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Gail Schimmel’s The Park – A Glimpse Into Life As A Cross Racial Family Via Adoption In South Africa

I first started chatting to Gail Schimmel on Twitter about a year or so ago. She invited me to connect with her as part of research she was doing into a book she was writing that included the topic of cross racial adoption in South Africa. 

We connected, we chatted, I answered her questions and then I forgot about it.

That is until I started getting messages via Face Book from folks letting me know that Gail’s new book was out and she’d mentioned me in the acknowledgements of her book.

The Park!

Rebecca doesn’t expect to make new friends at this stage of her life. But when she becomes mother to little Amy, she finds herself spending her afternoons in the park. There she meets other mothers: first flamboyant, fun Rose, and then single-mom Lilith, whose inner strength is tangible, and whose eyes never leave her toddler.

Very soon the women have formed a trio – the type of friends who feel at home in each other’s kitchens – and their daughters begin to behave like sisters. But Rebecca is about to learn that friendship is not always what it seems, and that sometimes you trust the wrong people. At exactly the moment when she needs to lean on them, one of her new friends harbours a shocking secret, and the other will turn on her in a way she could never have anticipated.
Her two park friends will change Rebecca’s life – and her family – forever.

Firstly, I must say, I didn’t expect to enjoy this book as much as I did and I’ve told Gail as much. The story and the characters literally grabbed me from the first page. It’s an emotionally intense and charged read that will have you turning the pages, desperate to know more.

I think this is largely due to the dynamics between the three friends being so relatable. The Park weaves a story of friendship and all of it’s intricacies, where friendships are formed and bonds carved but through circumstance and situations, they unravel and are startlingly not at all what they originally seemed. 

I saw myself in so much of Rebecca’s experiences and relationships.

Being a mother myself, via cross racial adoption, I related to Rebecca’s experience in so many ways. Her emotions and her fierce love and protectiveness of her adopted daughter was a reflection of my own feelings and experiences as a mother via cross racial adoption. 

The book gave me pause for thought.

I thought back on so many of my own friendships that changed after my daughters were adopted. When I suddenly realized that you can’t take everyone at face value and that often people will show their true feelings in the simplest and often seemingly innocent of ways.

You only have to go back in my blog’s archives to read how much I hurt and how prickly I was originally about my daughters adoptions. You see, people will often pay lip service to how I am a real mother, much like Rebecca’s friends did to her, but their actions will speak otherwise. They’ll say you’re a real mom but show you, through actions that you’re not. As an example, there was a spate of new babies in our circle of friends around the time Hannah was born. All of my girlfriends rallied around the new mom’s, except me. While other new mom’s had their girlfriends popping over for coffee and cooking them meals and taking charge in their homes, so that the new mom could take a 5 minute shower, I got none of that support. Not one person offered to cook me a meal, make me a cup of coffee or hold my baby so that I could brush my teeth. 

With both Ava and Hannah’s placements, I felt extremely isolated and alone. I got little to no support, aside from my own mother, there was no one there for me. And this is not unique to me and my circle of friends. So many adoptive mom’s I have spoken to have felt the same. Wondering where their friends were when they needed them the most.

Let’s talk about the race aspect!

We’ve also faced both blatant and unconscious racism since creating our family through cross racial adoption. There was the friends who told us that they had no problem with the fact that our children were not white, but that they were glad that they had daughters and we had daughters to save us all the discomfort of not allowing them to have romantic relationships together when they were older because they wouldn’t want their children to have relationships with kids not of the same race as them. Ja, you can imagine, that friendship ended then and there.

Then there was my black hairdresser at the time, who got up in my face, waved her finger almost up my nose and told me she did not agree with what I’d done. That we had NO RIGHT to adopt cross racially and she didn’t agree with that at all and what we had done was unnatural and just wrong. Needless to say, she never saw me or my money again.

And then there is the unconscious side of racism we’ve faced. I know people mean well, but I can almost DIE when this happens. Like when we moved the girls to a new school this year and one of the mom’s, from Ava’s old school contacted me to tell me she was very unhappy with the new school because there were too many of the “others” there. When I asked her what she meant by the “others” she said, people of colour. She doesn’t want her blonde, blue eyed boy being surrounded by so many “coloureds and blacks”! Um…. helloooooo you do know my child is not white right? Radio silence after that!

Or when we want to take the girls somewhere and we get comments like: Don’t take them there…. it’s OVERRUN! Overrun with what? People of colour? Um…. 

Or the time that some idiot left a comment on my blog about how we are a disgusting family and my daughters will grow up to be whores because all women of colour are “whores who grow up to be slaves to white men’s penises”! 

Adoption & Cross Racial Adoption Etiquette

There is also adoption and cross racial adoption etiquette, like not asking which birth parent was white and which was coloured? How is that even relevant? Or referring to my children’s birth mothers as their REAL mothers. Like I’m not a real mother, I’m just a substitute, a faker, a wannabe mom, playing mommy mommy till the REAL mother stands up.

Even participating in this blog tour as a minefield of adoption and cross racial adoption ettiquette, I don’t see myself as a “white mother” raising “non-white” children.

I could go on and on about the thousands of ways that society at large and even close friends and family have made me feel like I need to defend my daughters racial heritage, or our choice to create a family cross racially. I could go on and on about the ways that society has paid lip service to me being a real mother but then shown me in a thousand different ways that they don’t really see me that way, they see me as a faker, a poor substitute for the “real” mothers.

But I won’t. I worked hard let go of that giant chip on my shoulder years ago. This is my family. These are my daughters. I could’t love them anymore if they had my genes. I don’t see them in terms of a colour or a race, they are simply my beating heart. And I believe I am truly blessed to have this knowledge, this experience. My children have taught me that true, fierce love, knows no boundaries, so I can let go the next time someone says: “I could NEVER raise someone elses child as my own!”

Read Gail’s book for a fascinating, compelling look at the complexities around female friendships and more of what I’ve described above.

You can read a more in depth review here: 

http://www.bookish.co.za/blog/2017/4/11/your-next-book-club-read-just-got-a-lot-more-chilling

And win a copy of Gail’s book here:

The Park by Gail Schimmel

For more on this amazing book, be sure to follow Pan MacMillan and Gail Schimmel on Twitter!

You can buy Gail’s book, The Park and all leading book stores or digitally here:

You can also find out more about the blog book tour details here:

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4 Comments

  • Anastasiya A. Meintjes
    Reply Anastasiya A. Meintjes

    It is heartbreaking that people are so closed minded and disrespectful towards your family! What you are doing and what you did is amazing, and I see no reason why people can’t see that!
    I don’t see colour, I see a mom and her two beautiful daughters!

    Thank you for sharing this!!

    April 13, 2017 at 8:41 am
  • The Blessed Barrenness
    Reply The Blessed Barrenness

    Thanks Anastasiya, I think these conversations are so important, hopefully they stimulate thought and self reflection in others.

    April 13, 2017 at 8:44 am
  • Tanya Langley Knollys
    Reply Tanya Langley Knollys

    Loved your blog today So much food for thought xx

    April 14, 2017 at 12:12 am
  • Reply Marcia (123 blog)

    My mouth is still hanging open at how your “friends” said you guys don’t have to worry about your kids getting into relationships……… oh my soul!

    April 17, 2017 at 5:39 pm
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