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Multiracial Family Matters

Families come in all shapes, sizes, and colors these days—but if the members of yours are of different races, you may experience curious glances and questions. Tips for responding with grace:

Answer as a family

When strangers asked whether her Chinese daughter, Lianne, was adopted, Laura Rittenhouse, who's Caucasian, used to say "Yes" as matter-of-factly as she could. "But I felt diminished," she says. "That answer separates Lianne and me. Now I reply, 'Yes, we are adopted.' Saying that brings us together."

Give yourself a pep talk 

Susan Fu says that her blond hair and blue eyes are contrasted by the darker Chinese features of her husband, Dave, and their three children. "When we're out or in a restaurant, people stare, so I have a little sentence I say in my head: 'Oh, they must be talking about what a beautiful family we are.'" Fu's positive spin on strangers' rudeness helps keep her from feeling self-conscious, awkward, or irritated.

Find a way to get out of the conversation 

Some families invent code words (one says "spike") to help them feel in control when people ask intrusive questions. When a child uses the word, other family members know he's uncomfortable and wants to end the conversation.

Get away from it all

Leceta Chisolm Guibault, the Caucasian mom of two kids with different heritages, encountered a stranger who asked persistent questions about whether her kids were really brother and sister. "I realized what was truly important was what my children—not the man—were getting from the conversation. It was time to end the interrogation," she says. "I smiled at my kids, and we walked away."


—From Does Anybody Else Look Like Me? (Da Capo Press), by Donna Jackson Nakazawa