An absorbing memoir of one birth mother’s experiences, interspersed with an array of narratives, musings, facts, and statistics on the theme of adoption. When Franklin, a literary agent (and a member of the board of directors of the Spence-Chapin adoption agency), became pregnant in 1965, she was a 19-year-old unwed college sophomore. Her family shuffled her off from her home in Virginia to a maternity home in New York City, where relinquishing her baby to adoption was the only option offered her. “We wanted to make right our wrongs and go home,” she writes, but when she gave birth to her son, she was instantly overcome with maternal feelings for him. For years afterward, she suffered feelings of shame, isolation, sadness, and poor self-esteem. The secrecy and silence that cloaked the adoption, contends Franklin, are largely responsible for these feelings. Much of May the Circle Be Unbroken is, in fact, a plea to open adoption records in the US so that searches and reunions between birth parents and adopted children can be facilitated. Searching for and reuniting with their birth parents, states Franklin, helps adoptees attain a sense of wholeness, no matter how well adjusted they are in their adoptive families. Only when Franklin was reunited with her son 27 years later could she begin to recover from the initial trauma or “primal wound” of losing him. Reunion itself, though, is often “an emotional roller coaster” that begins to take on a life of its own. In addition to delicately navigating her relationship with her son, Franklin cautiously establishes a relationship with his adoptive parents, who divorced when he was nine. And Franklin must come to terms with the realization that, although she is her son’s birth mother, the two cannot have the lifelong parenting bond that exists between him and the woman who raised him. A thorough, provocative discourse on just about every aspect of the joys and sorrows of all those involved in the adoption process. (For a look at adoption from the adoptee’s point of view, see Sarah Saffian, Ithaka: A Daughter’s Memoir of Being Found, p. 1365.)

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 1998

ISBN: 0-517-70755-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harmony

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1998

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.


Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.


Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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