The Colors of Us

Our Associate Director Michael HillMichael Hill

Parents in multicultural/multiethnic families may already be familiar with a brilliant children’s book entitled The Colors of Us, by Karen Katz. As a family that pursued transracial adoption, this is a book we’ve come to know and love (as evidenced by the fact that we read it with our four year old son Elijah on a regular basis).

As per the description of the book offered up by Macmillan Publishers, the story is “a positive and affirming look at skin color, from an artist’s perspective.” Seven-year-old Lena is going to paint a picture of herself. She wants to use brown paint for her skin. But when she and her mother take a walk through the neighborhood, Lena learns that brown comes in many different shades. Through the eyes of a little girl who begins to see her familiar world in a new way, this book celebrates the differences and similarities that connect all people.”

Although we’ve read the book to Elijah more times than I can count, a few weeks ago we got some verbal proof that concepts within the book were really starting to “click” for him, but this proof was offered up in a truly unexpected way.

My husband Scott was reading the book with Elijah at bedtime. Randomly, in the middle of reading the story, Elijah interrupted Scott and said with a smile on his face, “I’m glad I have two Daddies.” Now as one half of a married, same sex couple raising children, there isn’t anything much better than hearing this kind of affirmation from your child. Scott was undoubtedly touched by Elijah’s comment, but at the same time incredibly confused at to its randomness. The Colors of Us makes no mention of same sex couples, gay families, or anything of the like. Where on earth did this random proclamation of Elijah’s love for us and our family come from?

I wound up sharing this story with several folks, and my friend Jessica (herself a teacher in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area) helped make sense of what seemed like a very random comment from Elijah. She said, “Looking at differences in other ways usually sparks what seems to be a random comment from our little ones, but then you think about it and the connection begins to make sense!” My immediate thought was, “gosh Jessica…you’re so dang smart!” She’s right – what seemed to us like a random comment was anything but random…it was totally appropriate!

The book’s discussion of difference prompted Elijah to conceptualize ways in which his own family is different, and in doing so, he must have reached some independent, internal acknowledgment of one obvious aspect of difference in his life – he has two Daddies. Another friend named Jen (also a teacher, but in Buffalo) said this about Elijah’s words: “What is so wonderful is the sincere love and appreciation he has for this two Daddies…how beautiful!” Thanks Karen Katz! The Colors of Us seems to have helped introduce the concept of “difference” to our son in a more comprehensive way than we initially could have imagined.

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