Fun and Inspirational Books for Adoptive Parents
Carried in Our Hearts: The Gift of Adoption, Inspiring Stories of Families Created Across Continents by Dr. Jane Aronson – This is simply a delightful book consisting of 75 essays by adoptive parents–some famous and some just famous to their kids. It coverers all aspects of the adoption journey and all types of adoption, although perhaps slightly weighted towards international. You can easily devour it in one sitting, which I’ll admit is what I did, but better yet would be to stretch out the enjoyment by reading one essay a day or whenever you’re feeling in need of a little inspiration. And yes, you’re allowed to skip around and can sneak read the essays by “famous” adoptive parents. You can listen to an interview with Dr. Aronson on the Creating a Family Radio Show/Podcast.
No Biking in the House Without a Helmet: 9 Kids, 3 Continents, 2 Parents, 1 Family by Melissa Fay Greene – “We so loved raising our four children by birth, we didn’t want to stop,” Melissa Fay Greene write. “When the clock started to run down on the home team, we brought in ringers.” After having four children by birth, Greene and her husband adopt five more–one from Bulgaria and four from Ethiopia. No Miking in the House Without a Helmet is a celebration of parenthood, of blended families and of adoption. Greene doesn’t shy away from the difficult parts–the self doubt that plagues all parents, the struggles of adopting out of birth order and of blending biological children with adopted children and adopted children with other adopted children–but never loses sight of the joy. It is also frequently laugh out loud funny. Highly recommended! You can listen to several interview with Melissa Fey Greene on the Creating a Family Radio Show/Podcast.
There Is No Me Without You: One Woman’s Odyssey to Rescue Africa’s Children by Melissa Fay Greene – There Is No Me Without You is a poignant account of the AIDS orphans crisis in Ethiopia. After the death of her husband and daughter, Haregewoin Teferra, an Ethiopian woman living in Addis Ababa, transformed her home into an orphanage and day-care center for some of the thousands of Ethiopian children orphaned by the AIDS crisis, and began facilitating adoptions. Although Greene acknowledges that international adoption is not the perfect nor final solution, she does address it as one solution for the children currently in need of homes. I agree. She’s also a great author and an adoptive mom. You can listen to several interview with Melissa Fey Greene on the Creating a Family Radio Show/Podcast.
Black Baby White Hands: A View from the Crib by Jaiya John – Dr. John, a former professor of social psychology at Howard University, was the first black child in the history of New Mexico to be adopted by a white family. In this emotionally honest memoir, he talks about being raised in a white family. He was loved deeply by his adoptive parents, but still faced confusion and difficulty growing up in an overwhelmingly white community. The book focuses on his struggles growing up one of the very few black people in his family/community/school. It is through the love of his family that he puts all the pieces of past and future together.
Everything You Ever Wanted by Jillian Lauren – Everything You Ever Wanted is the story of infertility and the adoption of an 11-month-old boy from Ethiopia with special needs with compassion and deep understanding gained from life in the trenches. Lauren and her husband, Weezer bassist Scott Shriner, adopted a Ethiopian baby they thought was healthy. As he grew they realized his behavior was often out of control. He was ultimately diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder and sensory processing disorder. This is the story of how they helped him heal, and at its core its a love story between a husband and wife and between a mother and her son. Phenomenally written and beautifully poignant, I highly recommend this book.
March Into My Heart: A Memoir of Mothers, Daughters, and Adoption by Patty Lazarus – Patty Lazarus always dreamed of having a daughter and of the special mother-daughter bond she had always wanted. After her mother’s long illness and death, Lazarus and her husband, already the parents of two biological sons, decided to adopt a daughter. This memoir chronicles her four-year journey through domestic infant adoption. Lazarus is open and candid about gender disappointment and her desire for a daughter specifically, which is rare in the adoption world. An interesting read, although far from a typical adoption story.
Becoming Patrick: A Memoir by Patrick McMahon – The uplifting story of McMahon’s search for his first mother. The memoir details the frustrating bureaucratic roadblocks in the search for his first family and the eventual bond he formed with his brith mother, even as he navigated waves of conflicting emotions, merged past with present, and embarked on a new future rooted in truth and insights into the universal quest for identity and human connection. McMahon was adopted during the height of the Baby-Scoop Era and he grew up during a time when adoption wasn’t talked about openly. He eloquently describes how the fear and shame surrounded adoption during his childhood impacted his own self identity and highlights the importance of speaking openly with adopted children about their adoption.
The Russian Word for Snow: A True Story of Adoption by Janis Cooke Newman – The story of a family who comes to realize that they are destined to adopt as they fall in love with a little Russian boy’s video. All the doctors the family consulted told them they shouldn’t move forward, but in their gut they know the doctors are wrong. Finally they meet a doctor who takes his environment into account, which gives them the confidence to move forward. Much of the book takes place in Russia and during the process. This was in the ’90s when adoptions from Russia were just starting out. It is wonderfully written and you feel like you are actually in Russia when you are reading it. It is definitely a MUST READ adoption story. (Review written by Camille M. from the Creating a Family Facebook group.)
Mamalita: An Adoption Memoir by Jessica O’Dwyer. Although it is the story of a Guatemalan adoption, its appeal is universal to all adoptive parents—especially those who adopt internationally. I liked this book because it was well written and “a good read”, but I loved this book because of the way O’Dwyer handled the ethics of international adoption. It is tempting as an adoptive parent to become defensive, to gloss over the ethical dilemmas inherent when wealthy people from developed countries adopt babies from poor people in undeveloped countries. It is equally tempting for “reformers” to over simplify the ethics and the solutions. The reality is that often international adoptions are a blur where the white and black hats are not at all clear. O’Dwyer captures the gray with a refreshing lack of defensiveness or editorializing, allowing us to ponder what we would do if faced with the same situation. This book is well worth the read.
The Women Who Raised Me by Victoria Rowell – Victoria Rowell spent her life in foster care. The Women Who Raised Me is the remarkable story of her rise out of the foster care system to attain the American Dream—and of the unlikely series of women who lifted, motivated, and inspired her along the way, including her mentally ill birth mother, and highlights how love triumphs biology every time. Rowell has succeeded as a well known TV actress (Diagnosis Murder and The Young and The Restless) and founded a non profit to help children in foster care.
Instant Mom by Nia Vardalos – In this funny, heartwarming memoir, actress Nia Vardalos (of My Big Fat Greek Wedding fame) chronicles her journey to motherhood. After 9 years of infertility treatment, 13 IVF cycles, 2 failed surrogacy attempts and numerous adoption attempts, Vardalos and her husband finally adopted an almost-three-year-old girl from foster care. Instant Mom chronicles her struggles with infertility, her decision to transition to adoption and the joys and heartache of adopting an older child. You can listen to an interview with Nia Vardalos on the Creating a Family Radio Show/Podcast, or read about it on the Creating a Family blog.
A Passage to the Heart: Writings from Families with Children from China edited by Amy Klatzkin- A really nice collection of essays (about 100) that cover the Chinese adoption process from first thought to parenthood. Would be a fun collection to read while you wait.
Pushing Up the Sky – A Mother’s Journey by Terra Trevor- A memoir written by the mother of several internationally adopted and birth kids. Among other things, the author talks about how families adjust when an older child is adopted out of birth order.
China Ghosts by Jeff Gammage- One family’s adoption journey to China.
Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited by Paula Berstein and Elyse Schien
Daughter of the Ganges by Asha Miro- The author was born in India and adopted into a loving home in Spain as an almost 7 year old. She returns to India in search for the missing pieces of her early life and ultimately a search for biological family.
Dim Sum, Bagels and Grits: A Sourcebook for Multicultural Families by Myra Alperson- Alperson adopted her daughter from China as a single mom. I like this book for many reasons, mostly the voice and the the fact that she includes the stories of adult transracial adoptees. Great book if you are considering adopting across racial lines.
Swimming Up the Sun: A Memoir of Adoption by Nicole J Burton- This memoir of an adult adoptees search for her birth family. This is a good book to read it you aren’t certain why an adopted person would want to search. Interesting and well written.
I Wish for You a Beautiful Life: Letters from the Korean Birth Mothers of Ae Ran Won to Their Children edited by Sara Dorow
Lost Daughters of China by Karin Evans
Adoption Nation: How the Adoption Revolution Is Transforming America by Adam Pertman
Wanting a Daughter, Needing a Son: Abandonment, Adoption, and Orphanage Care in China by Kay Ann Johnson- Kay is a researcher in the field of how the Chinese view adoption and an adoptive parent of daughter from China. Both her roles influenced this book. I loved it and highly recommend it.
Mei Mei Little Sister: Portraits from a Chinese Orphanage by Richard Bowen- A collection of portraits of children growing up in Chinese orphanages. Proceeds go to support the Half the Sky Foundation if bought through their web site. These are truly stunning and touching pictures
Love in The Driest Season: A Family Memoir by Neely Tucker- This is just a plain old fashioned good read that happens to be about adoption. It is the true story of the Tucker’s adoption of a daughter from Zimbabwe. They were living in Zimbabwe at the time so the adoption was not a typical international adoption, but the intense love of these parents is typical. This is a great book to read while you wait for your child.
Welcome Home! An International and Nontraditional Adoption Reader edited by Lisa Schwartz and Florence Kaslow
Moving Heaven and Earth: A Personal Journey into International Adoption by Barbara Birdsey
Love Like No Other: Stories from Adoptive Parents edited by Pamela Kruger and Jill Smolowe
The Exact Same Moon: Fifty Acres and a Family by Jeanne Marie Laskas – A very fun read by a gifted author and mother to of two girls from China. It is uplifting, but also very real. I love her writing style.
Daughter from Afar: A Family’s International Adoption Story by Sarah L Woodard
Love You Forever by Robert Munsch- This is a children’s book, but it always struck me as more for the parents than the kids. My kids hate this book because it always makes me cry, but I love it.
China’s Lost Girls – a DVD by National Geographic
Image credit: Glyn Lowe Photoworks