Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Color Blind: A Memoir by Precious Williams

Imagine if finding a child to adopt/foster was as easy as looking in the back pages of a magazine called Nursery World and scrolling through descriptions that read like, "attractive baby girl of Nigerian origin' available.

That's how Nigerian-born, but British-based journalist Precious Williams came to live with her 57-year-old foster mother who went by the name of "Nanny" and who had a penchant for fostering 'colored' children. It sounds too unbelievable to be true, but Color Blind is very much the true story of how Williams grew up from an infant to a young woman -- being shuttled back and forth between her cold, distant Nigerian mother and her well-intentioned but ill-equipped (to be raising a little Black girl in 1970s England) 'Nanny.'

Color Blind initially attracted me because I wanted to read about the Black girl in a White world experience across the pond. But Williams' memoir isn't an every girl's story because her family circumstances were quite particular. Her mother never gave her up for adoption, and in fact, haphazardly swooped in and out of Precious' life, often bringing chaos and confusion to her daughter's already convoluted world. Meanwhile, her foster family doted on her, but they were never allowed to be her 'real' family, nor did they truly comprehend that raising a Black child required a different set of skills than they innately possessed.

Color Blind is a bittersweet coming of age story that will surely make your heart ache. I also found myself angry and intrigued by the seemingly lax system of oversight for foster parenting in the United Kingdom and I'm curious if that system is still in place today. The book is beautifully written and you can't help but hope for a happy ending for the author, which she seems to be having as her life continues to unfold. To catch up with Williams these days, check out her website. But first read the book.



nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

I was just talking to the actor Adewale (UK born, Nigerian descent) about this issue.

It was called "farming" and it happened to thousand of Nigerian children. The UK has banned the practice.

I must read Williams' book.

JBH said...

Ooo...thanks for the tip. I will look for it and add it to my ever-growing list of "to reads"

LT said...

I am amazed that this was allowed to happen. What were they thinking? I'm still scratching my head.

I'll be interested to hear what you think. Say hi to Noho, for me BTW :)

Remi said...

Hi Lori,
fostering black children in the 1970s and 1980s was very popular in the UK and I had the experience of being fostered. Though this may seem extremely strange I can say that it didn't effect me or my sister growing up at all. In fact I have only good memories. My foster family really did treat us as their own. I unfortunately didn't keep in touch with my nany, but I have a friend who is extremely close to his foster parents and even inivted them to his wedding.

During 70's and 80's there was a mass movement of Nigerians coming to work in the UK. With little money and help from the goverment, there were agreements for white families to look after the children whilst parents went off to work.
Much tighter regulations plus support has been given to immigrants coming to the UK, but I could honestly say, if it weren't for my foster parents my family wouldn't be where we are today

LT said...


Thank you so much for sharing your perspective. Before reading Color Blind I had never heard of this practice. It is definitely important to hear other people's experiences so we can have a better understanding before rushing to judge. Thank you again for sharing.