“He was a wish fulfilled and a dream come true.”
Nefertiti Austin’s memoir, Motherhood So White: A Memoir of Race, Gender, and Parenting in America, was just released with Sourcebooks. It is a funny, smart, poignant read about a Black single woman’s decision to adopt a child, and one of my favorite memoirs of 2019. I was lucky to read an advance copy on Net Galley, and I've been waiting months for it to finally come to bookstores so I can rave about it.
In America, Mother = White
That's what Nefertiti, a single African American woman, discovered when she decided she wanted to adopt a Black baby boy out of the foster care system. Eager to finally join the motherhood ranks, Nefertiti was shocked when people started asking her why she wanted to adopt a "crack baby" or said that she would never be able to raise a Black son on her own. She realized that American society saw motherhood through a white lens, and that there would be no easy understanding or acceptance of the kind of family she hoped to build.
"Motherhood is so white and in need of a revolution."
This memoir is situated in history, examining the effects of racism in Black families as well as telling one woman's story of becoming an adoptive single mama. Austin is a US History college professor, and her book is incredibly nuanced—her story spans through generations in order to help us understand where we are today. But it's also heart-warming and funny. Austin educates through what feels like a very good, smart conversation.
“Adopting a child I didn’t know was breaking code. White people did shit like that."
Austin explains that while in-family adoptions are common in the Black community, adopting "strangers" isn't part of her culture. But Austin was determined to do so, and wasn't asking anyone for permission. Austin writes candidly about how her friends and family reacted. Personally, I loved her brother's response,
"Oh my God, you are always doing something weird.”
Motherhood So White fills a gaping hole in the mothering literature and is a call for publishers that we need more representation in books, not just in the memoir and advice sections, but in picture books and children's lit as well. As she writes,
“How would I normalize his adoption journey if the available literature excluded us?”
Austin’s memoir will be highly relatable to mothers everywhere, and I learned a lot about my own privilege. It's the start of an important and necessary conversation. Austin said it best,
"All mothers, be they lesbian, heterosexual, Black, white, Asian, Latina, queer, transgender, nonbinary, or disabled have struggles, and we need to support each other. We each have the same dream of building better families, and this is possible, as long as we recognize and respect each other."
Copyright © 2021 Lara Lillibridge
Public domain imagery courtesy of Snappygoat.com