By MRN Publications Coordinator: Nicole Belisle
As a mom of two children I spend more time than I care to admit looking for books that will interest them AND inspire them to not only love reading but help them to grow and love different aspects of themselves. As a young person growing up as Multiracial I never had the pleasure of reading fiction books that had characters that looked like me or had similar experiences to me. Author Mariama J. Lockington has connected the adolescent themes of finding your voice and place in the world with the “modern” issues around adoption and race in a tangible and heartfelt way. As the Publications Coordinator for the Multiracial Network, I reached out to her and was extremely excited when she responded and was willing to share her work with the MRN community. Read on to hear more about her work entitled: For Black Girls Like Me!
What is your book about?
For Black Girls Like Me is a novel about a transracially adopted black girl named Makeda who is trying to find her voice.When Makeda’s family moves, she leaves behind her best fried Lena— the only other adopted black girl she knows —and everything changes. Makeda starts a new school, deals with bullies, fights with her big sister, and feels a growing distance between herself and her mother. And all the while she begins to wonder: What would it feel like to grow up with a family that looks like me? This book is first and foremost a love letter to adoptees, but it is also for anyone who has ever asked themselves: where do I belong? It’s a book about a multiracial American family trying to love one another, despite difference and human flaws.
How do you racial/ethnically identify? Do you think the way you identify has impacted your perspective about the book?
I identify as a black woman, but one who comes from a multiracial family. I am the oldest of four siblings, two of which are also black transracial adoptees, and one who is the white biological child of my parents. I grew up in the 80s and 90s in primarily white spaces, and my family often turned heads out in public as people tried to piece who belonged to who. I grew up loving my family with a fierce loyalty, but also struggling to communicate some of the racism, isolation, and hypervisibility I faced in the world. My family and I, still to this day, are learning how to communicate with one another when it comes to race. We don’t always see eye to eye, and we experience the world very differently. My identity has absolutely impacted the perspective of For Black Girls Like Me, since many of my main character’s experiences are based upon the emotional truths of my own experiences growing up as a transracial adoptee.
What was your inspiration for writing this book?
I wrote For Black Girls Like Me because it’s the kind of book I needed to read growing up in the 80s and 90s. I have always been an avid reader, and bookstores and libraries have remained a kind of home to me. As a child, I was constantly searching for books that displayed black faces, for stories about adopted girls that mirrored my own, but I always came up short. Instead, I devoured every and any book about a kid who was lost, left-behind, or orphaned somehow. I found solidarity and resilience in these stories and could relate to the curiosity, longing, and grief that these characters held. In addition to being a writer, I’m also an educator. I earned my Masters in Education from Lesley University, and I’ve spent the past ten years working with youth in the nonprofit sector. I love the stories that middle and high school students have to tell, and writing for and engaging with this audience also inspires my work. I’m interested in writing stories for young people that are nuanced, real, and don’t shy away from the messy or complicated.
Who is your intended audience?
My hope is that adoptees will read this book and maybe see some small part of their experience validated. I also hope that this book will spark conversation about identity, race, and belonging between siblings, parents and their children, teachers and students, and anyone else who needs this story. Yes, this is a story about adoption and race, but it’s also about family, sisterhood, friendship, mental health, dreams, and finding one’s voice. There are so many universal themes that I think are relatable. In the end, I hope this book can provide a reflection to someone who needs it.
How might reading this book be impactful for people who identify as Multiracial or as a Transracial Adoptee?
This is a book that features a Multiracial family living in the here and now. It centers a girl whose identity will not be defined by boxes. Makeda belongs everywhere and nowhere all at once, and she’s constantly navigating a world that insists that she pick a side. I hope this book will provide a nuanced look at what it means to be have a Multiracial identity, and that people who identify as Multiracial or mixed might feel some kinship with the book’s intersectionality.
For Black Girls Like Me is out July 30, 2019 and available for preorder now! I love to engage with folks through readings, workshops, and events. You can find me online on my website, on instagram, and twitter to stay connected.