Sylvia & Me
Fern L. Johnson & Marlene G. Fine: Co-Authors ‘Let’s Talk Race’

‘Let’s Talk Race: A Guide for White People’

Fern L. Johnson, PhD and Marlene G. Fine are the co-authors of ‘Let’s Talk Race.’ Both are specialists in race relations, ethnicity and gender in discourse. And 30 years ago a gay couple was not allowed to marry. Nor were they allowed to adopt. Wanting a family, Fran and Marlene started independently researching adoption avenues. There were a variety of restrictions that they would not be able to overcome.

Both Fern and Marlene thought they knew a lot about race. They made the decision to learn how to raise their sons and give them a healthy racial identity, and prepare them for life in a White world.  And so they talked to all of their Black friends and colleagues to educate themselves as much as possible.

Fern L. Johnson, PhD., grew up in Minnesota. She focuses on race, ethnicity, and gender in discourse.  Fern is currently Senior Research Scholar and Professor Emerita of English at Clark University (Worcester, Massachusetts). In addition to her position as Professor of English at Clark, she directed the interdisciplinary Communication and Culture Program. Earlier in her career, Fern was a faculty member at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and St. Cloud State University in Minnesota. She received her B.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and her M.A. degree from Northwestern University.

Marlene G. Fine, PhD, grew up in Belmar, New Jersey, a small resort community on the New Jersey shore.  Marlene is Professor Emerita at Simmons University, specializing in cultural diversity, leadership, and dialogue. She authored Building Successful Multicultural Organizations, and her articles appear in a broad range of journals. She is a seasoned speaker and workshop facilitator. Marlene co-authored, with Fern Johnson, The Interracial Adoption Option, which draws on their experience as white parents of African American sons.


A very insightful and real conversation with Fern & Marlene:
  • The decision to adopt
  • A gay couple trying to adopt
  • Why a Black child
  • Identifying different needs
  • Perceptions and the lack of knowledge
  • Privilege isn’t what you think it is
  • The conversation is getting difficult – why it needs to continue
  • Prompts and let’s talk race