WOODS, Brenda. The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond. 222p. Penguin. Jan. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-399-25714-8. LC 2013024241.
Ages 8-12—When biracial preteen Violet bemoans her “predictable summer of boring nothing,” she does not anticipate a summer of revealed family secrets and new beginnings. Bright and energetic, Violet adores her family: doctor mom, teenage sister, and hippie grandparents, but never feels like she belongs. Her family is white and she is biracial; her African American father died in a car crash before she was born and she never met his family. Mom tries to understand, but soon recognizes Violet’s path to self-identity is through her estranged paternal grandmother, a famous African American artist. After a rocky first meeting, Violet spends a week with her Bibi (Swahili for grandmother) in Los Angeles, meets cousins who challenge and embrace her, and in discovering her black identity, blooms. A realistic and uplifting portrayal of a classic theme, Woods skillfully executes frank discussions of race and racism that promote further dialogue.
Violet is a likeable and introspective protagonist whose poignant reflections encourage empathy and understanding. An important book especially for children of mixed race heritage, but all may enjoy Violet’s journey and the celebration of diverse families.