Dear reader, life is too short for crap books.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Weekly Geeks #4: Adoption Law and History

For this week's Weekly Geeks, the challenge is to choose a political or social issue, and compile a list of books on the subject.

My interest in adoption law and history is motivated by a few really great books I've read on the subject, coupled with the ways it's impacted the lives of people around me -- from my cousin and his partner, who have spent the past four years navigating the murky waters of adoption through the County of Los Angeles, to a friend who is legally prohibited from receiving medical history information about his biological parents. Our system of adoption in the United States is a troubled, and troubling one.

A few recommended reads:

The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade by Ann Fessler

Fessler's book contains the oral histories of unmarried women who became pregnant, entered homes for unwed mothers, and surrendered their babies for adoption during the 1950s and 60s. It's a truly moving, tragic, and horrifying social history from people in the adoption equation whose stories are often overlooked.

The Baby Thief: The Untold Story of Georgia Tann, the Baby Seller Who Corrupted Adoption by Barbara Bisantz Raymond

From the 1920s to the 1950s, Georgia Tann brokered over 5000 adoptions out of her Memphis orphanage, and raked in over $1 million doing it. Her methods were monstrous, and involved tricking unwed and poor mothers into signing away legal custody of their children, kidnapping children from poor families, and falsifying birth certificates so they'd be impossible to track down once she sold them across state lines. Raymond's harrowing account of Tann's practices, and how she got away with them is not to be missed.

The English American by Alison Larkin

A bit lighter than the first two books listed here, The English American is about Pippa Dunn, a young woman born to American parents, but adopted by a British family. When Pippa decides to contact her birth mother, she runs headlong into the infuriating legalities of the U.S. adoption system, but is eventually reunited with Billie, a dramatic, creative woman with whom Pippa feels an immediate connection. However, as she gets to know Billie, and her birth father, Walt, their happy reunion gradually becomes cloudier and more complicated. Though the premise plays out in sometimes fanciful ways, the relationships and emotions explored here always ring true.

And here are some others I haven't read yet, but am interested in:

Like Our Very Own: Adoption and the Changing Culture of Motherhood, 1851-1950 by Julie Berebitsky

Strangers and Kin: The American Way of Adoption by Barbara Melosh


Debi said...

This week's theme is making for some incredibly interesting posts! What a great, varied list of books you put to together on the subject...a couple of which I wrote down. Thank you!

Alessandra said...

Hi, Mary! What a nice list oof books you've put together!
I would like to read the English American, that sounds very interesting

bookchronicle said...

I definitely wrote down The Baby Thief, but all of your books are tempting.

Gwen said...

"The Girls Who Went Away" broke my heart and totally made me understand why there are anti-closed-records militants out there. Ugh.

mary_m said...

Ugh, indeed. Pretty much all of these books made me think, well, I don't know how to fix this, but doing something, anything else would be a pretty good start.

Terry said...

To think adoption has come so far ... and yet it's still just crawling. As an adoptive family we have seen the contrasts of "then" v. "now" but some things have yet to change.

Anonymous said...

Adoption can be such a terrific happy topic and then, not so much. My eyes have really been opened to the ugliness from many unexpected places, too. Great post - I like the variety of books you offer, too.

gautami tripathy said...

Another issue close to my heart. Do you know it is difficult for single women to adopt in India?

Child Abuse

alisonwonderland said...

my sister is hoping to finalize the adoption of her son next month. i had put The Girls Who Went Away on my to-read list last week.