These are just a few of the words that describe how I felt reading Jaiya John’s “Black Baby White Hands.” This is the true account (autobiographical, really) of the first Black child adopted by a White family in New Mexico in 1968.
I’m not sure I can actually do justice to John’s work. At times it reads almost like a fiction novel – but then you remember you are reading something that really truly actually happened. The poetry he uses to introduce chapters (and sometimes within the chapters themselves) is gorgeous, but sometimes tough to read. The vivid pictures he paints of his childhood and reunions with birth family make you feel like you are watching them firsthand.
I would encourage every parent involved in a transracial adoption – every parent even considering transracial adoption – to read this book.
I won’t lie. There were hard parts. There were parts that made me weep alongside him. But there were also parts of pure joy that lit me up from the inside out.
I did learn a few things:
1. I must talk to Little Man about being adopted. I knew this already, but this book highlights just how important it is to NOT ignore the fact.
2. I must remember that growing up black is not the same as growing up white.
3. I must allow and acknowledge Little Man’s feelings and emotions as he grows up – even if I am scared of what he is feeling or feel like he is rejecting me (which, according to John, he ultimately probably won’t do). I need to give him permission to feel whatever it is he feels about being adopted…about being black in a white family…about being who is was born to be.
4. I must always hold his birthfamily in high regards and talk to him about them.
I think what I learned most is just that…I must always talk about Little Man’s adoption with him. By that, I don’t mean I should 24/7 talk about it and I don’t mean that I should attribute every new emotion to it. But I should make him comfortable so that he isn’t afraid to ever talk about it with me.
Again, this is an incredible book. I had to inter-library loan request it, and it came from the next state over (which annoyed me – why does no library in my state have this book?????). But it was worth the wait!
Black Baby White Hand: A View from the Crib
Silver Spring, MD: Soul Water Publishing, 2002