Often literature on adoption is seen through a primarily positive lens. One that does not fully delve into the complexity of adoption. It can be beautiful in just the right circumstances, but adoption always stems from the trauma of a child being separated from their birth parents. For those choosing to parent through adoption, learning from people who are either adoptees, birth parents, or those who elevate birth/adoptee voices in their work is essential.
For adoptive parents, foster parents, or potential adoptive/foster parents, this list is curated by an adoptee and adoption educator to help support your journey. Here are a few of my favorite books on adoption I recommend that adoptive families incorporate into their personal library that cover an array of subjects in the adoption community.
Kinship adoptions are when a child is adopted by a person in their family. It can be an uncle, a grandparent, a second cousin, or even an older sibling.
Mary was born into a dysfunctional family in the 1980s and was raised for a few years in a commune until her mother and the others couldn’t care for her anymore. She was then sent to Oklahoma to live with her maternal grandparents. Although she has a new life, she is haunted by her past and the family she left behind, so she embarks on a journey to become whole.
In this searing memoir, Harper shares how she discovered her parents weren’t actually her biological parents. She longs to understand her identity and eventually takes a DNA test that reveals more than she ever expected.
Former Foster Youth
These three books share the experience of authors that were, at one point, in the foster system.
Karlos was severely neglected by his mother and was put into foster care only to suffer more abuse from those that should have protected him. Through the horrors, he somehow manages to shine his light until he was able to find a family that truly loved him.
Separated at the age of three, Tony was shuffled back and forth from his grandmother’s home before being placed in an orphanage for a year. Eventually, he was placed with two women who fought through a tumultuous court battle to raise him. He shares the challenges that he went through during and after the court battle.
Rhodes-Courter guides us through another tumultuous childhood spent in foster care where she spent nine years in 14 different foster homes. She must juggle between caseworkers, families, and schools that did not have her best interests at heart. Somehow, through it all, she finds the courage to use her voice and become a motivational speaker and New York Times bestselling author.
Search and Reunion
Being adopted and searching for birth family can add another complex layer to adoption. In these four books, the authors discuss their firsthand experiences with finding their biological family.
Jenny Wills uses beautiful prose to take the reader along the journey of finding her birth family while diving into the complexities of race, gender, and class. She takes us on her return trip to Seoul where she connects with her birth mother, father, and other relatives while staying in a guesthouse for transnational adoptees. Adoptive parents will learn about the aftereffects of a child’s removal from a family and an adoptee’s need to connect with their roots.
In Chung’s memoir, she shares what it means to lose her culture and family and the complexities of reconnecting with them after growing up Korean in a white American family.
McGue takes us on a journey with her twin to find their birth parents after being placed in a closed adoption in the 1950s.
Susan shares her breathtaking journey for the truth after she discovers that her adoptive father lied about the death of her birth parents. New questions plague her as she starts her own family and then meets her biological parents in her 30s. Prospective and current adoptive parents should be encouraged to read it, not only because it shows the importance of being honest with your child, but it also illustrates the value of forgiveness and self-acceptance.
History and Education
The adoption industry has had a very complex history, and it is important for those involved or interested in adopting to understand how things were and how they are today.
Child Catchers exposes the dark history of what the adoption industry has become through investigative reporting and the stories of those who were taken advantage of.
Raleigh breaks down how the adoption industry operates as a business, how children are advertised to seem more desirable, and how the industry uses a financial calculation of a child’s worth.
Many adoptions in America are transracial, meaning that parents are adopting a childing of another race. This book breaks down the history and impact and how people can ethically adopt cross-culturally while considering things like white privilege and the impact of colorblindness.
This book breaks down the hidden history of adoption before Roe v. Wade and its generational impact. The author, an adoptee who was surrendered during this time, elevates the voices of hundreds of women who vulnerably share their stories in hopes of shedding light on birth parents' experience.
This is an anthology that elevates the voices of clinicians who are experts in adoption issues as well as input from clients and adoptive parents. It is a collaborative work that uniquely provides insight on trauma and the importance of community as well as attachment.
American Baby discusses the impact of post-war adoption in the United States during the baby boom in the 1960s, the impact of birth control being difficult to obtain, and abortion being illegal during that time. It sheds light on the harm of an exploitative industry and how pregnant persons were at the mercy of unethical deals with adoption agencies, doctors, and researchers who would pressure them into placing their children for adoption.
Religion & Spirituality
Some people find that adoption and religion go hand-in-hand. Here are two books that connect religious beliefs to the adoption experience.
Adoptee Sara shares the impact of becoming a mom and how it impacted her need to become the perfect mother until her own passed away. She then begins a spiritual journey towards understanding family and finding forgiveness.
Born without legs, Bricker was given up for adoption and placed in a loving adoptive family that believed in never saying “can’t.” From then on, everything she set her sights on became another skill she conquered and considered her journey as part of God’s plan.
Too often, birth parents are not as involved in the discussion of adoption, which is why it is essential to elevate their voices and learn from their stories.
This book answers the question of what it’s like to place a child for adoption. Barton delves into the impact of “choosing” adoption and shares stories of other birth parents, adoptive parents, and adoptees.
This book raises the voices of birth fathers—a group that is often undervalued in the adoption community. It brings light to the impact of choosing adoption, reunion, and how to facilitate contact with children.
MacDonald was placed for adoption at birth and found herself pregnant in 1961, during a time when pregnant girls were sent away to give up their children for adoption. This is a story of healing intergenerational wounds and reconnecting with her adult child as she learns to accept her mistakes and heal.
Adoption anthologies are a wonderful way to get a bigger picture of the impact of adoption on a larger group.
This is a beautiful collection of adoption-themed short stories that celebrate the experiences of various authors. It digs into the complex experiences of being in an adoptive family and elevates adoptee voices.
Through Adopted Eyes shares an array of adoptee voices that have all unique views on adoption. From hope-filled stories to those that are harder to read, this book is a great introductory resource to those learning more about adoption for the first time.
Written by 18 Colombian authors who were adopted internationally, this collection digs into the trauma of maternal separation, struggles with identity, and even abuse. It is a powerful reflection of the Latinx adoptee experience and all proceeds go towards financing DNA kits for Colombian adoptees.
Transracial Adoption Stories
Many adoptions are transracial, mostly children of color being adopted by a person(s) of another race. Learning directly from transracial adoptees can help parents understand the nuances of cross-cultural adoption and how to better support adopted children.
Cultural critic, Rebecca Caroll, shares her experience growing up as the only Black person in her small New Hampshire town in a white family. She had an ideal childhood with parents that loved her, but that did not eliminate the sense of isolation she felt as she aged. She shares her struggles connecting with birth family, her Blackness, the loyalty she felt toward her adoptive parents, and how she worked toward healing.
Hofman writes a moving memoir that illustrates the difficulties of understanding one's racial identity as not only a transracial adoptee but as a biracial man. This is a memoir that adoptive families can learn more about the nuances of finding one's identity while finding their own voice.
Deborah was born in a prison and adopted by a progressive Jewish couple, where she struggled to feel like she belonged due to her Asian features. After discovering she spent the first year of her life in prison, she turned to drugs and violence as she tried to cope with her pain and grief until she found peace by helping others.
Culberson was a biracial woman who was raised in a white family in West Virginia and was eventually able to connect with her birth family in Africa. After hiring a private investigator, they uncovered she had biological ties to African royalty and was essentially a princess and is finally able to reconnect with her biological father and roots after a stunning twist of fate.
Austin shares the story of how she expanded her family through adoption as a Black woman in a tumultuous time for mothers of children of color, particularly Black boys. Her memoir is vulnerable, inspiring, and eye-opening for white parents of Black and brown children.
Fiction books are another valuable resource and allow adoptees to share how adoption influenced them in their creative stories.
Heart and Seoul is a joyfully romantic read that follows Hara Wilson, a Korean adoptee, who is more than aware that she looks different than her white parents. After her father dies, she is faced with an identity crisis that sends her all the way to Seoul to find ties to her roots.
Following the life of five teens in the hit Broadway show, Jagged Little Pill, Smith (author and transracial adoptee) flawlessly depicts the storyline of Frankie, a Black woman adopted into a mostly white world.
Lucy is a queer, Asian adoptee, who is caught in a shooting at her high school reunion. Her, Christy (a white Youtube star), and Donna (a Black wealthy former student) are navigating PTSD from the attack and are forced to fight for justice after Donna, the only former black student in town, is labeled a suspect. This story is a beautiful reflection of women of color standing together in a world that doesn’t have our best interest at heart.