GIFT CHILDREN by J. Douglas Bates


A Story of Race, Family, and Adoption in a Divided America
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 A sincere account of how Bates (The Pulitzer Prize, 1991), who's white, raised two adopted black daughters alongside two biological sons. In 1970, Bates (then a 23-year-old Eugene, Oregon, newspaper reporter) and his wife--already parents but influenced by 60's ideals as well as by friends' plans to adopt a minority child- -adopted four-year-old mulatto Lynn. The author recalls with amazement how blithely he and his wife made the decision: ``[We] would expend far more time...a decade later researching the purchase of our first VCR.'' The Bateses never discussed their plans with any blacks (inhabitants of an overwhelmingly white town, they didn't know any), and they anticipated no problems. And two years later, the couple, deciding that Lynn should have a sister like herself, adopted three-year-old Liska--also a neglected and abused longtime foster-care child of mixed-race parentage. Readers will admire the Bateses' determination to nurture their girls' black identity, and they'll sympathize with the couple's struggles, such as their early embarrassing attempts to make black friends and their later pain as their daughters' lives came to include illegitimate children and welfare dependency. But Bates's memoir lacks the complex discussion of race and adoption that would make the family's story more illuminating. Whether the daughters' personal problems stem mainly from their adoption or from their racial environment isn't explored adequately, and the sons' experiences are given short shrift, as are those of the friends whose adoption plans inspired the Bateses: A comparison of their experiences would have been interesting. Glaringly omitted as well is a thorough look at the state of ``transracial adoptions'' and at why many blacks oppose them even as thousands of black children languish in foster care. An affecting memoir that lacks the probing and context to make it the revealing work about America's troubled race relations that it might have been. (Photographs)

Pub Date: May 24th, 1993
ISBN: 0-395-63314-1
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1993


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