I love books. They have the awesome ability to transport us in time, location, and into the mind of another…without leaving the comfort of our own home. When my husband and I started the adoption process, I read every book that I could get my hands on about adoption. When we brought home our daughter, I bought every kids’ book that I could about it as well. The more I read and the more we read as a family, we continued to learn new things, find similarities with the families on the pages, and have great information to answer questions and navigate real-life situations. Books help me feel better prepared for things we may encounter that not all of our friends who are parents have to think about.
I have realized that sometimes we think we are alone in our situations, but books show us that there are other families, like ours, facing similar challenges and triumphs…and books can show us that on a daily basis.
Whether you are a parent through adoption, are an adoptee, have a child who is adopted that you’re book shopping for, or are interested in learning more about adoption in general, there’s a book for you!
Books for Children
We Chose You: A Book about Adoption, Family, and Forever Love by Lauren Dungy and Tony Dungy
Having adopted eight children themselves, the Dungy family knows about adoption and the experiences that children who are adopted often have that are different from other children. This book addresses the school project where children have to explain about their family. Through this project, a young boy learns more about his own story and realizes that there are many different ways to create a family. Though some families create a baby themselves, other families are built through adoption. I personally love that this book also shares the fact that families don’t happen on accident.
Lauren and her husband, Tony, wrote this book because they recognized that there wasn’t a lot of material about adoption. “We wanted people to be encouraged and to have the resources that they needed,” Lauren says. “By presenting it through the eyes of a child, it is engaging.”
I love this book and was super excited to be able to share this with my own daughter. As Lauren notes, you should be talking about adoption with your children and in my own personal experience, books like this help you do that in a way that is age-appropriate for your child.
How I Was Adopted by Joanna Cole
This was the first adoption book that we had for my daughter. (It’s so well-loved, we had to purchase a second copy!) I’m a firm believer that kids deserve to know that they’re adopted from day one and by telling them their story frequently, they will know their adoption story and that they’re adopted just like they know their own name. (If you haven’t broached adoption regularly with your child, this article has some amazing tips to start and continue that conversation).
We began reading How I Was Adopted nightly when our daughter was just an infant and continued well throughout her toddler years. Though we have more books now that we read, this still remains a favorite. It explains adoption clearly and in a way that small children can easily digest. I highly suggest this one for kids all the way through elementary school!
The Not in Here Story by Tracey Zeeck
The Not in Here Story stole my heart this past year. Though it’s intended to be a children’s book (and it is), it has so much in it that is beneficial to parents who adopted—particularly if they struggled with infertility. Zeeck brings to life her own family’s story with delightful illustrations by David Bizzaro. The Seek family is waiting for a baby, but no matter how frequently Mrs. Seek checks her tummy, the baby isn’t there. Later on, the family realizes that there is more than one way to become a parent.
This book is powerful to children because it’s at their level. It’s great for parents because we’ve walked that road, we’ve had people constantly ask us when we are going to have children when we have our own silent struggles. This book is truly beautiful and I loved it so much, I dedicated an entire review to it this summer that I’ve shared below!
And That’s Why She’s My Mama by Tiarra Nazario
I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I’m always on the lookout for books that illustrate transracial families like ours. The cover of this book depicts that and to me, that’s beautiful. Children and adults can be cruel (not always on purpose) when families don’t look alike or if they aren’t biologically related. I love how this book explains what a mom is—she takes care of her child, loves them, etc., no matter how she became a mom. This is another one that is as powerful for me as it is for my daughter!
Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born by Jamie Lee Curtis
This is a classic adoption tale—one that we have been gifted numerous times and is well-loved in my family. My daughter LOVES to hear about the night she was born and the story of how she came to our family. This book explains that story and the uniqueness of each child’s story of birth and in this case, adoption. I love the illustrations in this book. If you have a child who is adopted, I highly suggest adding this to your library—it’s also an amazing opportunity to spend time talking about your own child’s story. My daughter asks us to “tell her when she was a baby” when she wants to hear her own story—not that she can’t tell it backwards and forwards herself. This is a reminder of how important each one of our stories is!
The Invisible String by Patrice Karst and Joanne Lew-Vriethoff
The Invisible String was one that was actually gifted to my husband and me before we had children. We both lost our grandmothers within 12 hours of each other and this book arrived on our doorstep shortly after. It’s a great book to help children (and adults alike) understand loss, cope with grief, and ultimately, know that people who love you are always with you…you just can’t always see them. Many children who are adopted when they’re older or through foster care and even some that were adopted as infants may feel loss and sadness about not being with their biological family and this helps address these feelings in an age-appropriate way.
Books to Prepare You for the Adoption Journey
You Can Adopt: An Adoptive Families Guide by Susan Caughman and Isolde Motley
This was my first adoption book when I went through the adoption journey! I like this a lot because it answers a lot of questions and has advice from lawyers, social workers, and other adoption professionals. Adoptive Families has a lot of great resources via their magazine and this book is a great resource to have in your house as you navigate adoption. I highly recommend this and in fact, have loaned our copy out so many times, that I began to buy this as a gift for friends that were beginning the adoption process.
Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew by Sherrie Eldridge
This is a book that you have likely heard of. If you haven’t, I do suggest that you familiarize yourself with it. To me, listening to those who have lived experiences is the best way to learn and to better parent an adoptee. Spend some time with this one and think about best practices and how you can apply these suggestions to your own family and parenting techniques. This is a must-have for every adoptive parent’s shelf.
Books by Adoptees
All you Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung
Nicole Chung’s memoir, All You Can Ever Know, was a book that I couldn’t put down. Chung discusses her own childhood and the quest to find her biological family. I hate to go into too much detail here lest I give anything away (but I did review this book in detail as well!). I highly recommend this to any parent who has adopted, but I had particular takeaways as a parent who has adopted a child of a different race. This book is also one that I’ve gifted to those who are searching for their biological families. While movies tend to paint an idealistic view of finding birth families, this book is realistic in this endeavor and what the end result may look like. I think this is a must-have in your home. I believe parents should read it now to understand this experience and as their child gets old enough to digest this information, it will be an important book for them as well.
Fixing the Fates: An Adoptee’s Story of Truth and Lies by Diane Dewey
This book was given to me by a colleague and I think it is a really important read for those of us who have adopted a child. Diane’s story is difficult to read, but is from a different time and offers us a lot of information about how we should share adoption stories with our children. Told that her biological parents were dead, in her adulthood, she receives a letter from her birth father. This is an amazing journey of investigation, self-discovery, and understanding your identity. I find this book difficult because I’m sad that Dewey didn’t have the truth that she deserved, but again, adoption was different in the past and this is a good example of how keeping secrets from children that you’re trying to protect could actually harm them in the long run. It is my belief that we tell children as much as they can handle and as much as we know about their adoption so that situations like this don’t occur. This is also a very interesting read seeing as Dewey searches herself for her own truth.
In Their Voices: Black Americans on Transracial Adoption by Rhonda Roorda
My copy of this book is highlighted, peppered with post-it notes and the margins contain scribbles of my own notes. This is one that I will never lend out and always direct people to their own copy because it is that important to me. (In fact, this book was so important to me, that I reached out to the author, Rhonda Roorda, and we remain social media and phone friends—and I hope to meet her in person soon!)
I’m white and my daughter is black. It has and will always be important to me to understand the nuances of transracial adoption to the best of my ability and learning best practices for parenting a child of another race is a responsibility that I don’t take lightly. This book provides so much perspective from so many individuals with valuable lived experiences. I learned so much about the importance of hair, of learning more about black history, and reading first-hand experiences of people who have such important things to share. I credit this book as well as share experiences from people like Rhonda for pushing myself outside of my own comfort zone to ensure that my daughter has experiences that help her see and interact with more people who look like her.
Whether you’ve adopted outside of your race or not, this is a book I recommend you familiarize yourself with. We all have something to learn from it and frankly, if you are a part of a transracial adoption, this is the only book like this and it’s one you need to read more than once.
Julia K. Porter is an educator, writer, and cultural competency consultant. She began her career as a high school English teacher in Brooklyn, NY, and has taught college courses since 2008 and has done nonprofit work. Currently, she is the project manager for Celebrating Cultural uniqueness at Tiffin University. Julia has a passion for diversity and in educating about the nuances of adoption as that is how she chose to grow her family. Julia holds a Ph.D. in Global Leadership from Indiana Tech, an MA in English Literature from Brooklyn College, and a BS in English Education from Indiana University/Purdue University-Indianapolis (IUPUI). Her personal interests include reading, writing, traveling and experiencing new cultures, and knitting. She lives in Indiana with her husband, Kyle, daughter, Brooklyn, and Australian Shepherd, Hunter. For more information, visit www.juliakayporter.com.