Face Relations: 11 Stories About Seeing Beyond Color


Why can't a white kid sit with the black kids in the cafeteria?
What happens when a biracial girl from Trinidad falls for a guy from a very different culture?
How does a teen deal with being the only Palestinian boy or the only Japanese girl in a small American town?
Face Relations offers eleven original works by celebrated authors Joseph Bruchac, Marina Budhos, M. E. Kerr, Kyoko Mori, Jess Mowry, Naomi Shihab...

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Why can't a white kid sit with the black kids in the cafeteria?
What happens when a biracial girl from Trinidad falls for a guy from a very different culture?
How does a teen deal with being the only Palestinian boy or the only Japanese girl in a small American town?
Face Relations offers eleven original works by celebrated authors Joseph Bruchac, Marina Budhos, M. E. Kerr, Kyoko Mori, Jess Mowry, Naomi Shihab Nye, René Saldaña Jr., Marilyn Singer, Rita Williams-Garcia, Sherri Winston, and Ellen Wittlinger that explore the possibilities of embracing diversity in a world still rife with bigotry and racism. As editor Marilyn Singer writes in her introduction:
"...the characters in these stories tear down the barriers that separate us." Their stories may be troubled, funny, sad, or fierce, but all are full of hope.
11 stories about seeing beyond color

"Phat Acceptance" by Jess Mowry
> "Skins" by Joseph Bruchac
> "Snow" by Sherri Winston
> "The Heartbeat of the Soul of the World" by René Saldaña Jr.
> "Hum" by Naomi Shihab Nye
> "Epiphany" by Ellen Wittlinger
> "Black and White" by Kyoko Mori
> "Hearing Flower" by M. E. Kerr
> "Gold" by Marina Budhos
> "Mr. Ruben" by Rita Williams-Garcia
> "Negress" by Marilyn Singer

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Contemporary teens grapple with the issue of interracial communication in this anthology featuring such renowned writers as M.E. Kerr and Rita Williams-Garcia. Although the protagonists introduced here represent a broad range of heritages and cultures, most are working to achieve the same goal: connecting to one particular individual, whose skin is a different color. In Jess Mowry's "Phat Acceptance," Brandon-cool on the outside, uptight on the inside-fumbles his first friendly overtures toward Travis, the "mammoth black kid" who sits behind him in class (" `... Oh... phat,' said Brandon, the first `black thing' that came to mind.... `I mean with a p,' he added, sweating"), but the two end up making plans to eat lunch together. Irony runs deep in Joseph Bruchac's "Skins" when the Native American/Scandinavian narrator finds he has more in common with Randolph White (one of three African-Americans at school) than with the boy he thought was a "real Indian." Set in Texas right after September 11, Naomi Shihab Nye's poignant "Hum" tells of a Palestinian immigrant boy's unexpected friendship with a blind white man. Offering upbeat conclusions and an even balance of funny and sad moments, this volume is as much about appreciating color as it is about looking beyond it. Ages 12-up. (June) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
This anthology of stories by eleven well-known writers is artfully arranged around the central theme of racial identity and interaction in American high schools today. While each contribution speaks to the value of understanding, learning to live with and perhaps even celebrating our differences, the glimpse of a colorful mosaic of characters is funny, troubling, familiar, and entertaining. In "Phat Acceptance" a white student befriends an "ebony mountain of blubber" with a chest like a "pair of water balloons." His bravery to do so with peers looking on is encouraging. Character descriptions here are rich and without judgment. The goths are "as pale as vanilla ice cream and as bony as week-old cadavers." There are accounts of socially accepted racial injustices between blacks and whites in "Epiphany" and a regrettable belief that Haitians are "stupid boat people" in "Snow." "Skins" tells of one kid's lament that his father never taught him how to be an Indian. The answer is an education: "White men taught us how to be Indians. Before that, we were just people." Lessons in "Hum" will resonate with some. A Palestinian family living in the United States after September 11, 2001 fears, questions and forgets to smile. Altogether these tales evoke chuckles, sadness, understanding, but most of all hope. The Southern Poverty Law Center's introductory letter gives ample reason for inclusion of this book on all shelves. "Every day, classrooms have the potential to transform impressionable hearts and excited minds into engines for change, innovation, and leadership." 2004, Simon & Schuster, Ages 12 to 14.
—Francine Thomas
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-Eleven short stories, many by well-known writers for young adults, explore issues of racial identity and race relations in contemporary U.S. high schools. A hugely fat black boy turns out to be a potential surfer dude; a mixed-race boy struggles to be recognized for his Native American heritage. A high school journalist exposes tensions between Haitians and African Americans in her school, and a Chicano boy and his white band teacher make cool jazz together. A Palestinian boy creates a dialogue group in his Texas high school after 9/11; a white girl wants to sit with her former best friend at the black table. The different appearance of a Japanese-American girl reveals her part in a Halloween prank, and a Long Island girl's Mexican-American boyfriend proves to be both hardworking and honorable. A Trinidadian-Indian immigrant finds a boyfriend good enough to pass even her mother's high standards, and a math whiz can't allow herself to have a crush on her teacher until she knows for sure he, too, is black. Finally, learning about "the Hottentot Venus" leads a white Jewish girl to question stereotypes that relate to appearance. Characters struggle with their understanding of their own identity as they react to the expectations of others. Teens will recognize familiar settings and situations. The stories vary in quality and effectiveness and range in tone from cheerful to sad, but all raise questions that could lead to good classroom discussion.-Kathleen Isaacs, Edmund Burke School, Washington, DC Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Stories by well-known authors take on highly charged issues of race. The perspectives and experiences portrayed range widely and, as to be expected in an anthology, so does the quality of the stories. While all of these writers are talented, some of the stories seem too blatantly purposeful, offering little beyond the message. Others are more provocative and engaging and will certainly stimulate fiery classroom discussion. Many stories stand out as don't-miss reads for any occasion: Rene Salda-a Jr.'s riff on connecting through music; Kyoko Mori's story of a girl in the rural Midwest caught between her Japanese mother's well-earned bitterness and her white stepsister's complete ease with the world; Marina Budhos's multi-layered, multi-racial love story; or Rita Williams-Garcia's offering-rich, yet light in tone-the only really funny story in the collection. These are the stories that will engage teens point blank, though all will be appreciated in a classroom setting for the intensely complex issues they approach. Great cover art should help sell this generally admirable collection, whose sales will benefit the Southern Poverty Law Center's Teaching Tolerance project. (Fiction. 12+)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781442496163
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
  • Publication date: 5/5/2013
  • Pages: 240
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Marilyn Singer

Marilyn Singer has written more than seventy books for children and young adults. Her works include novels, poetry, nature books, picture books, fairy tales, mysteries, and two other short story anthologies: Stay True: Short Stories for Strong Girls and I Believe in Water: Twelve Brushes with Religion. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and many pets.

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Read an Excerpt


I confess: I've been a Star Trek fan for years. I've watched every episode of every series, some more than once. The sight of the Enterprise, with its multiethnic, multiracial, multispecies crew, still fills me with hope.

But you don't have to be a Trekker to believe that we humans can learn to live with and value each other. One day I heard someone on the radio say that he felt "honored" to ride the New York City subways with people of so many heritages. I try to invoke that privilege even when I'm squished between hordes of commuters on the rush-hour Q train. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. My goal is to keep trying.

I believe we all should keep trying to acknowledge, appreciate, and celebrate our diversity. But I've lived long enough — and in probably the most diverse city in the world — to know that this is seldom easy. Every day we have to uncover, examine, and fight the prejudices we've acquired, usually from early childhood on. Anyone who thinks we've eliminated racism and bigotry in the twenty-first century is asleep at the wheel. Racism — the widespread system of advantage based on race — is, unfortunately, still with us. So is bigotry — prejudice based on race, creed, sex, etc. We have to struggle daily against feelings of fear and powerlessness, inertia, group pressure, and the constant bombardment of negative stereotypes, both obvious and subtle, to change ourselves, and others, too. Which brings me to this book.

Face Relations: 11 Stories About Seeing Beyond Color is not a book about prejudice (although prejudice is most certainly an important part of this book). It is about the possibilities of embracing diversity. With naivete, ambivalence, intent, anger, fear, embarrassment, and joy, the characters in these stories tear down the barriers that separate us.

In Jess Mowry's "Phat Acceptance," meet Brandon, a guy with that cool white surfer-dude look — even if he isn't a surfer — whose first day in a new school is turned upside down by the arrival of the one, the only, the fattest black classmate he's ever seen. And there's Mitch, narrator of Joseph Bruchac's "Skins," a football player of Native American and Scandinavian heritage, whose strategy of "hanging back" is challenged by the two new kids in town: Randolph, clearly African-American, and Jimmy T, purely American Indian. Or are they?

Get to know DeMaris — pining for her best friend Epiphany, the title character in Ellen Wittlinger's story — who dares to ask: Why can't a white girl sit with the black kids in the cafeteria? In Noelle's school, some of the black kids aren't allowed to sit with the black kids. Sherri Winston, in her story "Snow," introduces us to this budding journalist whose fight against the mistreatment of Haitian students by fellow African-American classmates leads her to a dangerous clash with the school principal.

Kyoko Mori's protagonist in "Black and White" tells the story of an "outsider" from an immigrant's own perspective. Born in Japan and growing up in rural Wisconsin, Asako learns that being the misunderstood "foreigner" doesn't excuse her act of mean-spirited Halloween vandalism.

Then there are Jemma, also an immigrant, in Marina Budhos's "Gold," and Bianca, living amid immigrants, in M. E. Kerr's "Hearing Flower." One is biracial and poor, the other rich and white, but each has suffered the loss of a parent and each is in love with the "wrong" boy.

At least these boys are the right age. What are we to make of Myra with a thing for her math teacher, Rita Williams-Garcia's "Mr. Ruben." No one can tell what race Mr. Ruben is. But poor Myra, she just can't have a crush on the man unless he's black — and she'll drive herself and her friend Dee crazy until she finds out if he is or not.

Myra's situation makes us laugh. PD's does not. He was a promising Latino trumpet player. Now, he's dead. But oh, what he's left behind! René Saldaña Jr.'s moving story "The Heartbeat of the Soul of the World" is about PD's legacy — and the unifying power of music.

A very different soul hovers over Beth and Vonny in my own story "Negress" — the ghost of Saartjie Baartman, the Hottentot Venus, a woman exhibited as a sexual freak throughout Europe in the early nineteenth century. Will her spirit unite or divide these two very different best friends? What possibilities does she have in store for them?

In Naomi Shihab Nye's "Hum," Sami is haunted by spirits too — spirits of the dead and the living he left behind in the Middle East. But he and his family are hopeful about their new life in Texas. And then comes the day that changes everything: September 11, 2001.

These characters' — these writers' — stories are troubled, sad, touching, funny, or fierce, but all are full of hope. And if hope really is, in Emily Dickinson's words, "the thing with feathers / That perches in the soul / And sings the tune without the words / And never stops at all," may these stories supply some possible lyrics. May you hear their words and music long after you close this book.

Marilyn Singer

Copyright © 2004 by Marilyn Singer

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Table of Contents



Letter from the Southern Poverty Law Center

Phat Acceptance by Jess Mowry

Skins by Joseph Bruchac

Snow by Sherri Winston

The Heartbeat of the Soul of the World by René Saldaña Jr.

Hum by Naomi Shihab Nye

Epiphany by Ellen Wittlinger

Black and White by Kyoko Mori

Hearing Flower by M. E. Kerr

Gold by Marina Budhos

Mr. Ruben by Rita Williams-Garcia

Negress by Marilyn Singer

About the Authors and Their Stories

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2004

    A great anthology on an important subject

    ¿The kids were a typical Santa Cruz mix -- meaning that most of them were white -- from surfers in tank-tops, hoodies and shorts, to hip-hops in big-jeans and backward-turned caps. A pair of gothics, boy and girl, had so many piercings that Brandon winced, even though he was wearing an earring himself. There were also a couple of obvious jocks.¿ I assume Jess Mowry is describing a typical 9th grade World History class in Santa Cruz, California in this early paragraph of his peppery and hilarious story, ¿Phat Acceptance¿, which opens this great anthology dealing with modern-day race relations. Another clue is when Mowry teases us with a mention of a youth gang from the early 1960s who were known as the ¿Tola Rats¿ for their stomping ground of Capitola, Ca, a little seaside town bordering Santa Cruz. Mowry goes on to illustrate this mix: ¿...one of the jocks could have been on TV as a model for all-American boys. There was also a skinhead in boots and suspenders who could have passed for an albino ape, though the only ¿statement¿ he seemed to make was that some Caucasians had lame-looking skulls and should have kept something on top of them. ....The other students included three Asians, two slender girls who were Vietnamese... and a pair of rolly Mexican boys in tattered white T-shirts and faded big-jeans. ....The black race hadn¿t been represented, until this ebony mountain of blubber had lumbered casually into the room.¿ So begins Brandon Williams¿ -- age 14, blond, blue-eyed, and a sidewalk surfer -- first day of high school, and we might also assume his introduction into the real world of race relations, being that he¿s gone to a private school from kindergarten through 8th grade. I love Mowry¿s style of seemingly writing about one thing while actually writing about another (¿Phat Acceptance¿) and even though pedigreed Kirkus Reviews didn¿t seem to think this story was funny, or even important enough to mention -- citing, instead, Rita Williams-Garcia's offering, ¿Mr. Ruben¿, as ¿the only really funny story in the collection¿ -- I would recommend this book for Mowry's story alone, and I¿m not surprised that Simon & Schuster chose it to open this well-compiled and thought-provoking anthology. While I agree that ¿Mr. Ruben¿ is indeed quite amusing, I think it¿s significant that Ms. Marilyn Singer¿s poignant (and also quite funny) contribution, ¿Negress¿, wasn¿t mentioned either. I¿ve read enough Kirkus Reviews, especially those dealing with ¿minority¿ and social issues, to know that when they ignore something it¿s often just the thing I do want to read; and much more importantly, often just the thing young people want to read. As a middle-school librarian, I¿m much more concerned with this than what conservative reviewers may think that kids 'should' read. The eleven stories in ¿Face Relations¿ are by no means all funny, though every one is hopeful without being saccharine or preachy. I highly recommend Marina Budhos¿ Caribbean story ¿Gold¿. Sherri Winston¿s devastating, yet happily-ending, ¿Snow¿ -- about a black principal ¿cleaning up¿ a troubled and predominantly black school by favoring lighter-skinned and non-Haitian students, rouses one to anger and is not to be missed -- which is probably why Kirkus didn¿t mention it either. ¿Then my junior year, I challenged King. Told him too many non-African-American students were treated like second-class citizens. We were right here, in this office. He yanked me from my seat and told me to get out and go cool off. ...¿Your Haitian story, Noelle, concerns me¿.¿ All in all, I think ¿Face Relations¿ will be a welcome and, more importantly, much-read addition to any school library or a young person¿s collection.

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