November: Nourishment and the Family

The following post is from our November, 2022, newsletter. If you would like to get our newsletter in your inbox each month, please subscribe.

Thanksgiving can be one of the more complicated historical holidays, and for many in the United States, one of the more family and food-centric holidays. Whether you are a family that chooses not to mark Thanksgiving in a traditional way, or your family goes all out with a big Thanksgiving celebration, this month we are thinking about the family table and what might be true when there are differences of race and culture with transracial adoption. November also brings National Adoption Awareness Month, (NAAM) which can be challenging for some adopted persons. This month prompts on your activity deck include questions for both areas of discussion.

November Pro-Tip to Foster Conversations About Transracial Adoptions

At Transracial Journeys we send out cues for conversations each month. Our Transracial Journeys card deck contains 3 cards for each month that the children use to ask their parents questions. Below are the questions for November. Before getting started, read the parent pro-tip each month.

November Pro-Tip for Parents: Talking about family and complicated history can activate deep-seated emotions and feelings. Make sure you have the support you need to process your feelings before and after the conversations you may have with your children.

November Transracial Adoption Conversations

CARD ONE: IDENTITY
The Family Table: Describe your family table when you were growing up.  What was the food like?  Who was around the table? What were the best parts of family dinner-time? What were some of the harder parts?
NAAM: When did you first learn of NAAM?

CARD TWO: RELATIONSHIPS
The Family Table: Who were the people sitting around your family table?
NAAM: What does NAAM mean to you?

CARD THREE: EMBRACING AND FACING DIFFERENCES OF RACE AND CULTURE
The Family Table: Were there ever people of different races around your family table?
NAAM: How can we find our own unique ways to honor and mark NAAM?


Book Corner – November 2022

For Children Ages 2-5

I Am Thankful:
A Thanksgiving Book for Kids
By Sheri Wall, illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown

This sweet rhyming story follows three families as they prepare for Thanksgiving. Everyone is cooking and baking. One family visits a pumpkin patch, another donates to the food bank. Some travel on a plane to be together, and a child talks to a far-away father on the phone. Readers will see different ways to get ready and celebrate, including looking at old photos together, doing a puzzle with a big brother, and decorating the table. On the big day everyone enjoys delicious food, and most important, time with people they love. I Am Thankful is a joyful story, with lots of ideas to inspire new traditions. There are plenty of wonderful things to do inside – including a section of Thanksgiving projects for kids.

Book Recommendations for Transracial Families

For Children Ages 4-8

Our Little Kitchen
By Jillian Tamaki
Illustrated by …

A diverse group of adults and children come together to prepare a community meal. Bursting with energy, the book is a lively celebration of sharing “what we’ve got, what we’ve grown.” Including a recipe for yummy vegetable soup, Our Little Kitchen is a fun read for anytime – and a great choice to inspire gratitude and caring.

Book Recommendations for Transracial 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.


Black Excellence: Daniel Smith 3/11/1932-10/2022

This month, we mourn the passing of Daniel Smith who died at the age of 90. His life of activism and his pursuit of civil rights very probably stemmed from being the child of Abram Smith, who himself was born into slavery in the 1860’s.

In multiple interviews, Daniel has recalled stories of his father’s experiences under slavery and the ensuing era of Reconstruction.

“At night, Smith would sneak out of bed to hear the stories only his older siblings were allowed to consume. From lynchings to horrid punishments, the stories were gruesome.”

Being raised the child of a former enslaved person along with his 5 siblings, he later came to acknowledge seeing his parents as,

“...followers of the “twice as good” philosophy — the futile belief that black people must perform twice as well as whites just to be considered equal. And beneath the sunny message of how extraordinary the Smith children were lay Abram Smith’s stories of slavery with their frightening symbols of brutality.”

As a young man, he served as a medic in the Korean War. Upon returning to his home in Winsted, CT in 1955, he was dubbed, “Danny Smith, the Negro hero of the town,” for rescuing a drowning man from a flood.

He later attended the Tuskegee Institute to pursue a career as a veterinarian but he left the program after the KKK bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL in order to join the Civil Rights Movement. Then, Mr. Smith went on to work on many endeavors related to race equity and civil rights. One such accomplishment was his work as a literacy advocate with migrant workers. This provoked retaliation from the KKK but it didn’t stop him from continuing to work on behalf of the movement, as his life was filled with similar endeavors until his retirement in 1994.

Click on the links to read more about this man’s remarkable life.


The Persuaders and Transracial Journeys

Our Transracial Journeys organization is included in a book by a best-selling author to be released in October.  This post is to provide our families some background and context and was written as a collaboration by Avril McInally and April Dinwoodie. 

In 2018 we were approached by best-selling author of Winners Take All and award-winning former New York Times columnist, Anand Giridharadas. He was writing his next book that centered on an insider account of activists, politicians, educators, and everyday citizens working to change minds, bridge divisions, and fight for democracy. He had heard of Transracial Journey's mission and the work we are doing to offer practical tools and support for families experiencing transracial adoption and thought it should be part of his research.

Anand at TRJ Family Camp 2019 for Research

Because we fiercely protect the community we have nurtured, we thought long and hard about how best to engage with Anand. After several conversations with him and a lot of thoughtful discussions with our board we agreed to invite Anand to our Transracial Journeys Family Camp in 2019 with the understanding that the community we create is a sacred place and if invited in without a direct connection to transracial adoption it would be imperative he abide by our guidelines for engagement. We prepared families that were attending camp and clearly articulated what it would mean to speak to him "on the record".

This October, The Persuaders: At the Front Lines of the Fight for Hearts, Minds, and Democracy will be released by Penguin Randomhouse. As Anand describes in a pre-release article,

"I wrote THE PERSUADERS because I want those of us who believe in democracy to prevail against this dangerous ongoing revolt against the future....I set out to find the activists, politicians, educators, organizers, and others who are doing the work of persuasion when others aren’t and who I thought had something to teach us all. I talked with them, followed them, and then wrote a book about their quest, in a time of great crises, for a politics fierce and unapologetic enough truly to change things and smart and expansive enough to change the minds to get there."

Transracial Journeys Featured in Anand Giridharadas Book

A recent reviewer in Publishers Weekly wrote: “[Giridharadas]] interviews progressive leaders who seek to maintain their principles while appealing to the unconverted without denouncing them as bigots or alienating them with politically correct dogma.”

The second chapter of the book, Can Love Change A Mind?, features discussions Anand had with Transracial Journey leaders, parents and race equity trainers at Bellwether Camp in the summer of 2019. You may recognize some of the interviewees. As you read, keep in mind the preceding quote. We, as parents of transracially adopted children, sit in the landscape of this book with some amazing global leaders and activists all of whom have their own agendas and lived experiences.

Having had the opportunity to listen to adult transracial adoptees over the years, it is becoming more and more apparent that our kids and families in particular sit at the junction of more than one intersectionality be they race, adoption, gender identity, sexual orientation, age and more. For a lot of the world, adoption is not considered an intersectionality. If it were, then there would be far less adoption jokes. This particular intersectionality isn’t addressed in “our chapter”. It’s not really part of the author’s thesis or theses, but it is ours. So let’s start talking this up and engaging those who don’t have awareness of this aspect of our children’s identities. After all, that’s the modus operandi of this book.


Black Excellence: Serena Williams

Uppermost in the news today regarding tennis star, Serena Williams, is her very recent retirement from the sport. Over the course of her career, she has won 21 Grand Slams but now, she’s leaving her tennis career with plans to grow her family. “If I have to choose between building my tennis resume and building my family, I choose the latter.”

 

In a recent interview with Selena Gomes on her new website for mental health awareness, acceptance and support, Wondermind, Serena stated that you have to “put yourself first mentally”.

She detailed that for her, "mental fitness" is learning how to "shut down," and she said: "I have serious boundaries, and I don't let anyone cross those boundaries."

Related Posts:

Venus and Serena Williams – Black Excellence

Reveal: The Masks We See and Those We Don’t

Book Corner – Mental Health Month


Mental Illness Awareness Week and Masks of Perfection

author: Avril McInally

This year, Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) runs from October 2 to October 8. In April’s deck of cards for October, she asks, “Do you think people wear masks that we can’t see?” This question resounded and rested heavily on those of us attending a recent Transracial Journeys’ Board Meeting. You could have heard a pin drop after one of our board members solemnly spoke of an associate’s child who had just committed suicide.

To bring this closer to home, this child was a transracial adoptee. They were the kind of young adult who seemingly had every opportunity at their fingertips. A child whose parents beamed over their accomplishments and a child who never did anything but please those same parents exceedingly, as well as the society in which they circulated.

“Adoption is often forgotten when speaking about trauma, leading to a form of disenfranchised grief, which is grief that is not typically acknowledged or validated by society. Both the trauma and the unrecognized grief may contribute to significant mental health issues.”

What sort of mask was this child hiding behind? Were there any outlets or therapies for their grief?

When working with this month’s cards, pay close attention to the relationship card and what it asks. Then, ask yourselves if our children wear masks to please us? Consider having a dialog in which we encourage our children to drop their masks in order to share their anxieties, experiences and fears with us. They need to know that they don’t have to wear the masks of perfection or excellence to be safe with us.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has themed this year’s MIAW “What I Wish I Had Known”. You can visit their website for an itinerary of their accessible programs and perhaps, in participating in this program or having honest and safe talks with our kids about the masks we wear, we’ll not have to ask ourselves what we wish we had known.

This post is from our October, 2022, newsletter. If you would like to get our newsletter in your inbox each month, please subscribe.


Book Corner – Mental Health Month

For Children Ages 2-5

B is for Breathe:
The ABCs of Coping with Fussy and Frustrating Feelings
(Kids Healthy Coping Skills series)
By Dr. Melissa Munro Boyd

What can kids do to cope when they have big feelings? Some might find it helpful to create art. Others might want a hug, or to listen to music, or go for a nature walk. B is for Breathe contains all of these ideas and many more – one for each letter of the alphabet. Reading this book would be a wonderful way to start a conversation with a child about healthy ways to deal with their emotions.

Books for Young Transracial Adoptees

For Children in Grades 2-7

Stuntboy, in the Meantime
By Jason Reynolds
Illustrated by Raul the Third

Stuntboy, aka Portico, lives in a castle, aka an apartment building, with his mom, dad and grandma, but not for long, as his parents are separating. Stuntboy tries to use his superhero power to maneuver his way through the “frets,” which he gets whenever his parents argue. To cope, he often goes down the hall to his best friend Zola’s apartment, where he learns to breathe, meditate and watch their favorite TV show together. Written in the style of a graphic novel, Stuntboy is an entertaining title for all – and a meaningful and helpful book for kids who are struggling with anxiety.

This book is almost a graphic novel, but is cataloged as a novel.

book recommendations for transracial adoptive parents

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.


Reveal: The Masks We See and Those We Don’t

Whether you participate in Halloween or not, October 31st has many children and the young at heart dressing up in costumes and wearing masks. Today, the pandemic has given many of us cause to wear masks to protect ourselves from the COVID-19. But what is behind the masks you don’t see? What do they reveal? While having these discussions with your children, consider Mental Illness Awareness Week runs from October 2 to October 8. Read how this week can have unique significance in our community in our article "Masks of Perfection."

October Pro-Tip to Foster Conversations About Transracial Adoptions

At Transracial Journeys we send our families conversation cues each month, from our Transracial Journeys card deck, given to all our families at Family Camp and available for purchase. The card deck contains three cards for each month, designed for the children to ask their parents. Below are the questions for October. Before letting your child get started, prepare by reading the parent pro-tip, from the Parent Guide, each month.

October Pro-Tip for Parents: Think about the symbolism of masks and how you might mask your feelings about adoption and differences of race. What can you do to tap into those feelings and let them show in healthy ways? Do you recognize when your child might be masking their feelings? “We Wear the Mask” - Paul Laurence Dunbar

CARD ONE: IDENTITY (child asking adult)
• Did you dress up for Halloween as a kid?
• What was your favorite costume?
• Did you wear a mask?

CARD TWO: RELATIONSHIPS (child asking adult)
• Do you think people wear masks that we can’t see?

CARD THREE: EMBRACING AND FACING DIFFERENCES OF RACE AND CULTURE (child asking adult)
• Have you ever tried to hide/mask your feelings?

This post is from our October 2022, e-newsletter. If you would like to get our newsletter in your inbox each month, please subscribe.  You will get invitations to our Parent Meet-Up each month, a virtual meeting to act as a transracial adoption support group - sharing issues, ideas and strategies for creating a culture of communication and curiosity in your home, as well as monthly card prompt to keep the conversations about race, adoption, family, love and relationships front and center all year long.  And lastly, you'll always be made aware of important dates for Transracial Journeys Family Camp!


Using Transracial Journeys Conversation Cards

In our post, Where Did the Calendar Come From?, we discuss how the calendar is the perfect tool for celebrating certain moments while preparing for tougher ones. For honoring each person in the family who is connected to your child and to you. And to ensure you're making time each month to talk with intention about adoption and differences of race, culture, and class.

In this post we discuss how best to incorporate the calendar and your Transracial Journeys Conversation Cards into your monthly routine. 

Transracial Journeys Conversation Cards

Unless otherwise specified, the questions on each card are designed for the children to ask the adults/grown-ups. Here is a suggested weekly breakdown for using the cards each month.

Week 1: Parents prepare and reflect. 

  • Read the parent tips for the month.  
  • Using the activity deck, review the month’s theme and prompts
  • Check-in with any emotions that come up for you and discuss with your partner, a trusted friend, or loved one
  • Be intentional when thinking about the best time to create the family ritual

Week 2: Pick card 1.  Child reads/leads discussion
Week 3: Pick card 2.  Child reads/leads discussion
Week 4: Pick card 3.  Child reads/leads discussion and close out the month with any insights, challenges and new ideas  for the next month.

Parents/Grown-ups: Read these tips before you jump in with the young people entrusted to you:

  • Explore the calendar and deck on your own and think about the prompts/questions - maybe even write a few things down
  • Have conversations with other trusted grown-ups first and anticipate any questions that may come from the children/young people
  • Be sure you are centered and ready before diving into the conversations
  • If you already have these kinds of conversations with children/young people, challenge yourself to take it to the next level 
  • Explain to children their role and how they will be able to ask questions to you as their parent

Tips

  • Notice how you felt before, during, and after the conversations
  • Notice any conversations that come up within a couple of days after you have your family “calendar time” and maybe even send yourself a calendar reminder to check in with your kids in a few days - “I was just thinking about how (insert feeling here) it felt to talk to you about (insert topic here) and wondered how you were feeling?
  • If your kids want to skip a month or a week, give grace but you, as parents/grown-ups, should still make the effort to explore the questions/prompts without them
  • If you are inspired, ask follow-up questions to keep the conversation going

One-Page Parent Guide for Using the TRJ Activity Deck Cards

This post is from our September, 2022, newsletter. If you would like to get our newsletter in your inbox each month, please subscribe.


Book Corner: The Last White Man

The Last White Man

Written by Mohsin Hamid
Adult

 

The latest short novel (almost a folktale) from New York Times bestselling author Mohsin Hamid, posits an allegorical world in which every human being becomes brown-skinned. If you have enjoyed Jose Saramago’s “Blindness” or Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis”, this story is for you.

Book Recommendations for Families Formed in Transracial Adoption

Our Transracial Journeys families regularly seek out books to share with their children and to read for themselves. We are fortunate to have a resource in our Transracial Journey's Secretary on Board of Direcors, Avril McInally. With a Master of Library Science from Kent State University and over 35 years as a public librarian, Avril and her colleagues 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.