As an adopted adult adoptee, a Mother with a much-blended family, and a writer myself, I guess I am well-placed to review these exceptional pieces of writing by the inspired Anna Maria Didio
The first book I had the pleasure to review is “Many People to Love “
Anna begins the book by offering candid and valuable advice to parents looking to adopt or who have already welcomed a child into their lives by adoption. Such advice as remembering that a show of anger is most likely a cry for help, a sign of inner trauma and pain. She also suggests that honesty, when questions arise, is 100% paramount. I am pleased to see she also clarifies that the journey of Adoption is rewarding if turbulent.
The story focuses on little Carla and her journey through the care system. From the secure world of her orphanage to adoption. Her earliest memories are of a favoured caregiver Rosa, who gently brushed her hair, and clearly loved her. Carla was placed for adoption into a world of uncertainty. She encounters new smells, and new toys and feels misplaced in her new environment.
It’s interesting to me how early on you feel a sense of insecurity from the pages as Carla experiences a series of ‘Adoption parties’ which I have discomfort with myself. The thought of a child meeting and being greeted and hugged by strangers who take away her friends whilst she is left unselected.
I feel for Carla until…. at last a family!
The story goes on to describe a new life of love and change and of course uncertainty. I like the way this book shows the side of adoption that runs deep within all of us who have lived experience. There is rarely a time I remember that I didn’t wonder if I would be ‘sent back’. This carries into adulthood and becomes a feeling of ‘ When will I be rejected?’
As well as being different genetically and therefore visually, the expectation is ingrained. The anxiety that one step out of line and the world will turn upside down. The book resonated with me and my family and I had expected that to be honest. I suspect that is why Anna reached out to me to review her work.
Much of the book is great education for prospective adopters as Carla gradually flexes her emotional muscle and acts out. I know hope many adopters read this as it is a child-friendly way of explaining what is actually very complex.
Many adoptees ‘act up’ as a way to say ‘ I don’t get it, what’s happening here, Help me understand!’
Some adoptees act out through aggression, to be heard. Some will fight the biological children of their new parents. Some might hide food, as a sign that they don’t trust where the next meal is coming from. Others might just steal for attention. Bedwetting is super common, as is an irrational need to be ‘sent back’ as that is where they remember first feeling safe and wanted. Albeit a temporary first home, children shouldn’t be expected to know that at the time. It’s hard to fathom how confusing this is to a child.
Imagine everything you had at the beginning of your life, all the things that become familiar to you. The smell of perhaps one person who gives you regular cuddles. Favourite treats, probably given to you by that same person. Your first bedroom with your favourite toys tucked in under the duvet with you to help you sleep. Early friendships, maybe at nursery or with children of your caregivers. The private childish jokes shared with those you know. The confidence to ask for simple things, like can you use the toilet.
Now, I want you to imagine a clean slate. All of these things in your life evaporate into thin air and are replaced by new and unknown people, smells, and rules, in a whole different environment.
Not so easy to get your mind around, is it? And you, my dear reader, are an adult….imagine yourself as if you were your childlike self..Pretty scary isn’t it?
There is one area of the book I would say is perhaps oversimplified. Where it suggested that every placement for an adoptee is a precious gift and assumed the child would eventually be entirely happy. Thankfully in many cases, this is the situation.
However, in some, we know the outcome simply isn’t a positive one…
But this book is written for adults and their adopted children, so I get that the narrative has to focus on those with positive outcomes, so I too embraced the happy ending.
This well-scribed book appeals as it embraces several very real aspects of adoption. Transracial and the importance of recognizing your child’s history and culture. It also highlights the need to respect the need for continued communication with treasured early-life carers and how this is not a threat but a blessing to all involved.
Long-term relationships in your child will be more easily established and maintained if early contacts are, at the very least in the background of their upbringing
An easy read with lovely illustrations whilst retaining its serious messages, pertinent to both adults and children.
All in all, I highly recommend this book in particular to prospective Transracial Adopters and their children
Anna’s second Book from her L.I.F.E Adventures series is “How I Wonder Where You Are”
In this second story featuring Carla, her journey takes her towards her teens. She has settled into her family life and has become more secure in the knowledge she wont be ‘sent back’ Her family are also embracing her needs and her heritage. They are learning some Spanish as a fun family pastime and learning to show empathy for the fact Carla left much of her own ‘self’ behind when she was adopted.
Transracial adoption is only going to be successful if the adopting family…including extended family , allow the child to be herself. Knowing where you are from and who you might have been being so important for an adoptee. I’m happy this book addresses these issues both eloquently and sympathetically.
For Carla, her biggest questions are, who her Birth Mother is, why she gave her up and whether she thinks of her. The story addresses a fairly common, yet questionable exercise, popular in schools. Actually, there are two such ‘projects’ that massively trigger an adopted child within the school setting. I’ve been there, and am just waiting for my son to be put through this misadventure. One of these misjudged homework assignments is for the child to produce a baby photo. As many parents of adoptees will agree, early baby photos may be few and far between if exist at all. For a child to be asked to produce one causes confusion not only by their transracial placement but by adoption itself. I wish those responsible for writing school syllabi would think long and hard about the effect of these projects on adopted children in their care.
This book addresses the second potentially triggering school assignment that is common today. Write your family tree. Now, I am not saying this isn’t a worthwhile activity because it is. However, if you are adopted it takes a lifetime to feel that you slot into that family tree as if you were born into it. Your roots determine your family tree and they differ from those written in the existing tree of your adopters. Trust me, no amount of platitudes or political correctness will change how that feels.
So for me, my family tree is biological and that is only possible since I have been in reunion with my biological Mother, and my siblings on both sides. That’s just a fact, not romance. That is what a family tree is. You, your siblings, your parents, their parents and so on…
My adoptive family have a biological Family tree and I sit vicariously upon one of the branches. Sometimes I am perfectly comfortable there, although the expectation is to feel unfailing gratitude for my position perched on it.
Other times I have an arse full of splinters and am constantly awaiting the branch to snap from my weight!
Carla is tasked with creating this family tree and the author explores the emotional repercussions with sympathy and clarity. I applaud Anna for this as it’s a tricky one.
The theme of this simple yet heartfelt book is not knowing where an adoptee comes from. Always remember the ‘Where’ really refers to the ‘Who’ How I wonder where you are is a message asking where is my Mother. Where are you and why am I here and not with you, right there. I empathize strongly with this as most of my life I asked the same question. It’s not a slight to my adopter, I love my Adoptive family, although sadly it was taken as such (see Unconditional Love) to the detriment of our relationship forever.
Anyway, Carla navigates her way through with the help of her family and I especially liked how Anna highlighted how this question was most pertinent on Carla’s Birthday. After all, if a Birthmother puts their child to the back of their mind, surely on their birthday they must dominate their thoughts?!
So to conclude. I enjoyed this second book more than the first but mainly as I could empathize with Carla more due to her being older. My childhood memories are more acute from this age onwards.
Both books are simply written and propose a clear message. Anna has a definite understanding of both adoptee and adopter (as do I) which is rare in an author. Having read both to myself and to my son I think they will become invaluable in his ongoing understanding of his own adoption and his feelings around it. I am a firm believer in bite-sized portions of information. As these books are designed for children, I recommend they sit amongst your child’s other story books as they have a clear yet harmless tone.
Do read them before you read to your children as they have areas you may want to highlight and give different levels of emphasis.
Many thanks, Anna, for trusting me to Review your excellent Adoption based books…
Anna Maria DiDio, MSW is an Adoption L.I.F.E. Coach and adoptive parent, writer, speaker, and women’s advocate. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and two grown-up daughters. She is a best-selling Adoption and Children’s book author. For more information about Anna, and to purchase her books directly please visit her website here: www.amdidio.com
Readers, as always thanks for being here
Much love, Black Sheep xxx