For over two decades, National Adoption Month has been promoted and celebrated every November in communities across the country. Many national, state, and local agencies as well as foster, kinship care, and adoptive family groups help educate their communities through programs, events, and activities that aim to raise awareness about the thousands of children and youth currently in foster care who are waiting for their own permanent, loving families.
Adoption can be a complicated process and adoption themed books often grapple with such interesting situations such as how do adoptees handle finding out that they were adopted, that the guardians who they are with are not their birth parents? How can adoptive parents safely straddle being good parents while (in some cases) maintaining a connection to birth parents? Interracial and out-of-country adoptions involve a host of other issues.
Here are some fiction and nonfiction reads including memoirs involving adoptive parents , adopted children who may struggle to discover their identity and home, and parents who struggle with the decision to give away their child for adoption– all available with your Livingston Library card.
(Descriptions provided by the publishers)
All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir by Nicole Chung
Nicole Chung was born severely premature, placed for adoption by her Korean parents, and raised by a white family in a sheltered Oregon town. From childhood, she heard the story of her adoption as a comforting myth. Nicole believed that her biological parents had made the ultimate sacrifice in the hope of giving her a better life, that forever feeling slightly out of place was her fate as a transracial adoptee. But as she grew up – facing prejudice her adoptive family couldn’t see, finding her identity, becoming ever more curious about where she came from – Nicole wondered if the story she’d been told was the whole truth.
American Baby : A Mother, A Child, And The Shadow History Of Adoption by Gabrielle Glaser (Also available as an ebook and audiobook)
The shocking truth about postwar adoption in America, told through the bittersweet story of one teenager, the son she was forced to relinquish, and their search to find each other. Open adoption is the rule today, but the identities of many who were adopted or who surrendered a child in the postwar decades are locked in sealed files. American Baby illuminates a dark time in our history and shows a path to reunion that can help heal the wounds inflicted by years of shame and secrecy.
Conspiracy of Silence by Martha Powers
On a sunny day in July, Clare Prentice arrives in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. Although she is on assignment to interview the town’s notoriously reclusive novelist Nate Hanssen, Clare is really in search of a different story-her story. Just months before, Clare was a bride-to-be, living in Chicago, and looking to the future until the day she learned her entire life had been a lie. Not only was Clare adopted, but there is no record that she or her adoptive mother ever existed. The only clue is a class ring from Grand Rapids Senior High School. Unable to get on with her future until she reconciles her past, Clare breaks off her engagement. Unraveling the mystery is like trying to sculpt fog–until the first piece of the puzzle unexpectedly drops into place: Clare’s birth mother, Lily Gundersen, was murdered in Grand Rapids. Lily’s murder was one of the most talked-about events in the town’s history, but no one is talking now. Clare doesn’t know the whole story — and someone intends to keep it that way.
Daughter of Moloka’i by Alan Brennert
This companion tale to Moloka’i tells the story of Ruth, the daughter that Rachel Kalama–quarantined for most of her life at the isolated leprosy settlement of Kalaupapa–was forced to give up at birth. The book follows young Ruth from her arrival at the Kapi’olani Home for Girls in Honolulu, to her adoption by a Japanese couple who raise her on a strawberry and grape farm in California, her marriage and unjust internment at Manzanar Relocation Camp during World War II–and then, after the war, to the life-altering day when she receives a letter from a woman who says she is Ruth’s birth mother, Rachel.
The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne
Cyril Avery is not a real Avery, or at least that’s what his adoptive parents tell him. And he never will be. But if he isn’t a real Avery, then who is he? Born out of wedlock to a teenage girl cast out from her rural Irish community and adopted by a well-to-do if eccentric Dublin couple via the intervention of a hunchbacked Redemptorist nun, Cyril is adrift in the world, anchored only tenuously by his heartfelt friendship with the infinitely more glamorous and dangerous Julian Woodbead. At the mercy of fortune and coincidence, he will spend a lifetime coming to know himself and where he came from – and over his three score years and ten, will struggle to discover an identity, a home, a country and much more.
Her Secret Son by Hannah Mary McKinnon
When Josh’s longtime partner, Grace, dies in a tragic accident, he is left with a mess of grief–and full custody of her seven-year-old son, Logan. While not his biological father, Josh has been a dad to Logan in every way that counts, and with Grace gone, Logan needs him more than ever. Wanting to do right by Logan, Josh begins the process of becoming his legal guardian–something that seems suddenly urgent, though Grace always brushed it off as an unnecessary formality. But now, as Josh struggles to find the paperwork associated with Logan’s birth, he begins to wonder whether there were more troubling reasons for Grace’s reluctance to make their family official. As he digs deeper into the past of the woman he loved, Josh soon finds that there are many dark secrets to uncover, and that the truth about where Logan came from is much more sinister than he could have imagined.
Invisible Boy : A Memoir Of Self-Discovery by Harrison Mooney
A gripping memoir from a BC Vancouver Sun journalist who was born to a West African mother, and then adopted as a small boy and raised by a white evangelical family. This is his searing account of being raised by fundamentalists. This is also a narrative that amplifies a voice rarely heard: the child at the centre of an interracial adoption. This powerful memoir invites readers to de-centre whiteness as its narrator learns to do the same and considers the controversial adoption practice from the perspective of the families being ripped apart, and the children being stripped of their culture, in order to fill demand for babies in evangelical households.
The Lost Ones by Sheena Kamal
It begins with a phone call that Nora Watts has dreaded for fifteen years–since the day she gave her newborn daughter up for adoption. Bonnie has vanished. The police consider her a chronic runaway and aren’t looking, leaving her desperate adoptive parents to reach out to her birth mother as a last hope. The search uncovers a puzzling conspiracy that leads Nora on a harrowing journey of deception and violence, from the gloomy rain-soaked streets of Vancouver, to the icy white mountains of the Canadian interior, to the beautiful and dangerous island where she will face her most terrifying demon.
The Making Of Her : A Novel by Bernadette Jiwa
When Joan Quinn, a factory girl from the Cranmore Estate, marries Martin Egan, it looks like her dreams have come true. But all is not as it seems. Joan lives in the shadow of a secret– the couple’s decision to give up their first daughter for adoption only months before. For the next three decades, Joan’s marriage and her relationship with her second child Carmel suffer as a consequence. Then one day in 1996, a letter arrives from their adopted daughter. Emma needs her birth parents’ help; it’s a matter of life and death. And the fragile facade of Joan’s life finally begins to crack.
The Mothers by Jennifer Gilmore
Jesse and Ramon are a loving couple, but after years spent unsuccessfully trying to get pregnant, they turn to adoption, relieved to think that once they navigate the bureaucratic path to parent-hood they will have a happy ending. But nothing has prepared them for the labyrinthine process–for the many training sessions and approvals; for the constant advice from friends, strangers, and “experts”; for the birthmothers who contact them but don’t ultimately choose them; or even, most shockingly, for the women who call claiming they’ve chosen Jesse and Ramon but who turn out never to have been pregnant in the first place.
Paloma thought her perfect life would begin once she was adopted and made it to America, but she’s about to find out that no matter how far you run, your past always catches up to you… Ever since she was adopted from a Sri Lankan orphanage, Paloma has had the best of everything-schools, money, and parents so perfect that she fears she’ll never live up to them. Now thirty years old and recently cut off from her parents’ funds, she decides to sublet the second bedroom of her overpriced San Francisco apartment to Arun, who recently moved from India. Paloma has to admit it feels good helping someone find their way in America-that is until Arun discovers Paloma’s darkest secret, one that could jeopardize her own fragile place in this country. Before Paloma can pay Arun off, she finds him facedown in a pool of blood. She flees the apartment, but by the time the police arrive, there’s no body-and no evidence that Arun ever even existed in the first place. Paloma is terrified this is all somehow tangled up in the desperate actions she took to escape Sri Lanka so many years ago. Did Paloma’s secret die with Arun or is she now in greater danger than ever before?
The Myth Of Surrender : A Novel by Kelly O’Connor McNees
What if the most important decision of your life was not yours to make? This vivid and powerful novel follows two women whose paths intersect at a maternity home in the “Baby Scoop Era.” In 1960, free-spirited Doreen is a recent high-school grad and waitress in a Chicago diner. She doesn’t know Margie, sixteen and bookish, who lives a sheltered suburban life, but they soon meet when unplanned pregnancies send them to the Holy Family Home for the Wayward in rural Illinois. Assigned as roommates because their due dates line up, Margie and Doreen navigate Holy Family’s culture of secrecy and shame and become fast friends as the weight of their coming decision — to keep or surrender their babies — becomes clear. Except, they soon realize, the decision has already been made for them. Holy Family, like many of the maternity homes where 1.5 million women “relinquished” their babies in what is now known as the Baby Scoop Era, is not interested in what the birth mothers want. In its zeal to make the babies “legitimate” in closed adoptions, Holy Family manipulates and bullies birth mothers, often coercing them to sign away their parental rights while still under the effects of anesthesia. What happens next, as their babies are born and they leave Holy Family behind, will force each woman to confront the depths and limits of motherhood and friendship, and fight to reclaim control over their own lives.
Never Knowing by Chevy Stevens
All her life, Sara Gallagher has wondered about her birth parents. As an adopted child with two sisters who were born naturally to her parents, Sara did not have an ideal home life. The question of why she was given up for adoption has always haunted her. Finally, she is ready to take steps and to find closure. But some questions are better left unanswered.
After months of research, Sara locates her birth mother—only to be met with horror and rejection. Then she discovers the devastating truth: Her mother was the only victim ever to escape a killer who has been hunting women every summer for decades. But Sara soon realizes the only thing worse than finding out about her father is him finding out about her.
Other People’s Children by R. J. Hoffmann
As soon as Gail and Jon Durbin bring home their adopted baby Maya, she becomes the glue that mends their fractured marriage. But the Durbin’s social worker, Paige, can’t find the teenage birth mother to sign the consent forms. By law, Carli has seventy-two hours to change her mind. Without her signature, the adoption will unravel. Carli is desperate to pursue her dreams, so giving her baby a life with the Durbins seems like the right choice–until her own mother throws down an ultimatum. Soon Carli realizes how few choices she has. As the hours tick by, Paige knows that the Durbins’ marriage won’t survive the loss of Maya, but everyone’s life is shattered when they–and baby Maya–disappear without a trace. Filled with heartrending turns, Other People’s Children is a riveting page-turner you’ll find impossible to put down.
The Red Thread by Ann Hood
After losing her infant daughter in a freak accident, Maya Lange opens The Red Thread, an adoption agency that specializes in placing baby girls from China with American families. Maya finds some comfort in her work, until a group of six couples share their personal stories of their desire for a child. Their painful and courageous journey toward adoption forces her to confront the lost daughter of her past. Brilliantly braiding together the stories of Chinese birth mothers who give up their daughters, Hood writes a moving and beautifully told novel of fate and the red thread that binds these characters’ lives.
Red Thread Of Fate by Lyn Liao Butler
Two days before Tam and Tony Kwan receive their letter of acceptance for the son they are adopting, Tony and his cousin Mia are killed in an accident. A shellshocked Tam learns she is named the guardian to Mia’s 5-year-old daughter, Angela. Tam has no choice but to agree to take in the girl she hasn’t seen since she was a baby. Tam must also decide if she will complete the adoption on her own and bring home the son waiting for her in a Chinese orphanage. But when her secret comes to light just as she and Angela start to bond, their fragile family is threatened, and everything may fall apart.
Rock Needs River: A Memoir About a Very Open Adoption by Vanessa McGrady
After two years of waiting to adopt–slogging through paperwork and bouncing between hope and despair–a miracle finally happened for Vanessa McGrady. Her sweet baby, Grace, was a dream come true. Then Vanessa made a highly uncommon gesture: when Grace’s biological parents became homeless, Vanessa invited them to stay. Without a blueprint for navigating the practical basics of an open adoption or any discussion of expectations or boundaries, the unusual living arrangement became a bottomless well of conflicting emotions and increasingly difficult decisions complicated by missed opportunities, regret, social chaos, and broken hearts.
Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda
The first novel by Shilpi Somaya Gowda explores powerfully and poignantly the emotional terrain of motherhood, loss, identity, and love through the experiences of two families–one Indian, one American–and the child that binds them together. A masterful work set partially in the Mumbai slums so vividly portrayed in the hit film Slumdog Millionaire, Secret Daughter recalls the acclaimed novels of Kim Edwards and Thrity Umrigar, yet sparkles with the freshness of a truly exciting new literary voice.
Isabella and Ha, identical twin girls born in Vietnam, were raised on opposite sides of the world, each having no idea that the other existed. Erika Hayasaki’s deeply reported, intimate story of their journey back to each other upends common conceptions of adoption, family, and identity.
-Archana Chiplunkar, Adult Services & Acquisitions Librarian