Book Corner – March 2024

Reviewed by Kristen Perry, TRJ Parent

In the Key of Us

By Mariama Lockington

Not only is In the Key of Us by Mariama Lockington written by a transracial adoptee, but it also is a Stonewall Honor Book for LGBTQ+ books. Thus, it has the power to speak to many identities represented within our families and communities. The story is told through the alternating perspectives of Andi and Zora, the only two Black girls at a prestigious, nearly all-white music camp. Andi is struggling with the death of her mother, which is affecting her ability to play the trumpet. Zora is buckling under the pressure of her parents who expect her to be a flute prodigy, when what she really wants is to be a dancer. Over the course of the summer, the girls experience many challenges and ultimately discover the power of their relationship.

In the Key of Us is a wonderful exploration of first love, an ode to the arts, and a powerful statement about discovering your true self. Although transracial adoption is not the focus of this book in the way that it is in Lockington’s first book (For Black Girls Like Me), there are many relevant themes such as loss of first family/family of origin and being the only Black person in a sea of whiteness. Although the book is advertised for ages 10-14, I believe that teens and adults will also enjoy the book and find it meaningful – I know I did!

 

Discussion Questions:  The following questions will help you and your family open up important conversations about experiences of adoption, identity, and differences of race. Before you engage in these discussions be sure you have grounded yourself in the questions and are ready to both listen to the experiences of the children and youth you are engaging, and to share your thoughts and feelings and model conversational openness. Also, if children and young people do not want to engage in the conversation at any particular time, you can always spend some time in reflection on these questions so when the opportunity is right, you’ll be ready.      

  • Andi and Zora are the only two Black girls at the Harmony Music camp, which comes with a lot of challenges. Can you identify with some of the challenges they face?  How do they support each other? Do you have friends that support you when things are challenging? ?
  • Zora is passionate about dance, which historically has excluded many Black dancers, and finding a Black dancer as a role-model is life-changing for her. What are your passions or interests? Who can we look to as role models related to these interests?
  • In the Key of Us provides a great representation of intersectionality, particularly identities related to race and sexual orientation. What identities are important to you, and how do your identities intersect in unique ways? How are your identities perceived in the world, and in what ways might they represent challenges or privileges?

Book Recommendations for Families Created in Transracial Adoption

Kristen Perry is a TRJ parent and a professor of literacy education, specializing in family and community literacy. She and Mariama Lockington are colleagues in the University of Kentucky’s College of Education. Learn more about Mariama and connect with her on her website: https://mariamajlockington.com/ 


The New Brownies’ Book: W.E.B DuBois, Karida L. Brown, and Charly Palmer

Book Corner:

The New Brownies' Book
A Love Letter to Black Families

From Chronicle Books

Inspired by the groundbreaking work of W. E. B. DuBois, this beautiful collection brings together an outstanding roster of Black creative voices to honor and celebrate Black excellence.

The New Brownies' Book reimagines the very first publication created for African American children in 1920 as a must-have anthology for a new generation. Expanding on the mission of the original periodical to inspire the hearts and minds of Black children across the country, esteemed scholar Karida L. Brown and award-winning artist Charly Palmer have gathered the work of more than fifty contemporary Black artists and writers. The result is a book bursting with essays, poems, photographs, paintings, and short stories reflecting on the joy and depth of the Black experience-an immersive treasure trove that reminds readers of all ages that Black is brilliant, beautiful, and bold.

IMPORTANT HISTORICAL LEGACY: In 1920, W. E. B. Du Bois and the founders of the NAACP published The Brownies' Book: A Monthly Magazine for Children of the Sun, which included art, stories, letters, and activities to inspire children, share Black history, and celebrate their identities. As the first periodical for African American youth, this was an important work in the history of children's literature. The New Brownies' Book revives its mission to inspire the young readers of today.

Black Excellence

INCREDIBLE CONTRIBUTORS: This book features the work of talented and exciting Black creators, including playwright and poet Ntozake Shange, writer and editor Damon Young, Def Poetry Jam co-creator and painter Danny Simmons, sociologist and educator Dr. Bertice Berry, children's book illustrator James E. Ransome, muralist Fabian Williams, collage artist Marryam Moma, and many more.

BEAUTIFUL KEEPSAKE: This collection presents a celebratory array of artwork, from detailed paintings and drawings to photographs and collages. It includes stories meant to be shared by children and adults, offering a way for all families-especially Black families-to connect across generations through the power of literature. With its meaningful content and deluxe packaging, this hardcover volume makes a thoughtful gift for new parents, grandparents, or inquisitive readers of all ages.

Karida L. Brown and Charly Palmer

Note to TRJ Parents:

This beautiful book is packed with content that will inspire joy, evoke sadness, and demand reflection.  Before diving in with children and young people, be sure to read through some of the essays, poetry, and articles.  In the center of the book is a graphic essay entitled “I Don’t Want to be Black” -  story and art by KEEF Cross and written by Shannon Byrd.  It’s a very relevant commentary on how some Black children wish they were not Black because of how they are treated.  Please be sure to read this one and process before you read with children.   Not every Black child might wish they were not Black but some may and voice that and some may and not. This essay can be a good starting place to explore the topic when you are ready.  


Book Corner – January 2024

This month we are highlighting "Adoptees Like Me" Books, a special series from Dr. Chaitra Wirta-Leiker.  These illustrated children’s books are for elementary readers, and include Marie Discovers Her Superpowers  (2022) and Casey Conquers Bedtime (2023).

Dr. Wirta-Leiker is an adoptee, adoptive parent, and psychologist. She is a consultant for The Adoptee Mentoring Society and a contributor to I AM ADOPTEE, where she serves on their subsidized mental health program review board. She also served on the Adoptee Advisory Board for Heritage Camps for Adoptive Families and the steering committee for the Society of Adoption Professionals of Color in Adoption. You can find her series here

Marie Discovers Her Superpowers
Casey Conquers Bedtime

Book Recommendations for Families Created in Transracial Adoption

The Book Corner is a regular feature in our Transracial Journeys monthly newsletters. If you would like to receive monthly book recommendations via email, please subscribe.


Book Corner – December 2023

The Night Before Kwanzaa

By Natasha Wing
Illustrated by  Amy Wummer and Kirsti Jewel
Pre-kindergarten - Grade 2 

A young boy is excited for the arrival of his older brother. He is looking forward to celebrating Kwanzaa with him and the rest of their family. As a candle is lit on the Kinara each night, simple (yet heartwarming) illustrations depict the accompanying seven principles of Kwanzaa.

There is a familiarity in this sweet book as it may remind older readers of “The Night Before Christmas” - one of the most well-known poems about the holiday.

This is a recommended read for multicultural families as it blends an old tradition (reading the old poem) with new ones (celebrating the principles of Kwanzaa).

Books for Transracial Families

Book Recommendations for Families Created in Transracial Adoption

The Book Corner is a regular feature in our Transracial Journeys monthly newsletters. If you would like to receive monthly book recommendations via email, please subscribe.


Book Corner-November 2023

Our Little Kitchen

By Jillian Tamaki
Ages 4-8

This is a beautifully-illustrated, warm and cozy read with a focus on preparing food with love and with a group of diverse children and adults. Highly recommended not just for Thanksgiving but for any part of the year when you want to pull comfort from the words you read along with the pictures you see.

Jillian Tamaki is an award winning, Canadian author who shows how to build community, love and nurture around the preparation of food in a fun and whimsical manner.As the characters ask the following questions, you could ask the same of the children you’re reading the book with:

● Is your body warm?
● Is your belly full?
● Would you like seconds?

Book Recommendation for Transracial Adoptive Families

Book Recommendations for Families Created in Transracial Adoption

The Book Corner is a regular feature in our Transracial Journeys monthly newsletters. If you would like to receive monthly book recommendations via email, please subscribe.


Book Corner – October 2023

A Child’s Introduction to Hip-Hop:
The Beats, Rhymes, and Roots of a Musical Revolution

By Jordannah Elizabeth, illustrations by Marika Jenai
Ages 8-12+
Reviewed by TRJ Parent Kristen Perry

This year represents the 50th anniversary of the birth of hip-hop, and Jordannah Elizabeth’s book celebrates the culture, artistry, and genius of Black musicians throughout history, beginning with the roots of African music and its influence on American music styles.

The book outlines the birth of hip-hop, different eras in the evolution of the music, and regional differences in style. Biographical profiles of important and influential artists, informative sidebar features and fact bubbles are featured throughout. In addition to discussing the profound impact of hip-hop on American music, the book also provides important context regarding other aspects of hip-hop culture, such as DJing, graffiti, break-dancing, and fashion. The author also briefly mentions some of the controversies surrounding certain artists or songs, such as misogynistic or violent lyrics, although she does not delve deeply into these issues.

Although the book is recommended for ages 8-12 (per Amazon), this book may be challenging for kids at the younger end of this range. The text can be dense and is filled with a great many details that might go above the heads of younger readers/listeners.

A Child’s Introduction to Hip-Hop: The Beats, Rhymes, and Roots of a Musical Revolution

Book Recommendations for Families Created in Transracial Adoption

The Book Corner is a regular feature in our Transracial Journeys monthly newsletters. If you would like to receive monthly book recommendations via email, please subscribe.


Book Corner – September 2023

The Girl I Am, Was, and Never Will Be:
A Speculative Memoir of Transracial Adoption

Shannon Gibney
 Ages 14-17

Gibney features herself as the protagonist in this part memoir, part speculative fiction novel. Shannon Gibney and Erin Powers are one and the same person. However, there’s a primal difference in that one was adopted and the other wasn’t.

Using documents like vital records, correspondence written from her birth mother to her adoptive mother, and photographs of herself and family members, Gibney delivers a layered, complicated and enthralling tale told in the often underheard voice of a transracial adoptee. The author using her own name and photographs in the book make this book read like part autobiography and part science fiction.

The book is a challenging read that requires some suspension of disbelief. However, in the often misunderstood or misrepresented narrative of adoption, this story is an “authentic” piece of fiction written by a transracial adoptee. Shannon/Erin gets to be an explorer who time travels and jumps to other dimensions in order to piece together the story of not only the families that made and raised her but of the family she builds for herself well into her adulthood.

This book comes highly recommended for families formed by transracial adoption. The style and subject matter don’t make for an easy read but what valuable books are (easy reads)?

Don’t just hand this off to a teen to read in a vacuum, read it with them. If they want to talk about it, then discuss. If they don’t want to talk it’s still important for non-adoptees to read books like and show they care about the perspective, identity and narrative of the transracially adopted person. Just as Shannon and Erin catch glimpses of each other or their birth father at different points in space and time, the reader may catch glimpses of what it’s like to walk in the shoes of a transracial adoptee.

Highly recommended!

Book Recommendations for Families Created in Transracial Adoption

Our Transracial Journeys families regularly seek out books to share with their children and to read for themselves, as white parents of black children. We are fortunate to have a resource in the Transracial Journey's Board of Direcors Secretary, Avril McInally. Avril and her colleague, Vicki Richards, collaborate to curate phenomenal book recommendations for our children and parents.  Both have Masters of Library Science and over 30 years' experience as professional librarians. The Book Corner is a regular feature in our Transracial Journeys monthly newsletters. If you would like to receive monthly book recommendations via email, please subscribe.


Book Corner – August 2023

The Skin I’m In

Sharon Flake
 Grades 6-12

Author Sharon G. Flake is a multiple-time recipient of the Coretta Scott King Award! The recipients of this award are African American authors and/or illustrators who create outstanding literature for African American children. Ms. Flake received this award for The Skin I’m In in 1999.

Seventh Grader Maleeka Madison is bullied for her dark skin. Maleeka’s father died two years ago, and Maleeka’s mom struggles to pay the bills. Making Maleeka’s clothes is one way to help make ends meet, but this is another target for bullying. When a new English teacher arrives at school, Maleeka is not only disturbed by her teacher’s sense of fashion and her high self-esteem, but also by the large birthmark on Ms. Saunders’ face.

Ms. Saunders takes no nonsense at school as she addresses the stigma society assigns to skin color, has zero tolerance for bullying, and assigns her students more work than any other teacher. Could be that Maleeka has a few things to learn from her new teacher.

Book Corner: Recommended Books Transracially Adopted Children

Book Recommendations for Families Created in Transracial Adoption

Our Transracial Journeys families regularly seek out books to share with their children and to read for themselves, as white parents of black children. We are fortunate to have a resource in the Transracial Journey's Board of Direcors Secretary, Avril McInally. Avril and her colleague, Vicki Richards, collaborate to curate phenomenal book recommendations for our children and parents.  Both have Masters of Library Science and over 30 years' experience as professional librarians. The Book Corner is a regular feature in our Transracial Journeys monthly newsletters. If you would like to receive monthly book recommendations via email, please subscribe.


Book Corner – July 2023

Bayou Magic

Jewell Parker Rhodes
 Ages 8-12

Focus: Girls, African folklore, Slavery, Environmentalism

Almost ten-years-old, Maddy goes to Bon Temps, a mystical place in the Bayou, to spend the summer with her grandma. While there, she makes friends with a boy named Bear who shows her where to fish, swim and explore. Queenie, her grandma, teaches Maddy to cook, be a good steward of the earth and a little of their family’s ancestral magic. Queenie also tells Maddy the story of their ancestor Membe who came to America as an enslaved person. This is a magical tale that will empower readers as it introduces them to difficult topics.

Bayou Magic

Book Recommendations for Families Created in Transracial Adoption

Our Transracial Journeys families regularly seek out books to share with their children and to read for themselves, as white parents of black children. We are fortunate to have a resource in the Transracial Journey's Board of Direcors Secretary, Avril McInally. Avril and her colleague, Vicki Richards, collaborate to curate phenomenal book recommendations for our children and parents.  Both have Masters of Library Science and over 30 years' experience as professional librarians. The Book Corner is a regular feature in our Transracial Journeys monthly newsletters. If you would like to receive monthly book recommendations via email, please subscribe.


Book Corner – June 2023

Second Dad Summer

Benjamin Klas and Fian Arroyou
Grades 4-7, Ages 9-12

This story about friendship and family takes place over a hot summer near downtown Minneapolis. Jeremiah is spending the summer with his dad and his dad’s boyfriend, Michael. Jeremiah is sometimes embarrassed by Michael’s outgoing, colorful personality, and he’s reluctant to let down his barriers with his dad’s boyfriend. However, a new friendship, gardening and a rocky relationship with a grumpy, elderly neighbor work to build a relationship between the two.

Book Recommendation for Diverse Families

Book Recommendations for Families Created in Transracial Adoption

Our Transracial Journeys families regularly seek out books to share with their children and to read for themselves, as white parents of black children. We are fortunate to have a resource in the Transracial Journey's Board of Direcors Secretary, Avril McInally. With a Master of Library Science from Kent State University and over 35 years as a public librarian, Avril and her colleague, Vicki Richards, collaborate to curate phenomenal book recommendations for our children and parents.   The Book Corner is a regular feature in our Transracial Journeys monthly newsletters. If you would like to receive monthly book recommendations via email, please subscribe.