Invisible Boy: A Memoir of Self-Discovery

Journalist Harrison Mooney shares his personal experience as a young Black child growing up with his
white, Christian, evangelical family in the memoir “Invisible Boy.”

Mooney won the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize for nonfiction in 2023 for the book that documents his
experiences of being raised in a strict Christian family, surrounded by almost no one who looked like
him. He dives deep into his relationship with his family and the struggles he has in understanding where
he fits into the world and his family. This means breaking through history, biblical teachings and his own
personal narrative to discover the unvarnished truth about racism, saviorism, adoption and more.

Mooney finds himself profoundly impacted with many mixed emotions as he begins to study the works
of other Black authors. In particular, James Baldwin’s “The Fire Next Time” set his mind ablaze with the
statement, “You were born where you were born and faced the future that you faced because you were
Black and for no other reason.” In that one sentence, Mooney begins to understand all of the factors
that fell into place, leading to his relinquishment and subsequent adoption by a white Canadian couple.

As his studies begin to uncover many truths for Mooney, he seeks to find his birth parents. This is where
Mooney chooses to end the book, when he is in his early 20s, meeting his birth mother for the first time.
It leaves many questions unanswered, such as how his relationship is with both his adoptive and birth
parents today, but that’s probably because many of us seek the happy ending of the book. And in
reality, for a lot of adoptees there isn’t necessarily a happy ending, just living in the in-between, trying to
determine who you are in the reality that was dealt to you.

“Invisible Boy” is a well-written book that pushes against the mainstream narratives and uncovers some
of the uglier sides of foster care and adoption. It won’t necessarily be an easy book to read for some
foster and adoptive parents, but for those parenting children of a different race than their own,
“Invisible Boy” is an eye-opening and thought-provoking piece of work.

“Invisible Boy: A memoir of self-discovery”
By Harrison Mooney
Steerforth Press, 2022, ISBN: 978-1-58642-346-9, 310 pages, $18.95

— Reviewed by Kim Phagan-Hansel