Motherhood So White: Book summary and reviews of Motherhood So White by Nefertiti Austin

Motherhood So White

A Memoir of Race, Gender, and Parenting in America

by Nefertiti Austin

Motherhood So White by Nefertiti Austin X
Motherhood So White by Nefertiti Austin
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  • Publishes in USA 
    Sep 24, 2019
    304 pages
    Genre: Biography/Memoir

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About this book

Book Summary

What's it like to be a Black mother in a world where the face of motherhood is overwhelmingly white?

That's the question Nefertiti, a single African American woman, faced when she decided she wanted to adopt a Black baby boy out of the foster care system.

Eager to finally join the motherhood ranks, Nefertiti was shocked when people started asking her why she wanted to adopt a "crack baby" or said that she would never be able to raise a Black son on her own. She realized that American society saw motherhood through a white lens, and that there would be no easy understanding or acceptance of the kind of family she hoped to build.

Motherhood So White is the story of Nefertiti's fight to create the family she always knew she was meant to have and the story of motherhood that all American families need now. In this unflinching account of her parenting journey, Nefertiti examines the history of adoption in the African American community, faces off against stereotypes of single, Black motherhood, and confronts the reality of raising children of color in racially charged, modern-day America.

Honest, vulnerable, and uplifting, Motherhood So White reveals what Nefertiti knew all along―that the only requirement for a successful family is one raised with love.

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. Describe Nefertiti's relationship with her parents, Diane and Harold, and her grandparents, Ann and Henry. How do you think these relationships formed Nefertiti's first views of parenthood and what it means to be a parent?
  2. How did your own upbringing influence your take on what it means to be a parent? What are some of the lessons you've learned through your childhood experiences that influenced how you do or would parent today?
  3. What was Nefertiti's experience with "Black adoption," and how did it impact her choices later in life?
  4. Nefertiti describes how, suddenly, the stirrings of motherhood turned into an overwhelming desire to pursue becoming a parent. If you are a parent, what moved you to make that decision? Which path to parenthood did you choose?
  5. Put yourself in Nefertiti's shoes— if you were telling your family and friends that you've decided to adopt a Black son from the foster care system, how do you think they would react? Were you surprised by the stereotypes and prejudices Nefertiti faced both from within and outside her own community? Speak on what you imagine that experience was like for her.
  6. Describe the different hurdles Nefertiti had to jump to formally adopt her son, August, and later her daughter, Cherish. What are some of the challenges she faced during the foster/adoption process?
  7. What were some of the stereotypes and fears Nefertiti had to confront while raising August in today's racially charged America? What about with Cherish? What were some of the biases Nefertiti personally faced as a single black mother?
  8. As a single parent household, how did Nefertiti provide male role models and positive examples of masculinity for August, and later Cherish? How did she confront the assertion that being raised without a father figure would affect August's masculinity or "make him soft?" What do those questions say about the way Black men are perceived in America, both from within the Black community and by society at large?
  9. Motherhood So White showcases many of the conversations and experiences parents of Black children face— from teaching their children about unconscious bias to explaining the traps embedded in our current cultural landscape. Speak about those conversations. Were there any that surprised you? Any that you, in your own experiences of parenthood, have or haven't had with your own children?
  10. Throughout Nefertiti's story, she is often confronting the idea that, in America, motherhood equals white. How does she fight against that bias? How can we erase this stereotype and expand the view of motherhood to allow everyone to have a place at the table?

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"In this timely, insightful memoir, novelist Austin examines adoption and child-rearing as a single black woman confronting gender and racial bias...juxtaposing tender mother-child moments with the dangers facing African-American boys, Austin captures both the love and fear of her parenting experience in this powerful, spirited narrative." - Publishers Weekly

"Eye-opening, trenchant book, which helps to bolster the scant literature for African American adoptive parents that Austin has pioneered by blogging for publications such as MUTHA magazine and the Huffington Post...Austin's experiences, both positive and negative, are recounted in this fast-paced, heartwarming memoir of motherhood and adoption told through an African American lens." - Library Journal (starred review)

"A moving and necessary corrective to the primarily white narrative on adoption." - Booklist

"Motherhood So White blew me away. Nefertiti's honest account of her unique journey to parenthood serves as a sharp reminder that in our society, parenting is not a colorblind experience. This is an important book for anyone committed to creating a more equal playing field for all our children." - KJ Dell'Antonia, author of How to Be a Happier Parent

"Austin's frank voice and determined spirit speak truth to the media powers that present #MotherhoodSoWhite, while relaying her history and thoughtful parenting decisions... a needed and important contribution." - Meg Lemke, Editor-in-Chief of MUTHA

The information about Motherhood So White shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Reader Reviews

Write your own review

Mary Lou F. (Naples, FL)

Adoption Hurdles
The author goes into great detail of how difficult to adopt a black child and the stigma that comes with it. Very informative for anyone contemplating adoption.

Becky D. (Gloucester, VA)

So glad I finished it!
First of all, I'm like several reviewers who thought the title was a little misleading. (Maybe I skimmed the description a little too lightly!!) But I had imagined a more militant book with arm raising, slogans and righteous anger over the inequities of race. I was in high school when civil rights issues were looming everywhere, but was not actively involved other than watching from the sidelines.

Regardless of what I expected, it is exactly what it was advertised as: A memoir. I feel she tied all of the different strands of her past and present life together, illuminating where she gets her strong feelings from and then putting them into action. I also think she lays a good groundwork for others who might be thinking about adopting.

When I realized I was not going to be criticized for not contributing to past/current racial inequities, I settled into enjoying her writing and having my horizons broadened.

Valerie M. (Idlewild, MI)

The Beautiful Art of Mothering While Black
Two months after Barack Obama was inaugurated as president, Nefertiti Austin wrote a letter to her son. Her responsibility as a black mother was to not sugarcoat the world. One day August would be old enough to understand there was a black man in the White House. Then, he could read the letter and have appropriate information about the world, with all of its racial and gender biases and microaggressions.

The letter is tenderly included in Nefertiti Austin's memoir, "Motherhood So White". It is a generous book because Austin is a generous writer who navigates her emotions, conflicts, fears and dreams. Black motherhood is no joke. Couple that with single motherhood and adoption, and challenges are everywhere.

Racist narratives of "the good mother" shape Nefertiti Austin's journey through foster care and public adoption, a world that included nine social workers. Quickly she discovers love is important but so is advocacy. Raising a black son without a father, though scary, is met with a myriad of hopeful challenges.

A perfect bedside read for the newly adoptive mother who is nervous about what to do next, Austin is humorous and real. But "Motherhood So White" is also for black women denied social support from a culture that puts emphasis on biological children. Chapter after chapter, Austin defends from a feminist perspective her choice to adopt and raise a black son (and eventually a black daughter). She reminds us it is the raising of children that matters, all those steps that usher babies into toddlers, toddlers into children, and children into graceful adults.

Darlene G. (Allegany, NY)

Motherhood & Adoption: Learning the Ropes with a Savvy Single Black Mom
I chose this book because I enjoy memoirs. I'm also a white woman who is interested in reading about the differences and similarities of a Black woman's experience of parenting, adoption and raising a Black boy. I'm glad I read it because it made me think about race, gender and parenting in new ways- just what I was hoping for! It celebrates the privilege of being a parent, the particular challenges that some resourceful single Black women face, and the joys and challenges of adoption. While Ms. Austin never sought to be seen as anything other than a dedicated parent, her fortitude and commitment to using her experience to benefit others comes shining through. I particularly loved that she included other women's experiences as a resource in the back of the book.

Judith S. (Binghamton, NY)

Informative & Heartfelt
Nefertiti Austin's memoir is excellent in many ways. It is extremely factual (with statistics and research I had no idea had been done), and therefore eye opening and at the same time heartfelt and humorous - also balanced in terms of criticism of our culture. The book taught me so much about race and parenting in America that I would not have known had I not read the book. Having known many single mothers but not one black adoptive mother her memoir educated me and changed my view of so many aspects of black parenting and society's myths about it. I highly recommend this thought providing, one of a kind book.

Joan V.

From Foster Care to Adoption
I'm sure we've all heard the expression "It takes a village." Ms. Austin did not have a village when she set out to adopt a Black boy as a single mom, so she created her own. There was very little research to be found and she did not have a lot of support from her family when she decided to adopt August, but she persevered.

Deciding to adopt a Black boy had it own set of obstacles since people kept telling her girls were easier, but she rightly felt that Black boys needed the special attention and love that she could give a child.

Her own childhood had its difficulties because her own parents were not capable of taking care of her or her brother. She was strong from a very early age and did not follow her parents down the path of drugs and selfishness. Her grandmother was a warrior for her and made sure she got a good education and set a strong example. I really enjoyed reading about her childhood and how being raised to be independent and strong gave her the courage to become single woman adopting a Black boy.

As a white woman it was especially interesting to learn about her experiences. This book is very timely since we are undergoing a terrible racial divisiveness in this country. We need to have more people discussing our similarities rather than our differences. In the end, as mothers we want the best for ALL children. White people must learn not to judge Black boys and have erroneous assumptions about them. That is why I think this is an important book - it's readable yet very informative and I highly recommend it.

...12 more reader reviews

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Author and memoirist, Nefertiti Austin writes about the erasure of diverse voices in motherhood. Her work around this topic has been short-listed for literary awards and appeared in the "Huffington Post", MUTHA, "The Establishment", matermea.com, Essence.com, "Adoptive Families" magazine, PBS SoCal's "To Foster Change" and PBS Parents. She was the subject of an article on race and adoption in "The Atlantic" and appeared on "HuffPost Live" and "One Bad Mother", where she shared her journey to adoption as a single Black woman. Nefertiti's expertise stems from firsthand experience and degrees in U.S. History and African-American Studies. Nefertiti is a former Certified PS-MAPP Trainer, where she co-led classes for participants wanting to attain a license to foster and/or adopt children from foster care system. An alumna of Breadloaf Writers' Conference and VONA, her first two novels, Eternity and Abandon, helped usher in the Black Romance genre in the mid-1990s.

Follow her on Twitter: @nefertitiaustin
Follow her on Instagram: @iamnefertitiaustin

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