MIXED FAMILIES by Joyce A. Ladner
Kirkus Star

MIXED FAMILIES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A judicious, probing examination of white families that adopt black or biracial children. A phenomenon of the late Sixties affecting perhaps 10,000 homes, transracial adoption was an institutional response to the diminishing number of white babies available, an adjustment to the needs of parents rather than those of the children. The trend was arrested when black social workers issued a position paper strongly critical of the practice, contending that white parents could neither prepare black children for a racist society nor give them a black identity. The parents (and others, including some blacks) countered that biracial children have a white natural parent and that growing up in a loving home is in any case better than an institutionalized childhood--the option for most. Ladner, a black sociologist sensitive to methodological difficulties and defensiveness on all sides, finds evidence to support both arguments. Many of the parents were--are--woefully naive, sharing questionable motivations and rescue fantasies, whisking the kids off to white suburbs, regretful when their complexions darken, contemptuous of black culture; these homes, though physical improvements, are undeniably destructive, for the children identify with whites and don't acquire the survival skills necessary for less protected environments. Other parents have joined forces, learning soul food recipes and black history, even moving to black neighborhoods in well-meaning but artificial attempts to accommodate. The most successful are those who anticipated identity problems and continue to grapple with them, who have black friends, reside in integrated neighborhoods--and often did before the adoption. Ladner visited kitchens and agencies, interviewed parents, case workers, and the few blacks old enough to comment--they tend to appreciate what was given them but have assorted reservations about their own experiences. The difficulties vary from large but manageable to enormous, and the teenage years loom as watersheds for many. Earnest, lucid, and penetrating, with a firm grip on the variables.

Pub Date: July 8th, 1977
Publisher: Anchor/Doubleday