Book review: Great answers to difficult questions about adoption

I was quite excited to be getting this book as the title sounded promising. This book should be good. The idea behind it is that it helps “foster dialogue between parents and children”. Unfortunately it does not deliver.

It is worth noting that this book was first published in 2006 in French.

I hope some of the issues I had when reading this could be put down to language and cultural differences however I think most people would find this an awkward read.

The book is divided into 11 chapters each dealing with a different question an adoptee may ask, there is then a brief summary around why the question may be asked followed by extracts of interviews / discussions the author has had with various adopted children from age 6 to 15; it is not, as expected, answers for parents to give. The children in the book also appear to be relinquished international adoptions and the words “rejected” and “abandoned” are common, this scenario is not so typical in this country where the majority of children are from foster care.

The questions are good ones and the summaries are useful however the interviews are rather odd. I found the answers blunt and lacking in empathy and the over arching answer to each question was “why don’t you ask your parents?”. The book explicitly states it is to foster dialogue between parents and children yet the answers seem clinical and never really provide an answer or something to base an answer on as a parent. The book also makes the basic assumption that the parent knows nothing of the child’s history or their biological family (who at times are called their “real family”).

I don’t believe the author fully understands trauma as evidenced in these quotes from chapter 2 in a discussion with an 8 year old, firstly about younger children being adopted; “If they are lucky, and are adopted by considerate parents like yours, however, they soon respond and adapt,” and on older children being adopted “they are often so happy to be part of a family where they can bond and settle that any problems they may have tend to be minor”. I read those lines to my husband who is a laid-back guy and I can honestly say I’ve not seen him so angry in a long time. If I hadn’t been reading this book for a review I probably would have stopped at chapter 2 but I persisted to the end through gritted teeth.

The book sadly didn’t improve and in dealing with a 8 year old being bullied about looking different to her parents is told that “those children have been taught nothing about adoption and it’s high time someone taught them” and to talk to her parents about it. There is no empathy and compassion in her responses, I suppose I’m always looking to explore how my children feel (we try and use the PACE model where possible).

Having given up on getting a useful response (I got quite angry towards the end) I started asking my 4 year old some of the (edited) questions the author asks and I was amazed at his response. Despite being 4 he knows where he came from and where he is now and that it is ok to look and be different from other people in your family. His answers were more enlightening than the books!

Overall this book feels disjointed and never really fulfils its objective which is a shame as the basic idea and layout are great, I do wonder if something is lost in the translation and that I struggled to relate to any of the examples given. This book is not really of use to most parents and certainly not children, it feels like it would be of more use to a professional with minimal knowledge of the complexities around adoption but does not give a proper overview of adoption.

The positive to come from reading this book is that it has promoted me to think about my own answers to these questions but the book did not really help in providing the answers.

I worry that this a very negative review and it may be of more use to someone who adopted with minimal knowledge of their child’s history and identity from a different country, I am happy to pass it on if anyone else wishes to give it a try!

Today’s honest review is by Building a Family Together @buildingafamily. The reviewer was not paid for the review, but received the book free of charge.

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