books and reading · culture/multiculturalism · hair

What Flavor are you?

From Selina Alko’s new book.

All of my sisters are a different color and the color of our skin changes in the sun, with the seasons and darkens as with age.

I started out a milky white with Asiatic eyes so it wasn’t just for my brains that I was called “white girl.” But the joke as a baby was that I was Chinese. But I grew up into a trigueñita, a wheat-colored girl, even turning a glorious brown one summer in the Dominican sun.

My younger sister was a darker white and eventually, she looked like an Indian Princess. She was the darkest of all of us. She looked like Disney’s Pocahontas and I was jealous because I wanted to be look just as beautiful and exotic.

My other sister was also born pale but by the time she was an adult, her skin was a rich, luminescent golden color.

(But my youngest sister, my half-sister from a different father, was born green. Really. We were horrified. Our mother had baby photos taken of her despite her green skin. Eventually, it turned a nice normal color, an olive tone with some yellow-brown mixed in for good measure.)

This swath of colors was the product of my pale-skinned father whose father’s nickname was Blanco (white) and my dark-skinned mother that he playfully called Morena because of her brown skin. It had never occured to me to think of myself as biracial though throughout my childhood into adulthood people often assumed I was half-white, half-black.

Decades of intermixing between Spaniards, Africans and Taíno natives on the island have dictated the pigmentation of all Dominican families: a swirl of white, yellow and brown.

When my green little sister stopped being green, she decided she wanted to be chocolate. She gawked at the yummy color of the African-American girl my aunt fostered and she wanted to be chocolate just like her. We assured her that she was a nice color herself, cafe con leche, and because we loved our expresso with milk, we told her it was a delicious color to be.

In Selina Alko’s new picture book, “I’m Your Peanut Butter Big Brother,” her biracial son imagines what his new sibling will look like. What will the baby’s skin color be? Will it be like his? What will her hair texture be? Will it be like his? And most importantly, what flavor will the baby be? Will she be a semisweet dark chocolate bar like her father? Or strawberry cream milk like her mother? Or more like her brother with his cotton candy hair and peanut butter skin?

You can check out more pages from the book on Alko’s website.

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