Transracial Journeys Blog

Sharp Edges of Exclusion that Come with Adoption, Family Separation and Differences of Race

by TRJ Executive Director, April Dinwoodie “Where is she from?” “Does she look like her dad?” “Do you know who her real parents are?”  These and other questions came hard and fast at my mom and me when we were out in a world that wants us to match and did not understand the realities of adoption, family separation, and the impact of trauma that comes with both.   As a kid, I never quite understood why folks were so interested read more

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 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 our read more

Audre Lorde: A Woman Who Brought Intersectionality to the Forefront

By Becca Howe, TRJ Parent Audre Lorde was a Black poet, essayist, and activist, whose work is celebrated for its honesty, raw emotion, and powerful imagery. She has had a profound impact on literature, feminism and resilience, especially her consistent emphasis on the importance of recognizing the interconnected nature of different forms of oppression, such as racism, sexism, homophobia, and classism. Known now as intersectionality, Lorde’s insights have had a profound impact on contemporary discussions of social justice and activism. read more

Continued Reflection: What Love Means with Racial Identity as a Central Element

by TRJ Executive Director, April Dinwoodie As a kid I remember hugging my dolls, my dog, and my books.  These were the things that I loved and I held them close at heart.  I had lots of dolls but there was one that my mom made for me it was brown like me and had coarse hair made of yarn that looked and felt like mine.  I loved this doll so much. The arms and legs moved and she was read more

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

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 read more

Celebrating a Decade of Dedication: Honoring Avril McInally’s Inspiring Journey with TRJ

by TRJ Executive Director, April Dinwoodie ❤ Honoring Avril McInally ❤ A decade ago, Transracial Journeys (TRJ) was graced by the presence of an exceptional individual, Avril McInally. Her relationship with TRJ has been nothing short of transformative, not only for her family but for our extended family of adoption. As Avril takes her leave from the TRJ Board of Directors, her commitment and contributions will always be remembered. Avril's journey began when she and her daughter Mary attended their read more

February. Transforming: Bring a Higher Love

At the intersection of St. Valentine’s Day and Black History Month, this short month brings so many foundational elements of identity, relationships, and differences for families to explore. Love is a vital ingredient for all families but adoption and difference of race make it imperative the love moves beyond the transactional and into the transformational. February 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 read more

Reflections: Entry Point for Living Fully with Authenticity and Purpose as an Adoptive Family

by TRJ Executive Director, April Dinwoodie As I reflect on my younger years as a transracially adopted person, I am filled with so many wonderful childhood memories with my sister, brothers, my parents and extended family. I am also filled with the memories of feeling isolated with my feelings and thoughts about adoption and differences of race. My parents, busy as they were looking after us, were not in tune, and rhythm with some of the needs that I had read more

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 read more

Black Excellence: Taraji P. Henson – Actress

By April Dinwoodie, TRJ's Executive Director Taraji P. Henson began her professional acting career in the late 90’s after graduating from HBCU, Howard University. For nearly three decades she has lite up our screens with her talent and grace. She has won a Golden Globe Award as well as being nominated for an Academy Award and four Primetime Emmy Awards. Taraji made her film debut in the crime film Streetwise (1998), gained recognition for her role in Hustle & Flow read more

January Embracing: Live with Authenticity, Purpose and Joy

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 and friends. For families that extend through transracial adoption, January can offer a time to think about the year ahead and together as a family, continue the expansive journey of authentically navigating family and differences together with purpose and joy. TRJ Conversation Cards Our Executive Director, read more

The Gift of Growing up with Books to Reflect a Diverse Human Experience

by TRJ Parent and Librarian, Avril McInally Meet “Peter” the small African-American child who inspired Ezra Jack Keats “The Snowy Day”. “Ezra had noticed that the main characters in the books he illustrated were always white. That didn’t seem fair to other children, who deserved to see characters in books that looked like them. He decided that Peter would be the hero of his story because “he should have been there all along.” Origin of the Annual TRJ Bibliography A read more

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 read more

Black Excellence: Jason Reynolds

By TRJ Parent Rebecca Howerd Jason Reynolds is a highly acclaimed and influential author known for his impactful contributions to contemporary literature, particularly for youth, as well as his activism and his approachability and service to kids and young adults. Born in 1983 outside Washington, D.C., Reynolds has risen to prominence for his ability to authentically capture the experiences of Black youth in America while dismantling stereotypes and creating empathy and positive self- and societal perceptions of Blackness. Reynolds started read more

December – Reflections: Evolving 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. Read some of our previous December posts from over the years to help guide you and your family through the ideas of evolving traditions: Creating New Traditions to Reflect read more

Black Excellence: Marcus Samuelsson

By TRJ Parent Rebecca Howerd Marcus Samuelsson is a renowned chef, restaurateur, and author who has made a significant impact on the culinary world. Born in Ethiopia in 1971, he and his sister were adopted and raised in Sweden by parents who taught him confidence and humility. Samuelsson's empowering perspective on the power of blackness has given him the motivation and strength to stand out among his peers, while his multicultural background has been a driving force behind his innovative read more

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 read more

Beyond Words: Sustaining Strong and Healthy Families

by TRJ Executive Director April Dinwoodie Generosity and good heartedness are core values in the family system I was adopted into.  Throughout the year and especially during at the holiday season,  you’ll hear members of my family saying, "There is always room at our holiday table." It's a sentiment that suggests inclusivity and kindness and it feels good to open hearts and home to folks that may need a seat at your family table.  With this spirit and with amazing read more

November Nourishment: Sustaining Strong and Healthy Families

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 read more

Black Excellence: Eartha Kitt

By TRJ Parent Rebecca Howerd Eartha Kitt is known for popularizing the iconic Christmas song, “Santa Baby,” as well as her role as Catwoman in the 1960s tv show, Batman. But she was so much more. Her career spanned almost 70 years, and most of those were during a time when racism and sexism created insurmountable obstacles for any Black and Native American woman pursuing a career of any kind. Born in 1927 in South Carolina. Her mother was a read more

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 read more

Masks, Masking, and Mental Health

by TRJ Parent Avril McInally It’s now autumn. The leaves are changing color. The days are getting shorter. Some of us are getting ready to celebrate Halloween at the end of the month. Whether or not we participate in this holiday, we can all relate to masks for one reason or another. They’ve been used throughout the ages in religious ceremonies, as works of art, as occupational accoutrements and as protection from disease. A mask is a cover for the read more

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 read more

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