Saturday, September 23, 2006


Literary Mama features so many thoughtful and thought-provoking reviews, interviews, poems, stories, op-ed pieces that I have to tread carefully for fear of sinking in over my head. Then I stumble across something like this review of Barbara Katz Rothman’s Weaving a Family: Untangling Race and Adoption by Deesha Philyaw Thomas and I’m sunk with no hope of resurfacing for a good half hour. Or so. Because reviewers like Thomas do works like Rothman’s “critical examination” of “assumptions about race and family in this country” wondrous justice when they consider an author’s intentions while also analyzing that author’s success or failure in achieving stated goals.

And there’s so much to consider here. Rothman, a white adoptive mother of a black child and Thomas, a black adoptive mother, approach the subject of race in America from two distinct perspectives. Yet Rothman, Thomas states, seems to understand that she will never fully understand racism, and yet justifiably claims the right not only to acknowledge the impact of racism on her family but to study racism, analyze it, and present her understandings of its impact on many, many families.

Thomas ultimately concludes that Rothman succeeded because she refused to write yet another “memoir of a white woman discovering race.” This book, instead, explores a variety of issues that stem from transracial and/or transnational adoption. Consider this quote from Rothman concerning the history of hair:

“In the doing of hair, one does race. Race is constructed, celebrated, despaired of, enjoyed, feared. Hair is a test to be passed or failed, a trial to be endured, an intimate moment to be shared. In memoirs of those raised within the African-American community and those raised by white people, hair and the doing of hair emerges as a focal point for the discussion and for the experience of race…. White people—especially but not exclusively those of us raising black children—need to know these stories, need to know the politics and history of hair.”

White people also need to know the politics and history of race in our country. As Thomas states: “Weaving a Family is Rothman’s gauntlet and guidepost to adoptive parents—and to anyone concerned about race and family.”


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