NEW NOVELS WITH ADOPTION STORYLINES
Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng
Nomadic single mother Mia and her teenage daughter Pearl rent a house from Elena Richardson and her family, who embody the wealthy stability of their suburban community. When friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, the town—and Mia and Elena—take sides, to devastating results.
Everybody’s Son, by Thrity Umrigar
Anton, raised by a privileged white family, grows up to become a successful Black man, not knowing that his adoptive father had manipulated his mother, Juanita, into signing away her parental rights when she was jailed after an overdose. After learning this truth about his adoption, Anton must reconcile the questionable and criminal actions perpetrated by all the people who claim and love him most.
Saints for All Occasions, by J. Courtney Sullivan
In this sweeping family epic, two sisters emigrate from Ireland to America, uncertain what their new lives will hold. When beautiful, bold Theresa finds herself pregnant, older sister Nora decides that the solution is for her and her fiancé to secretly adopt the baby. Fifty years later, after Patrick dies in a car crash, his three siblings and parents, Nora and Charlie, gather to reminisce, bicker, and confront their own decisions, denials, and personal heartaches.
The Lost Ones, by Sheena Kamal
Fifteen years after Nora Watts places her daughter for adoption, the girl vanishes. Bonnie’s adoptive parents reach out to Nora in desperation, wondering if their daughter has come to her. Nora, haunted by her own past in the foster system and on the streets, sets out to try to find Bonnie in this compulsively readable debut thriller.
The Leavers, by Lisa Ko
Polly Guo, an undocumented Chinese immigrant, doesn’t return home from her job one day, leaving her 11-year-old son, Deming, without a parent. The narration switches between Deming—adopted by a well-meaning but ill-informed white, college professor couple who rename him Daniel—and Polly, who navigates the indifferent cruelty of the U.S. immigration system.
NEW CHILDREN’S BOOKS ABOUT ADOPTION
Wonderful You: An Adoption Story, by Lauren McLaughlin; illustrated by Meilo So
Through gentle rhymes and gorgeous watercolor illustrations, this “adoption fairy tale” begins with “a lady in blue” and follows her as she finds parents for the “babe in her tummy.” A wonderful book to add to your child’s bookshelf!
Adoption Is a Lifelong Journey, by Kelly DiBenedetto, Katie Gorczyca, and Jennifer Eckert; illustrated by Kelly DiBenedetto
An adoptee named Charlie shares his experiences and thoughts as he settles into a new home, learns to trust his parents, and explores questions of identity. This book, written by three post adoption therapists at Boston Post Adoption Resources (BPAR), also includes activity ideas and talking points for parents.
Dinosaur Egg Day (Dinosaur Train), adapted by Maggie Testa
In this storybook adaptation of the popular PBS Kids show, Buddy visits the Dinosaur Train’s new nursery car. As the reader learns, “Back when Buddy and his siblings’ eggs hatched, Buddy’s egg looked different from the others. As he grew, Buddy looked different too. That’s because he is a Tyrannosaurus rex and they are Pteranodons. Buddy knows that some kids look like their families, and some don’t.” A fun read that might have your child saying, “Hey, that dinosaur was adopted, just like me!”
All You Need Is Love: Celebrating Families of All Shapes and Sizes, by Shanni Collins
Each page of Collins’ book features an illustration and a poem (some executed more successfully than others) about a different type of family, exploring adoption and foster care, as well as multiracial families, LGBT parents, medical needs, and more. This cheerful celebration of diversity could make a good donation to a classroom or local library.
Levi’s Family , by Elliot Riley; illustrated by Srimalie Bassani
The “All Kinds of Families” easy reader series introduces a range of different family types. This installment offers one of the few storybook representations of a white child transracially adopted or fostered by African-American parents.
In these therapeutic parenting books, children confront the feelings that drive their challenging namesake behaviors—Katie masks feelings of sadness, anger, and worry with a careful smile, and Sophia tries to do everything herself, refusing any help from grown-ups—and learn to trust their new families.
NEW PRETEEN/TEEN BOOKS WITH ADOPTION THEMES
Far from the Tree, by Robin Benway
Grace, adopted at birth and raised as an only child, discovers that she has biological siblings after placing her own child for adoption. The 16-year-old finds a birth sister Maya, who has always felt a little out of place in her adoptive family, and a brother, Joaquin, who has trained himself to hide his fears and feelings after 17 years in foster care. This moving novel, last year’s Young Adult National Book Award winner, presents a nuanced look at adoption, sibling bonds, and family.
Patina, by Jason Reynolds
Patina’s birth mother, who has lost her legs to diabetes, can’t take care of Patty or her sister, so they are living with their aunt and uncle. New to the affluent, all-girls, mostly white private school, Patty finds refuge in the track team—until coach decides she should run the relay and she struggles to trust her teammates. This powerful novel is the second in Reynolds’ Track series, following Ghost.
Paper Chains, by Elaine Vickers
Katie and Ana became best friends the instant they saw each other, but their friendship threatens to give as they each face problems at home—Ana’s struggling to hold her family together after her dad leaves, and Katie has new questions about her birth parents and Russia, her birth country, but feels she can’t talk about them with her overprotective adoptive parents. Will the friends come back together in time to help each other through their troubles?
Planet Jupiter, by Jane Kurtz
Jupiter is used to moving from town to town with her mother and being a “planet of one,” so balks when told they’ll be spending the summer in a rented house with her cousin. Edom, who was recently adopted from Ethiopia, doesn’t want to be there any more than Jupiter does—but the girls feel the increasing gravitational pull of community and unexpected family.
Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus, by Dusti Bowling
Spirited eighth-grader Aven Green was born without arms, but has never let her “lack of armage” get in her way. After her adoptive family moves to Arizona to manage a rundown theme park, however, Aven tires of the stares and questions from new classmates. With the help of two new friends who help her blend in with their own differences, though, Aven is soon determined to get to the bottom of mysterious events at the park.
Back on the Map, by Lisa Ann Scott
Eleven-year-old Penny Porter and her twin brother Parker are ready for a real home after years in the foster system. When she discovers that their current town, New Hope, North Carolina, no longer appears on state maps, she devises a plan to get it back on the map—believing this will also keep her and Parker rooted to one place.
NEW ADOPTION MEMOIRS
The Place of Peace and Crickets, by Tricia Booker
After a difficult journey to parenthood, involving hormone patches, needles, and six failed IVFs, Booker and her husband find that parenting is not without its own heartaches. They adopted one daughter from Vietnam, who spent her early months in an orphanage with devoted caretakers, and two children from Guatemala, who had little human interaction as infants. A raw, honest read, Booker’s tale is not one of falling immediately in love, but of arduously claiming it, one step at a time.
Found and Lost: An Adoption, an Agency, and a Search for Self, by Suzette Brownstein
Just weeks into freshman year at college, Brownstein receives a call in her dorm room from her biological father. “All of a sudden, the idea that I was actually born and not just adopted, enters my being like a lighter set to gasoline, that entire blank space in my mind blazing to life,” she writes. She goes on to meet both of her birth parents, but, ultimately, it’s her experience of working with foster children as an adult that helps her come to terms with her long-lost past.
Hettich’s memoir is refreshingly framed around 15 life lessons the author was taught by her four children through adoption and others she’s fostered, from “Listen to the Spoken and Unspoken” to “Birth Families Are Forever” to “Play and Giggle.” The stories are relatable and highly readable, and the book as a whole serves as an important reminder of the insights we can all gain from listening to our children.
All About You: An Adopted Child’s Memoir, by Liz Butler Duren
Duren did not learn that she was adopted until age 15, though she had long suspected it. She spends the next 29 years searching for her birth mother, pushing through dead ends and redacted agency documents to finally get some answers. The author tells an emotional story with quirky humor.
Pointing Is Rude: One Father’s Story of Autism, Adoption, and Acceptance, by Digger O’Brien
In the prologue to his memoir, O’Brien, an NFL Films producer and self-described “class clown, the one who invented derogatory nicknames for classmates,” recounts an incident when he and a group of friends taunted another child, and the indelible memory of the boy’s father coming to stand behind his son at the bus stop the next day. After receiving his oldest son’s autism diagnosis, O’Brien wants nothing more than to hug that dad, to tell him he’s sorry. The father of four tells his family’s story—the specialists and treatments; his anger and denial, then eventual acceptance that there is no “cure” for autism; their adoption of a little boy from Ethiopia—with the same candor, mixing humor with empathy on each page.
Open: An Adoption Story in Three Voices, by Alaina O’Connell, Alex Porter, and Sara O’Connell
Adoption stories are too often told from one side. Open was written as journals kept by an adoptive mother and the birth mother of her child, with the final section contributed by the daughter, now an adult. They take turns narrating the complex dance of open adoption, of two mothers loving the same child. In the end, Sara writes, “No one owns me, and no one has ever tried. I think it takes great love to raise a child like that.”
Lost in the Reflecting Pool, by Diane Pomerantz
Pomerantz was swept away by her ex-husband, Charles, leading her to ignore the occasional signs of his controlling tendencies. The couple becomes the parents of two through adoption and then IVF, but life for the mother and children slowly becomes ruled by Charles’s narcissism and emotional abuse. We see her surviving, shielding her children as best she can, and, before it’s too late, breaking free.
Finding Family: My Search for Roots and the Secrets in My DNA, by Richard Hill
Although Hill found out he was adopted only when he was 18, he did not feel the urge to search until he was 35 and learned that he had a biological brother. The saga of his 26-year search, including groundbreaking use of DNA testing, is as gripping as a mystery novel. Hill’s memoir includes his beginner’s guide to DNA testing.
NEW NON-FICTION BOOKS ABOUT ADOPTION
As big fans of Cooper’s Adoption at the Movies blog, we were thrilled to read his book. The first chapters highlight the importance of honest conversation around adoption. The bulk of this guide offers thoughtful reviews of 63 films with adoption storylines or themes, citing the adoption connection and including incisive questions to spark discussion.
> Read an excerpt from Adoption at the Movies
Parenting in the Eye of the Storm: The Adoptive Parent’s Guide to Navigating the Teen Years, by Katie Jae Naftzger, LICSW
Parenting a teenager will never be easy, so parents would be wise to make use of any resources they can. This book is a must-have in your toolbox. Naftzger, a seasoned therapist and adult adoptee, shares her professional wisdom and personal insights to parent calmly and confidently, even when your teen’s behavior turns stormy.
Lionheart: The Real Life Guide for Adoptive Families, by Jodie Hampshire, Selina Smyth, and Tammie Flinos, with Robert Harris
Lionheart grew out of the authors’ weekly play dates/support groups, and serves as the guide they all wished they’d had 10 years ago. The hard part begins not with the adoption process, they write, but the day you become a parent. As the collective parents of 12 children through older-child, special-needs adoption, as well as biology, they know this well.
It’s Not About You: Understanding Adoptee Search, Reunion, and Open Adoption, edited by Brooke Randolph, LMHC
There are two ways to read the title of this book—dismissive and inflammatory or reassuring and comforting. Randolph intended it that way, as the emotions surrounding search and reunion can run high, and hopes that readers can ultimately interpret it in the way that’s most helpful to them; to quit making it about themselves, as that won’t help them or their grown child, or to understand that the desire to search is rooted in an adoptee’s personal need and right to basic information about themselves, not in their feelings about their adoptive or birth parents.
Selling Transracial Adoption: Families, Markets, and the Color Line, by Elizabeth Raleigh, Ph.D.
Given the facts that adoption agencies must generate enough revenue to cover their operating costs, and that most prospective adoptive parents are white, Raleigh, a professor of sociology at Carleton College and an adult adoptee, examines the business decisions inherent in transracial adoption. The troubling racial hierarchy she details in this eye-opening, academic read reflect persistent, damaging attitudes about race within our larger society.
Life Story Books for Adopted and Fostered Children: A Family Friendly Approach (Second Edition), by Joy Rees; illustrated by Jamie Goldberg
A lifebook captures a child’s early history in words, photos, and other artifacts, and is an incomparably valuable tool for any child who has experienced multiple moves or trauma. Rees proposes the innovative approach of compiling the lifebook in reverse, to solidify her current sense of belonging before revisiting more troubling moments in her past, and rounds out her updated guide with many practical examples.