I recently had the opportunity to speak with a parent considering domestic transracial adoption. All four of my kiddos fell asleep for their afternoon nap sooner than I had expected (that was a first), and I had a leisurely hour-long phone conversation with this soon-to-be parent. She really wanted book recommendations, my top two or three, for White parents about to become a multiracial family through transracial adoption. I laughed and said I recommend my favorite books to everyone I know, whether they are in a multiracial or a monoracial family; and these days my most-read books all relate to race.
She had already begun my top recommendation, A People’s History of The United States: 1492-Present, by Howard Zinn. My first read of this book eight years ago was eye-opening for me, especially because my history knowledge (national and world) is spotty at best. A People’s History covers the significant portion of U.S. history missing from traditional textbooks and classes. It is the U.S. history of women, African Americans, Native Americans, immigrants of all nationalities, the working class and the poor. It should be a required co-text in any highschool or college “American History” class.
The second book I recommended was Everyday Acts Against Racism: Raising Children in a Multiracial World, edited by Maureen T. Reddy. This is a collection of 20 essays by parents (mostly mothers) raising children of color. My two favorite essays, the ones I read over and over, are Trial and Error by Daryl LaRoche (an amazingly-written piece about privilege, institutionalized racism, and raising a multiracial daughter) and Bringing It On Home: Teaching/Mothering Antiracism by Lynda Marin (a grippingly self-exploratory piece about being multiracial, parenting, racism, and college-level teaching).
I lent the book Everyday Acts to a relative last summer, made sure she read the essay by LaRoche and left the rest of the browsing up to her. I told her it was my favorite book. When she returned the book, her only comment (accompanied by a bewildered look) was, “Some of these mothers seem angry.” I think she was worried I was becoming one of those mothers. Not purposelessly angry, I wanted to say, just working hard to do the right thing and fighting for their children’s rights. (I had lent her the book because I didn’t feel able to clearly explain to her where I am these days as a mother of multiracial children of color, and she obviously still didn’t understand.)
The third book I recommend to everyone these days is Some of My Best Friends: Writings on Interracial Friendships, edited by Emily Bernard. You have to take this book slow (or read it twice in a row like I did, because I read it so fast the first time I couldn’t keep all the stories straight). This book contains deep, well-crafted essays about platonic interracial relationships from 16 writers. My favorite essay here is ‘Cartilage’ by Susan Straight, a White mother of multiracial daughters who has lived in an African American neighborhood for 25 years.
Here you can also find my favorite children’s books about skin color and race, and ideas for how to start the conversation about ancestry, heritage, race and ethnicity with the children in your family or the children in your class.