Book Review: In Their Voices: Black Americans on Transracial Adoption

Book Review:
In Their Voices: Black Americans on Transracial Adoption
by Rhonda M. Roorda

reviewed by Pact Staff


Pact is always looking for well-researched, authentic and honest literature to support families with adopted children of color. With this in mind, we awaited with great anticipation the release of Rhonda M. Roorda’s In Their Voices: Black Americans on Transracial Adoption (Columbia Press, 2015), the fourth in a groundbreaking series.

In the first installment, In Their Own Voices: Transracial Adoptees Tell Their Stories, researcher Rita J. Simon and transracial adoptee Rhonda M. Roorda, offered a collection of interviews conducted with Black and biracial young adults who were adopted by white parents. The result is two dozen personal stories of adoptees who hail from a wide range of religious, economic, political, and professional backgrounds. The candid interviews unveil how the experience of being a transracial adoptee not only affects their racial and social identities, but every aspect of their lives from their choice of friends and marital partners, to their lifestyles. In addition to interviews, the book includes overviews of both the history and current legal status of transracial adoption. Roorda’s personal experience as an African-American woman raised by white parents makes this volume compassionate and grounded in real life experience. This book should be in the library of every transracial adoptive family.

In their second book, In Their Parents’ Voices: Reflections on Raising Transracial Adoptees, Simon and Roorda went on to present a collection of interviews conducted with the parents of Black and biracial adult adoptees. With insights from parents who, having completed the task of raising their children, offer a long view, this book is an important contribution to the literature on transracial adoption.

The third installment of what was originally a trilogy featured an infrequently-heard-from constellation member. In Their Siblings Voices: White and Non-Adopted Siblings Talk About Their Experiences Being Raised With Black and Bi-Racial Brothers and Sisters features the stories of white siblings to the Black and biracial adult adoptees who were interviewed for the first two books. The narratives collected here detail the many sides of the transracial adoption experiment and offer insights and reactions from individuals who—like their adopted siblings—had no choice in how their multiracial families were formed. This volume is the capstone in a landmark trilogy; there is no other work like it. It is historic, important, and provocative, with many findings that will be the primary source for scholars, as well as anyone interested in this complex subject.

Roorda’s unexpected fourth book, In Their Voices: Black Americans on Transracial Adoption is authored by Rhonda Roorda alone. It also departs from the other three in that it presents the attitudes and insights of African-Americans who—overwhelmingly—have no firsthand connection to transracial adoption. This doesn’t mean there isn’t value to their viewpoints; the focus on the Black experience is crucial to white adoptive parents raising Black children. Roorda presents a diverse set of African-American voices:, women and, men, old and young, who remind readers of the diversity of the Black experience, as well as the significance and necessity of children being connected to members of their heritage community. That being said, the unfamiliarity the interviewees have with adoption and the inherent intersectionality held by adopted kids of color make this book a bit light weight compared to the density of the previous three.

Across the board, whether they are educated about adoption or not, there is agreement amongst the people featured in Black Americans that we are not post-racial, that Black children need to be supported and mentored by Black adults, and that transracial adoptive parents must find ways to ensure their children have access to those connections. Pact agrees completely and thinks this book would be most useful for new transracial adoptive parents, particularly those who don’t have a lot of contact with the Black community.

Pact urges those new to transracial adoption to read book one, Transracial Adoptees Tell Their Stories, and then book four as confirmation that their adopted children are welcomed, valued, and loved by members of their racial community.

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