There’s a lot you take for granted if you know your biological parents. If you can look at their face and hands and hairline and posture and even their health history and compare it to yours, can say, I got this from my mother, I am more like my father with this… I read a lot, just like my mom. I am naturally good at Math, just like my dad… The comparison is an activity that consumes much of our conversation all throughout life. Go to a new doctor and as you fill out your health records, you’ll be asked about medical risks based on your parents’ lives. Make a new friend and at some point, the conversation will come around to which parent you look like. Often, a person who was adopted is forced to omit this information from the health intake form, stay silent when the conversation rolls around to parent-child comparisons, or repeat, for the thousandth time, I’m adopted, to which they might receive the dreaded response, “So you don’t know who your real parents are.” Who wants to hear that the only parents they know aren’t real?
Yet, Anne’s comparisons had different results. She looks like her birth parents. She has the physical features that resemble the people who adopted her. She even patterned her career choices after her adopted mother’s so they have that in common. From the outside, Anne Doesn’t Look Adopted! Ironically, her Japanese-Caucasian mixed-race daughter looks adopted even though she’s not. But in the end, what you look like isn’t all that matters, right? It’s not whether you look like you belong, it’s that you feel like you do.
Anne Heffron’s memoir doesn’t just talk about adoption; she talks about the blank of her life before she was adopted. “I was born in December but my parents didn’t get me until February. I don’t know where I was those first ten weeks.” Anne is in her fifties and those first ten weeks still and will always impact the rest of her years. It is the reason for all her questions; a constant hunger for information because her roots don’t go deep enough to nourish her; an inability to settle into a stable relationship because the roots that should anchor her are missing; a futile search for love because she can’t love herself if she can’t find herself and she’s spent her life chasing a phantom because the roots were missing and she didn’t know where she really belonged.
You Don’t Look Adopted is a collection of Anne’s thoughts, as raw as if she was sitting in front of you telling her story, about the holes she’s felt that were missing, her attempts to fill them up and the complications those decisions have brought, her appreciation for the people that adopted her and became her parents, but also the thoughts that plagues her: There must be something seriously wrong with you for your own mother to give you up because even when things get really hard, most people hang on to the things they love most. What makes Anne’s story even more real is that in it, she finds her birth mother and is rejected a second time and forty-something years of muddled longing finds its loci. Part of her story is that Anne grew up in a family where her two other siblings were also adopted. She’s also spent a fair bit of her life meeting other people who have been adopted and chronicling their experiences and so in this book, she shares not just her story but parts of theirs, the pain they have in common, the questions they all ask, the need they all have but the different ways they manifest them.
You Don’t Look Adopted is a mesmerizing page turner, filled with real emotion and tempered with advice for how to talk to the person in your life that might be adopted, and how to be sensitive to their needs. The text is arranged in short themed sections, each ranging from a few lines to a few pages, with thoughts that jump back and forth in time, like a person might alternate between living in the present and remembering some significant past event, tracing a path or forging a new one, but always radiating out from some black hole.
While I read Anne’s book, and when she quoted Joseph Campbell’s words on the singleness of religion, I kept wondering whether a stronger faith base might give her the anchor she’s been seeking. But I didn’t want to fix Anne; I was merely invited to read her life, not tell her how to live it. Yet, she mentioned that in her focus on finding her birth mother, she hesitated on extending the search to finding her father, alluding to the mother as the sought-after creator while the father is just messenger. She mentioned that religion is often based on this search yet while she sought enlightenment and peace in yoga and meditation, she had found neither. But the last interaction that she includes in this memoir is with a guy in a coffee shop who says all humanity is united as adopted children of God. Here, Anne’s story gains new hope. She finds new meaning in being the root for someone else – her daughter, Keats. She finds new purpose that extends beyond herself into providing stability for another person. In the end, Anne’s acceptance of that love brings freedom and gives the book a happy conclusion, even as her story continues.
I received a free copy of You Don’t Look Adopted from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review
If you’d like to enter to win a few copy of You Don’t Look Adopted, simply write “Adopted In Love” in the comments section below, before January 31st.
On February 1st, I will choose one winner randomly. US/Canada only, please.
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Other TLC Book Tour Stops:Monday, January 8th: The Sketchy ReaderWednesday, January 10th: I Brought a BookThursday, January 11th: Patricia’s WisdomFriday, January 12th: Stranded in ChaosTuesday, January 16th: Run WrightWednesday, January 17th: Diary of a Stay at Home MomThursday, January 18th: BookchickdiMonday, January 22nd: Book Mama BlogWednesday, January 24th: Readaholic ZoneFriday, January 26th: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books