As many of you know, I am very interested in adoption, mostly because my parents, at the very young age of 17, had a daughter who was adopted. All this happened ten years before I was born. I’ve always wondered about my sister, who and where she is and if she’s looking for us. I would love to find her and meet her some day, to hear her story. Until that happens (if it ever does), I enjoy reading the stories of other adoptees, hoping to get an idea of what her experience might be by hearing theirs. For that reason, and because the host is so supremely awesome, I joined Lori’s most recent book tour which gave me the opportunity to read The Sound of Hope: A True Story of an Adoptee’s Quest of her Origins by Anne Bauer.
I enjoyed the book and I appreciated hearing the story of one adoptee who wanted desperately to know where she came from despite almost constant opposition from her adoptive family. Throughout the story I was struck by how differently adoption was handled then as opposed to how it is handled now (or at least how I believe it is handled now from the limited exposure I have). I was saddened to read of how hard it was for Anne to find her birth parents, because of both the hostility she faced from her parents and the restrictions she faced from the state. I was also inspired to read how she overcame these obstacles and through her incredible determination and sheer force of will, was able to find, and connect with, the woman who birthed her.
I was struck by how differently the many adoptees in the book (Bauer, her brothers, her adoptee friends) approached the possibility of finding their birth parents. While I totally understood the author’s need to find her birth parents I was surprised that other adoptees didn’t feel that same urge, or that it was trumped by guilt or ambivalence. Did you identify more with the author’s drive to find her parents at any cost or did you better understand better the other adoptees’ ambivalence? Why?
I did notice the differences in the ways the various adoptees in the book viewed the prospect of trying to find their birth parents. Besides the author, none of the other adoptees seemed interested in searching. Her brothers seemed to harbor too much animosity toward the people who “abandoned them” and it was clear they also feared their parents’ retribution (a feeling I’m sure was amplified by witnessing resentment Anne faced). Her friend’s decision not to search for her birth parents seemed fueled equally by fear and guilt, which was interesting given her mother’s assurance that she would support her daughter’s attempts. I will admit that I was surprised by these attitudes, perhaps because they clashed so fully with the author’s, who seemed to have absolutely no reservations about searching for her birth parents. It was hard to understand how the fear, guilt and ambivalence was strong enough to prevent others from even considering looking for their birth parents and yet were hardly experienced by the author herself.
I, of course, can never know how I’d react in a similar situation. I assume I’d want to find my birth parents but I can’t know if fear, guilt or ambivalence would keep me from doing so. I suppose fear, guilt and ambivalence prevent me from actively searching for my older sister, despite a genuine desire to get to know her. In so many ways I feel like that is not my search to undertake; I worry I would be stepping on the toes of my parents (my mother is very interested in meeting her daughter but my father refuses to talk abou it). I also worry that my sister might not even know she is adopted, or know and now want to be found and it doesn’t feel right for me to force our family onto her and if that isn’t what she wants. I have so many rational (or they seem rational to me) reasons for not actively searching yet in the end they all boil down to the same base emotions that kept the other adoptees in Anne’s life from searching for their birth parents. It makes me wonder if their reactions make more sense to me than I realize.
There are many instances in which the people around Anne do not acknowledge her feelings about her adoption status. These instances range from her parents, especially her mother, her fiancee, her fiancee’s parents, and even her birth mother. Do you think these instances occurred because of the general outlook on adoption at the time, and do you think that this outlook has improved over time?
I was very struck by how the people closest to Anne failed to acknowledge her feelings about her adoption status. I absolutely understood her need to find her birth parents and I was surprised, if not disappointed, that no one close to her was able to do so. I have to assume that their attitudes stemmed from the outlook of adoption at the time and I would like to believe that this outlook has changed over time. The fact that open adoptions are embraced now has to mean something for society’s attitudes about adoption in general. Even if open adoptions aren’t pursued by all, the fact that they exist is in such contrast to the secrecy surrounding back then, I just can’t imagine we haven’t enjoyed some progress. I think international adoptions, which are so commonly interracial, also help promote an openness about adoption that wasn’t as prevalent when adoptees could “pass” as biological children (as in the author’s situation). Of course, I could be wrong, but things do seem different these days.
After reunion, when her birth mother wants to hear that Anne had a good life, Anne allows Jo to believe she did. But she asks herself, “I thought about the nuns and how they hid the pregnant girls. Was I any better than they were, covering up the mistakes of others with lies?” Do you see any difference between the nuns’ lies and Anne’s?
This is an intriguing question. I want to believe that Anne’s actions, which allowed her birth mother to believe she had a good life, are different than the actions of the nuns who hid the pregnant girls and possibly coerced them into relinquishing their children. Anne did what she did out of love, compassion and empathy; she wanted to spare her birth mother the pain and regret she’d surely feel if she knew the truth. I don’t believe the nuns hid the pregnant girls away for the same reasons, although perhaps they did. To have a child out of wedlock at that time was a shameful thing and maybe the nuns were ultimately trying to help these girls in the best way they knew how. Still, it seems unlikely that Anne’s motives were the same as the nuns and I do believe motive informs action, so I believe Anne’s untruth can’t be compared to the nuns’ cover up.
To continue to the next leg of this book tour, please visit the main list at LavenderLuz.com.