Politics"" is the word these days, with accusations of civil rights violations, genocide, and imperialism being flung at surprised would-be-adopters. Benet, a British-based researcher, analyzes current Western attitudes with reference to the customs that have prevailed in other times and places. The notion that a child ""belong to"" two biological parents is no more ""natural"" than the traditional Chinese practice of adopting a concubine's son in order to ensure an heir, or the Polynesian norm of ""kinship fostering."" Benet's own judgments have a decidedly leftward emphasis which sometimes clarifies, sometimes distorts. It is useful to be reminded that in England until WW I indigent children were at the mercy of the Tudor Poor Laws--a punitive ""instrument of class warfare""--and that the gradual acceptance of adoption coincided with changing attitudes toward property in the industrialized West. It is more questionable to be told that the socially ruinous wartime urbanization of South Vietnam was not merely a result of American policy but one of its ""major and deliberate"" aims. Closer to home, Benet sympathetically summarizes the moral, physical, political, and bureaucratic difficulties confronting those who want to adopt. Although she sees much merit in black and Third World attacks on transracial, transnational adoption (witness the dreadful spectacle of the Vietnamese ""baby lift""), she also understands the British journalist who ""believes that anyone faced with the same situation would do as he did""--adopt two nonwhite children--""no matter what his views on the ultimate solution to the problem."" A difficult book--Benet's prose style can be maddeningly dense and impersonal--but a solid, valuable achievement.