossary,” and a list of “Sources.”

Black, White, OtherNina has a Black father and a White mother. She looks White, but race has never been an issue in her family until her father moves out when she turns fifteen. It seemed like her father changed overnight, blaming Whites for the race riots in nearby Oakland California. “Black Power” seemed to become his new song, while his new way of thinking contrasted sharply with what Nina had previously believed to be true.

When her best friend Jessica, who happens to be White, accused her of being “ghetto” because she sometimes hangs with the Black kids at school, and the Black kids tell her she’s too White for hanging with Jessica, Nina doesn’t know what to think. Suddenly the comfortable world she had known has changed forever, and she doesn’t know how to fix it.

As Nina falls more and more into a whirlpool of emotions wondering about her ethnicity and where she fits in the world, she learns about the life of her great, great grandmother Sarah. Sarah was born a slave and escaped to freedom long ago. Her father had been researching her life, and reading his manuscript about Sarah and her struggles to be free seemed to be the only thing keeping Nina afloat.

“Black, White, Other” is a novel within a novel, teaching not only of life on a slave plantation, but of the struggles faced by children from mixed races. Lester’s well researched, deep thinking novel should be read by students ages 12 and up, as the questions of “What is Race and Why is it so Important?” are addressed in clever and thought provoking ways.


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