This wide-ranging anthology features adoptees, foster-care veterans, trauma survivors, young birth mothers, adoptive parents, and those whose lives they touch.
Contemporary realism, science fiction, fantasy, and historical fiction: these 29 stories cover complicated territory. In adoption, happiness is inextricably bound to sorrow, even when birth parents put their child’s welfare ahead of their own, even when adoptee and adoptive parents form a loving bond. In Caela Carter’s luminous story, an African-American teen, a gifted student and athlete, must tell her beloved mother, whom she visits in prison, that her track coach and foster mother wants to adopt her; being gifted a life her mother couldn’t provide is a bitter joy. In Julie Leung’s “Ink Drips Black,” the bond connecting a Chinese grandmother and her American-adopted granddaughter, Stacy, is sacrifice. The high price paid for Stacy’s future is loss of family and culture. Elsewhere, a veteran of multiple placements dreads removal from the warm, welcoming foster family she’s bonded with; an adoptive family invites the young birth mother who made their family possible to remain part of it. Too many less-impressive stories offer a conventional outsider’s view of adoption—adoption by generous, loving parents as the happy ending to years of birthparent abuse or neglect. The best, however, reflect the bittersweet truths that adoptive families differ profoundly from biological ones and that coming to terms with these differences is a lifelong process.
Skip this uneven collection’s slighter offerings; its best are worth finding. (Short stories. 12-16)