Allison's Book Bag

Reflection on Adoption Books

Posted on: October 6, 2012

Because so many of you responded favorably to my first thematic round-up last April, I felt comfortable this fall with taking on a round-up about adoption. However, despite the fact my husband and I are on an adoption list, we are not experts in this area. Hence, I did feel some trepidation about my selections and so relied on others for book recommendations.

The books for my round-up fell mostly into two reading levels: primary and young adult. Of the six primary books, three were personal accounts, two were fictional stories from the perspective of animals, one was a gentle but simplistic introduction to adoption, and one was a fictionalized story about the historical Orphan Trains. Of the two intermediate books, both entries came from Sheila Kelly Welch, an author who has adopted several children. Last, of the four young adult books, one was a novel by Sara Zarr, who as far as I know doesn’t have any personal experience with adoption. The other three books were guides, all created by those with intimate connections to adoption. If any one knows of other relevant books on the intermediate level or other young adult fiction about adoption, please respond with a comment.

Thematic books can serve three purposes: first to inform, second to feel connected to others with similar experiences, or third to entertain. Because primary books average only about thirty pages, they typically have limited use as informational books. The most thorough coverage of adoption occurred in Is That Your Sister? by Catherine and Sherry Bunin and We Adopted You, Benjamin Koo by Linda Walvoord Girard. The first discussed trans-racial adoption, while the second covered an international adoption. What impressed me about both of these is that the information came through an interesting narrative. The remaining books on the primary level, other than Train to Somwhere which features a historical event, will serve best as a way to present adoption in a positive light or to entertain. As detailed as novels might be, by their nature, they generally present at best only a couple of aspects of a topic. Therefore, one probably shouldn’t turn to fiction for factual information, but certainly could turn to them to feel connected. Don’t Call Me Marda by Sheila Kelly Welch deals with the challenges of embracing an adopted sister who has special needs. How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr captures the emotions of both the birth mom and the adoptive mom in a private adoption. If one is at least a young adult reading level, the nonfiction guides for teens will prove the best books to turn to for factual guides. Due to all the examples from real teens, the guides will also help adopted adolescents feel connected.

With regards to how informative the books I read were, I learned a lot about: the adoption process, rules governing adoption, types of adoption, the birth mom, adoptive parents, closed adoption, searching for and uniting with birth parents, the adopted child, foster care, domestic adoption, international adoption, and transracial adoption. I would have liked to have read more about open adoption, which is the current practice. I would also liked to have seen more about birth dads. One book highlighted the unique needs of adopting a child with mental retardation. What about children with other disabilities or that has been exposed to drugs? If you know of books which speak to those topics in connection with adoption, please respond with a comment.

After I concluded my round-up last March of multicultural books, many of you expressed an interest in my revisiting that topic. What additional themes would you like to see explored? Are there inspiring or disturbing trends which are worthy of exploration? Immediately following this weekend, I will start a round-up of books on learning disabilities. After that, you could influence my next literary research project.

For convenient reference, all the posts related to my adoption round-up are listed below:

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