Mothering Without A Compass by Becky Thompson
White Mother's Love, Black Son's Courage

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Parenting/Women's Studies

A lively meditation on creating a multiracial family.

In 1997, Becky Thompson began parenting nine-year-old Adrian at the request of his mother, and her life changed forever. Mothering without a Compass is the moving story of her first year as the white lesbian "sudden-mother" of an African American boy. From the everyday yet sometimes overwhelming tasks of finding Adrian a school and debating the significance of action figures, to unexpected discussions about who pays whom at the sperm bank, to the more complicated matters of racism, sexuality, nontraditional families, open adoption, love, and loss, Thompson gives us an absorbing and often humorous account of her attempt at antiracist, multicultural parenting.

Mothering without a Compass highlights a range of issues and experiences: Thompson's desire to be a good mother while holding on to her sense of self; her growing, detailed knowledge of the ways in which racism affects people's feelings about themselves and the world around them; her increasing appreciation of the inner life of a child; her realization that mothering forces her to confront her own vulnerabilities and past losses. The book opens with Adrian's arrival and ends with a visit from Adrian's biological mother, during which she and Thompson search for ways to respect each other as parents across racial, religious, and cultural divides.

Mothering without a Compass relates a lesbian parent's struggle to help her child grow up and describes the complexities facing children who have more than one family. This candid, personal story shows that it is through everyday life that questions about race, class, gender, and sexuality areoften played out. It is a necessary book for all parents-for anyone concerned with the challenge of raising justice-minded children in a complicated world.

Becky Thompson is the author of A Hunger So Wide and So Deep: A Multiracial View of Women's Eating Problems (Minnesota, 1994) and coeditor (with Sangeeta Tyagi) of Names We Call Home: Autobiography on Racial Identity (1996) and Beyond a Dream Deferred: Multicultural Education and the Politics of Excellence (Minnesota, 1993). She is associate professor of sociology at Simmons College in Boston.

SIDEBAR: "This is a wonderful book, honest and beautifully told. All the doubt, uncertainty, and changing consciousness of the experience of motherhood is powerfully drawn. Thompson is a writer who is committed to social justice, yet knowledgeable of the psychological and moral complexities that can sometimes, understandably, be erased by political agendas. I read this book and responded to it as a mother, as a feminist, and as a writer." Jane Lazarre, author of Beyond the Whiteness of Whiteness: Memoir of a White Mother of Black Sons

Translation Inquiries: University of Minnesota Press


About Becky Thompson

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Published September 29, 2000 by Univ Of Minnesota Press. 180 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences, Gay & Lesbian, Parenting & Relationships, Health, Fitness & Dieting. Non-fiction

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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...

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