Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Book Nook: One hundred Percent Me

A powerful and heartwarming story for multicultural and mixed families, One Hundred Percent Me by Renee Macalino Rutledge (Alameda, CA) takes young readers (ages 4 to 8) along a young girl’s exploration of her mixed race identity.

Many Americans with immigrant ancestors are constantly asked, “Where are you from?" The assumption is they are not from the city they were born and raised in. One Hundred Percent Me turns the question on its head, claiming belonging for so many children of color in a positive, celebratory way.

As the little girl moves through daily life in the big city, she hears some people say she looks more like her Puerto Rican dad, while others claim she takes after her Filipina mom. Should she favor one identity over the other? No! In fact, honoring every facet of her identity equally becomes the main character’s favorite affirmation.

This beautifully illustrated story celebrates our differences, as she learns how to claim her belonging and honor the heritage that makes her unique and wholly herself.

“A book from the perspective of a mixed Latina and Asian child is rare,” says author Renee Macalino Rutledge, whose own two daughters inspired the story. “Multiracial kids make up a huge and growing demographic in the US, and as all kids, they deserve to see themselves in books.”

I had a chance to learn more in this interview.

Can you share a little bit about the title of the book?
Identity can’t be placed in fractions. With multiracial kids, it’s widespread to say they’re “half” this and “half” something else; or “a quarter” this and “three-quarters” that. But in reality, you can’t chop up DNA that way. It’s important to acknowledge our ancestors and the cultural heritage that helps make us who we are. But we are all one hundred percent ourselves. One Hundred Percent Me also speaks to the wisdom of children. Adults have been conditioned to ask problematic questions. A child’s way of knowing and responding is often right on point.

Why is it so important for multicultural families to see themselves reflected in books?
I grew up loving to read but didn’t see myself in books until I was in college. This was life changing, to see that the stories and legacies I could relate to matter. It inspired and empowered me to tell my own stories. Books should represent life. Without inclusion of the diverse, multilayered realities and struggles of multicultural families, literature is not a mirror but a wall.

What surprised you the most about writing this book?
That over two decades after I began reading children’s books to my oldest daughter, I did an internet search for a picture book with a Latino and Asian protagonist and could not find one. This representation was lacking not just for my family, but so many others like ours.

Renee Macalino Rutledge was born in Manila, Philippines, and raised in California from the age of four. Her debut novel, The Hour of Daydreams, won an Institute for Immigration Research New American Voices Finalist award, Foreword INDIES Gold, and Powell’s Top Five Staff Pick. In addition to One Hundred Percent Me, she is also the author of the children’s book Buckley the Highland Cow & Ralphy the Goat, a story about overcoming hardship with the help of our friends, who are often very different from ourselves. Renee lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she reads books for a living, loves the outdoors, and is always on the lookout for new adventures with her husband and their two daughters. Find her at reneerutledge.com or connect with her on Instagram (@renee_rutledge).

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