It’s been about three years since I posted my top adoption resources, so I thought it was time to update that post for National Adoption Month. I’ve read a whole lot more adoption books since then! Reminder: I’m not an Amazon affiliate, so when you see a link for a book, it just takes you to an author interview or a book review. You can order them through Amazon using the Love Without Boundaries affiliate link.
If you are just starting to consider adoption but not quite sure about what it would look like, I suggest:
Baby We Were Meant For Each Other. Simon writes the story of he and his wife’s adoptions from China, but he also includes the narratives of several other families so that a wide variety of adoption experiences are included. Simon adopted back when adoption from China meant healthy infant girls, so keep in mind that his experience is not going to be typical of today’s China adoptive parent. If you are an NPR fan, you’re probably familiar with Scott Simon of All Things Considered.
No Biking In The House Without A Helmet by Melissa Faye Green is laugh out loud funny. While Melissa and her husband are probably not your average adoptive couple since they adopted mostly boys and older children, everyone can enjoy her humorous look at her large international family. She doesn’t shy away from reality though, talking about her difficulty in bonding with her first adopted son, the challenges of “virtual twinning” when they adopted a son the same age as a son already in the family, and even religious issues such as sitting down with the two older Christian boys they were considering adopting from Ethiopia and explaining that their family was Jewish. Melissa will really make you feel that adoption isn’t just for the super parents, but is something that even the average parent can do.
I highly recommend getting familiar with the Creating A Family website. I listened to hours of podcasts from Dawn Davenport. I started with podcasts on how to decide whether foster, domestic, or international adoption was the best fit for us. I listened to a podcast on adopting when you already have biological children, toddler adoption, and how to consider which special needs to be open to. While we were waiting to bring Leo home, I listened to more specialized podcasts such as language development in internationally adopted children, feeding issues and nutrition in adoption, and bonding with your child while still in country.
IDawn Davenport’s book The Complete Book of International Adoption is a great resource if you decide that international adoption is the best fit for your family. Davenport is very systematic in taking you through the various factors to consider. She includes lots of narratives from adoptive parents, and I love that she always includes an even amount of pros and cons on issues like deciding if you should take your child(ren) with you on an adoption trip. Because this book is older, some of the country information is out of date but most of the information is very helpful, even if you know that Russian adoption is closed down for Americans.
If you know you are going to adopt from China and want to know more about China’s adoption situation I recommend:
Wish You Happy Forever– Jenny Bowen, founder of Half the Sky, writes the story behind the charity. Her experience adopting her daughter inspired her to change the way orphans were cared for in China, one child at a time. She writes about the changes in orphan care and population throughout the book. I was particularly shocked to read about the origin of the AIDS crisis in Henan, which I was unfamiliar with before reading the book.
The Heart of an Orphan by Amy Eldridge, founder of Love Without Boundaries. I absolutely loved this book. However, I can’t say that I couldn’t put it down because I couldn’t read more than a couple of chapters without needing a break. Amy’s book is basically a collection of stories about children she has known through her work with Love Without Boundaries. It’s the heartrending emotional rollercoaster that you would expect.
Each chapter also tells some part of Amy’s story of how Love Without Boundaries grew, but also her personal growth. I really appreciated her nuanced discussion of sensitive topics. She discusses how her view of parents who abandon their children changed as she worked to provide surgeries for children still in their birth families. How she came to recognize the adoptive parent preference for girls as she saw, over time, how the orphanages were filling up with boys but families did not step forward as quickly to adopt them. She even acknowledges the challenges of older child adoption while discussing the plight of children who reach the age where they are no longer eligible for adoption.
I feel a little odd in writing such a short review for a book I want to rave about. It’s simply that it’s hard to describe it in the way it deserves. I think that Eldridge’s memoir, along with Jenny Bowan’s (of Onesky/Half the Sky) Wish You Happy Forever, should be required reading for those in the China adoption program. They are both far more relevant for families in the current process than the frequently recommended Silent Tears.
And, you know, my book. Which I always feel self-conscious about recommending but as far as I know it’s the only book that takes you through the process of adopting from China.
If you’re in process and killing time waiting to meet your child, here are the adoption parenting books you should pick up:
When parents in online adoption groups are asked for book recommendations, Karyn Purvis’ The Connected Child is always mentioned over and over again. Karyn wrote about her work with children “from hard places” and she was always in demand as a speaker at adoption conferences. Sadly, she passed away earlier this year after a long battle with cancer. The Empowered To Connect website is a wealth of information, with many videos and articles. I appreciated the science heavy information in The Connected Child which explained how things such as prenatal drug and alcohol exposure, trauma, or malnutrition cause chemical changes in the child’s brain. She gave many ideas on how to work through challenges, and many of them were very simple such as offering the child chewing gum because chewing reduces stress.
EMK Press is another website with many good articles available. They offer a free ebook called Realistic Expectations which many adoptive families have found helpful.
Attaching Through Love, Hugs, and Play by Deborah Gray gives practical advice on how to parent your child in a way which fosters attachment. Writing up a more in depth review for the blog is on my to do list.
How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk is not an adoption book, but one I had on my parenting bookshelf already. I find it just as helpful for my adopted children as I did for my biological ones. I find that it goes hand in hand with connected parenting. When my youngest son was melting down multiple times a day because he was frustrated by not being able to communicate in English, I found myself making statements like “That must be really frustrating” or “You are really mad!” Now he has the vocabulary to share what he is feeling. He will say “Dat fwustwating” or more often “I MAD AT YOU!” This is a really easy to read book which will change your conversations with your children for the better.
Love Me, Feed Me by Katja Rowell is a great book focusing on the many food related issues which can be a struggle for children adopted from institutions.
If you want to become familiar with Chinese culture and life:
Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother by Xinran- If you want the back story on how those lost girls ended up at the orphanage, this is the book to read. Xinran’s book is jaw-dropping and heart-rending, but keep in mind that she collected these stories over 20 years ago so they are not necessarily an accurate account of the situation in China today.
Wild Swans– This is the story of three generations of women that span pre-revolutionary China to the 1980s. It is a real page-turner, but will help you to understand the various movements that occurred within the Communist era. It really helps you to understand the turmoil which went on for decades within China. If you read Wild Swans, read this article as a follow up to see the contrast between those born after 1980 and those who lived through all of the Communist era conflict and hardship.
Home is a Roof Over a Pig by Aminta Arrington. This is my favorite in the “I went to live in China” memoir genre. Arrington is herself an adoptive mother. Allowing her two children from China to experience life in their native culture as well as to obtain Chinese fluency was a primary motivation in their family moving to China.
This is really a combination of what I liked best about Dreaming in Chinese (my review here) and Awakening East (my review here). Like Dreaming in Chinese, Aminta shares how her quest to learn the Chinese language helps her to better understand the Chinese people and culture. The title refers to the Chinese character for home, which is a roof over the character for pig. Learning the Chinese language, especially the characters, gives her insights into her host culture. Amina is also very interested in the Chinese educational system. She teaches university students English at the same time that her three young children are being immersed in the educational system at a local Chinese kindergarten. She shares the strengths and weaknesses that she observes as both a teacher and parent. The Arrington family continued to live in China for many years. I couldn’t help but marvel at the wonderful opportunity it was for her children to become bilingual by moving there at just the right time for them to begin in primary school.
Aminta is a keen observer, both of others and within her own family. She narrates the process of acclimating to the foreign culture. She honestly describes a time when she and her husband realized they had somehow taken the habit of using the adjective “Chinese” in a negative way, as well as their awareness of how it might impact their daughter adopted from China. Throughout the book she relates Chinese cultural habits in a way that always treats them with respect and humanity, unlike other “I lived in China” memoirs which can slip too easily into “Let me tell you how crazy everyone here is.” There are plenty of humorous stories included.
Eating Bitterness, by Michelle Loyalka, is about China’s migrant workers. Unlike Factory Girls by Leslie Chang, this book focuses on the personal stories of migrants who are a variety of ages. Most are married, but a few are single. Some live with their spouse and child/ren while others are separated because of work. It is also a little unusual in that it is based out of Xian instead of Guangdong Province. Once again, there are the constant themes of the generational attitude differences and the rapid change in Chinese culture in such a relatively short amount of time. I think this book is a little easier to read than Factory Girls because of the variety of people and because, frankly, it was edited better.