When I first received ‘Who We Are and Why We Are Special, The Adoption Club Workbook on Identity’ by Regina M Kupecky, I was initially sceptical, says adoptive mum Kay.
Why? Well, most of the books I have read about and around adoption have been weighty, literally, or anecdotal.
So my expectation was that this book would be the same.
Identity and adoption? This is a big and knotty question!
Surely this demands a book the size of an encyclopaedia or a series of books?
This book appears slim and plain. The typeset reminds me of 70’s pamphlets and the illustrations are so simple I think I could have done them myself. Added to this is the subtitle: ‘workbook’.
Suffice to say I wasn’t looking forward to reading it, despite feeling very excited to review a book for The Adoption Social.
Guess what though? In this case you really can’t judge a book from its cover…
Like I said the title invites us to consider identity and how this makes us different and special. That’s a big ask for an adult, but this workbook is aimed at the ages 5-11. My next reservation is how on earth one book can hope to address and engage such a wide age range.
On the first few pages we’re introduced to the members of the ‘adoption club’ whose characters are drawn, both literally and figuratively, in a simple way. There’s no embellishment here just simple sketches that help to highlight them as different and special, but what holds all of them together is that they are touched by adoption in some way.
It’s an apt reminder that adoption has so many faces, ages and back stories. Being a heterosexual, married, white, middle class adoptive mum of two young white siblings, I have been known to forget that not everyone shares my experience of adoption and that my route is only one of many. So it was useful to think again about how inclusive adoption can be. Mixed race families, single parents, and same sex parents, children with special needs or disability, overseas adoptions, transgender parents, open adoptions… Steve Jobs, who started Apple, is adopted. I didn’t know that, did you?
The best thing about the book is that none of it reads like tokenism, just a really nice personification of these different sides of the process. Like much of the writing in this book, it is matter of fact, easy to read and understand. So as much as it’s aimed at 5 – 11 year olds I didn’t find it patronising. Actually quite the opposite, after reading this book I came away inspired to use it with my children and, surprisingly, myself.
The idea is that identity can be seen as a jigsaw of many pieces and the book leads us through a series of open questions, examples of how this affects a particular member of the adoption club, with space to write our answers and ideas for reflection.
The questions and examples are leading but not prescriptive, there is plenty of space for the reader to engage at their preferred or most appropriate depth. For me, I wanted to think about the layers to my story/identity, like a complex 1000 piece puzzle of an intricate landscape. My four year old daughter was able to recognise and relate to two of the characters and their experiences. Most importantly, I think that when we re-visit the adoption club she will continue to add to her own jigsaw.
I loved the physical metaphor of an ‘identity jigsaw’. I’d love to do some work around this using big puzzle pieces, images, maybe even an outline of a child’s body to fill in.
I would really like to read the other workbooks as I think that they will help me to open discussions with my children in the future. I like the characters but most of all I like the idea of adoption being a club that we all belong to.
Many thanks to Kay for her review. Kay did not receive payment for this review, but has been able to keep the book.