Interracial adoption and interracial families have complex issues that often are not discussed or differentiated. Many people do not understand racial differences or the implications that need to be addressed by an interracial family. Rumaan Alam, the author of That Kind of Mother, uses his novel not only to peak interest in this topic but to also pose questions and to spark debate.
The story focuses on Rebecca, a white woman married to a British diplomat during the Reagan presidency. Rebecca’s family epitomizes the essence of “white privilege,” enabled by wealth, empowerment, and the knowledge that they will always get what they want.
Rebecca gives birth to a son and, wanting assistance with breastfeeding, calls upon the assistance of Priscilla, a black woman who works at the local hospital. Rebecca then acknowledges that she would further benefit from the knowledge, assistance, and advice of Priscilla for more than breastfeeding and hires her as a nanny.
Rebecca’s family will soon commit to a life-changing event. Priscilla becomes pregnant and dies during childbirth. Priscilla’s grown daughter, Cheryl, is pregnant and will soon give birth and is, obviously, very overwhelmed with all of these events happening in a short time.
Rebecca takes it upon herself to say she is going to be the mother of Priscilla’s child, whether Cheryl wants that or not. In the Los Angeles Times, it states, “Rebecca was going to have this black child no matter what—her own rationale falls somewhere between this being a way to repay Priscilla for helping her become the mother she wanted to be, and her own pure, unadulterated selfishness”
The story continues, following Rebecca and her husband as they raise a black child in a white family; however, they do keep in contact with Cheryl and her family. But what is significantly evidenced is the ignorance that families have concerning the differences between races; there are many similar requirements and many different requirements that need to be fulfilled. Rebecca is not aware or knowledgeable on how to raise a black child, one example being hair care or general race discussions.
That Kind of Mother is about racial identity, interracial families, and racism. It really opens the doors of discussion on parenting, racial cues, and interracial black identity in a white family home.