Posts Tagged ‘adoption books’

Book group “Taking Flight”

Monday, March 11th, 2019

On Sunday, our Adoption Book Group discussed the memoir by mother-and-daughter Michaela and Elaine DePrince, Taking Flight (also published as Hope in a Ballet Shoe).

Michaela was born in war-torn Sierra Leone, orphaned by violence and disease, and adopted by the DePrince family in Vermont. From a very young age, she showed exceptional promise as a ballerina and is now a soloist at Dutch National Ballet; you may also recognize her from the documentary “First Position” and “Dancing with the Stars.” Michaela is an extraordinary young woman with an amazing story, and the book is an inspiring read.

Taking Flight seems to be written for a Young Adult audience, although any reader will be moved by Michaela’s strength and resilience. The love and support she feels from her family is palpable.

Photo credit:, Vogue Germany


Bonded at Birth by Gloria Oren

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016

In honor of National Adoption Awareness Month, we feature an interview with Gloria Oren, award-winning author of “Bonded at Birth: An Adoptee’s Search for Her Roots.” Oren was adopted as an infant in Brooklyn, New York in 1955, during a period when secrecy surrounded adoption. She grew up in New York and Israel, and now lives in Washington State. In conversation with Jessica O’Dwyer, Oren discusses her lifelong quest to fill in the blanks of her early life, her search for her birth mother, and the reasons she wrote a memoir. Oren is founder of “Women Writers Editors Agents and Publishers” on Facebook, serves as editor of “Muse It Up Publishing,” and belongs to the Redmond Association of Spokenword and Society of Good Grammar. Learn more at

What made you write “Bonded at Birth”?

The realization that adoptees have the right to their own information regarding their origins and medical histories. I had almost no information to go on, yet things have a way of happening, and because of them and the help of others, I was found.

What do you hope readers will find in the memoir?

I want my readers to be inspired. I want to share my message that there is no place for secrecy in adoption.

I had to share my story with adult adoptees who wish to search but hesitate, adoptive parents confronted by their adopted child’s wish to search, and by birth parents who fear searching — not wanting to intrude on their biological offspring’s life. “Bonded at Birth” will also attract memoir readers who enjoy a unique story. And couples contemplating adoption will learn the damage secrecy can lead to, and with hope, this book will ensure that they will be the ones to talk to their adopted children about their adoptions.

Your adoptive parents, Zindel and Hannah, were born in the early 1900s in Eastern Europe and immigrated to Brooklyn. You were born in 1955. You learned of your adoption at the age of four, through an anonymous note. Your adoptive mother, Hannah, told you to keep your adoption a secret, using a tone you describe as “serious, perhaps frightened.” What do you think she was afraid of?

I really don’t know what she was afraid of. Perhaps she feared the evil eye since their first adopted child died at a young age. Perhaps it was just the times. Today people are more accepting of adoption. The stigma of the 50s no longer exists.

In the book’s introduction, you ask, “Who was I? Where did I come from? Did I have roots?” At what age did you begin to grapple with these questions? Did you discuss them with anyone?

The questions came up from around ten, but intensified on my eleventh birthday when my adoptive father died. I felt like an outsider. I was kept in my room, allowed to the kitchen for meals, but was kept away from the mourning scene. I had lots of time to think. But since the fact that I was adopted was kept secret I didn’t discuss them until a few years later, but not getting any further in gaining info. The last time I questioned my adoptive mother was when I was eighteen. Still no further info was provided so I stopped bringing it up. But the questions were always there.

What advice would you give adoptive parents today, regarding truth-telling and secrecy?

My advice to adoptive parents today is to recognize the fact that your adopted child has a right to know the truth of his origins and heritage. Please don’t keep it a secret. Tell him what you know, and if you don’t know, admit it. Also offer to try to find out for him or her. Whatever you do, please don’t resort to secrecy.

Your birth mother, Marcia (Fritz) McCabe, was seventeen and unmarried when she placed you for adoption. What led to her decision? 

She was young and living in Nova Scotia at the time. In the 50s, it was a place where everyone knew each other and word of mouth spread quickly. At the time, teen pregnancy was a stigma and not looked at in a positive manner. Her mother didn’t want anyone to know so she took her to New York on the pretense of visiting relatives, but [my birth mother] really went to live with my adoptive parents until I was born. She had no say as she was a minor and her mother did what she thought was best.

You were twenty-three when your adoptive mother Hannah died. Soon after, you began to search in earnest for your birth mother, Marcia. The advent of the internet allowed you to join online communities where, for the first time, you corresponded with other people who are adopted. Can you talk about the impact of that connection?

It was like a whole new world opened up for me. To my knowledge, I had never met or spoken to another adoptee. Now, suddenly I was meeting so many. I even participated in a Reg Day event one year and met other adoptees in person. (Years ago, on National Adoption Awareness Day, adoption registries held fairs in malls throughout the States. The one I helped with was in Bellevue, WA. We had forms for people to take, fill out, and send to the registry in hopes of a match. It’s a shame Reg Day exists no longer. The fairs were well attended.)

What I learned through these communications was that adoptees are drawn to each other. When they meet, they share a common language. They share the same questions, fears, rejections and successes. I’m still in contact with some of those I met back then. To the adoptive parents reading this I can say don’t fear the connections your adoptee makes with other adoptees. It is a very helpful step in overcoming many of the issues of adoption. They will love you more for allowing them to openly discuss what bothers them, rather than keeping it secretive.

You were almost forty-one when you reunited with your birth mother Marcia in 1996. You describe your feelings this way: “For once in forty-one years I am a completed puzzle, a whole person, and for the first time in many months I am sleeping well at night and not getting up tired.” What a beautiful description of a life-changing event! Earlier in the book, you emphasize your love and appreciation for Zindel and Hannah, and your life together. How are you able to hold both these realities?

How are kids from families experiencing divorce and remarriage able to cope with multiple families? A child has enough love to go around. The relationships are different. My adoptive parents raised me and did the physical work involved, but my birth mother gave me life. I love them all and appreciate all that each provided to me as I grew up and post-reunion.

At some point, Marcia legally adopted you. When did the adoption occur, and how was the decision made to do this?

Post-reunion Marcia asked me if I would want her to adopt me back so she could legally claim me as her daughter. I had no problem with this. She created me and carried me in her womb for nine months, and having not seen her for forty-one years, it was an easy decision. My adoptive parents were no longer living and I wanted my children to have a grandmother.

You never met your birth father because he died eight years before your reunion with Marcia. But through Facebook and other social media, you’ve connected with half-siblings and cousins. Do you have tips or recommendations for other people searching for relatives?

Read as much as you can about adoption search and reunion. Be ready for the worst, and rejoice in your successes. Be accommodating. Build a relationship slowly, let them take it in at their pace.

What has been the response to your reunion from relatives in your birth family?

We are in contact, by phone, email, etc. I’ve met some in person. They were welcoming, but there were some who to this date are still having their doubts.

And from the family of Zindel and Hannah, your adoptive family?

My adoptive family members were excited that I was able to reunite with my birth mother. Actually, I got most of my information from my cousin. She was ten when I was born and remembers a lot from that time. They were all accepting of the fact that my birth mother wanted to adopt me back. I’m still in contact with them, so I guess they had no problem with it. At least no one has said they did. One did say he was concerned that my feelings for my parents would diminish but that is not so. I love them each in a different way.

Do you have any parting words for an adoptive parent, a person who is adopted, or a birth parent who might be reading this?

Read books, use Internet resources, connect with other adoptees online and off and be ready for anything before you start your search. Adoptive parents – be supportive, helpful and understanding. Birth parents – don’t hesitate, most adoptees want to be found.

Thank you so much, Gloria. I appreciate your insights and candor.

Jessica O’Dwyer is the author of “Mamalita: An Adoption Memoir.”


Book group

Sunday, October 9th, 2016

Our Guatemalan adoption group book group met yesterday to discuss Kelly Kerney’s novel, Hard Red Spring. The consensus: tough but worthwhile. Several people who hadn’t yet finished–it’s long!–were inspired to read to the end. Others were inspired to go back and read again, because the first time around, information may have been missed. (I count myself in that camp.)

The plot is dense with history and complicated, and that’s a good thing. We learned more about Guatemala than we knew previously, and the book expanded our understanding of the role of the US in Guatemala politics. The book also caused us to examine adoption through the lens of the country’s past, always sobering.

Once again, I’m grateful to live in an area with other adoptive parents who share my interest in all things adoption and Guatemala, and who are avid readers, too. I love my book group!


Book club

Monday, March 14th, 2016

I’m grateful to live in an area with an active adoptive parent community. Yesterday, Olivia and I drove an hour for “book club”–no matter how many times I drive to my friend Marie’s house, I always get lost–and met with moms and kids we’ve known for years. (Shout out to Marie’s husband who watched the kids while the moms talked. Thank you, Ralph!)

The book discussed was Separated @ Birth: A True Love Story of Twins Reunited, a memoir about two young women now in their 20s, born in Korea and adopted to two different families, in France and the US. The conversation veered, as it always does, from the book to other topics: this time, the impact of social media on finding biological family; the impact of social media on our kids; birth family reunions; trips to Guatemala; adoption and how our kids approach it now, as tweens and teens; how our own views of adoption have developed as we grow as adoptive parents. And on and on.

What a comfort it is to be in a roomful of people who understand the very specific experience of being an adoptive parent. Who “get” what you’re saying, with insight and without judgement, because they live it, too. Thank you, friends. xo


New book about international adoption, “Carried in Our Hearts”

Monday, March 18th, 2013

I’m thrilled to announce that Adoption Under One Roof blogger Lisa S has contributed an essay to a new and important book about international adoption, Carried in Our Hearts: The Gift of Adoption – Inspiring Stories of Families Created Across Continents. Authored by Dr. Jane Aronson and published by Tarcher, the book will be released on April 18, and is available for pre-order now, in both hard cover and Kindle formats.

Carried in Our Hearts: The Gift of Adoption comprises a collection of essays written by adoptive parents whose families have been cared for by Dr. Aronson, aka “the orphan doctor,” during the past 20 years. The stories reveal the deep and complex emotions felt by adoptive parents, and will resonate with anyone who has embarked on this transformative journey. The chapters are divided into ten thematic sections–“The Decision,” “The Journey,” “The Moment We Met”–each introduced with an essay by Dr. Aronson. Throughout the book, Dr. Aronson discusses the arc of her life, from pediatrician, to adoptive mother, to founder of the international foundation, Worldwide Orphans; and her ongoing commitment to the “children left behind.”

For each book you purchase before April 18, Tarcher will donate $1 to Worldwide Orphans. Going forward, a portion of the book’s proceeds will continue to benefit the foundation.

Order your copy of Carried in Our Hearts today! I did, and cannot wait to read it. Particularly the contribution by Lisa S!

Congratulations! ~

Image Credit: Tarcher Publishing


Book review: “Home is a Roof Over a Pig,” by Aminta Arrington. About moving to the land of your child’s birth

Saturday, July 7th, 2012


Like many other adoptive parents with children born in another country, I harbor a fantasy of someday packing up our family and moving to the land of my children’s birth. In this dream scenario, my husband and I rent a house, enroll the kids in school, and get jobs to pay the bills. Once situated, we learn the language, shop in the local market, experience traditional holidays, and eat authentic food. We transcend the rank of tourist, and become regulars in the neighborhood. More important, so do our children.

Writer and adoptive mother Aminta Arrington has done exactly this, and her newly published memoir, Home is a Roof Over a Pig (Overlook Press), brings to life her family’s story.

The book opens with Aminta and her husband, Chris, as parents in a blended family: two teenage sons from Chris’s first marriage, and three young children together, including their middle child, Grace, a preschooler whom they adopted from China three years earlier. When Chris retires from his 26-year military career, Aminta, who studied in Japan and holds a master’s degree in international relations from Johns Hopkins, gets the couple hired as teachers of English at Taishan Medical College in the province of Shandong, south of Beijing.

As Chris observes after he, Aminta, and their three youngest children settle into their new, small apartment, “It’s China out there. We are in the real China.” Almost everything in the family’s life and world is different, from the alphabet (there is none; they use characters), to child-rearing (for starters, a one-child policy), to philosophies of education (a single textbook, on which is based the dreaded “test”), to politics (a changing economy, where Mao remains an influence). But after the expected shaky start (which really isn’t that shaky, considering), Aminta, Chris, and their children adjust remarkably well. Before long, everyone speaks, reads, and writes Chinese. Six years later, the family lives in Beijing.

Aminta Arrington is the best kind of guide to a foreign country: curious, open-minded, and observant. She befriends several of her students, who reveal their thoughts on Chinese attitudes and mindsets while participating in her informal, after-school salons. Arrington is also a gifted linguist, fascinated with the Chinese language. Among her many lucid explanations of the origins and meanings of pictographs, she relates that the title of her book comes from the Chinese character meaning “home,” rendered as a roof over a pig.

As an adoptive mother, I was inspired by Arrington’s wholehearted embrace of Chinese culture, and the efforts she made to connect her daughter Grace with the foster family who cared for her as an infant. Readers who wonder about this experience will revel in Arrington’s report of the entire village welcoming Grace, including the “Eldest Brother” who had been her special companion. Although Aminta and Chris decide not to visit the orphanage who placed Grace—the couple objects to the obligatory “donation”—Aminta is able to establish that the official version of her daughter’s birth story—the “finding location” and the identity of the person who found her—is  actually false. Aminta sums up her reaction with these words:

“I did not have the facts surrounding her birth or her finding to give to my daughter. And ultimately, I could not give her the culture or the life she left behind. But I could give her something else. A whole village who remembered her. A knowledge that she was not just Chinese, and not just from somewhere in the Jiangxi province, but from a certain place. Not words on a map but a real place alive with the faces of those who lived there and loved her. I could give her relationships.”

Isn’t that we all hope for our children?

Home is a Roof Over a Pig is a must-read for adoptive parents with children born in China. It will also appeal to anyone interested in contemporary China, its educational system, language, and culture. Armchair travelers will delight in Arrington’s vivid depictions of daily life in China and trips to destinations well-known and off the beaten track. Arrington’s story is engaging from beginning to end. I recommend it.

To learn more about Aminta Arrington, including how to order her book, visit




Thank you, adoption writers and bloggers

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

During the years I was writing Mamalita, I heard a lot of helpful advice about what to do and what not to do when writing a book. One of the most helpful lessons I learned was the importance of ignoring the critic on your shoulder as you sit in front of your computer, toiling, the one who whispers in your ear “You can’t do this,” or “No will want to read it,” or “You shouldn’t write that!

What I learned was that I had a story to tell. My job was to tell it.

But I must admit, there was a tiny part of me, a slim sliver of my subconscious, that worried how Mamalita would be received by the adoption community. Did any other adoptive mother feel the way I did, the first time I held my daughter in my arms? Was I the only person who became a screaming, hysterical lunatic when told her baby’s DNA test was lost? Did other parents feel a knife to the heart when their child didn’t recognize them as mommy or daddy? Would anyone out there relate to our story?

That’s why I was so happy when Adoptive Families magazine recommended Mamalita as a “richly written book, part thriller, part love story, part exposé… a cautionary tale.” Or when Lisa S. at said she “read it one breath.”

This week, two other adoption blogs for which I have enormous respect, American Mamacita and Creating a Family  weighed in. Kim of American Mamacita said:

“As I read along with Jessica’s adoption story of Olivia – including her epilogue in which she recounts locating Olivia’s first mom and their reunion and on-going contact – I could not help but compare our own kids’ adoption story and reinforce our plan to locate their other mom as well.

If a book makes you want to act, to advocate for transparency, or even ‘just’ to be more open and sensitive to your own kids’ adoption experience, that’s a book worth reading. And this is that kind of book.”

Finally, Dawn Davenport of Creating a Family chose Mamalita as the adoption book to give for the holidays. Dawn wrote:

“I loved this book because of the way O’Dwyer handled the ethics of international adoption. It is tempting as an adoptive parent to become defensive, to gloss over the ethical dilemmas inherent when wealthy people from developed countries adopt babies from poor people in undeveloped countries. It is equally tempting for ‘reformers’ to over simplify the ethics and the solutions. The reality is that often international adoptions are a blur where the white and black hats are not at all clear. O’Dwyer captures the gray with a refreshing lack of defensiveness or editorializing, allowing us to ponder what we would do if faced with the same situation.”

Oh, to be understood! Especially by people whose opinions I value. Thank you, thank you.