Nefertiti Austin

November 12, 2019


Austin paints an unflinching portrait of black motherhood in America


Nefertiti Austin didn't want to write another book about how to find happiness as a mom juggling work and home life or about how not to hate your husband after giving birth. To write about her own experiences, she had to tackle some of the most uncomfortable yet urgent contemporary parenting challenges, including the mounting difficulties of raising children of color in an increasingly divided country. Motherhood So White: A Memoir of Race, Gender, and Parenting in America uncovers what it means to be a single, black mother of adopted black children in an America that primarily views motherhood through the perspective of white women.


Austin makes no attempt to sugarcoat the realities of being a black mother in today's America. She opens with a scene in which she brings her adopted five-year-old son, August, to a Black Lives Matter rally in Beverly Hills, where she lives. Beginning her memoir in the midst of a racially charged rally was a calculated move. "I wanted to situate the reader in the hearts, minds, and souls of black mothers," Austin says. "Many of us worry that something catastrophic will happen to our children just because they are black. This fear is unique to black mothers of black children and necessary for our survival. White mothers of white children do not have these concerns, and this speaks to the heart of racial disparities among mothers. Whether someone had experienced this or not, I wanted the reader to take this walk with me."


In addition to her story, Austin's book includes interviews with fellow African-American mothers who have created families on their terms. "I live in Los Angeles, home of celebrity adoptions," Austin says. "However, my goal is to normalize mainstream ideas about who adopts. The presumption that adoption is for rich white people, upper-middle-class white couples, and devout white Christians makes black adoptive families invisible, and that's why I highlighted everyday black women who answered the call to adopt."


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