I love stories! As a kid, I loved dress-up and make-believe and magic. My dream day is spent snuggled up with a book that I just CAN’T put down. My favorite thing to listen to in the kitchen is a podcast where the guest shares their life story. There is something so powerful about learning through the beauty of storytelling. My family taught me a love for reading, and I am excited about passing that on to my children. Movies, musicals, testimonies… if there is a story, I wanna be there!
Since our family loves books so much, one thing we have searched long and hard for is GREAT books about adoption. When we first felt like we were ready to pursue adoption in 2011, I started diving into books by Dr. Karyn Purvis and Deborah Grey. Later, I also started really connecting with memoirs and narrative based parenting books like Forever Mom, by Mary Ostyn. I love that we can learn so much from what someone else has experienced. Stories click in our brains in a way that straight up facts can’t always achieve. The longer I’ve been an adoptive parent, the more I have valued the stories and experiences of adult adoptees and biological family members, who until now have been heard from much less! I have begun delving into adoptee memoirs in my attempt to parent my children according to their unique experiences as adoptees themselves.
As an adoptive family, we have also found that quality adoption and foster themed literature is just like looking for any resource in this world of information overload. You can google anything and find a million opinions to support or oppose what you already believe. Then to make it even more difficult, social media is set up to trap you in an echo chamber by constantly suggesting content that solidifies our beliefs instead of offering differing points of view. They know that if they can keep you watching, they can keep the ads coming!
However, despite the challenges, we believe that our children can find immense value in awesome adoption and foster themed books on their bookshelf. To do this, we use a few different criteria: 1. Does this work address the complexities of adoption? Does it misrepresent the truth with an overly optimistic view of adoption? There can be immense beauty and redemption in adoption, but ONLY speaking of the positives can silence those most impacted by adoption- adoptees and their first families. A half-truth is not the truth. 2. Does this work highlight a less often heard voice in adoption, namely first families and adoptees? Most adoption themed work is still coming from an adoptive parent perspective, which though useful, can dominate the conversation in an unhealthy way. We need so badly to learn from the other members of the adoption constellation. 3. Does this work facilitate healthy dialogue? The opposite of dialogue is pat answers. The books we read, and the books we read to our children, should provide more conversation starters than simple answers, because adoption is not simple.
That being said, here are some of my best recommends for your family and friends:
1. To me, the most important voice to listen to in adoption is the adult adoptee. They have lived the adoption experience, and know the complex feelings, thoughts and struggles that can bring. I love these memoirs written by adult adoptees.
· Beyond Two Worlds: A Taiwanese American Adoptee’s Memoir and Search for Identity, by Marijane Huang – Adoptee centric autobiography by a Taiwanese adoptee. It details her childhood, discovery of adoption documents and search for bio family. It is written in an easy to read, blog style format.
· Umbilicus: An Autobiographical Novel, by Paula Guben – This is an autobiography written by a South African adoptee in reunion. It contains remembrances of her childhood thoughts on her adoption situation, as well as conversations and letters between her and her family.
· All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir, by Nicole Chung - A domestic, transracial adoptee shares her life story beginning with her adoption and childhood as an only child and her journey of becoming a parent sparking her search for the whole truth about who she is and where she came from. This is a unique and powerful story of our deep connection to family.
· Lion: A Long Way Home, by Saroo Briarly - This fascinating memoir follows an Indian adoptees path from rural India, to Australia, and back again as he recounts his early childhood and his search for the home and family he lost. You will not be able to put this book down!
2. Adoptive parenting IS different than parenting biological children. It’s important that we acknowledge those differences and learn to parent those specific needs well. These are my go-to books to suggest as your first parenting books as APs.
· The Primal Wound: Understanding The Adopted Child, by Nancy Newton Verrier -Adoptee centric, essential information about the innate loss of both biological mother and child, even if the child is separated from the mother at birth. A MUST read for all hopeful and adoptive parents. Written by an adoptive parent.
· The Connected Child, by Karyn B. Purvis and David R. Cross (adoptee/former foster youth) – This is also a must- read, staple for all adoptive parents, and those considering adoption. Provides information and advice for attachment style parenting for children from hard places or with special needs. Practical and easy to read.
· Attaching in Adoption: Practical Tools for Today’s Parents, by Deborah D. Grey –This is an excellent read for research results and parenting strategies for attachment style parenting of adopted children or children with special needs and trauma. Reads clinical, as opposed to anecdotal.
3. Books for grandparents, aunts and uncles, and family friends might not look a lot different from the parenting books. Any of the above books are fantastic for your family to read if they are willing. I have however found one AWESOME book that is short, sweet and specifically for giving to adults in your life that you need to understand the differences in your parenting- especially if you are adopting an older child.
· Upside Down: Understanding and Supporting Attachment In Adoptive Families, by Shannon Guerra – This is a tiny little book. A really simple, quick read for those close to adoptive families. The books gives easy to understand explanations for why adoptive parenting strategies might look “upside down” to those who are not parenting children with adoption related trauma. A great gift for your friends and family to help them help you.
4. These are my favorite adoption themed children’s books. These are good for everyone who wants to better understand adoption whether they are an adoptive family or not. We should all own and enjoy books and other types of media that give us a window into other people’s experiences- including the adoption experience. Any of these books are great gifts to other children in your life who want to learn about adoption.
· Growing Grace, written by Erin Mason, illustrated by Layal Idriss. This gorgeous book is written by a birth mom from the perspective of a mom deciding what to do in the event of an unplanned pregnancy. This book captures the complexity of adoption so beautifully, expressing the sadness, loss, and fear of the mom in a child appropriate manner.
· Star Of The Week: A Story of Love, Adoption & Brownies With Sprinkles – Darlene Friedman -Written by an adoptive mom, this book details a kindergarten student making a poster about their life and how being an adoptee makes their life special and complex. Features a Chinese adoptee.
· Motherbridge of Love, written anonymously, illustrated by Josée Masse – This book is a poem written by an anonymous mom-by-adoption. It describes the connection of two mothers, the birth mom and the adoptive mom, and the link the child has with each of them. The child and birth mom in this story are Asian and the adoptive mom is white. There is a Chinese translation of the poem in the front cover. This book celebrates both biology and adoption and highlights the complexities found therein.
Just Right Family: An Adoption Story, written by Sylvia Lopez, illustrated by Ziyue Chen – This book is about a young adoptee feeling displaced by her parents’ decision to adopt another child. It is a beautiful example of how to prepare a child for another family member joining via adoption. This book also features a multi-racial family.
Frankie And Friends Talk Adoption, written by Pam Kroskie and Marcie Keithley, illustrated by Josh Allen – This book is written by an adoptee and a first mom. It is not a story, but rather each page addresses an issue that an adoptee might have big feelings or questions about. It validates any feelings the young adoptee may have and encourages conversation though questions. This a fantastic tool for families to have open conversations in which all feelings are allowed. This book is meant for adoptees specifically.
I hope these suggestions are useful to your family. They have been to mine, but I understand the frustration of wading through unknown books on amazon! Adoption is difficult and complex no matter how we slice it. All members come with their own hurt and loss, and we must do this well together for the precious kiddos at the center of it all! Let’s learn and grow together.
Lanaya and her husband have the privilege of parenting two beautiful girls who joined their family through international adoption. Adoption makes their family a whole lot more beautiful, and brings unique challenges to the table. This has driven her in her pursuit of adoption education, particularly from adoptee and birthparent voices, which she seeks to elevate in the adoption community. She believes passionately in the value of every human life and the incredible grace of God. She and her family live in Alberta, Canada. For more book suggestions and reviews, find Lanaya on Instagram @adoption.books and through her blog found atwww.lanayagraham.com.
You can find all the books Lanaya spoke about above here:
Beyond Two Worlds: A Taiwanese American Adoptee’s Memoir and Search for Identity: https://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Two-Worlds-Taiwanese-American-AdopteeS-ebook/dp/B07965ST46/ref=sr_1_2?crid=NBH968KO7MKB&keywords=beyond+two+worlds&qid=1552426877&s=gateway&sprefix=Beyong+two+w%2Caps%2C189&sr=8-2
Umbilicus: An Autobiographical Novel: https://www.amazon.com/Umbilicus-autobiographical-novel-Paula-Gruben-ebook/dp/B01F23YFRS/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_1?crid=335UZB65IFU7N&keywords=umbilicus+an+autobiographical+novel&qid=1552426937&s=gateway&sprefix=Umbil%2Caps%2C176&sr=8-1-fkmrnull
All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir: https://www.amazon.com/All-You-Can-Ever-Know/dp/1936787970/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1U5201O4HI39D&keywords=all+you+can+ever+know&qid=1552427008&s=books&sprefix=All+you+can+%2Caps%2C199&sr=1-1
Lion: A Long Way Home: https://www.amazon.com/Lion-Long-Home-Young-Readers/dp/0425291766/ref=sr_1_1?crid=CGW2L02KFMU8&keywords=lion+a+long+way+home+by+saroo+brierley&qid=1552427073&s=books&sprefix=Lion+a+l%2Cstripbooks%2C166&sr=1-1-catcorr
The Primal Wound: Understanding The Adopted Child: https://www.amazon.com/Primal-Wound-Understanding-Adopted-Child/dp/0963648004/ref=sr_1_1?crid=KORSVLPNX6YZ&keywords=the+primal+wound&qid=1552427175&s=books&sprefix=The+prima%2Cstripbooks%2C177&sr=1-1
The Connected Child: https://www.amazon.com/Connected-Child-healing-adoptive-family/dp/0071475001/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2ID1GKZX3CV56&keywords=the+connected+child+by+karyn+purvis&qid=1552427281&s=books&sprefix=the+connec%2Cstripbooks%2C173&sr=1-1-catcorr
Attaching in Adoption: Practical Tools for Today’s Parents: https://www.amazon.com/Attaching-Adoption-Practical-Todays-Parents/dp/1849058903/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_1?crid=16PYZW6AA0O1W&keywords=attaching+in+adoption+practical+tools+for+todays+parents&qid=1552427366&s=books&sprefix=Attaching+in%2Cstripbooks%2C210&sr=1-1-fkmrnull
Upside Down: Understanding and Supporting Attachment In Adoptive Families: https://www.amazon.com/Upside-Down-Understanding-Supporting-Attachment-ebook/dp/B079668GJK/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_2?crid=2XXTXP3TQOIUT&keywords=upside+down+understanding+and+supporting+attachment&qid=1552427500&s=books&sprefix=upside+down+under%2Cstripbooks%2C172&sr=1-2-fkmrnull
Star Of The Week: A Story of Love, Adoption & Brownies With Sprinkles: https://www.amazon.com/Star-Week-Adoption-Brownies-Sprinkles/dp/0061141364/ref=sr_1_2?crid=2PR74O0UXVYRY&keywords=star+of+the+week&qid=1552427746&s=books&sprefix=star+of+the+we%2Cstripbooks%2C167&sr=1-2
Motherbridge of Love: https://www.amazon.com/Motherbridge-Love-Mothers-Bridge/dp/1782850406/ref=sr_1_1?crid=X9J95XK11YTC&keywords=motherbridge+of+love&qid=1552427783&s=books&sprefix=motherb%2Cstripbooks%2C168&sr=1-1-catcorr
Just Right Family: An Adoption Story: https://www.amazon.com/Just-Right-Family-Adoption-Story/dp/080754082X/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_1?crid=R8P3AYD2Z5VN&keywords=just+right+family+an+adoption+story&qid=1552427858&s=books&sprefix=Just+right+%2Cstripbooks%2C174&sr=1-1-fkmrnull
Frankie And Friends Talk Adoption: https://www.amazon.com/Frankie-Friends-Talk-Adoption-Kroskie/dp/1722439122/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_1?crid=2IJF4VTZJ8XM1&keywords=frankie+and+friends+talk+adoption&qid=1552427957&s=books&sprefix=frankie+a%2Cstripbooks%2C174&sr=1-1-fkmrnull