Mothering Without A Compass: White Mother’s Love, Black Son’s Courage - Black History and Literature Library
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  • Mothering Without A Compass: White Mother’s Love, Black Son’s Courage

    Sociologist Thompson, whose previous research explored the connections between childhood abuse and eating disorders (A Hunger So Wide and So Deep, 1994), chronicles the emotional rewards of her first year raising Adrian, a nine-year-old African-American boy whose mother has asked ThompsonDa white lesbianDto parent him. Thompson eloquently relates the difficulties of bringing up a proud, intelligent and sensitive child in a culture that, she says, does not recognize such qualities in African-American men. She soon finds that her commitment to raising Adrian in a multicultural, progressive environment is trickier than she had imagined. For instance, she encourages the boy to give a classroom presentation about Malcolm X, only to find that the black leader's arguments about the political efficacy of violence upset the boy and bring up memories of physical abuse at the hands of his stepfather. Furthermore, Adrian's progressive, private schoolDwhich caters to a wealthy, liberal clienteleDforces Thompson to confront her own tenuous middle-class identity, as well as the implications of raising her son in a climate of privilege. Adrian's precocious yet na ve questions about sexuality and motherhood ("When a lesbian goes to a sperm bank, does she pay the bank or does the bank pay her?") point to the changing nature of sex education in an era of reproductive technology and same-sex parenting. Thompson is frustratingly reserved when discussing Adrian's mother's motivations for leaving her son with a white woman she barely knows, and may leave some readers wishing that she would put her social critiques on hold in favor of a richer exploration of her personal feelings and doubts about parenthood. But this memoir will strongly appeal to anyone interested in the complications and pleasures of raising children in a culture of increasingly different and contested "family values." (Oct.)
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