Fun & Inspirational
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.
Role Models Who Look Like Me by Jasmine M Cho – This book is so well done. The illustrations are beautiful, and the stories are easy enough for new readers but it would also be a great read-aloud to discuss the lives of the featured role models. Cho manages to convey the gravity of their contributions to history without making the stories too complex or overly-detailed for younger readers. It’s an inspiring read that might just make parents want to dig a little deeper for themselves.
Adopted Like Me: My Book of Adopted Heroes by Ann Angel — Meet famous and inspirational adoptees, including Marilyn Monroe, Nelson Mandela, and Bo Diddley, along with inventors, athletes, and a princess skilled in judo and fencing! An adoptive mother of four culturally mixed children, the author empowers adoptees to realize that they can grow up to be just about anything they want to be. Not only a family lesson but a powerful history lesson of the good that can happen when people are loved. Fully illustrated in color for children ages 8-18.
Now I Am Known by Peter Mutabazi — After running away from home and surviving for years on the streets of Kampala, Uganda, author Peter Mutabazi was found and supported by a man who changed his life. “Now I Am Known” is Peter’s inspiring true story. After his days as a street kid, he worked for the Red Cross, emigrated to the United States, fostered countless children, and is a single adoptive parent. In his book, he reveals the transformational power of taking risks, learning to forgive, overcoming self-doubt, breaking negative patterns, and believing in a better future marked by hope and purpose. Mutabazi continues to advocate for vulnerable children. His story is sure to inspire.
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Image credit: Glyn Lowe Photoworks