Reading is not only a great form of entertainment, but it has also been shown to relax our bodies and calm our minds—something we could all use a little more of these days. It’s also a great way to engage in self-introspection or jump-start meaningful conversations with loved ones. We’ve rounded up 13 books that explore themes of foster care and adoption written from the perspective of adoptees, adoptive parents, and adoption professionals.
Essays & Memoir
All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung
Nicole Chung was placed for adoption by her Korean parents in the 1980s and was raised by a white family in a sheltered town in Oregon. While growing up, Chung became increasingly curious about where she came from and often wondered if the neatly packaged story she’d been told about her adoption was the whole truth. All You Can Ever Know is a moving chronicle of surprising connections and the repercussions of unearthing painful family secrets—vital reading for anyone who has ever struggled to figure out where they belong.
Black Is the Body by Emily Bernard
Black is the Body: Stories From My Grandmother’s Time, My Mother’s Time, and Mind is an exceptionally written memoir that looks at race with fearless honesty. Throughout twelve deeply personal essays, Bernard explores the complexities and haunting realities of growing up black in the South with a family name inherited from a white man, getting a PhD from Yale, marrying a white man from the North, adopting two babies from Ethiopia, and living and teaching in a primarily white New England college town. Each of these essays sets out to discover a new way of talking about race and of telling the truth as the author has lived it.
Jennifer by Nandita Puri
Jennifer: One Woman, Two Continents and a Truth Called Child Trafficking is a gut-wrenching and unforgettable story of courage and survival. When eight-year-old Jennifer “Pinky” Francis steps on to American soil for the first time, she has no idea her life is about to change forever. After being illegally trafficked into the US under the garb of adoption by the very people who had been entrusted with her care, Jennifer finds herself in a foreign land where she is thrust into the nightmarish world of sexual abuse, drugs, and crime. Jennifer is not only a representation of the millions of illegal inter-country adoptees but also a representation of human suffering.
Motherhood So White by Nefertiti Austin
Motherhood So White: A Memoir of Race, Gender, and Parenting in America is the story of Nefertiti’s Austin’s fight to create the family she always knew she was meant to have, and the story of motherhood that all American families need now. In this unflinching account of her parenting journey, Austin examines the history of adoption in the African American community, faces off against stereotypes of single, Black motherhood, and confronts the reality of raising children of color in racially charged, modern-day America.
Rock Needs River: A Memoir About a Very Open Adoption by Vanessa McGrady
After two years of waiting to adopt—slogging through paperwork and bouncing between hope and despair—a miracle finally happened for Vanessa McGrady. Her sweet baby, Grace, was a dream come true. Then Vanessa made a highly uncommon gesture: when Grace’s biological parents became homeless, Vanessa invited them to stay. Written with wit, candor, and compassion, Rock Needs River is, ultimately, Vanessa’s love letter to her daughter, one that illuminates the universal need for connection.
Three Little Words by Ashley Rhodes-Courter
Ashley Rhodes-Courter spent nine years of her life in fourteen different foster homes. As her mother spirals out of control, Ashley is left clinging to an unpredictable, dissolving relationship, all the while getting pulled deeper and deeper into the foster care system. Painful memories of being taken away from her home quickly become consumed by real-life horrors, where Ashley is juggled between caseworkers, shuffled from school to school, and forced to endure manipulative, humiliating treatment from a very abusive foster family. In this unforgettable memoir, Ashley finds her voice and the courage to succeed.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
This New York Times bestselling novel takes place in a Shaker Heights, a progressive suburb of Cleveland, where everything is meticulously planned—from the layout of the winding roads to the colors of the houses. When an affluent white family attempts to adopt a Chinese American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town. Powerful questions about motherhood, transracial adoption, and identity loom large in the usually quiet town.
The How & the Why by Cynthia Hand
The How & the Why is a poignant YA novel that explores family and the ties that bind. The story centers around Cassandra McMurtrey, who by all definitions has the best parents a girl could ask for. They’ve given Cassandra a life she wouldn’t trade for the world. While she has everything she needs, Cassandra is an adoptee with little information about her birth family and feels an increasing desire to learn more about who she is and where she comes from.
Two Dads: A Book About Adoption by Carolyn Robertson
Two Dads is a beautifully illustrated, affirming story of life with two dads. Written from the perspective of their adopted child, the book uses heartwarming illustrations and delightful rhymes to celebrate the beauty found in all kinds of families—particularly those on the LGBT spectrum. Perfect for the young reader in your life!
In on It by Elisabeth O’Toole
In On It: What Adoptive Parents Would Like You To Know About Adoption has been called “the adoption book for everyone else”: the grandparents and friends, neighbors and colleagues, aunts and uncles, teachers and caregivers of adoptive families. The book is filled with helpful advice and instructive anecdotes from adoptive parents, adult adoptees, adoption professionals, and the friends and relatives of already established adoptive families.
Seven Core Issues in Adoption and Permanency by Sharon Roszia & Allison Maxon
For decades, the authors’ Seven Core Issues in Adoption have been informing and guiding adoptive parents. This highly-anticipated book delves deeply into the Seven Core Issues in Adoption including loss, rejection, shame/guilt, grief, identity, intimacy, and mastery/control. This essential guide is inclusive of adoption and all forms of permanency: adoption, foster care, kinship care, donor insemination, and surrogacy.
The Girls Who Went Away by Ann Fessler
In this deeply moving work, Ann Fessler brings out into the open for the first time the astonishing untold history of the million and a half women who surrendered children for adoption due to enormous family and social pressures. Fessler brilliantly brings to life the voices of more than a hundred women, as well as the spirit of those times, allowing the women to tell their stories in gripping and intimate detail. This book provides a thoughtful exploration of the way adoption used to be practiced and why the shift toward openness has been so important.
The Harris Narratives by Susan Harris O’Connor
The Harris Narratives: An Introspective Study of a Transracial Adoptee consists of five autobiographical narratives by Susan Harris O’Connor, a social worker and transracial adoptee. These monologues were developed and performed around the United States in academic, clinical and child welfare settings to wide acclaim over the last sixteen years. In her narratives, the author explores the impact of foster care during the first 14 months of her life, her relationship with her unknown birth father, the role of race and racism for transracial adoptees who grow up in white communities, and the development of racial identity.