Books by Jan L. Waldron

IN THE COUNTRY OF MEN by Jan L. Waldron
NON-FICTION
Released: May 1, 1997

This exploration of a lifetime's relationships with men is both more and less than meets the eye. Waldron wrote about reuniting with a daughter she gave up for adoption in the well-received Giving Away Simone (1994). Here she writes about living with men, primarily her two sons, Jose and James, but also her father, her brother, and various lovers. Her father was different from other fathers of the '50s—he had no ``regular'' job, but was a jazz musician who played on weekends. He encouraged both his son and his daughter to approach life in the same unconventional way, but his Peter Pan strategy lost its charm when Waldron's mother had a nervous breakdown. Although Waldron was only 11 and her brother but 10 months older, their father withdrew, often to his bedroom, where he literally pulled up the covers. That withdrawal precipitated a break with her father that was repaired only in the last years of his life. Yet Waldron's closeness to and admiration for her brother from the time they were youngsters kept her from giving up on men; indeed, she developed a lifelong compassion for the pressures brought upon a boy to be a ``man.'' A chapter on boyfriends takes the reader along another brambly path, from the author's first 12-year-old crush (a ``California dream'') to teenage sexual adventures that left her pregnant (with the child she gave away) and battered. The father of her boys was ``brilliant,'' ``creative,'' and ``thoughtful,'' but they separated when the boys were very young. Waldron went on to raise her sons not into men, but into adults who will help in ``reinventing family.'' In one chapter she writes of her new partner, who comes close to her ideal male. Less about men than about the author, this book calls for careful reading—it is full of unexpected insights and throwaway wit, landmarks in a sometimes bland landscape. Read full book review >
NON-FICTION
Released: Feb. 1, 1995

A penetrating first-person account of a mother-daughter reunion, by freelance writer and editor Waldron. At age 17, with the '60s in full swing and faced with a deteriorating family life, Jan Waldron became pregnant. Herself the child of an adoptee, she reluctantly relinquished her biracial infant, Simone, for adoption. When Simone, renamed Rebecca, was 11, her adoptive parents suggested a meeting between birthmother and child. The outcome of this reunion between Waldron, by then a single mother of two sons, and Rebecca is the subject of this memoir. Waldron not only chronicles the anguished journey that she and her daughter traversed from alienation to accommodation and eventually to a deeper connection, but she also touches on issues that are rarely confronted by birthmothers, adoptive parents, their children, and society at large. Rebecca had to come to terms with her biological mother, so different from the romanticized vision of her that she had cultivated. Waldron learned to forgive herself for giving up her daughter while establishing bounds for the complex relationship between them. ``We were trying to come up with answers, but we barely knew the question, so we fudged, fibbed, and tested,'' writes Waldron. While she succeeds in giving the reader intimate glimpses into her and her daughter's experiences, documented in their correspondences (``Do you want me to wish that you kept me?'' Rebecca asks; Jan writes, ``Your parents and I love our children differently''), Waldron occasionally lapses into facile generalizations. She insists, for example, that all adopted children lag emotionally behind their peers. Unexplored here is the impact of race upon Rebecca, who grows up biracial in a predominantly white society. Still, Waldron's painful honesty and absorbing insights make this book valuable reading. Read full book review >