Tuesday, November 20, 2007

In Their Own Voices

So far in the reading I have done on adoption, the one book I would recommend most enthusiastically for other people interested in the subject is In Their Own Voices: Transracial Adoptees Tell Their Stories. Actually, this book is so informative and helpful that I wonder why parents of children of a different race wouldn't take the time to hear what these people have to say. The book is not all touchy-feely, instant bonding, everyone lives happily ever after. These people tell the truth, both good and bad, and I am grateful to Rita Simon and Rhonda Roorda, the editors, for having the good sense to put this book together.

Laurie Goff's story has so far been the most inspiring to me. She has a bitingly sarcastic sense of humor and tells such funny stories about encounters she's had with people around the world who see her outside-the-box family. This woman was raised to be resilient. I think she gets it from her mother:

"People were afraid of my mother. If they messed with me once, she'd come to school. For three months my school didn't have a world culture teacher or a French teacher. My mother called the principal's office, but he did nothing. Then she wrote letters to the school board and two teachers were hired--two of the best teachers in the school.

In history I ended up getting a grade point average of 5.8 out of 4.0--my teacher let us do extra credit. I did mine on Apartheid. In a school of 400 students, with only ten of them white, no one knew what Apartheid was. No one.

How did you explain the meaning of Apartheid?

I explained that it was like slavery, that for decades white people came into the country and took it over, that they didn't allow blacks to gather or to keep their family unts together. It was legalized slavery. These students didn't know this was going on. I did an assembly for the whole school to clue them in. People told me I was smart. I said that I read.

My father came to school to give a talk on AIDS since he's a medical doctor. Kids were impressed with my dad. Some people asked me if I ever wanted to meet my real parents. My philosophy has always been that a parent is someone who loves you, who takes care of you, who is there for you when you are sick, when you do fabulous things, and when you do stupid things. They'll even bail you out of jail. I told these kids that I didn't really want to meet them. Some of them didn't understand. They wondered if I felt weird because my parents were white and I was black. I said, "No. The people who feel weird are people like you."

Ms. Goff did go on to try to meet her biological parents and in the process connected with many of her biological relatives, which she said was both a good and bad thing. An example of her sense of humor: When she found out that her biological father was in prison for murder, she said, "Well, isn't that just precious."

As a future adoptive parent, I so appreciated hearing her words about what a real parent is, and she gave such excellent advice throughout her whole interview about how to raise well-adjusted and confident children in the complicated world of transracial adoption. While the sad stories of heart-ache and confusion are helpful and necessary to read and study for knowing what not to do as parents, these success stories are truly so inspiring.

I also really liked her response to people telling her that she was smart. That's so true! It makes me want to toss our television (not that we watch it all that much anyway--I'd say it's on maybe five hours per week).

I'm going to get back to the book now. I hope you all go track it down and read it too.


Anonymous said...

Lori: I love this: "The people who feel weird are the people like you." Says a lot without saying it. PVZ

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a book I'd love. Thanks for the brief description. It's just enough to make me track it down!!! :)

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!