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Meltingpot Book Review: Prison Baby by Deborah Jiang Stein

Hi Meltingpot Readers,

prison baby book coverA couple of weeks ago, I received a copy of Prison Baby (Beacon Press) in the mail from an editor who thought I’d like it. She was absolutely right, although “like it” wouldn’t exactly be the way I’d describe my reaction to the book.

Prison Baby is a memoir by Deborah Jiang Stein. Adopted as a toddler by White parents, Stein has an ambiguous, multiracial background, was born in a prison to a drug-addicted mother, and suffers from a number of emotional and behavioral problems, all related to her aforementioned background. So, you could call Prison Baby an adoption story, a racial coming-of-age tale, an addiction memoir, or even a saga of triumph over tragedy. The truth is, this slim volume manages to be all of those things and more.

I gobbled up this incredibly readable memoir in two sittings. The child of a literature professor, Stein is a powerful writer in her own right and she details her emotions and passions with such clarity, you actually feel like you’re inside of her head and heart at times. I won’t give away the arc of the story, but I literally could not finish my lunch as I was reading because I was sobbing along with Deborah as she explained a particularly painful part of her life story.

Despite Stein’s painful beginnings and harrowing journey to loving herself, this book leaves the reader with a sense of optimism, hope and marvel at the resiliency of the human spirit. She also forces the reader to reconsider her ideas about family, race, adoption, substance abuse and the lasting harm of psychological trauma. I know, it all sounds heavy and depressing, and it is in a lot of ways, but it is ultimately a book about love and its redemptive powers.

I enjoyed this book immensely and found it to be very inspiring. I will be continuing to follow Stein’s career and her work with female prisoners.

What about you, dear readers? Do you think you’ll pick up a copy of Prison Baby? Have any of you read it already? What did you think?

I’m listening.

Peace!

My Cup Runneth Over …with Books!

Hi Meltingpot Readers,

I am so lucky to be on the mailing list of some great publishers. Look what books showed up on my doorstep last week. Thank you Beacon Press and Algonquin!

On My TBR list

On My TBR list

That’s Prison Baby by Deborah Jiang Stein and My Accidental Jihad by Krista Bremer. Prison Baby I know is going to make me cry and cheer as Stein recounts her coming-of-age tale as a multiracial adoptee who discovered she was born in a prison to a drug-addicted mother. And My Accidental Jihad tickles all of my multicultural romance fantasies as it’s the story of a White American woman who falls in love with and marries a devout Muslim from a tiny fishing village in Libya.

I’ve just started My Accidental Jihad. I’ll let you know how it goes. What are you reading these days?

Peace!

Flashback Friday: The One About Black People Adopting White Children

Hi Meltingpot Readers,

I’ve been blogging for over five years now and it occurs to me that I’ve written a few good posts during that time. So good, I think they deserve another look.

I’ll be reposting from time to time, selecting the posts that drew the most comments or sometimes just because they make me smile. Occasionally I’ll update the post if new information has been found.

As always, thanks for stopping by and joining in the conversation.

************************

WHEN WHITE PEOPLE ADOPT BLACK CHILDREN
(Originally posted on May 1, 2009)
Newsweek magazine recently ran this article about a Black family who “adopted” a White child. The family structure is a bit unconventional but for all intents and purposes a little White girl is now calling Black people mommy and daddy.

The purpose of the Newsweek article, as far as I can tell, is to reflect on the fact that despite the large number of transracial adoptions in this country, namely where White people adopt children of color, society at large, cannot wrap their minds around Black people raising White children. It makes White people uncomfortable, and suspicious. It makes Black people angry and frustrated. From the article:

“Decades after the racial integration of offices, buses and water fountains, persistent double standards mean that African-American parents are still largely viewed with unease as caretakers of any children other than their own—or those they are paid to look after. As Yale historian Matthew Frye Jacobson has asked: “Why is it that in the United States, a white woman can have black children but a black woman cannot have white children?”

In my opinion the article doesn’t break any new ground, but of course it opens up an interesting topic of discussion, as evidenced by the almost 500 posted comments to the article.

And really, when it comes down to numbers and economics, this isn’t going to be a new trend. I don’t foresee a future of Black people scrambling to adopt White children, but if they wanted to, would that be okay? Is there any reason Black people should consider adopting White children? Indeed if more Black people got in line to raise White people, would that be a surefire way to dismantle racism in this country? You think I’m kidding, but Megachurch minister, the Reverend Creflo Dollar and his wife adopted a White child for just that reason. “It was God’s solution for my racist attitude,” Dollar told AOL. That’s why he adopted his son. Of course, that child is now a man and about to publish a tell-all about growing up in the Dollar household. So stay tuned on that one.

What do you think? Is there a reason Black people should or should not adopt White children? I would love to hear from any White people out there who were raised by Black parents. What was your experience like? And finally, does anyone else feel like the Newsweek author was out of line by printing the fact that the adopted White child’s mother was the town prostitute? Isn’t that private information? Thoughts?

Peace!
UPDATE: Here’s a link to Creflo Dollar’s son’s tell-all book trailer. It’s a juicy one.

 

RIP Conrad Bain: The Meltingpot Mourns Mr. Drummond

RIP Mr. Drummond

Hello Meltingpot Readers,

I just found out that actor Conrad Bain, aka Mr. Drummond from Diff’rent Strokes died on Monday. He was 89.

I can’t say I was a big fan of Bain’s, but I was a loyal viewer of Diff’rent Strokes. That show, along with the Facts of Life, is intrinsically linked to my youth. Those were two of the only sitcoms at the time where the Black characters’ lives slightly resembled my own. No, I wasn’t an orphaned kid from Harlem living with my mother’s former employer, but I understood the agony of being a Black kid living amongst of sea of White and never quite knowing where I belonged.

I didn’t exactly identify with Arnold (played by the actor, Gary Coleman, may he too rest in peace) but I did think he was cute and funny and I could do a pretty great impression of his “Whatchoo talkin’ bout Willis?” tag line. In fact, for a while, all the kids on my bus used to call me Arnold. Yes, they were all White and I was the only Black one, but we don’t have to make assumptions there.

Suffice it to say, I watched every episode and while I was more interested in what Willis and Arnold were up to, and later what Janet Jackson as Charlene was wearing, than what Mr. Drummond brought to the storyline, I also thought he was a good guy. Sure he didn’t always get it with his instant Black family, but he seemed to mean well. I didn’t think he played it ‘too White,’ I think he played it honest. Now, Kimberly? She bothered me. But that’s just me.

Considering the ridiculous offerings network TV is putting out these days, I really miss shows like Diff’rent Strokes, shows that deal with real issues, with multiracial casts, that are both heartfelt and humorous. There’s not a single show on TV right now that I feel approaches those criteria . In honor of Mr. Drummond though, I think I’ll go see if I can find Diff’rent Strokes on Hulu tonight.

For a great obit on Conrad Bain, check the New York Times.

Now the world don’t move to the beat of just one drum…

Dear readers, did you watch Diff’rent Strokes? Did you have a favorite character or episode? Let’s share.

I’m listening.

Peace!

“Kimchi & Calamari:” A YA Novel with a Meltingpot Twist

A Yummy YA Read

Hello Meltingpot Readers,

So, all of my loyal readers know that I practically live at the library. In the summer it’s no different, except I usually haul my kids with me on my visits. They love the library too. When we go, they immediately run off to read graphic novels and other things I usually won’t buy for them. And they’re perfectly cool with me picking out their books for the week. I don’t know how long this is going to last but for now it works for me.

So, this summer I’ve been trying to get my sci-fi loving 11-year-old to read more realistic fiction. I still try to find stories that I think will speak to him as a 11-year-old boy who likes sci-fi and fantasy. So, for example, last week he read The Orphan of Ellis Island, about an orphaned Italian-American boy who falls through a time portal and goes back in time and meets his Italian ancestors. He loved it. Yes! Yesterday, I stumbled upon a book called Kimchi & Calamari. You know with just that title, I was intrigued.

Sure enough, the book is about a Korean boy adopted by an Italian-American family. The boy in the story is 14 years old and dealing with typical teen boy stuff, plus he’s dealing with identity issues and a search for a birth parent. Here’s a link to a review (cuz I haven’t read it yet.) And here’s how the author, Rose Kent sells, Kimchi & Calamari:

” Kimchi and calamari is a quirky food fusion — and exactly how fourteen-year-old Joseph Calderaro feels about himself. Why wouldn’t an adopted Korean drummer feel like a combo platter given

  1. his face in the mirror and
  2. his proud Italian family?

Now Joseph has to write an ancestry essay for school. But all he knows is that his birth family put his diapered butt on a plane to the USA.

What Joseph does leads to a catastrophe messier than a table of shattered dishes — and self-discovery that he never could have imagined.”

Sounds good right? It’ll be next on the list for my son. And I’ll tell you how it goes.

Has anybody else read Kimchi and Calamari? Any thoughts? Any other realistic fiction suggestions for an 11-year old boy with Ms. Meltingpot for a mom? I’m listening.

 

Update: My 11-year old gobbled up this book. He read it in two days and loved it. 

Peace!