Does your family’s skin match? In our transracial family, our skin doesn’t match—and we talk about it!

janet2by guest blogger Janet Alperstein, Ph.D

From the day I met my son at age six months, our adoption story and our racial and religious identities have been part of our everyday conversations. The discussions have evolved over time as my son has grown. Whether it was seeking out books about multicultural families, adoption, and diversity; organizations like the Jewish Multiracial Network; or experts like our adoption social worker and a colleague who specializes in transracial adoption in the Jewish Community, I have always known I was not an expert and that I needed help to do the best I could by my son.

In the books “A Mother for Choco” by Keiko Kasza and “A Blessing From Above” by Patti Henderson and Elizabeth Edge, the parent and child characters are both animals who are different species and, together, they form a family filled with love. We also recently saw the adoption-themed movie “Paddington”—which my son loved.

Whether discussing books or movies about the formation of our family, I point out the similarities and differences in these families formed through adoption:

“Look, these are families like ours. Our skin may not look exactly the same, but we are most definitely family.” To this day, these books bring a smile to both my son’s and my faces when we come across them on the bookshelf.

When it comes to skin color in our family, there are two basic tenets:

  • Everyone’s skin color is beautiful, and
  • To be a family, skin color does not have to match.

Often, when my son comments on the difference in our skin colors, I ask without skipping a beat:

“Does our skin color have to match to make us a family?”

Just a quickly, he replies: “No, it doesn’t.”

I cannot help but wonder if the early messages from some of our favorite books helped lay the foundation for his unwavering understanding that we are a family.

Outside of our family, skin color is obviously a much more complicated conversation which continues to evolve through direct interactions with others and through actions unfolding across our country and around the world.


Janet F. Alperstein is the proud mom of a seven-year-old boy born in Guatemala City and raised in New York City where their gender, racial, ethnic and religious identities are an important part of their everyday lives. Dr. Alperstein has worked in higher education for just over 20 years with a focus on international education and has taught a graduate sociology class on gender and the role of schools for 15 years.

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