I read a lot of books on the subject of adoption, and each one teaches me something. Recently I finished Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Adoption, and what I learned is that sometimes it’s nice to read 101 stories that end happily. Sometimes it’s nice to settle into a chair, book in hand, and smile. To finish a short essay and think, “My family is part of this world called adoption, and we are all inter-connected.” That’s the promise of the Chicken Soup franchise, and The Joy of Adoption delivers.
This is not a book about adoption’s complexities. This is not a book about adoption’s challenges and losses. This is a book about the positive aspects of adoption—the feeling of destiny that can surround it, the conviction that a family is together for a reason, the faith that everything coming before led to this particular child joining these particular parents. The subtitle tells it all: 101 Stories about Forever Families and Meant-to-Be Kids.
The Joy of Adoption is a reissue of the 2008 Chicken Soup for the Adopted Soul, with 17 new stories added. Reading through them, I was reminded of adoption’s global history—essays are set in Vietnam, Russia, Hungary, Guatemala—and how it has changed. Few, if any, adoptions are processed today from those places. I also was led to reflect on what it felt like to grow up in an orphanage in 1950s Florida, thanks to a moving essay by Roger Dean Kiser, “Mrs. Usher.” Bree Cutting Sibbel writes about being part of Operation Babylift from Vietnam, and how the experience led her to help organize the Vietnamese Adoptee Network. In a powerful piece titled “The Boy,” Keri Riley writes about foster care: “The boy couldn’t read, so I taught him. He’s impulsive, so I guide him. He gets scared, so I hold him. He is not a lost cause. He is my cause.”
The authors are adoptive and foster parents, people who are adopted, and birth mothers who relinquish and later adopt. As coauthor LeAnn Thieman says in her Introduction, “Every adoptive parent, child, and family member will find a piece of themselves in these stories.”
Many of the essays in this compilation contain a religious slant that might be off-putting for some readers. All of the works are uplifting, which may dissuade readers as well. But if you’re looking for a volume of well-written, feel-good essays about adoption, The Joy of Adoption may be just the warm broth you need.