The Other Half of My Heart by Sundee T. Frazier

I made gingerbread (OK, it was from a box.) the other night, and I think it was because of a book, The Other Half of My Heart by Sundee T. Frazier. It’s weird I know, but I swear I could taste the gingerbread Minnie saved for her sister, Keira. Minnie and Keira are visiting their North Carolinian grandmother, a prim and proper school teacher, who wants them to compete in the Miss Black Pearl Preteen of America Pageant (I mean Program). Strong, outgoing Keira is all for it, bookish, quiet Minnie thinks it’s a death sentence.

There is a scene when the focal character, Minnie, is upset because her sister is mad at her and accuses her of taking advantage of white/light skin privilege. Her grandmother’s neighbor, who happens to also be light enough to pass for white, invites her over to have gingerbread while they talk about her struggle. Minnie and Keira are twins, but they do not look alike. Keira’s skin color is brown and people do not suspect she is biracial. Minnie, on the other hand, is so light that people do not believe Keira is her sister, let alone twin. Minnie and Keira’s relationship has always been close until they both reach the point where they begin to be impacted by how others view skin color. At one point, Keira wonders if Minnie believes she is superior because she is light. Minnie is appalled that Keira would think that; however, she does question her unwillingness to speak out against injustices against her sister.

I picked this book up at the library after seeing it was endorsed by Rita Williams-Garcia. I was not disappointed. The tension and self-discovery seemed realistic. It is difficult when you love someone even as they begin to pull away. I liked the way Frazier depicted aspects of girlhood, and with mostly female characters, she could show different aspects of it. I was listening to talk on NPR the other day about the census results and someone said they expect more people to report they are biracial than did in 2000 because of discussions about President Obama and Tiger Woods. I don’t know, but it was nice to see the topic addressed in a book for youth in an open and sincere way.