November is National Adoption Awareness month. I am one of the leaders of the College, Career, and Coffee Book Club, a themed book club out of the Iredell County Public Library in Statesville, North Carolina. More importantly, I am also adopted. I was adopted when I was two days old, so adoption is a topic near and dear to my heart. The book club meets once a month to discuss the books we have read within a certain topic. Last night, we had some good discussions about adoption, both traditional and modern, and the many forms adoption may take.
Our other fearless leader Lisa started us off by talking about the books she read. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman is about a couple living on a secluded island in a lighthouse when they discover a boat containing the body of a dead man and a living baby. The woman, who has had several miscarriages and desperately wants a baby, begs her husband to keep the baby. They do and raise the little girl as their own. After many complications throughout the story, the birth mother becomes involved in the saga as the story unfolds. This book was made into a movie and two of our other book clubbers (Sam and Becca) read the book and watched the movie, also. Lisa said the book was very similar to the movie and she loved the writing. It is a book that ignites many emotions and raises conflicting questions. Taking Flight by Michaela De Prince is a nonfiction book about a girl who was an orphan in Sierra Leon. Adopted by a white family, she learns the true meaning of love and successfully integrates into her adoptive family. The author discussed the hardships of breaking into ballet as a black girl, breaking racial barriers, and fighting stigma in a culture that judged the family by its differences. She eventually gets to meet the dancer who inspired her, and in turn inspire her role model in the process. This was an uplifting story and Lisa highly recommended it. The Lonely Doll series by Dare Wright is a children’s picture book series about a doll who is adopted by a bear family. Written in the 1960s, it has since been under scrutiny for its use of corporal punishment, but Lisa enjoyed the story itself and the images that went along with it.
Natalie read The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. This story is about children who are placed on a train in order to try to find them families. The story goes back and forth in time and Natalie’s advice to readers is to pay attention!! At any moment the story could turn and you could get lost. The story makes you want to keep reading and discover how the story lines converge. Natalie said there were likable characters in this book and she grew attached to their individual stories. Family Wanted is a collection of stories written by writers who have participated in adoption. These are true stories of love from perspectives of both adopting parents and adopted children. Natalie said it provided a unique view of adoption and revealed some things about the process that surprised her.
Our newest member, Bette read several books that she was able to talk about. Her favorite was Cider House Rules by John Irving. The story takes place during WWII in an orphanage in Maine. The doctor in charge of the orphanage performs abortions safely, but illegally. It is something he believes in and a service he feels called to do. Homer is a young boy who grows up in the home and is mentored by the doctor. He refuses to help with the abortions even though he knows how to do it because he disagrees on moral grounds. A young couple come to the orphanage seeking the doctor to perform an abortion. Homer leaves with them and tries to live life outside the home. Homer gets involved with an incestuous family and ends up performing an abortion on a young girl impregnated by her father. This story clearly covers some extremely complicated and controversial issues. It also covers adoption in an unexpected way. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson is about a girl without parents who is taken in by different guardians. This is a different form of adoption, but one that is still extremely powerful. I Am Number Four is a young adult book about a young boy Number Four is next to be killed in a futuristic/alien setting. He has no parents, but he does have a guardian. Bette brought up that both of these two books deal with kids needing parental figures. Both books have examples of those relationships. The Secret Garden is a classic tale by Frances Hodges Burnett about an orphaned girl goes to live with her uncle.
Sam, our little self-proclaimed urban fantasy junkie, read Soul Summoner by Elicia Hyder. Sam loved that it was a local story set in Asheville and a bunch of other North Carolina cities. The main character is a girl who is found in a hospital with no parents as a baby. The story is about her trying to figure out who she is. She finds herself attracted to a boy who is found about the same time. She worries he might be her brother. They discover they are not in fact related and in book two they find their parents. Her parents are crazy but her adoptive parents are great. She was very content. This brought up the discussion of how many children find they do not have the need or the drive to find their birth parents because of the happy life they have lived with their adoptive parents.
I talked about a book I had already read called Greenglass House by Kate Milford. This is a kid’s book and on the Battle of the Books for North Carolina readers this school year. This book was about an Asian boy who is adopted by a white family. He talks about how people always take second glances at his family because of the biracial factor. People automatically know he is different. While he loves his family, he begins to fantasize about his birth family; what were they like, who were they, etc. The story is about his life living in a Smuggler’s Inn run by his family when on a snowy Christmas break, mysterious strangers begin to come to the inn. Something about the house has drawn them there and the little boy and his friend decide to invent a role-playing game in order to discover the secrets of the house. Throughout the story, he learns to accept his family and appreciate them more than ever. This was a very sweet and inspiring story. The second book I read was Pretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain. This story was about a young couple (Molly and her husband Aidan), unable to have children of their own, going through the process of adopting. Molly is hiding dark secrets in her family’s past that she is afraid will come to light during the adoption process and jeopardize their chance to have a child. Molly herself was adopted. Her wheel-chair bound father was a child psychologist who specialized in “pretend therapy,” hence the title of the book. He had been involved with a woman who left him. After he had remarried, the woman shows up at his doorstep with his child and asks that they raise the little girl. Molly grows up knowing she is adopted by her mother while also spending time with her birth mother who lives on the family property. This complicated situation brought up a conversation about open adoption. I mentioned that I thanked my mother for having a closed adoption because the concept of having three parents was weird to me. The thought was brought up that maybe open adoption is a more modern concept with the growth of social media and the idea of keeping up with family medical records. I highly recommend this book. It was very engaging and the story was very emotional.
We had an overall great discussion. We missed a few regular members who hope to be back next month. December’s topic is Winter Stories. I personally, like to judge books by their covers, so feel free to pick up a book with a pretty winter scene on it, or a book that takes place during the coldest season of the year! If you are in the Iredell County area, our next meeting will be Thursday, December 1, at 7:00pm. I should post about our discussions shortly after!