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Cut from his mother: Invisible Boy tells the story of a Black boy growing up in a white B.C. household

September 18, 2022

By Vancouver Sun |

Invisible Boy: A Memoir of Self-Discovery is the story of a Black boy growing up in a white, conservative household in Abbotsford. It’s my life story, as well as my life’s work. I first imagined this book as a 20-year-old, not long after speaking to my birth mother, Trinika Arthur-Asamoah, on the phone for the first time.

I was taken from her as a baby. They called it an adoption. They told me that my birth mother was a Black teen in the foster system. That was all I knew for many years.

I had followup questions, of course, but it was uncomfortable to speak to my adoptive mother about my other mother. It made her insecure.

My adoptive mother was strict and swift to anger. If I crossed or disrespected her, she’d spank me, or be cold to me for hours, days or weeks. In these moments, our connection felt so tenuous, and I found it so painful to wonder if I was still loved that I couldn’t imagine inflicting that same pain on her. I didn’t want to give her the impression that my loyalties were divided.

As I grew up and grew conscious, however, it became clear that our loyalties were divided.

Even my attempts to explore my Black identity seemed to threaten her. As a child, I saw it as fruit of the poisonous tree — it reminded her of the competition, that’s all — but as I came of age I came to see the hatred of self, and of Blackness, that I had internalized just to belong to this woman.

I didn’t belong to her, though, and my Blackness was not something I could leave unexplored. It was central to the conflict from the moment I was born, if not before. This is what I had to face to find my way back to Trinika. This excerpt, from chapter 10, The Boy Who Saw What Wasn’t There, recounts what I learned and what I felt the first time that I heard my mother’s voice.

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