WEAVING A FAMILY by Barbara Katz Rothman


Untangling Race and Adoption
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An examination of transracial adoption from an author who doesn’t accept the concept of race and is a white mother with an adopted black daughter.

Rothman (Sociology/CUNY; Genetic Maps and Human Imaginations, 1998, etc.) researched transracial adoption at the Schomberg Center to find answers to questions she had about the raising of black children by white parents. What she discovered are three recurring and disturbing paradigms: the black child as protégé, taken in by white benefactor; the black child as pet, cared for and cherished by its owner so long as convenient or cute but liable to be dismissed when no longer so; and the black child as trophy, making a statement to the world about the white parents’ ideology. Rothman goes on to look at how mothering—a term she prefers to parenting, even when done by a man—across race is being accomplished today. Mothering, she says, is always about raising children in one world for another, and the protective cloak of a mother’s whiteness does not help the black child after it leaves home in still-racist America. Raising a black child in a white family requires not just making personal connections and weaving together a family, but weaving together the black and white communities. Rothman has an informal, easygoing style, with a knack for seeming to talk directly to her reader as she brings her own personal experiences into these sociological discussions. In the most beguiling chapter, “Hair: Braiding Together Culture, Identity and Entitlement,” she writes of black hair and the doing of black hair. After solemnly informing the reader that “The history and politics of hair is the history and politics of race,” she entertainingly recounts her own struggles to understand and cope with her young daughter’s tight curls.

What’s not clear is whether Rothman is addressing fellow sociologists or fellow white mothers of nonwhite children, but both groups will find nuggets of wisdom here.

Pub Date: May 1st, 2005
ISBN: 0-8070-2828-2
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Beacon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2005


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