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My family attracts looks from strangers, and not just because my kids are adorable

While many families may look like the archetype of mom and dad and kids, every family has something that makes them different, says author Rumaan Alam. The makeup of his family -- a brown man and a white man with two black boys -- requires that he and his husband practice what he calls "radical honesty" with his kids. Alam gives his Brief but Spectacular take on family.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Now to our Brief But Spectacular series, where we ask interesting people to share their passions.

    Tonight, we hear from author Rumaan Alam. He speaks to us about family as an experiment. Alam's latest book is called "Rich and Pretty."

    RUMAAN ALAM, Author, "Rich and Pretty": Subtlety doesn't work for children. And anybody who is raising a child is going to nod their head when they hear that.

    Your task as a parent is to repeat and repeat and repeat yourself, to really inculcate in your child your own — the values you want them to hold.

    I met my husband on the world's most successful blind date. We got married in the parking lot of the Santa Cruz City Hall. And it was much more romantic than it sounds. A year or so after we were married legally, we became parents.

    I exist within a nuclear family where there are no women. It is incumbent on my husband and I to raise our boys with an understanding of the 50 percent of the planet who are different from — they are.

    I am conscious of people looking at our family in a different way, and I don't blame them for that. A brown man and a white man with two little black boys is going to attract looks, especially because they're the two best looking children on the planet.

    The family that we have built for ourselves requires a kind of radical honesty. We have no choice but to level with them, because children figure out remarkably early that babies grows in a lady's tummy.

    The choice that a mother makes to place her child for adoption is a very loving and parental choice. I'm conscious of the fact that there will times that that is something my children mourn. And that's OK with me, because that's how life works.

    While many families may look like they adhere to the archetype of mom and dad and 2.4 kids and a dog, within that structure of the family, there's always something that makes you your own. And if we all recognize that, I think we would be a little better off.

    A few years ago, I was flying out of Florida. I had my oldest son in my arms. And the TSA agent says to my baby, "Oh, it's OK. We just need to check your daddy's hands for gunpowder."

    A 2-year-old doesn't know what gunpowder is. I thought, well, if I was a red-headed potter holding this baby, would he want to check my hands for gunpowder?

    I am conscious of the fact that I have many, many advantages. We are middle-class people. We are insulated and protect by those things. But we are different. And we still live in a society that is still very suspicious of difference.

    My name is Rumaan Alam. And this is my Brief But Spectacular take on family.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And you can watch more of our Brief But Spectacular series at PBS.org/NewsHour/Brief.

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