I’ve completed two books this month in the Adoption Reading Challenge, and I’m currently searching for my third. Upon completion (finally!) of Jaiya John’s memoir, Black Baby, White Hands: A View From The Crib, I came away with many conflicting feelings. However, I am glad I read it, and feel I have many takeaways from it. As I read Jaiya’s words, I felt as if a friend was telling me stories of his life, a little bit at a time, rewinding over the very good, and really bad parts, to make a statement, and to gain my understanding. I do not think this book is for everyone. Jaiya is a poet, and he writes like one. If you are looking for a concise book on the feelings of people who are transracial adoptees, this is not your book. However, if you are looking to understand the depth of the soul of one man, and his journey through life as a transracial adoptee, or to challenge your thoughts on what to means for a black child, to grow to become black man in a white family, then this book should be a must read. Black Baby, White Hands is not an easy read, it’s musical like Jazz, and it’s painful, like a sunburn, but it’s worth the time for the insight that is gained.
I jumped right from Black Baby, White Hands, into another memoir written by an adoptee. The Mistress’s Daughter, written by A.M. Homes, tells the story of the author’s reunion with her birth parents in her thirty’s. I cheated a bit on this Adoption Reading Challenge, as I actually listened to the book on Audible.com. It is narrated by Jane Adams, who I had to often remind myself, was not the author, as she narrated the memoir so genuinely. I felt as if Ms. Homes wrote like a journalist while telling the story of her reunion with her birth mother, Ellen, and her birth father, Norman. Her writing is to the point, pragmatic, and almost devoid of feeling. However, the stories Homes tells are both touching, and revealing, about the void that is filled by knowing where one comes from.
Homes takes the reader on a journey through the everyday nitty gritty of living in a once closed, and now open adoption. Homes also explores her own fantasies of her birth parents and her adoption. Even after the reunion, the continued not-knowing in the story drives the author to genealogy, to look for a connection to her families and her place in them. Reading/Listening to Homes’ memoir has confirmed for me that having an open adoption, no matter how it plays out in the future, at least provides a door for my children to walk through on their path towards discovering who they are, and who their birth families are. Knowing who we are seems such a basic right, that I am often perplexed by the stories of hidden truths, or falsehoods by omission, about children who joined their family through adoption. Although the truth is sometimes hard to swallow, sometimes hurtful, sometimes scary, I think untruths’ can create deep wounds that are hard to heal. Again, I pray that I am on the right path for my girls. I pray that they truth will heal them and make them whole.