Book Corner – May 2024

Reviewed by Rebecca Howe

Monstrous, by Sarah Myer 

Monstrous is a young adult graphic novel memoir written and illustrated by nonbinary comic artist and transracial adoptee Sarah Myer. The story is about Myer's childhood years in the 1990s and early 2000s in rural Maryland, taking us from an imaginative and emotionally explosive early childhood, through an adolescence rife with bullying, racism, homophobia, ableism, mental health struggles and the protagonist's reckoning with identity, how to stick up for themselves, take responsibility for themselves and find self-acceptance, all with the help of art and anime.

Sarah was adopted from Korea by white parents as an infant, and they live in rural Maryland on a farm. Sarah becomes obsessed with making art after seeing the Little Mermaid with their mom as a preschooler. They don’t want to play dolls the way the girls want to, and they play well with the boys until they are told to go away for not being a boy. When Sarah sees a Sailor Moon cartoon on tv, their entire world begins to change, as anime shows them a world wider and more diverse than their physical community, and eventually leads them to find other artists and people who think more like they do and accept them for who they are. 

Sarah struggles with turning to violence as the only way they can defend themselves when adults at school won't help, and pushes friends away as a way to process self-rejection and the overwhelming negativity coming at them daily. By the time Sarah is finishing high school, they have found a few good, safe friends in theater and through anime, and upon finally watching Neon Genesis Evangelion, find the empowerment they need to realize they are the only person who can decide what their life gets to be. We get to see Sarah's return to their childhood self to nurture their own sense of belonging, acceptance, kindness and excitement for the future.

 

Monstrous is a raw, emotional ode to being yourself and keeping your heart intact when others are hateful, and through periods when you might not know how to hold on to yourself anymore. While transracial adoption and racism is a big theme in this book, there are many intersectional layers to this story that will be relevant to a wide range of readers. This young adult book is marketed to people ages 14-18, but I would recommend this book to kids as young as 11, with the understanding that there are a few slight references to sex and a handful of scenes with violence in them, including illustrated images of the monster Sarah imagines lives inside them. I would also recommend this book to all adults who’ve ever felt a disconnect from their communities, or who love anime, or who love to get their hearts tugged on by a strong, imperfect, lovable protagonist who becomes the hero they never knew they could be.

Book Recommendations for Families Created in Transracial Adoption

Rebecca Howe is a white adoptive parent who is an author and artist and works in children’s literature.


Black Excellence: Austin Channing Brown

By Becca Howe, TRJ Parent

“The work of anti-racism is the work of becoming a better human to other humans. We are saying: I think you have capacity to be a better human, would you accept that invitation? And I can’t tell you how often the response is, ‘But I would rather just be nice and polite if that’s okay.’”

-Austin Channing Brown, from an interview with Brene Brown, 2020

 

Photos: credit Austin Channing Brown

Austin Channing Brown is a prominent voice in the world of anti-racism and justice work. Brown challenges societal norms and sheds light on the complexities of navigating race in America. She gives practical insight into breaking down how we go about doing anti-racism work in our own lives without putting the burden of white education onto black people.

As a speaker and advocate, Brown travels extensively, engaging audiences with her compelling storytelling and thought-provoking insights. Through her work, she emphasizes the importance of confronting uncomfortable truths about race and privilege, fostering authentic dialogue, and actively pursuing equity and justice. Brown's approach is both empowering and compassionate, encouraging individuals and organizations to confront bias and work towards meaningful change. 

Photos: credit Austin Channing Brown

Her acclaimed book, "I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness," offers a poignant narrative of her own journey as a black woman, grappling with identity, belonging and systemic racism. 

Austin Channing Brown is involved in various initiatives aimed at promoting diversity and inclusion in workplaces, schools and communities. Her work serves to inspire introspection and action, challenging individuals and institutions to dismantle systems of oppression and cultivate environments where all people are valued and respected. 

Austin Channing Brown's impact resonates far beyond her written words, inspiring countless individuals to embark on their own journeys towards understanding and dismantling racism.


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.


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? Read how masks and mental health can have unique significance in our community in our article "Masks, Masking, and Mental Health."

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 
• Did you dress up for Halloween as a kid?
• What was your favorite costume?
• Did you wear a mask?

CARD TWO: RELATIONSHIPS
• Do you think people wear masks that we can’t see?

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

This post is from our October 2023, 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!


Navigating: Moving Through Life with Clarity and Confidence

In September we focus on navigating to move through life with clarity and confidence as it can relate to our family's relationship to the calendar.  As we make our way through the year there are so many ways we can use the calendar to lean into conversations about the uniqueness of our families. Being thoughtful about how our families have to navigate the world differently and talking openly about what we might face can help ease the impact. 

The calendar is the perfect tool to:
• Celebrate the special moments and prepare for the harder ones.
• Honor every person in the family who is connected to your child and to you.
• Ensure you are making time each month to talk with intention about adoption and differences of race, culture, and class.

September 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 September. Before letting your child get started, prepare by reading the parent pro-tip, from the Parent Guide, each month.

September Pro-Tip for Parents: It’s a good idea to add the birthday of your child’s family of origin. If you do not know the dates make an effort to find out and if that is not possible, pick a day where you will honor them in some way and start to institutionalize that on your calendars every year. This will make space to honor those that came before you and while birth parents may not be physically present every day they remain attached to your child and your family in spirit. Make plans to have special treats on these days to celebrate the people that are connected to your children and to you.

Get more guidance on how to use these cards to encourage conversations with your child(ren) while preparing for your own thoughts and emotions related to each topic in our post: Where Did the Calendar Come From?

CARD ONE: IDENTITY
• Where are some of your favorite places to go?
• Why do you like certain places more than others?

CARD TWO: RELATIONSHIPS
• Did you remember a time when someone out in the world did not think we were together as a family?
• How did that feel?

CARD THREE: EMBRACING AND FACING DIFFERENCES OF RACE AND CULTURE
• How does it feel when we are out in the world and people ask us questions about our family?

This post is from our September 2023, 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!


August is for Growth: Always Learning and Growing

It’s back to school time, but not just for kids! Parents can and should stay curious and committed to learning and growing especially when they are parenting children of another race. There will always be so much to learn! Having intentional and planned conversations about adoption and race will give everyone in the family an opportunity to get in touch with their thoughts and feelings and will augment the conversations you are already having.

August Pro-Tip to Foster Conversations About Transracial Adoptions

Transracial Journeys invites your family to experience the calendar in a whole new way. With the help of the June-in-April Calendar Conversation Cards, each month your family is invited to use the cards as a tool for more regular and intentional conversations about identity, family relationships, and differences of race and culture.

Each month has four cards with conversation starters. The prompts and questions are designed to spark reflection and ongoing dialogue within your family as well as with extended family and friends. There is no prescriptive way to use the cards, sometimes parents or grown-ups can take the lead and ask the questions and other times, children can go first.

August Pro-Tip for Parents: Back to school is a time of transition for children and families. It’s a time to be thoughtful about what children need when they go into schools every day. A great way to prepare children from families that don’t match is by having intentional conversations about differences of race and ethnicity as well as family structure and culture.

CARD ONE: IDENTITY (child asking adult)
Close your eyes and think of being a kid at school: What is the first word that comes to mind?
• Can you describe what your school was like?
- How big was it?
- How many other kids were there?
• What was your favorite subject?

CARD TWO: RELATIONSHIPS (child asking adult)
• Who were some of your favorite teachers and why?
• Were there any kids or teachers who looked like me in your school?
• Were there any kids or teachers that were a different race than you?

CARD THREE: EMBRACING AND FACING DIFFERENCES OF RACE AND CULTURE (child asking adult)
• Did you ever see black or brown students being treated differently?
• How do you think your experiences in school were different from mine?
• What can you do better to prepare me for what I might face at school?

This post is from our August 2023, 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!


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.


Travels with the Tax Preparer

by Avril McInally

It’s summer and April 15 is well behind us. It’s a blip on the deadline radar, a distant memory (the more distant, the better). So, why am I talking about  taxes and my tax preparer in a transracial adoption newsletter? Read on to find out.

Once upon a time, I needed an expert to help me navigate a tricky situation with my local tax authority. After asking my friends for CPA and tax professional referrals, I ended up in Mr. D’s office on the near East Side. There, I was greeted by Mr. D’s second-in-command, Ms. B. While waiting for my appointment, I soon came to see Ms. B’s management of the office. For all she did, it seemed to me that she must have had eyes in the back of her head, two brains and perhaps, three hearts! She sat at the helm of a smoothly run, busy operation. In awe of Ms. B, I soon forgot the trouble that had landed me in her domain.

After a while, I was seen by Mr. D. He promptly took care of my tricky situation and earned not only my undying appreciation but my eternal patronage. For the next several years close to tax time, I spent a few hours in his office. It was really supposed to be a one hour appointment, but I didn’t just get my taxes prepared on these visits. At these annual appointments, I listened to Michael (for Mr. D soon became Michael) relay his experiences as a Black man, husband, father, businessman and community member. I listened intently to Michael, not just for me but also for my Black daughter. He straight up told me that it was important I knew how to raise a Black child and I was thankful for his honesty and in sharing parts of his community and culture experience with me.

One day, while sitting in his office, he asked if me and my daughters had any vacations planned that year. I said yes. We were planning on driving to Chincoteague Island to see the wild ponies. He then went on to talk about what it had been like for him driving to the South as a Black man and as a Black father with his wife and children in the car. He taught me to be more careful and alert driving (sometimes rurally) through Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia.

Every year I had my appointment with Michael, he offered something significant to me as a parent of a Black daughter. He reminded me often that I had a member of his community and extended family in my care, and that it was my privilege to take good care of her. But he didn’t just leave the conversation there, he went on and “filled me in” with personal stories from his own parenting journey.

After several years of working with Michael, he became gravely ill and passed on. I visited him in his decline and often thought of all of the Going Home pamphlets he had lovingly shared with me of his former clients. Soon, Michael had his own Going Home.

Ms. B ended up obtaining the credentials needed to run her own tax preparer business and now, my daughters and I visit her to have our taxes done every year. She’s got a framed picture of Michael in her office. We always talk about him and his legacy. Sometimes, we sit in her office waiting for our appointments rubbing elbows with women construction workers, salon workers and more. Now, my children have grown to cultivate their own relationships with Ms. B. They know that not only will they have their taxes prepared, but while doing so, they’ll get to support someone who is not only part of their community of Blackness and womanhood but also of humanity.

Happy trails, safe travels, take help where you can get it and be alert on your journey!

This post is from our July, 2023, newsletter. If you would like to get our newsletter in your inbox each month, as well as information about our annual Transracial Journeys Family Camp and our monthly Zoom call to provide support for our transracial adoption parents please subscribe.


Book Corner – May 2023

Letter to My Daughter

by Maya Angelou

A beautiful book full of accessible, beautiful insights that was dedicated to the daughter Maya Angelou never had. It’s filled with essays, poetry, lived-experience, kindness and advice for all of the world’s daughters. This small volume can be used as a touchstone for the meaningfulness of what it means to be a human being.

Letter to My Daughter

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.


Create Gates and Doors for Your Family with the Calendar

Happy New Year and happy January! With the dawning of each new year, many of us make pacts or contracts with ourselves to either do or not do something, so we make New Year’s resolutions. The Roman god Janus, for whom the month of January is named, comes to mind. He is depicted as a man with two faces, one face looks forward and the other looks back.

This two-headed depiction of an old, Roman god may resonate with those of us living in families experiencing multiple dualities ourselves. Families like ours, formed by transracial adoption, experience dualities of identity in which there are several intersectionalities. Race, gender expression, religious beliefs, class, disability and adoption are but a few of these intersectionalities.

Janus was also the guardian of gates and doors. He presided over the temple of peace, where the doors were opened only during wartime. It was a place of safety, where new beginnings and resolutions could be forged.” How you manage your gates and doors this year to promote your own temple of peace may take some planning, some resolve or some resolution.

Parenting with the calendar

April gives some great tips for January and nurturing this type of intentionality in her deck of cards: Read January Relationships: Honoring the Whole Family

  • “Think about culturally diverse holidays that can be added [to your calendar] and make a plan to learn about these new holidays together as a family.”
  • “Work together to decide the best way to honor both the fun days and make room to honor and prepare for the harder ones.”

Parenting with the Calendar: Gateways and Doorways

As parents, we manage gateways and doorways constantly. Think about the calendar year ahead, and write down some gateways or doorways you may want to nurture opening, guard and keep closed or crack open a little? How do we purposefully navigate our dualities? Like Janus, how can we look back and how can we look forward? How can we honor, celebrate and mourn as families where we have been and where we are going? Using our calendars to light the way can be a start.

For more ideas about governing your calendar read our previous post, The New Year and Hard Relationships.

This post is from our January, 2023, e-newsletter. If you would like to get our newsletter in your inbox each month, please subscribe.