Friday, July 2, 2010

Culture Keeping: White Mothers, International Adoption, and the Negotiation of Family Difference

by Heather Jacobson

Thumbs up-------not because it's an especially great read, but because it gets you thinking. This isn't a breezy, cutesy book for white, middle-class adoptive moms to get fun ideas from for embracing your internationally adopted child's birth culture. It's a scholarly book which reads like a master's thesis. It provides the results of the author's research into the subject of how white mothers view their responsibility to help their cross-cultural adopted children identify themselves--as Americans and as members of their birth culture.

She interviewed mothers of adopted children from China and Russia and was able to present insight as to how race, culture and societal pressure affects their parenting differences.

The tone of the book left me wondering if she wasn't anti-cross-cultural adoption, but she never came right out and expressed an opinion either way--remember it's supposed to be a scholarly book just reporting the results of her survey. As an adoptive parent, I grimaced at some sections where it seems she is belittling the "adoption industry" for forcing adoptive parents into spending money to promote the culture of their adoptive children.

However, it was fascinating to hear the responses of some of these women to these questions--some so obviously out-of-touch. Especially interesting was the difference between parenting attitudes about race and culture between the two groups: one which had white children (who could blend into society unnoticed), and one which had children of a notably different racial background. She discussed parenting in African American communities and compared that to parenting a child of another culture/race and that discussion was especially thought-provoking, as none of the traditional adoption literature has included information about how minorities in this country parent. As an adoptive parent myself, I definitely could identify with the issues brought up, and found it a very interesting read.

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