Monday, October 23, 2017

On fiction about adoption

Reading non-fiction about the issues humans face is easy. Reading fiction about them is more difficult. It’s easier to look at something objectively when each person is just a number, when you don’t know the individual stories behind the issue and how people have dealt with it.
For me, adoption is something that hasn’t been a big part of my life or the lives of those I’m close to. A close friend of my parents was adopted as a child and recently reconnected with her birth family, but beyond that, my experience was fairly limited. Fairly recently, I met a woman who adopted her first child (and then had two birth children) and heard her talk about it a bit. It intrigued me and I’ve started thinking about how difficult and rewarding it must be to adopt a child - and how much more difficult it must be to be an adopted child. As I looked into it more, I found this Goodreads list and found that I’d already read plenty of fiction about adoption.
The books listed below are taken directly from this Goodreads list and my experience with books on this list. All descriptions are taken from Goodreads. Additional comments are mine. I had read a great many of the books on this list, so I am only mentioning the top five that I read on this blog post.

  • Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery - Everyone's favorite redhead, the spunky Anne Shirley, begins her adventures at Green Gables, a farm outside Avonlea, Prince Edward Island. When the freckled girl realizes that the elderly Cuthberts wanted to adopt a boy instead, she begins to try to win them and, consequently, the reader, over.
    • I read this book as a child and loved it. Anne was wonderful and fun while dealing with some major changes. This look at an adopted child and the difficulties she must overcome is both hilarious and inspirational.

  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett - When orphaned Mary Lennox comes to live at her uncle's great house on the Yorkshire Moors, she finds it full of secrets. The mansion has nearly one hundred rooms, and her uncle keeps himself locked up. And at night, she hears the sound of crying down one of the long corridors. The gardens surrounding the large property are Mary's only escape. Then, Mary discovers a secret garden, surrounded by walls and locked with a missing key. One day, with the help of two unexpected companions, she discovers a way in. Is everything in the garden dead, or can Mary bring it back to life?
    • I quite enjoyed this book when I was young. Mary Lennox struggles greatly with her adoption - especially since her new guardian, her uncle, is rarely around and leaves her to her own devices. Some adopted children can probably identify with Mary’s struggles to adjust.

  • Stellaluna by Janell Cannon - Stellaluna is the tender story of a lost young bat who finally finds her way safely home to her mother and friends. This award-winning book by Janell Cannon has sold over 500,000 copies and was on the bestseller list for more than two years.
    • I was read this book many times as a child and always loved it! This story of a poor little bat who is taken in (for a short time) by a family of birds is both adorable and heartwarming.

  • Matilda by Roald Dahl - Matilda is a little girl who is far too good to be true. At age five-and-a-half she's knocking off double-digit multiplication problems and blitz-reading Dickens. Even more remarkably, her classmates love her even though she's a super-nerd and the teacher's pet. But everything is not perfect in Matilda's world. For starters she has two of the most idiotic, self-centered parents who ever lived. Then there's the large, busty nightmare of a school principal, Mrs. ("The") Trunchbull, a former hammer-throwing champion who flings children at will and is approximately as sympathetic as a bulldozer. Fortunately for Matilda, she has the inner resources to deal with such annoyances: astonishing intelligence, saintly patience, and an innate predilection for revenge. She warms up with some practical jokes aimed at her hapless parents, but the true test comes when she rallies in defense of her teacher, the sweet Miss Honey, against the diabolical Trunchbull. There is never any doubt that Matilda will carry the day. Even so, this wonderful story is far from predictable. Roald Dahl, while keeping the plot moving imaginatively, also has an unerring ear for emotional truth. The reader cares about Matilda because in addition to all her other gifts, she has real feelings.
    • What a fun and delightful book! While Matilda is not adopted until the end of this book, she gives an excellent example of the sort of backgrounds some adopted children come from. This is a classic that everyone should read.

  • Les Miserables by Victor Hugo - Introducing one of the most famous characters in literature, Jean Valjean—the noble peasant imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread—Les Misérables ranks among the greatest novels of all time. In it, Victor Hugo takes readers deep into the Parisian underworld, immerses them in a battle between good and evil, and carries them to the barricades during the uprising of 1832 with a breathtaking realism that is unsurpassed in modern prose. Within his dramatic story are themes that capture the intellect and the emotions: crime and punishment, the relentless persecution of Valjean by Inspector Javert, the desperation of the prostitute Fantine, the amorality of the rogue Thénardier, and the universal desire to escape the prisons of our own minds. Les Misérables gave Victor Hugo a canvas upon which he portrayed his criticism of the French political and judicial systems, but the portrait that resulted is larger than life, epic in scope—an extravagant spectacle that dazzles the senses even as it touches the heart.
    • This book is WOW. And incredibly long. But still WOW. Cosette is a child with a difficult background and one traumatic adoption that ends when she is taken in by Jean Valjean, where she finally finds love and acceptance. This book is a must-read.

What books on adoption have you read? What other issues do you enjoy reading about? How accurate do you feel this Goodreads list is?

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