Rebecca Walker’s Shifting Self

 
 

Similar to Black, White and Jewish, the response to Baby Love has been varied. Though Walker is bisexual, the fact that she is with a man now is contentious. Oddly enough, she said, lesbians who are pregnant or trying to start families have been among her greatest supporters in the LGBT community.

"Everyone else seems to only feel comfortable with me being bisexual when I’m with a woman," she said. "Now that I’m with a man, there’s [a] twinge that used to not be there — as if I no longer speak the language or I don’t know the code."

In fact, much of the criticism about Baby Love stems from Walker’s discussion of her relationship with Ndegeocello’s teenage son, Solomon, whom she co-parents. In one of the more controversial segments, she writes: "I don’t care how close you are to your adopted son or beloved stepdaughter, the love you have for your nonbiological child isn’t the same as the love you have for your own flesh and blood."

The response has been interesting, said Walker, who has yet to discuss the book with Solomon. "I’m not saying that one is greater, but that they are different," she explained. "And why wouldn’t they be different? They have different processes. It’s a completely different experience."

But that is not necessarily a bad thing, said Walker, who has found that many people are uncomfortable celebrating different kinds of love and families. "In our culture we have one word for love, whereas in many languages there are 15 words for love. People use different words to describe different kinds of relationships."

As we continue to reconfigure families, she said, we need to "speak intelligently and with complexity about these different relationships" rather than resort to censorship. "It’s made me reflect on the whole idea of qualifying love and people wanting their love for their child to be the same as biological love — as if that was the standard."

Walker’s point is especially significant in light of her troubled relationship with her mother. By the end of Baby Love, she has received an email from her stating "that she has been my mother for 30 years and is no longer interested in the job" and later discovers that she has been removed from the will.

"People think they are being so progressive, but they are holding the biological thing as the standard that everything should be the same as," Walker said. "Why would it be reassuring to say that it’s the same when we know that biology is so rife with problems and confusion too?"

Walker, who has received both "vicious" emails from adoptive parents and "vulnerable" emails from adoptees, believes it’s a worthwhile dialogue. "We really need to be talking about this in order for people to feel celebrated in the unique ways they exist. They don’t have to feel inferior because they’re not one thing."

Walker is currently working on a collection called Walk This Way: Introducing the New American Family about contemporary family configurations such as transracial adoptions, couples who live on different continents, and polyamorous relationships.

"With an anthology, I get to get other people to explore an idea that I’m really interested in," said Walker, who has edited several other anthologies, including the most recent What Makes a Man: 22 Writers Imagine the Future. "I like to find new voices and to support people who might have a hard time getting published in other places or whose writing voice is a little too raw for mainstream publications."

She is also writing a third memoir about her time in Africa, which, she said, is a "more internal process of mapping out my inner terrain."

Walker does not know if her mother has read Baby Love. Though she believes she has finally stopped writing for her, she admits that her mother’s influence endures. "In many ways, one of the most incredible gifts that my mom gave me was the opportunity to live with and experience a master artist who transformed her life into art every day," said Walker. "That shaped me — the way I think, the way I view the process of making meaning in life."

For more on Rebecca Walker, visit her official website.

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