Relating back to my mammoth adoption questions post, I thought I would compile a list of interesting (*I thought) reading on the subject of adoption. I’ve read tonnes of books on adoption over the years so I’ll probably forget a lot of them, but I thought it would be worth listing some of the interesting ones and I can add to them over time (and please feel free to suggest others in the comments).
Ghost of Sangju: A Memoir of Reconciliation – Soojung Jo
This is the latest book I’ve read on adoption, a first person account of a girl adopted from Korea and brought up in Kentucky. I was conflicted about a lot of this and I still haven’t completely finished it – I think because I find it difficult to understand that she so readily gives up her entire life in order to go back to Korea and “reclaim” her original identity. (For instance she was brought up in a – as she describes it – happy family and known as Raina, and is now known as Soojung Jo.) Interestingly Raina/Soojung is both a biological mother and an adoptive mother so she brings insight to the story, and certainly doesn’t scrimp on the emotional details. I found it difficult to relate to as someone who has never searched; nevertheless it is an interesting story and adds to the first person accounts of adopted adults.
The Adoption – Anne Berry
Anne Berry is one of my favourite authors and this book was no exception. Sometimes it’s nice/interesting to read about adoption in literature. It tells the story of adoption from the point of view of three female characters: the adopted child, the birth mother and the adoptive mother. A moving characterisation of the effect adoption can have on multiple families.
Split at the root – Catana Tully
I really enjoyed this first person account of adoption and I could relate to it with its questions on race (Catana is a black child brought up in the whitest of white families) and family (in many senses she is the preferred child to the biological child and her relationship with the biological daughter is honestly portrayed). Catana went on to become a model and actress based on her “unique” looks, all the time rejecting her black roots until she finally addresses her feelings about her biological family and “white” upbringing.
This is a fascinating anthology from the point of view of adults who were adopted. Comprised of multiple stories, poems and writings this is a really interesting take on what it feels like to have been adopted, and how different people have reacted. Some I could relate to and some I couldn’t. It also gives a lot of interesting references for further reading.
Be My Baby – Gail Kimm, Ken Shung
A bit of a coffee table book and definitely one for when you want a positive view of adoption; this centres on the adoptive children, parents and birth mothers with some beautiful photographic portraits interspersed with interviews. One of my favourites.
The Lost Daughters of China – Karin Evans
One of the first books on adoption I ever read as an adult, this talks about personal experience of adopting from China but also references the history and implications for the new generation of adopted Chinese American girls growing up in the US. Although not directly relating to my own experience I found this really relatable. It’s also one of the books I gave to my [adoptive] mother and she also enjoyed it.
As an adopted adult, the stories I enjoy the most are these collections of different people’s experiences. This book tells many people’s stories, from the adopted people to the birth mother and the adoptive parents. One of the better anthologies I’ve read.
What are you? Voices of Mixed Race Young People – Pearl S Buck
Though not strictly focusing on adoption, this book is one of my favourites as a transracially adopted person. I can relate to so many of the experiences described here. The sense of not belonging to either race. Being asked to make allegiances to one race or another. That disjointed sense of identity. It’s all in here. A great collection.
To be absolutely honest, I’ve never made it that far through this book because it’s a bit dry. I think I’ll come back to it in later times (when I can bring myself to delve back into it) – for some reason it never really took off for me. But it’s worth mentioning as it’s one of the few to focus on transracial adoption specifically.
Carried in our hearts: The Gift of Adoption – Dr Jane Aronson
This is definitely one for the Positive Adoption people. I mean, the adoptee as a gift… (More thoughts on that here.) But that said, it contains many positive stories about adoption (and some brutally honest ones) and provides a good overview of the different stages of the journey.
The Primal Wound: Understanding the adopted child – Nancy Verrier
This is another one I never managed to finish as it kind of rubbed me up the wrong way, but perhaps that says more about me than Ms Verrier. This is “the” adoption book that is considered a seminal work in adoption theory – the idea that even if you can’t remember being adopted, you’ll always have a “primal wound” of separation from your birth mother/parents. As one of the “happy adoptees” this makes for uncomfortable reading – it’s the idea that even if I’m happy, I’m somehow mortally wounded and broken. But that said, I think every adopted adult has some kind of weakness (or wound) where they feel a sensitivity over that first loss. It has some interesting theory about how people deal with that – apparently being a “good adoptee” is one way, and rebelling is another. The jury’s out… but it’s worth a read just to see if you agree or disagree.
Lost and Found – Betty Jean Lifton
Another seminal work and I have to confess I’ve never read it. Adding it on here because I might eventually get round to it. I think I never read it as I’ve never searched, and for me the idea that my whole self is somehow predicated on finding someone who gave me up for adoption years ago is a bit tenuous. But I’m not making a judgement till I’ve read it!
That’s all for now… If you’ve read any interesting books on adoption, let me know in the comments!