adoptive parenting · Book Review · transracial adoption

Book Review: Growing Up Black In White

I love this book.

I have waited a long time to read this book. I first heard about it last year, I think soon after it had been published. However, being on a strict “no buying books” diet, I tried over and over to get it through inter library loan (since our library didn’t have it). No such luck.

I even spoke to a librarian who said they would purchase this book. But they didn’t.

Finally, last month, I tried again to request it, and a different librarian actually did buy the book. I got to be the first one to check it out! It hasn’t even been bar coded yet, that’s how new it is.

I am super excited to have read it, and as soon as my book-buying-ban is lifted, I will be purchasing it.

This books has had mixed reviews, especially from other transracial adoptees. Mr. Hofmann was adopted by a White family in the late 1960s and was raised in various Detroit neighborhoods by his parents. His parents are open to transracial adoption because of their faith.

And this is why I love this book. In some of the other books I’ve read about transracial adoption, faith is notably absent. Now, whether the authors do this intentionally, I have no idea. But Mr. Hofmann is very up front about his parents’ faith and what becomes his faith in God. They do no subscribe to the idea that God and/or the world is colorblind, but they hold dearly to the idea that God created all people to be equal.

So in the 1960s, when race was a HUGE issue in Detroit (and all of America), his White pastor-father and homemaker-mother tell the adoption agency they are open to biracial children. Then Mr. Hofmann describes what is to me, anyway, a horrible situation where potential adoptees are passed around to potential adoptive parents like Tupperware.

Yikes.

Thank God adoption has come a long way.

Anyway…. Mr. Hofmann is chosen by his parents and his life as a Hofmann begins.

This book details many experience he had growing up, from his brother-sister relationships to his experiences with racial issues. He talks about how his parents did or did not help him process racism. He talks about being a minority amongst Whites and then his White siblings being the minority at a mostly Black high school. He stresses the importance of living an integrated life and not hiding from people who are different than you.

A very important issue he addresses is communication with your children about their adoption, about their race, about everything. When he finally asked his parents about being adopted (as an adult) he said the relief in his mother’s voice was palpable. Obviously we, as parents, must be age-appropriate, but Hofmann stresses that we must discuss with our children the circumstances of their lives. We cannot ignore things. In the same vein, he grew up not discussing things that happened with his parents, because he wanted to protect them. Now I have to figure out how to tell Little Man that it is always okay to tell me what happened, what someone said, so we can deal with it together. Will it hurt me the first time someone calls my son the n word? (a riveting moment in the book, by the way) Absolutely. But I would rather know immediately so I can help my son process it than have him not tell me because he doesn’t want mommy to be hurt.

As I read this, Little Man was playing outside. He was running around our yard, stopping every so often to bend down at the waist and play with dandelions. He would giggle and then run away. He was chasing our dogs and grinning and scrunching up his nose in the most adorable way. So as I read this book, especially at that particular moment, I simply sat and stared at my son and wept.

How awesome is the responsibility of a parent.

But how even more awesome is the responsibility of a transracial adoptive parent.

Hofmann’s books convicted me even further about the type of community we need to look for when we (eventually) move. But more importantly, it also convicted me even further that Little Man was meant to be my son. God had a hand in our lives, just as He had a hand in Hofmann’s life. And I loved reading this honest account of this man’s experience growing up Black in White.

I highly recommend this book to transracial adoptive parents. I especially recommend it to those parents who believe God has crafted your family together the way He wants it to be.

Growing UP Black in White by Kevin D. Hofmann. Toldeo, OH: The Vine Appointment Publishing Company, 2010.

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