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12 Books You Should Give Every Adoptive Parent

Reading on a Ferry

“Reading on a Ferry” courtesy of Alexandre Dulaunoy, Flickr (Creative Commons)

The number one question I’m asked by adoptive moms is: What are your favorite books on adoption? If you’ve got a friend or family member who’s adopting a child and you want to gift them something special for a baby shower, this list is for you. And of course, if you’re an adoptive parent hungry for resources to better inform your journey or you’re looking for company in the trenches, this post is for you, too. I’ve broken down my favorite book recommendations into four categories: Memoir, Children’s Books, Resources and Stories from the Perspective of Adoptees. I’ve read a ton of adoption books over the years but these are among the most beautifully written and heart-warming. I hope this helps you find what you’re looking for. I haven’t contacted the authors to get a royalty off these recommendations. :) But since these books can be awfully hard to find at Barnes & Noble or your local bookstore, I’ve included purchasing links for your convenience. So without further adieu:

MEMOIRS:  It’s my current favorite genre of literature right now. I love hearing first-hand the emotional truth of people’s journeys. The single greatest thing I take comfort in as an adoptive mom is feeling camaraderie with other moms who’ve gone through and felt the same things I have.

  1. Wish You Happy Forever: What China’s Orphans Have Taught Me About Moving Mountains by Jenny Bowen. I savored this book like a fine merlot. Jenny is a fine storyteller and her soul sings through the pages as she takes you on a journey of finding her two daughters from China and upending an archaic orphanage system that fails to give orphans the adult presence they so desperately need. I read this when I was feeling discouraged during my own process of adopting a special needs orphan from China and it gave me the emotional fuel I needed to shore up strength to press on.




2. Mamalita: An Adoption Memoir by Jessica O’Dwyer.

It’s a common complaint among adoptive parents, especially those who pursue the international adoption route, that they have to move mountains to get their kids home. The insane travel, stacks of paperwork, payments, background checks and navigating a foreign system is not for the faint of heart. This memoir is great company for moms who feel they need comraderie. This mother’s tale of adopting a child from Guatemala (a country that’s since closed their borders to international adoption) is so harrowing, it will make your heart scream. The author is abandoned by her adoption agency so she quits her job to move to her daughter’s country to do whatever it takes to bring her home. Beautifully written, this is the story of a mother’s tenacious love.



3. Instant Mom by Nia Vardalos.

The woman who brought you My Big Fat Greek Wedding now brings you her story of struggling through infertility (for ten years!) and eventually building her family through adoption. Told with humor, honesty and huge heart, this will be a huge source of encouragement for adoptive moms who’ve lived through the grief of infertility and now are experiencing the joy of adoption.





CHILDREN’S BOOKS: I’m so grateful I found good books I could read to my kids to help them frame their adoption story in a way that makes them feel loved. At every turn, my deepest desire is to honor my children’s journeys and how they found their way into my heart and home. These books have accomplished that:

  1. I Wished for You: An Adoption Story by Marianne Richmond. When I was doing a radio show and in the process of adopting my son, a listener left this book on my desk as a present. I bawled as I read through it…and I still catch myself crying when I read this book to my son. I started reading this to him when he was a year old and have continued to read it now that he’s six. It’s one of his favorite books. It’s a cute tale kids can digest but it speaks of a deep truth of how much we love our kids. It talks about a child’s “tummy mommy” and how we’re all a part of the same family even though we may not look the same and have “different color fur.” Truly, this book will be a treasure for any adoptive mom and child. It will always have a place on my bookshelf.


2. Red in the Flower Bed by Andrea Nepa. I really believe when it comes down to it, we get the child(ren) we’re meant to have. The thread of adoption is weaved subtly in this tale about a poppy flower who’s welcomed into a garden family. The premise of the story is that seeds are planted right where they belong and we bloom where we’re planted. It’s a sweet, simple story that adults love because of the rich symbolism and kids love because it’s easy to understand and full of charm.




3. Tell Me About the Night I was Born by Jamie Lee Curtis. This book is relevant for parents of domestic adoption. Jamie Lee was one of the first celebrities to speak openly of her adoption journey and she wasn’t finding any good children’s books out there to tell her kids their story. So she created her own. And it’s darling.





FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF ADOPTEES: Scores of documentaries and conferences are emerging of kids who’ve been adopted and want other people to understand what the journey has been like from their lens. After crying my way through the documentary “Somewhere Between” I’ve been devouring books from adoptees. They have a story to tell and it’s an important one:

  1. In Their Own Voices: Transracial Adoptees Tell Their Stories by Rita J. Simon and Rhonda M. Roorda. Imagine throwing a dinner party in which you invite two dozen adoptees from every racial, economic and professional background and you just sit back and record their stories. Therein lies the power of this important work.






2. The Lost Boy: A Foster Child’s Search for the Love of a Family by Dave Peltzer. This author wins the award for most abuse suffered by a child. Deeply abused by his alcoholic birth mother, he moves in and out of five foster homes in search of a safe, loving family.  His story will break your heart, give you compassion for the scores of children who enter the foster care system and trace the origins of the scars they bear and the behaviors that result from abuse within the walls of their birth families.




3. Three Little Words: A Memoir by Ashley Rhodes-Courter. It reads like a novel but tells the true tale of one woman’s trecherous journey through the foster care system after being forcibly removed from her birth mom’s home at the tender age of four and moving in and out of a dozen foster homes. It puts a human face to the brokenness of a system that should be caring for kids but fails to in so many ways. The system may be broken but the human spirit can prevail against all manners of abuse. This woman’s tenacity is a testament to that.




RESOURCES: Last but not least, doctors and psychologists in the field of adoption are doing important work to pioneer research designed to equip adoptive parents with the tools they need to survive and thrive with their kids. Here are three books of particular note, although it’s most certainly not an exhaustive list:

  1. The Connected Child: Bring hope and healing to your adoptive family by Karyn B. Purvis. Long regarded at THE HANDBOOK FOR EVERY ADOPTIVE PARENT, I cannot recommend this classic book enough. I wish I could wallpaper her wisdom into my brain as I guide my daughter. I trust this woman’s techniques so much, I could not go to an adoption counselor unless s/he familiarized her or himself to Purvis’ work, that’s how strongly I feel about her and this book.




2. The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole by Lori Holden. If you desire a healthy open adoption with your children’s birth parents, this is a great guide. While I’ve not gone down this road myself, I’ve had friends who pursued domestic adoption so it piqued my interest in what an open adoption would look like. How does one set boundaries that are healthy for all parties involved? How do you operate in the best interests of your kids? This book answers those questions and so much more.




3. Adoption Parenting: Creating a Toolbox, Building Connections by Jean MacLeod and Sheena Macrae. Word to the wise: this book is 500+ pages thick and includes the contributions of 100 people who offer insight, advice and stories. It’s not a book you’ll read in one sitting. It’s a book you’ll return to as the need arises. But it addresses an important truth often overlooked in adoption–children come to us at a loss in terms of their heritage, birth family and language. If we want to create a healing experience for our child, we must start with that understanding. http://www.amazon.com/Adoption-Parenting-Creating-Building-Connections/dp/0972624457



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