Birth Mothers, Adoptive Mothers
and Adopted Daughters Tell Their Stories
Edited by Susan
Seal Press, 1995
into three sections (birth mothers, adoptive mothers, and adult adopted
daughters), 31 different authors relate their personal adoption stories,
or in some cases, fictional stories or poems. Some of the writers are well-known
in adoption circlessuch as Florence Fisher and Lorraine Duskywhile
others are professional writers, such as Louise Erdrich. Some are therapists,
and several are artists or teachers. The editor, also a contributor, is an
adoptive mother, which may explain why that is the largest section in the
book, but the other two sections also offer several stories each.
The books strongest point is the wide
variety of viewpoints reflected in the stories, including several lesbians,
some who have had serious mental illness, Native Americans, Asians, and
African-Americans. The editors adopted son is from India, as was her
grandmother, so there is a diversity of cultural, ethnic, and socioeconomic
situations represented in the book, as well as a wide age range.
One of the most unusual stories is that of
two young women who were college roommates, both adopted, both of mixed black
and white genetic background. One was adopted by black parents (one dark-
and one light-skinned like herself, she reports) and raised with a darker
adopted brother by their adoptive mother after the parents divorced. The
other young woman was adopted and raised by a white family in a white
neighborhood. As roommates and friends, they found their mirror in each other,
and, over the years, forged an informal adoption of each other as sisters.
At the time of writing, neither had initiated a formal search for birth parents,
although the one whose black adoptive parents had both died had made a decision
to search for both of her birth parents.
Some of the stories are painful to read, stories
of mothers who had themselves been abused and found themselves emotionally
incapable of being good parents, and who finally relinquished the children
they had abused. Their grief and anguish, and the love they still have for
their children, are aspects of adoption that we do not often consider, and
may not want to think about, but these are honest women.
A more joyous story is that of a couple, both
with cerebral palsy, who adopt a baby who has been diagnosed with cerebral
palsy. Their careful decision to accept this challenge is beautifully
Several stories in the book concern international
adoptions, under a variety of circumstances. Prospective adoptive parents
could benefit from reading the stories in this book to consider possibilities.
This would also be a good book to read at the beginning of a search, to help
one prepare for whatever might be found, and to explore different points
of view from all sides of the adoption triad. For readers not currently engaged
in a search, or in the process of adopting, the stories in this book can
broaden their own knowledge of various adoption situations.
Excerpted from the October 1998
edition of the Operation Identitiy Newsletter
© 1998 Operation Identity