Transracial Journeys Blog

Black Excellence: Shannon Gibney

Shannon Gibney is a writer, lecturer and professor living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She was raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in the 1980s as a mixed-race kid adopted by white parents. As adult transracial adoptee who has spent over two decades unpacking the intersections of adoption, race, class, gender, power and family—and then writing a library of awarded-winning books that can help us get on board with what she’s been building: the healthy identities and communities we want for ourselves and read more

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, read more

Reclaiming the Calendar

by Avril McInally Per Encyclopedia Britannica, one of the definitions of the word reclaim is, “to get back something (that was lost or taken away).” Think about this definition for a minute.   Generally, I’ve considered the claiming (the taking), but not the reclaiming (the loss that has occurred). It’s how most of society processes adoption.  People generally think about the claiming and the taking but not the loss that has occurred.  April asks in her cards for September, “What special read more

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 read more

Books, Books and More Books featuring Black protagonists!

by Avril McInally and Vicki Richards August is the month we prepare our children for going back to school and April’s August card for Facing and Embracing Differences of Race and Culture asks some introspective questions that might prepare our families for the school year to come. What can you do to better prepare me for what I might face at school? How do you think your experiences in school were different from mine? To help us adults to remember read more

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 read more

Black Excellence: Sharon G. Flake

Sharon Flake b. 1955 in Philadelphia, PA Award-winning author, Sharon Flake didn’t get her start as a writer. After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh with a BA in English, she went to work for several years in foster care as a house parent. She later went to work in the public relations department at the University of Pittsburgh Press followed by a directorship in the public relations department for the University of Pittsburgh’s business school. As a student and read more

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 read more

Featured Guest and ‘Culture Keeper’ Rachel Briggs

Friday night's celebration at Transracial Journeys Family Camp 2023 will include a featured guest, Rachel Briggs. As the mother of five adopted children (9-17 years old) and a member of the Rhode Island Black Storytellers, she considers herself a ‘culture keeper. ’ We will learn more about how Rachel adheres to the African tradition of oral storytelling to pass on wisdom, history, and cultural information to nurture a sense of community.   Rachel Briggs is an elementary school science teacher read more

Speakers from Sage & Maven, Leadership & Social Justice Consultants

Transracial Journeys is pleased to announce Ryan Clopton-Zymler, MSSA and Phyllis Harris, MNO, the founders and social justice consultants of Sage and Maven,  as featured presenters for Family Camp 2023.  Learn More & Lean-In: Expanding Our Understanding of Our Relationships During Friday's topic “Learn More & Lean-In: Expanding Our Understanding of Our Relationships,” the founders of Sage & Maven will be joining us to speak and hold space for discussion about the complex and beautiful nature of transracial adoptions. Our time read more

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 read more

July Freedom: Exploring our Unique Identities

As we all learn more about our history and what freedom really means, July 4th gives us much to contemplate. Who is really free and when? Freedom related to adoption and exploring the truth of who we are as individuals and families is foundational and important. July 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. The card deck contains three cards for each month, read more

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 read more

Black Excellence: Victor Hugo Green

Victor Hugo Green and The Travelers’ Green Book “There will be a day sometime in the near future when this guide will not have to be published. That is when we as a race will have equal opportunities and privileges in the United States. It will be a great day for us to suspend this publication for then we can go wherever we please, and without embarrassment.” Born in Manhattan, New York City in 1892, Victor Hugo Green grew up read more

June Fathers’ Day: Claiming Family Realities

Fathers’ Day came a bit later than Mothers’ Day and there are many of the same things to think about and reflect on as we come to this day and the men that are part of our lives as fathers and father figures. (See our post last month about Mothers' Day for some additional thoughts around the complexities that adoptive parents can face.) June Pro-Tip to Foster Conversations About Transracial Adoptions At Transracial Journeys we send our families conversation cues read more

Fathers’ Day, Making Space for Fathers Absent and Fathers Present

by Avril McInally A few years ago, while writing about Mothers’ Day for our monthly TRJ newsletter, I made the decision to move the apostrophe over to commemorate my child’s reality of having two mothers. This is no accident and not an error in punctuation. It’s my way of elucidating that my child has more than one mother, as well as my way of making space for and acknowledging my child’s mother of origin. I choose to move the apostrophe read more

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 read more

Black Excellence: James Weldon Johnson

A predominant figure of the Harlem Renaissance, James Weldon Johnson was born on June 17, 1871 to a middle class, African American family in the progressive city of Jacksonville, Florida. One of his most famous writings is the lyric to the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing” which he wrote in 1900 to commemorate President Lincoln’s birthday. In 1919, the NAACP claimed this song as the Negro national anthem. Now considered the Black National Anthem, it was initially written as read more

Mother, May I?

 - authored by April Dinwoodie, Part-time Executive Director of Transracial Journeys As a Black/Bi-racial transracially adopted person, do I need permission to love more than one mother? This May, I am once again faced with the “mother” of all holidays. It is a big one that warrants attention because of the complicated emotions that come up for so many adopted persons and members of the extended family of adoption. On top of the emotions that may already be present, there read more

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.

Black Excellence: Maya Angelou – April 4, 1928-May 20, 2014

“I am a woman phenomenally, phenomenal woman that is your grandmother, that is your mother, that is your sister, that is you and that is me.” Poet, author, singer, dancer, activist, playwright and director Maya Angelou nee Marguerite Ann Johnson was born April 4, 1928. Over the span of her life and career, she accomplished many things, but the list of her extraordinary accomplishments may have started in San Francisco where, as a girl of 15, she became the first read more

Mothers’ Day: Claiming Family Realities

As a country we have been celebrating Mothers’ Day since the 19th century, honoring women who play a pivotal role in the lives of children of any age. For some, Mothers’ Day can bring the feelings of both celebration and complexity in very poignant ways. We can both celebrate the mothers/mother figures that are active in our lives and we can also wonder, and have emotions surrounding, the mother that is not in our life as much, or at all.

Black Excellence: Martin Luther King, Jr formerly known as Michael Luther King, Jr

This month’s Black Excellence piece concerns famous African Americans who either changed their names or had their names changed by someone else. With your child, choose someone from this list and try to do a little independent research on that individual and the names they’ve had. Have a conversation with your family about these name changes and why they happened. After that, have a conversation about your own names, their meanings and the reasons why any of your names may read more

Book Corner – April 2023

Allies: Real Talk about Showing Up, Screwing Up, and Trying Again Edited by Shakirah Bourne and Dana Alison Levy Grades 7-9, ages 12-17 What does it mean to be an ally? Seventeen YA authors share their thoughts and experiences in this encouraging and empowering book. Yes, mistakes will be made, but readers are encouraged to learn and try again. Each author has a different story to tell. Eric Smith writes about his life as a transracial adoptee, Kayla Whaley talks read more

Also Known As…

by Avril McInally While preparing to write this month’s feature for our newsletter, I was reading April’s card entitled “Beginnings: What’s in a Name?” when I received an email from an old friend. My friend had just sent me an article called “Living in Adoption’s Emotional Aftermath: Adoptees reckon with corruption in orphanages, hidden birth certificates and the urge to search for their birth parents” by Larissa MacFarquahar. The article is a deep dive into the experiences of three women read more

April Beginnings: What’s in a Name?

Your name is central and significant to who you are and, in essence, can be the keystone of identity. When your child is adopted, there’s another world, another narrative, and perhaps another name that accompanies them along with their “who am I?” journey. The way in which we build a strong and healthy identity often begins with our names as one of our central building blocks. April Pro-Tip to Foster Conversations About Transracial Adoptions At Transracial Journeys we send our read more

Black Excellence: Daryl “DMC” McDaniels

contributed by Jennie Rosenstiel Hip Hop turns 50 this year and when it comes to hip-hop’s influence on American music and culture, there are few names as celebrated as Darryl “DMC” McDaniels. Frontman to pioneering new-school hip-hop trio Run-DMC from 1983 until 2002, DMC is beloved to music fans worldwide. But when it comes to DMC, being a musical icon is only part of the story. He’s also a writer, activist, and advocate for adoptees and foster (and former foster) read more

March: Changing the Script on Adoption, Luck and Microaggressions

by Avril McInally By now, many of you have probably experienced the “Lucky to be adopted” commentaries that society heaps upon adoptees and families formed or extended by adoption. It’s March, I’m thinking about St. Patrick’s Day with its accompanying themes of rainbows, pots of gold and luck. When I think about luck and I look back on my life, I’m struck by the intrusiveness of luck conversations which began occurring after I adopted my daughter. So many strangers have read more

Preparation: Transracial Adoption: Be Ready!

Have you had strangers ask inappropriate questions of you and your family? “Is she/he/them yours?” - “Where are they from?” - “Your child is SO lucky”. These invasive questions are part of being a family that does not match and where differences of race are obvious to the world around you. It is important to be prepared for these intrusions. March Pro-Tip to Foster Conversations About Transracial Adoptions At Transracial Journeys we send our families conversation cues each month, from read more

Book Corner – March 2023

Somewhere Sisters: A Story of Adoption, Identity, and the Meaning of Family By Erika Hayasaki   Vietnamese twins Loan and Ha were separated when they were babies. Ha was raised by her aunt in a loving home in rural Vietnam. Loan was adopted, renamed Isabella, and grew up in a loving home in a Chicago suburb. Isabella’s American family weren’t told their daughter was a twin, and when they found out, Isabella’s mom started to search for Ha. After many read more

February Intersections: Love and Black History Month

With St. Valentine’s Day and Black History Month, this short month brings so many foundational elements of transracial adoption to explore. February 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 that attend Family Camp. The card deck contains three converstion cards for each month, designed for the children to ask their parents. Below are the questions for February. Before read more

Book Corner – February 2023

And We Rise: The Civil Rights Movement in Poems By Erica Martin Grades 7 and Up After having read about Claudette Colvin’s refusal to give up her seat on the bus to a white person, author Erica Martin was intrigued. Who was Claudette Colvin and why don’t we know about her? After all, she had done the same thing Rosa Parks did and before Rosa Parks did it too! Wondering what else she didn’t know about the history of Black read more

February Featured Article

author: Avril McInally It’s February. Our chronologies and calendars feature both Black History Month and Valentine’s Day (read this month's parent conversation theme, February Intersections: Love and Black History Month). Fresh on our minds, is the recent murder of Tyre Nichols. As we attempt to process the pain and the confusion, we are reminded of how vital it is to the intricacies of the Black experience and celebrate Black excellence every single day of the year. As the world and our media read more

Black Excellence: Spotlight on

This month, we shine our spotlight on, a website created with contributions from: The Library of Congress The National Archives and Records Administration The National Endowment for the Humanities The National Gallery of Art The National Park Service The Smithsonian Institution The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum On this website, you’ll find curated compilations of the contributions and lived experiences, both historic and contemporary, of Black people in the United States. Collections of images, audio and video along with read more

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 read more

Book Corner – January 2023

Token Black Girl: A Memoir By Danielle Prescod Danielle’s Black parents raised her to be “colorblind.” They rarely talked about race, and Danielle sensed it was not a comfortable topic. Attending predominantly white schools, and avidly consuming the same whitewashed movies, magazines, TV shows, and books as her friends, Danielle was confused and conflicted about her identity. She convinced her mother to take her for chemical hair treatments starting in elementary school, and later developed disordered eating in an effort read more

Black Excellence – Kiese Laymon

Considered to have written one of the best 50 memoirs of the past 50 years by the New York Times, Kiese Laymon is an American author who is currently on the faculty at Rice University His memoir, “Heavy”, has received multiple accolades and awards including the 2019 Andrew Carnegie Award for Excellence. The autobiography is about growing up Black, bookish and overweight in an abusive home in Jackson, Mississippi. Why write about Laymon for January’s Black Excellence? Well, last year, read more

January Relationships: Honoring the Whole Family

January is a time when folks traditionally take stock of where they are and may even make some resolutions for a new diet, more time exercising, or commitments to spending quality time with family. For families experiencing transracial adoption, January can offer a time to think about the year ahead and together as a family, continue the expansive journey of purposefully navigating family and differences together. January Pro-Tip to Foster Conversations About Transracial Adoptions At Transracial Journeys we send our read more

Black Excellence – Chris Kennedy, the Black Santa

Two years ago, Chris Kennedy put up an inflatable, seven foot tall, Black Santa in his front yard. An angry community member responded with a racist note stating: “Please remove your negro Santa Claus yard decoration,” the letter, signed by an anonymous “Santa Claus,” read. “You should try not to deceive children into believing that I am negro. I am a caucasian (white man, to you) and have been for the past 600 years.” In response to the note, Mr. read more

Creating New Traditions to Reflect Our Families and Celebrate Their Identities

author: Avril McInally For many of us, holidays can be a combination of many emotions and elements. Do we have all the candles we need for our Menorah or for our Kinara? Have we gotten our holiday lights and decorations up? How are we managing our budgets? Is the house tidy and clean enough for our house guests? Do we have enough food? Speaking of food, what about those special recipes we need to prepare? Do we have all of read more

Book Corner – December 2022

Happy All-Idays: By Cindy Jin, illustrated by Rob Sayegh Jr. “We all celebrate the season in our own special way. Let’s look at how families prepare for each holiday.” With a double-page spread for each holiday, this inclusive book shows families enjoying Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, and Chrismukkah.  Ending with Season’s Greetings and Happy New Year, Happy All-Idays is a celebration for everyone. Merrytale: A Christmas Adventure By Christopher Franceschelli, illustrated by Allison Black On Christmas Eve two brown children are read more

December – Reflections: Making and Breaking Traditions 

The December holidays give us an opportunity to think about traditions tied to different cultures and religions. Regardless of what you and your family honor and celebrate, we can be inspired to take a closer look at what traditions mean to us and how we can expand our thinking and actions. December 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 read more

Book Corner: Holiday Guide 2022

The Book Corner is a consistent favorite in our Transracial Journeys monthly newsletters and our parents are always looking for age-appropriate books with themes of diversity, inclusion and adoption.  The Book Corner's creators, Avril McInally, MLS and Victoria Richards, MLS, bring us this Holiday Guide for 2022 - a great roadmap for picking books as holiday gifts for our families and friends. Click on the image or the link below to download a 9-page annotated bibliography for families formed by read more

Nourishment: Reflecting on Thanksgiving, Adoption and the Family Table

author: Avril McInally Our November theme is all about family and nourishment but not simply about food and what we eat, but how we nourish our understanding of the uniqueness of our families and in service of the children we are entrusted to care for and love. This month we center on both Thanksgiving and National Adoption Awareness Month (NAAM)! This year NAAM’s theme is “Small Steps Open Doors”. One step we can take as adoptive parents is to participate read more

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 read more

Book Corner – November 2022

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 read more

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 read more

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 read more

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, read more

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 read more