I love to read.
When our home study provider handed us a list of recommended reading before our first adoption, I quickly got my hands on a few titles. An avid reader, I have added many more books to that stack—some of which I enjoyed more than others.
There are three titles in particular that stand out as I consider the ways in which my perspective on adoption has grown and evolved. They were not easy reads. These were books oftentimes recommended by other members of the adoption triad—birth mothers who had surrendered children for adoption, or adult adoptees.
God and Jetfire: Confessions of a Birth Mother, by Amy Seek
This memoir is vividly written and breathtaking in its vulnerability. Amy brings the reader along her journey of unplanned pregnancy, the complex process as she and her boyfriend choose an adoptive family, and the following twelve years living an open adoption with her son and his adoptive family.
This book will challenge any preconceived notions about birth mothers and open adoption. She describes the overwhelming task of viewing hundreds of adoptive family profiles, and the awkward dance of the power shift which occurs after she finally places her son. Her conflicting emotions are powerful, and I was again and again struck by the complexity of her experience.
The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade, by Ann Fessler
“The Baby Scoop Era,” from post-WWII until the early 1970’s, was marked by high rates of premarital pregnancies and equally high rates of infant adoptions. Culture at the time allowed for much more sexual freedom, but at a cost—the social unacceptability of single motherhood, a lack of education and access to birth control, and the unavailability of safe and legal abortion led to massive numbers of women “sent away” to deliver then surrender their babies to married couples who were heralded as more deserving.
In heartbreaking narrative, the author interviews mother after mother who lived through this time. They were given no options, no choice in the matter, and were exploited in jaw-dropping ways. This was a period marked by shame and secrecy, where closed adoptions were the norm. Many mothers were not even allowed to see or touch their children, for fear of becoming “too attached” and forming a bond—a bond that was in fact already present and unbreakable.
We as a society have learned many lessons since this period, but it is also foolish to believe that it has not affected the way things continue to be done today. Read these women’s stories. They are haunting, heartbreaking, and brave.
The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption, by Kathryn Joyce
In The Child Catchers, Kathryn Joyce takes an in-depth look at the underbelly of the adoption industry—both here in the United States and overseas. She pays particular attention to the development of the “Christian adoption movement” among evangelicals and the way it has fueled a movement wrought with problems.
The book has been called one-sided and agenda driven, and I see how that might be. However, while difficult to digest, I found it to be extremely informative and perspective shifting.
The early part of the book deals with post-earthquake Haiti and the infamous story of Laura Silsby—the ringleader of a group who attempted to remove 33 so-called “orphans” from the country with the intention to “save” them and have them adopted. These children were in fact not orphans, and their (living) parents had not consented to their removal.
Joyce discusses the manufacturing of orphans, an attempt to meet the demand created by American families desiring to save a child from poverty, often intertwined with religious motivations. She shares shocking information and statistics about the damage that the continued creation of orphanages causes in communities, and the families that have been deceived and their children trafficked for profit.
The book has generated some debate in the adoption community, but I believe it is a valuable voice on the desperate need for adoption reform. I do not agree with every conclusion that the author comes to, but the information in this book has certainly shaped my perspective.
Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew, by Sherrie Eldridge
In Their Voices: Black Americans on Transracial Adoption, by Rhonda Roorda
What books would you add to this list? Are there any that have changed your perspective on adoption?
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