January 2016 Book/Film Reviews

2016-AFTH-book-reviews

All books purchased by clicking the link in our review will give AFTH a small donation from Amazon.com.  If you are interested in purchasing one of the books in our review please consider buying it through our link to amazon.com.

adoptedAdopted: a Film by Barb Lee– This film follows a family who is adopting from China and a young woman who was adopted from Korea, who is struggling with her identity as well as her adoptive parents dying. While this doesn’t depict the feelings of every adoptee it does deal with race and identity.

Jennifer Faro was adopted from Korea when she was a few years old, she is now in her early 30’s.  She describes growing up in a white family, in a white community, never really seeing anyone who looks like her.  She struggled with her identity and adoption which is not really spoken about in her family.  Her family states that they just see her as one of them, not as Korean, but as they research the Faro family history her connection or no connection to the family becomes clearer.  As Jennifer states in the movie, families adopt and adoptees adapt. I’m not sure her parents ever fully understand what she is trying to explain to them.

The other part of the film deals with a family who is adopting from China, they get to meet their child’s birth mother, have photos of China in their home, play videos in Chinese and English, and really try to honor her past as well as her present.  This family also lives in a very white area and they have made a point to try to reach out and expand their circle to include as much diversity as they can.

I think this film showcases the differences between adoptions in the past and adoption now.  It is now more apparent that adoptive parents have to make more of an effort when adopting trans-racially and/or trans-culturally to incorporate their child’s heritage into their lives.  They may need to move outside of thier comfort zones in order to make sure that their children are seeing representations of themselves.  Adoptions agencies as well need to do more to educate adoptive parents who are adopting across color lines of the challenges they face.

While some may look at this film in a negative light I focused on the message of we need to do more, not that Jennifer’s family didn’t do enough, even she says they did the best they could and gave her a wonderful life, but we need to do better. Back when she was adopted there really was no research on adopting transracially, now there is, so parents and adoption agencies need to do more to help families navigate the world as a trans-racial family.  Free on Amazon.com with Prime Membership

anything for ameliaAnything For Amelia: A true story of the challenges endured by two gay men who had the desire to adopt a child. by Andrew C. Branham –

This book really drives home to me how using an agency instead of an adoption facilitator can help shelter families from women who try to take advantage of prospective adoptive parents. Andrew and his partner DJ used an adoption facilitator who matched them with a birth mother (Sandi) but most of the work was done by themselves with calls to their attorney.  They got paperwork signed, they set up meetings with their birth mother and her family and they didn’t have anyone really looking out or protecting them from this demanding woman. In addition further along in the book you realize that their facilitator knew more about this woman than she told Andrew and DJ, there had already been an agency that had tried to put information out there about her manipulations and illegal actions with another family.

We can all look at Sandi with disdain for her manipulations and actions but this woman was smart and knew how to work the system.  She was manipulative, she lied, and she blackmailed, she was abusive to her children, to her boyfriend, and to pretty much everyone around her yet she survived and usually got her way.  I’m not saying she was a wonderful person but you have to give credit to her survival skills.

I think that there were many unrealistic expectations on the part of Andrew and DJ as well as Sandi on what to expect during the whole process and the facilitator didn’t do enough to help them navigate this new relationship.  Throughout this book I was struck that Andrew and DJ considered this child theirs before termination even happened.  This is not a surrogate relationship, this was an adoption, and Sandi had rights, and the child she was carrying was hers until she signed her surrenders.  The fact that Andrew and DJ were posting on facebook that they were going to have a boy or a girl was disrespectful to Sandi and manipulative in its own way.  I understand that Andrew was worn down and angry with Sandi at the time he wrote this book but I feel the anger and disrespect he writes about her, his child’s mother is inconsiderate of Amelia.  Even with all her faults this is the woman who carried and gave life to their daughter and that in itself should be enough to think about how this tale will effect his daughter when she is older, and I wonder how they speak of her to their daughter.

Even in divorce situations you are always cautioned against badmouthing the other parent. Andrew didn’t just tell his story, he told Sandi’s and he also told Amelia’s.  If he was that concerned about Sandi’s children he would have called Child Protective Services, or better yet why didn’t the Adoption Facilitator? She should be a mandated reporter, so knowing everything that was going on she should have been obligated to make a call.  Andrew has stated in comments that he didn’t call anyone because it may have jeopardized the adoption, that Amelia may have wound up with Sandi and while I appreciate that he wanted to save a child from her wrath, he and all the other adults in this situation allowed 4 children to suffer for months, which seems a little self serving and selfish.

I think that anyone reading this book would feel compassion for Andrew and DJ but I really wonder how will this book impact Amelia in the future? This negative, degrading description of her birth mother? This is a good cautionary tale and a good reason why using an agency to facilitate the adoption process and navigate the relationship between prospective adoptive parents and birth parents is a good idea, but I still feel that there were expectations and feelings on both sides that led this adoption down a dark path that could have been nipped in the bud early on. amazon.com price: $7.99 (Kindle) $14.19 (pb)

 

giving a child awayGiving A Child Away Documentary -Tracy and her husband are having a difficult time having a child, they tried infertility treatments, and had a failed adoption.  Tracy’s brother, Darren, calls her from Australia and says that he and his wife are pregnant for the 5th time, they are both concerned about raising another child and offer to let Tracy and her husband adopt their child.

Darren & Joanna explain how difficult following through with the adoption was and how even now they wonder if they made the right decision.  They feel guilty but also are happy that they were able to offer Tracy this gift.  Hearing the mixed emotions and pain that Darren and Jo go through really gives you an appreciation for birth parents and what they have to go through when placing their child.

Tracy also feels mixed emotions because she understands that her joy came at the expense of Darren & Joanna’s pain.  It is really special to be able to see both sides of this process so vividly.  That they are both so honest about their feelings helps really showcase all the emotions that happen during an adoption.  There is no closure at the end of this movie, you don’t know how things turn out, if Tracy and her husband are able to have another child through surrogacy using her sisters eggs, or whether or not Darren & Joanna have some closure when they decide to have another baby.  This is real life, there are no certainties, and this very heartfelt documentary shows that.  Make sure you  have a box of tissues when you watch it. Free on Amazon.com with Prime membership

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