Tuesday, July 30, 2013

RESOURCE REVIEW: Black Baby, White Hands

It is my opinion that there are far too few resources about transracial adoption that are from the perspective and experience of the child.   There are many written by professionals in the field, and from parents, but Black Baby, White Hands is aptly subtitled: A View From the Crib.  It is a written by an African American man looking back on his adoption and upbringing by white parents. 

Jaiya John’s story is honest, fair, and almost astoundingly compassionate.  His journey, as detailed in his book, is what any good journey should be, full of stumbles and stretching in ways one never thought they could (or should) stretch.  It is a passage of learning who he is and changing who he expected himself to be.  Jaiya John is a born story teller.  His inherited and entirely unique talents result in a book that is beautifully written and reads like a Toni Morrison novel rather than a “How To” book.  The premise of this book is a black child being raised in the newly born “color blind” era of our nation, which led to his parents belief that if they didn’t recognize the color of his skin, he wouldn’t suffer from being different.  There is so much to learn from Jaiya as our nation slowly progresses past the idea that color doesn’t matter, and ventures into the realization of how much is still does. 

“Conversations we [my parents and I] might have had regarding my race may have led to outbursts, misunderstandings, and conflict.  But over time, the balance, I believe, would have tilted in favor of the benefits of our communication, rather than the alienation that emerged from overall avoidance of these issues.  What I yearned for then was a simple emotion.  I desired to feel welcome to bring race to our tongues if my heart needed it desperately.”

What you take from this book depends entirely on how open you are to the idea that Jaiya’s experience is not unique to him, or to the era, and how forgiving you are to yourself for not knowing differently.  There are so many profound moments in the novel that 100 of the 375 pages in my own book are turned down in the corners so that I can reference then again with family, colleagues and clients.  This is an important and significant book for anyone regardless of whether adoption or transracial adoption is a part of your life. 


Kate Rocke, MSW has worked with children and families in crisis since 2001.  She previously worked in South America in an orphanage for two years.  For the last year she has worked as an Adoption and Foster Care Specialist in Seattle, WA, where she is also a co-trainer for two levels of transracial adoption education courses.  Kate is an aunt to a niece and nephew who joined her family through international adoption.  

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