Monthly Archives: December 2013

Two moving memoirs about adoption.

iStock_000013838726Small I have been trying to think of some of the best books I have received as Christmas presents in the past.

There really are so many.  However, to stay true to the themes of this blog – Adoption and Multiracial family  –  I  shall choose two memoirs by people who have been adopted.  And these are both books that I really treasure.

Caradoc King In 2012 I received the Memoir Problem Child by Caradoc King, published by Simon and Schuster in 2011.  It is described on the cover as “A tale of neglect, courage and hope”.  Caradoc, a white child, was adopted by a white middle-class family.  This is a tale of a fairly love-less adoption.  It is disturbing and heartbreaking to hear that he was sent to school with ‘I am a Liar’ embroidered on his jersey.  What is even harder to comprehend is that his adoptive parents rejected him completely at the age of sixteen.  I cannot even write or think about this without feeling a pang of sorrow in my heart for him.   Apparently he did not even find out that he was adopted until the age of fifteen.

However, this Memoir is written by a wonderful writer and is in no way a “misery memoir”.  It has been described as devastatingly honest and written with warmth.  This is not surprising, as Caradoc King grew up to be a highly respected Literary Agent.  He writes at length about the boarding schools he attended.  (He was sent away to school from the age of six. ) He mentions the sisters he was brought up with and I was relieved to learn that much later in his life he has been able to re-connect with them.  It was interesting to learn that he managed to meet his birth mother, just a few months before her death.

The second Memoir that I would like to share with you is Red Dust Road, by Jackie Kay, published by Picador in 2010.

Jackie KayLike Caradoc King, Jackie has also grown up to be famous in the literary world.  She is an acclaimed poet, as well as an  author of novels and short stories.

Jackie, a mixed-race child,  was adopted by loving white parents who were both ardent Communists.  They lived in Glasgow.  As a result Jackie has a strong Glaswegian accent – at least that is how it sounds to my ears when I hear her talk on the radio and read her poems.  Her parents first adopted a black son. (In those days the term ‘coloured’ was more often used).  They then adopted Jackie to complete the family.  Jackie’s birth mother was from the Highlands of Scotland and her birth father from Nigeria.

Jackie’s account of her first meeting with her Nigerian birth father is brimming over with humour.  Warmth, humour, honesty and deep emotions run through this whole memoir.  Her account of her eventual meeting with her birth mother, following a few cancelled dates, had me sitting on the edge of my chair.  My heart was ‘fluttering’ along with hers.  Would her mother turn up this time?  She did.

The Independent quoted on the back cover says:  “Like the best memoirs, this one is written with novelistic and poetic flair.  Pitch-perfect, page-turning.”

If any reader of this blog has an adoption memoir to recommend, I would be very happy to hear from you.christmas-tree-mdThank you for reading this blog.  A very Happy Christmas and New Year to you all!

Wot. No google Search in 1972?! How did people find information about multiracial issues in those days?

When we adopted baby Sam in 1972 there was no Google Search.  I don’t think anybody had personal computers.  I remember hearing about enormous computers that were kept in really large office areas, with specially controlled environments and temperature.  I imagined they looked like this

old computer

How did we find out about multiracial issues?  The answer is with difficulty.  Doubtless there were academic papers in the universities but we didn’t see any.  There were libraries of course and some information was available there.

The first thing we read that was useful for white adopters of black and mixed race children, was in 1973 – one year after we had adopted Sam.  It was the transcript of a talk given to social workers by a member of a Canadian organisation.  The organisation was called The Open Door Society.  The speaker was Margaret Edgar.  She was both a social worker and adoptive mother of six children of different racial backgrounds.  To their credit, it was our adoption society that sent us the transcript.

Margaret Edgar’s talk was based on research carried out in Canada, where they had pioneered adoption of hard-to-place black and mixed race children. She says that naturally the most satisfactory arrangement is for loving black parents to adopt these children, but sometimes this is not possible. Her whole talk is beautifully constructed.

The main thrust that came through to us was that ‘Love is not enough…  Society will see your children as black…  She said “There must be a realisation, that when a baby is adopted trans-racially, the normal requirements of love, under-standing and concern for physical welfare are not enough. The parents have a responsibility to instil in their child, through the media of literature, art and music, a pride and understanding of his racial heritage.” 

We acted on her strategy straight away.  Unfortunately I cannot quote the whole article.  It is very long.

Harmony badge

In the 1980s we discovered a great organisation called Harmony and there we met other parents of black and mixed race children.  We shared information about skin and hair care, about multicultural books and many wonderful things about black culture.  Our families met up for picnics and events and we all benefitted – the children and parents alike.

Recently, I found an article on Google Search.  It was an article written in the United States about Margaret Edgar in the picturesquely – to our English ears – (yet accurately) named Tuscaloosa News July 3rd 1973. It says more or less what the talk said, but in a more dramatic way.  All copies of the newspaper are on-line.

 

Tuscaloosa News 1

 

“Think Black, Parents Advised…This does not mean that the white family has to give up its white identity”, Mrs. Edgar explained.  “Instead it should develop an additional one:…..After all, black people have always had dual identities”, she noted.

Tuscaloosa News 2

I would maintain that much of what is said in this article has value today.

Who would have thought in 1973 that this article could be accessed forty years later on a small home laptop computer in a house in London in 2013?