Santa’s Got a Brand-New Multi-Culti Bag

by Anti-Racist Parent columnist Jason Sperber, originally published at Rice Daddies

I’ve always been that friend or relative that you either love or absolutely hate around gift-giving time: I like to give books and “educational” stuff. Of course, that also means that I love to get those kind of presents too, and I hope The Pumpkin picks up that tendency from me. Here’s a list of all the multi-culti and/or educational presents my toddlergirl received this Christmas (and no, they weren’t all from me!):

The World Rhythms Kit by Latin Percussion’s World Beat Kids.
The Pumpkin actually got three percussion sets this Christmas [and no, actually, I wasn't mad] and she loooves music, listening to it, dancing to it, making it. Now all she needs is a kiddie-sized taiko drum and some mini kulintang instruments. Heh.

The Wooden Sushi Bento Set by Melissa & Doug.
This thing is freakin’ awesome. You know you want one. It comes with a cleaver you use to “cut” apart the velcro’d-together maki pieces. The Pumpkin loves this thing. [She has way too many food-oriented toys. Heh.]

Little Daruma and Little Kaminar: A Japanese Children’s Tale by Satoshi Kako
Cute retelling of a Japanese folk tale, haven’t really read it to her yet, but brought back found memories of my childhood copies of “Momotaro the Peach Boy” and “Little One-Inch.”

Bee-Bim Bop! by Linda-Sue Park, illustrated by Ho Baek Lee
She looooves this book. We read it several times a day, and she’s already reading along with the rhymes.

“Yoko” by Rosemary Wells
I find this one a bit problematic, and wonder if it would have turned out different if it had been written by an Asian American author. This little Japanese American cat takes sushi to school and gets ridiculed. Her mom wears a kimono at home–um, how many Japanese immigrant women of child-bearing age in this country are wearing kimonos? Yeah, thought so. And the teacher’s solution to the teasing? No real intervention, no telling kids to stop or that they’re wrong–no, it’s to have an international food fair! And still only one other kid eats the sushi…

“Old Turtle” by Douglas Wood, illustrated by Cheng-Khee Chee
Beautiful book given by The Pumpkin’s compadres, about tolerance and diversity and peace.

Okay, so the next three actually were from us:

“Skin Again” by bell hooks, illustrated by Chris Raschka
A children’s book about racial difference, by bell hooks, illustrated by the guy who did one of The Pumpkin’s earliest favorites, “Charlie Parker Played Be Bop”? Slam dunk.

“Jazz” by Walter Dean Myers, illustrated by Chris Myers
The text is a little too dense for her now, but it’s a beautiful book (and I went to college with Chris).

Lakas and the Makibaka Hotel by Anthony D. Robles, illsutrated by Carl Angel
She loves the first Lakas book, “Lakas and the Manilatown Fish,” which asks for as “Fish.” A children’s primer on fighting the power, and it’s bilingual in English and Tagalog.

Okay, this last thing was given by our good friends who also gave the sushi set, and they readily admitted that it was more for me than it was for The Pumpkin. This is what the picture accompanying this post is of:

“Pre-Cut Asian Family” by Little Folks Visuals, specialists in “making the highest quality felt sets available today.” Not being a preschool teacher, I had no idea such a market even existed. Besides a bunch of bibilical play sets, nursery rhyme sets, and some science stuff, there’s also an “African American Family,” a “Caucasian Family,” a “Hispanic Family,” and you can get a set of all four, plus “community helpers” (firefighters, etc.). Heh. The best part of this, besides the strangely pharaonic helmet-hairdos on these folks, is the text on the back:

“The Choi family works hard to keep their busy household running smoothly. But they always make time for each other…and their new dog. Create adventures that explore the responsibilities and joys of family with the Chois.”

C’mon, everybody who lives in LA’s Koreatown knows that that dog should be a freakin’ jindo or something. Chows are so 2 decades ago. Heh.

So, multi-culti mamas and papas, besides the racially ambiguous Bratz dolls that your clueless cousin gave your babygirl, and that are, even as we speak, setting back feminism 50 years as they sit in your closet awaiting their return to Target, what fun-and-education loot did your kiddos pull in this pan-denominational-holiday-gift-giving season?

Jason Sperber is a former stay-at-home-dad of a 2-year-old daughter (“The Pumpkin”) and the husband of a family physician (“la dra.”) living in California’s Central Valley. He is currently a writer/blogger/online community manager. A former high school social studies teacher, he has a background in ethnic studies and education for social justice. He writes the blog daddy in a strange landand coordinates Rice Daddies, the group blog by Asian American dads. He can be reached at

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