American Baby: A Mother, A Child and the Shadow History of Adoption by Gabrielle Glaser
This book could so easily have been called “How to sell a baby and get away with it in the mid 20th century US”. If you are like me, and you like a true story with lots of historical facts and information to place it in history, then this truly is a book for you. It is an easy to read in the fact that the language used it very easy, but the topic is not an easy one to read at all. A teenage pregnancy which then leads to what I can only describe as a baby kidnap followed by years of angst on all sides of the adoption triad.
Gabrielle weaves historical facts around the story of David’s birth to his young teenage mom, and her teenage boyfriend. I hate giving away too much of stories in my reviews, but suffice to say that David ends up being adopted by a Jewish couple, whilst his mother, Margaret fights to get him back. Their stories run parallel throughout the book, woven with what was going on in legislation at the time, which some continues to this day. The injustices that are part of the adoptees story when trying to get even the most basic facts that surround their genetic background and health, are still going on in some States in the 21st century. Sealed records which lead in some cases for whole cultural and societal history and identity being missing from a person’s life.
This book is harrowing in places It is hard to understand what was done to new born babies. The torture and pain that was inflicted, in the name of “science”, in an effort to ascertain the baby’s intelligence as an adult, left this reader angry and sad when she read it. The fact that doctors thought that this was an ok thing to do is beyond me. As someone who spent time nursing, I wonder how the doctors were allowed to get away with it by the rest of the staff. Did the staff cuddle the babies afterwards to console them? I know I would have done. I actually wonder with all that is going on in the world at the moment if we have really come very far at all?
The history of adoption in the US was built on lies and profit in many cases. I could hardly put this book down. When I did it was to wipe away the tears, from being reminded of what was inflicted on so many babies and their birth families, in a time when society judged pre-marital sex as deviant behaviour. They then made these babies a commodity and fodder for scientific experiments, in an effort to grade them, to satisfy the infertile couples desire for a family, and the fallout that ensues. I could see in David’s anger and outbursts, mirrors of my own behaviour that only recently have I traced back to that feeling of being abandoned at birth. That feeling of being a volcano
David was raised in the Jewish culture of his birth. For that small mercy he was lucky. Towards the end of the 20th century, with birth control and access to an abortion, the numbers of children available for adoption of the same ethnicity and culture dwindled, and the adoption business started to look farther afield. Babies and children are adopted inter-racially and trans continentally now, more than ever. At the end of the book, I wonder if Gabrielle gives us a hint as to what her next book is going to be about.
American Baby can be purchased via www.gabrielleglaser.com There’s a link on her website. I have no affiliation to either Gabrielle or the Adoption Network Cleveland. I have written this review to raise awareness of the history and story of many people to this day, who do not have access to their true identity.
If you have read this book, I would value your insights on how you found it by leaving me a comment.
Blessings and Joy, Joy