Drawing from her experience adopting a child from another race, Clark University English Professor Fern L. Johnson has co-authored “The Interracial Adoption Option: Creating a Family Across Race” (Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2013), a book that provides insight into the many issues and situations white parents face when they embark on the journey of creating a multiracial family through adoption.
Johnson and her co-author and partner Marlene G. Fine weave personal anecdotes and practical advice from their own family with research into this book to offer a well-rounded perspective on interracial adoption.
“The Interracial Adoption Option” is a guide for those thinking about adopting across race as well as those who already have done so. The book draws on the lives and experiences of the authors, a white couple, who adopted two African-American children. Starting from their decision to adopt their first child, it describes the situations and decisions that followed as a result of their children’s racial background. Although not a memoir, the book includes many examples from the authors’ personal journey, which they place in the context of a broad understanding of race to shape the practical advice they offer.
The book addresses common issues and decisions such as where to live, how to talk with others about your family, how to take care of your child’s hair and skin, and the need to develop keen awareness of how your child experiences schooling as a person of color. The authors tackle difficult questions such as, ‘Does race matter?’ ‘Why is a healthy racial identity important?’ and ‘What do I do if I suspect my child is being treated unfairly because of his/her race?’ Throughout, the authors engage the importance of confronting white privilege.
From the book’s Introduction: “Our experience has been joyful and rewarding beyond measure, as we believe parenting is for most people. It has also been challenging, as we believe parenting also is for most people. We have learned a lot along the way about not only ourselves and our children, but also the culture we live in here in the U.S. Our own story and the stories of the many people we have met over the years who took similar journeys are the foundation for this book.”
Adoptive parent Kara Mikulich praised the book, and wrote, “This book is an invitation to the opportunity, joy, and richness of becoming a multiracial family. Fine and Johnson seamlessly combine the wisdom of scholars with the warmth of loving, adoptive mothers in a beautifully written and accessible book that blends exhaustive research with the fullness of lived experience.”
Johnson and Fine recently wrote a blog post for Jessica Kingsley Publications focused on the “Stop and Frisk” controversy in New York and the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin as context for what white parents of black children need to learn about “the talk” about racial profiling that they must have with their children.
The book is available through the publisher at JKP.com and at Amazon.com.
Johnson is a sociolinguist specializing in the study of ethnicity, race, and gender in discourse. Her teaching and research center on the relationship of cultural systems to language-in-use, how social thinking is embedded in the language we use, and language policy issues in the U.S. and E.U. She has written on topics including cultural models for understanding language diversity, language policy, gender and discourse, and the language of advertising as cultural text. Her publications include “Imaging in Advertising: Verbal and Visual Codes of Commerce” (Routledge) and “Speaking Culturally: Language Diversity in the United States” (Sage Publications). She has been on the Clark faculty since 1988. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.
Fine has served as professor of communications at Simmons College since 1999 and is a facilitator with the YW Boston Dialogues on Race and Ethnicity. Her research focuses on race and gender issues in organizations; she is the author of “Creating Successful Multicultural Organizations: Opportunities and Challenges” (Quorum Books). She received her Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
Johnson and Fine live in Carlisle, Mass. Their sons William and Julius are now young adults building their careers.