Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Book Review: Blended Nation

Recently many of my readers here, have been contacting me by email to introduce themselves and share how their stories resonate with mine.  "I look forward to all the ways in which you find a way to approach the intersection of race and parenting.." wrote a woman, who like myself is an adoptive parent of a child of color. That readers are writing to me is a source of great joy. That those of you who are writing continue to identify race, parenting, honesty, my voice and my experience as an adoptive parent as the reasons you return-emboldens and nourishes me.

The other night I became the audience member and reader to many of these same critical intersecting points on a much larger stage. Blended Nation: Portraits and Interviews of Mixed-Race America by Mike Tauber and Pamela Singh is a collective photographic and transcribed exploration of what it means to identify as mixed race in twenty-first century America. (You can see my earlier reference and the link to the NPR interview on this book under the November entry Blended Nation-Marcel Style.) As you may recall from a few weeks back, I was so struck by the short piece I heard on NPR with Mr. Tauber that I wrote to him to thank him for putting this work into the collective conversation and asked him if I could review and share his work here. He answered me within the day, and sent the book in two. 

I was pulled in from the cover, and felt instantly as if I just arrived at a family reunion with hundreds of kindred voices that all welcomed me in-even when what they had to say was not easy to hear. Take for example the words of Timothy Meril.  Adopted,  Puerto Rican, and Iranian, and in middle school, his portrait exudes self assurances and self doubt simultaneously. The sepia tones reflect his skin and the bark of the tree-that I trust and hope he will one day be as strong as-and provide a lush container for his honesty; "I'm not black and I'm not white and I just try to fit in... My parents and family love me, but they don't understand all the issues I deal with."  I feel a future Sammy and Marcel in his words, and in his world. And, I see our family over and over in the pages of this hefty, smooth, and visually stunning event. Interracial families, mixed race marriages, adoption, one part this and four parts that, and so many photos of radiant gorgeous people with curly black hair. Our family is the norm over and over again.

In last month's Adoptive Families Magazine, there was a story by a now grown woman, Deborah Jiang Stein, who used to pour over the photos in the National Geographic Magazine every month as a child desperate to find a picture of someone who looked like her. Her adoptive parents did not at the time have the background information necessary to help her discover what her ethnicity was (part Greek, Tiawanese-American, Latina and more).  Her essay came to mind as I looked in the eyes of the confident LaTanya Spann who is black, white and Asian. LaTanya talks about her choice in college of joining either the Asian, white or black sorority, and her decision to join a Latina-founded multi-cultural sorority instead. The difference in options for her, and Ms. Stein are epic. The book offers this perspective, and all of the possibility that shift engendered by the younger generation presents. At the same time, you are invited in, to the work of the parents that came before them, and the struggles of the peers that have not found their way to her flushed out decision.

I see this book as a tool for Sammy, Marcel and I to have many necessary conversations in the future. When Eddie, our Haitian superhero former nanny and now weekly dinner guest rock star was here the other night she said, having Marcel as a brother is going to provide opportunities for Sammy that he wouldn't necessary have otherwise. And, having Sammy as a brother will do the same for Marcel.  This book is offers me a little crystal ball moment into that map she sees ahead of them. The stories in the book, and the dare you to turn that page until you see my soul photos included should be the anchor text for all families who aim to parent children of any background fully in this century. It's like having extended family sitting on the couch who just showed up when you were at a loss for words and need their help to explain what it means to be human, today.

1 comment:

Kathleen said...

This is the second rave review I've seen of this book...think it's going on my holiday wish list! I simply must have it! Good job on this and other reviews, Catherine. And Happy Thanksgiving...wow, there is so much to be grateful for!