“Where do I Belong? “: Adoption Themed Reads

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 county adoptions involve a host of other issues.

Here are some fiction and 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.

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.

A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley with Larry Buttrose

This is the miraculous and triumphant story of Saroo Brierley, a young man who used Google Earth to rediscover his childhood life and home in an incredible journey from India to Australia and back again…

At only five years old, Saroo Brierley got lost on a train in India. Unable to read or write or recall the name of his hometown or even his own last name, he survived alone for weeks on the rough streets of Calcutta before ultimately being transferred to an agency and adopted by a couple in Australia.

Despite his gratitude, Brierley always wondered about his origins. Eventually, with the advent of Google Earth, he had the opportunity to look for the needle in a haystack he once called home, and pore over satellite images for landmarks he might recognize or mathematical equations that might further narrow down the labyrinthine map of India. One day, after years of searching, he miraculously found what he was looking for and set off to find his family.

 Made into a movie called Lion, starring Dev Patel & Rooney Mara.

Before and After: The Incredible Real-life Stories of Orphans Who Survived the Tennessee Children’s Home Society by Judy Christie and Lisa Wingate

From the 1920s through 1950, Georgia Tann ran a black-market baby business at the Tennessee Children’s Home Society in Memphis. She offered up more than 5,000 orphans tailored to the wish lists of eager parents–hiding the fact that many weren’t orphans at all, but stolen children of poor families, desperate single mothers, and women told in maternity words that their babies died. The publication of Lisa Wingate’s novel Before We Were Yours brought new awareness of Tann’s lucrative career in child trafficking. Adoptees who knew little about their pasts gained insight into the startling facts behind their family histories. Encouraged by their contact with Wingate and award-winning journalist Judy Christie, who documented the fifteen family stories in this book, many determined survivors set out to trace their roots and find their families. Often raised by older parents as only children, many have joyfully reunited with siblings in the final decades of their lives. Wingate and Christie tell of first meetings that are all the sweeter and more intense for time missed, and of families from very different social backgrounds reaching out to embrace better-late-than-never brothers, sisters, and cousins. In a poignant culmination of art-meets-life, long silent victims of the tragically corrupt system return to Memphis with the authors to reclaim their stories at a Tennessee Children’s Home Society reunion . . . with extraordinary results.

Born with Teeth: a memoir by Kate Mulgrew

Actress Kate Mulgrew (Star Trek: Voyager and Orange Is the New Black) got pregnant at age twenty-two and placed her daughter for adoption. This memoir outlines Mulgrew’s struggles with her own parents and siblings, her career, and the restlessness of her decision to place her daughter for adoption.

Brother & Sister by Joanna Trollope

Where do we come from? Where do we belong? For David and Nathalie, this need to know is more urgent than for most people, because they are adopted. Born to different mothers, brought up by the same parents, they have grown up as brother and sister and fiercely loyal to one another. However, their decision–in their late thirties–to embark on a journey to find their birth mothers is no straightforward matter.

Conspiracy of Silence by Martha Powers

After her mother’s death, Clare Prentice is stunned when she finds out she was adopted. Still healing from her broken engagement, she heads to Grand Rapids, Minnesota, ostensibly to interview reclusive author Nathan Hanssen but really to find her birth parents and the story behind her adoption. As she stirs up secrets from the past, including details of the tragedy that led to her adoption, her cabin is searched and an attempt is made on her life. With Nathan’s help, Clare perseveres in her quest.

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. 

Digging to America by Ann Tyler

This is a tale of two families drawn together by their adopted daughters despite the friction created by their very different personalities and ethnicities. On Aug. 15, 1997, two baby girls arrive at the Baltimore airport from Korea. Jin-Ho is swept into the exuberant arms of Bitsy and Brad Dickinson-Donaldson, who are throwing “what looked like a gigantic baby shower” in the waiting room with their extended family. Sooki is quietly handed over to the Yazdans—Sami and his wife, Ziba, accompanied by his mother, Iranian immigrant Maryam—who rename her Susan. Wanting to connect Jin-Ho with another Korean child, outgoing Bitsy pulls the Yazdans into her family’s orbit and establishes the annual tradition of celebrating the girls’ Arrival Day. The two couples become close, especially Bitsy and Ziba, but Maryam is dubious about these brash Americans, with their slightly tactless self-assurance and intrusive questions about Iranian traditions. The ensuing culture clash enriches Tyler’s narrative without diminishing her skills as an engaging storyteller and delicate analyst of personality. 

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.

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 Mothers by Jennifer Gilmore

Jesse and her husband, Ramon, are a world-traveled, well-educated professional couple who desperately long for a child. Now, after several years of failed IVF treatments, they have decided to adopt. They greet the decision with a sigh of relief, thinking they are just a few manageable steps away from their dream, but that’s before they discover the unique difficulties of the world of domestic adoption. From the interviews and the questions about race and religion to heartbreaking moments when they are scammed, the process turns out to be an arduous journey. For Ramon, the ordeal is frustrating, but for Jesse, the waiting is unbearable, and the grief each time they are not chosen by a birth mother weighs on her heavily. Gilmore does an excellent job of capturing Jesse’s raw and complex emotions, chronicling the strain on her marriage and her changing sense of self as she tries to remain hopeful while she waits.

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.

The Orphan Keeper: a novel, based on a true story by Camron Wright with Dave Pliler

Seven-year-old Chellamuthu’s life–and his destiny–is forever changed when he is kidnapped from his village in Southern India and sold to the Lincoln Home for Homeless Children. His family is desperate to find him, and Chellamuthu anxiously tells the Indian orphanage that he is not an orphan, he has a mother who loves him. But he is told not to worry, he will soon be adopted by a loving family in America.

Chellamuthu is suddenly surrounded by a foreign land and a foreign language. He can’t tell people that he already has a family and becomes consumed by a single, impossible question: How do I get home? But after more than a decade, home becomes a much more complicated idea as the Indian boy eventually sheds his past and receives a new name: Taj Khyber Rowland.

It isn’t until Taj meets an Indian family who helps him rediscover his roots, as well as marrying Priya, his wife, who helps him unveil the secrets of his past, that he begins to discover the truth he has all but forgotten. Taj is determined to return to India and begin the quest to find his birth family. 

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.

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

Interweaves the stories of a baby girl in India, the American doctor who adopted her, and the Indian mother who gave her up in favor of a son, as two families–one in India, the other in the United States–are changed by the child that connects them.

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See

Explores the lives of a Chinese mother and her daughter, who has been adopted by an American couple, tracing the very different cultural factors that compel them to consume a rare native tea that has shaped their family’s destiny for generations.

Twenty-one Wishes by Debbie Macomber

At thirty-eight, Anne Marie Roche is childless, a recent widow, alone. She owns a successful bookstore on Seattle’s Blossom Street, but despite her accomplishments, she struggles to find happiness. With several of her friends, she makes a list of twenty wishes: things she always wanted to do but never did. When Anne Marie volunteers at a local school, a little girl named Ellen enters her life. It’s a relationship that becomes far more involving–and far more important–than Anne Marie had ever imagined. As Ellen helps Anne Marie complete her list, they both learn that wishes can come true…but not necessarily in the way you expect.

-Archana, Adult Services & Acquisitions Librarian

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