Also by this author: His Testimonies, My Heritage: Women of Color on the Word of God
Published by IVP on March 24, 2020
Genres: Non-Fiction, Memoir, Racial Reconciliation
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"Wynn is my son. No little boy could be more loved by his parents. Inquisitive, fiercely affectionate, staunchly opinionated, he sees the world through eyes of wonder and has yet to become jaded by society's cruelty. I know he'll grow up with stories of having been made to feel 'other' because of the color of his skin. I want to teach him that, though life's unfair, he still has incomparable value in the eyes of his heavenly Father. I know this wondrous little person has the potential to change the world--and I want him to know it too." In Mother to Son, Jasmine Holmes shares a series of powerful letters to her young son. These are about her journey as an African American Christian and what she wants her son to know as he grows and approaches the world as a black man. Holmes deals head-on with issues ranging from discipleship and marriage to biblical justice. She invites us to read over her shoulder as she reminds Wynn that his identity is firmly planted in the person and work of Jesus Christ, even when the topic is one as emotionally charged as race in America.
As you might guess by the title, Mother to Son: Letters to a Black Boy on Identity and Hope, I—a white male—am not exactly the target demographic for this book.
But, in another sense, I’m the perfect target for this book if we want to foster racial conciliation and truly understand our Black brothers and sisters. As I read this book and wrote this review, the world has been upended by the murder of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man killed by police. It’s been three weeks and the protests show no signs of stopping. Because it’s not just about Floyd. It’s about 400 years of oppression based on racial identity.
It’s dangerous to be a Black man in America. And I’ll never be fully able to understand that. But I have an adopted Black son. It’s crucial to his development that I try. And it’s crucial that I seek out perspectives that he needs that I cannot give. That’s what drew me to Mother to Son. Neither my wife or I can give my son the advice a Black mother could. We needed to learn from Jasmine so that later my son can hear the same things from us.
Mother to Son isn’t a book on race or racial relations. It’s not as politically charged or racially focused as some other books in this rather specific genre. (The one coming to mind being Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me.) It’s not meant to be. This is simply a series of letters and reflections meant to teach Holmes’s son about growing up Black, Christian, and male in America.
I think that if you are a Black mother, you’d read this book differently than I did. I can’t read this from the perspective of the target audience and I won’t presume on how a Black mother might respond. I can only tell you my experience as a white male who read this with his Black son in mind, trying to glean bits of wisdom I could never provide.
Mother to Son is intensely personal. Of course it is. Holmes doesn’t shy away from the inherent struggles of being Black, particularly being a Black man. Yet, neither is this all defeatist doom and gloom. It’s a perfectly realized exploration of the current reality and the need for the oppressed to lead the way to conciliation. Neither is it all about race. Some of it is about relationships—parent-to-child, child-to-parent, friend-to-friend.
I cannot express to you they hope and love that shines through this book. I’m a better person for having read it. I think if we all—whatever our creed or skin color—took the perspective Holmes encourages her son toward we would finally be rid of the violence and hatred and injustice that has plagued our country since before its beginning.
A powerful, personal emotional reflection that the white church must not ignore, Mother to Son is especially for Black moms and Black sons, but it’s also for all of us who long to make the world better.