Sound of Hope Book Tour

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.

9 responses

  1. was thinking about you sister who was placed for adoption and if you had the right to find her on your own. I think in my case I would search for her even if my parents weren’t interested. I feel your sister is a member of your immediate family and that you have a right to know your own sister. All members of the family are important. My first-mother told me that she kept me a secret from her children because she was afraid they would wonder about me and it would cause them pain. I feel your feelings should be considered as well, you were told you had a sibling and it’s very hard to just ignore that information. You are part of the ‘adoption mosaic’ as much as your sister is and your parents. All are affected. Try to talk to your mom about the two of you searching together.

  2. In regards to the second question. I’d like to add that as an adoptive parent in an open adoption, I’m amazed at the number of adoptive parents we meet who kind if give us the side-eye when we talk about being open. It was something that I hadn’t expected from other adoptive parents. It doesn’t happen often, and I think you’re right on that just the fact that there is more openness now that its improved.

  3. When I hear you talk about the ambivalence about searching for your sister, it makes me sad. YOU have lost something, too — not just your parents and not just your sister. Still, I understand when you say you feel it’s not your search to make.

    And openness, when done with the right spirit, will help avoid such conundrums.

    I am in agreement with you on the last question. That the two lies are not necessarily equal because of the intent behind them.

    So glad you joined. You have such an interesting perspective on adoption, one we don’t hear very often.

  4. I was so moved by your honesty in writing: “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.”

    Yes! I’m an adoptive mom and our relationship with our daughter’s mom is very open, so I get lots of chances to notice when suddenly assumptions about biology and parenting and family that I didn’t even realize I had show up. Our frequent contact and close family relationship means that I can’t pretend that our daughter doesn’t have another mom and family. I am glad that I don’t have to pretend. But this also means that I have to really work to claim my daughter as mine. And openness actually helps in this regard, because my daughter’s mom reminds me that she sees me as mom too, even when strangers say stupid things to me in the grocery store or when I feel like the most bumbling new parent on the planet. It is a crazy mixed-up stew of emotions, that is for sure.

    I’m glad to find your blog through Lori’s amazing work. Sending lots of fertile blessings your way! 🙂

  5. Agreed with Lori: it makes me sad too that you have also lost something, your knowing your sister. But yes, totally understand how it’s not your search to make.

  6. Enjoyed you review, Esperanza. I, also, do not understand why everyone has such a hard time dealing with the fact that an adoptee wants to search. I understand the adoptive parents having issues (but not giving their child guilt trips). Everyone else seems so invested in stopping them, too. It makes no sense to me. I felt sorry for Anne at this part of the book. It seemed she was so ganged up on.

  7. “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.”

    I was wondering the same thing too and I am an adoptee. I would hope that the mindset has changed, but I am really curious if grandparents or older adoptive parents, etc. are still fighting the openness and being resistant to change.

    Great thoughts ; thanks for sharing :).

  8. My children have an older half sibling and I know they wonder about her, and my daughter especially would love to have a relationship with her sister. (Partly because she believes it would be better to have a sister than a brother — the power of not living with someone and being annoyed by them on a daily basis. But, she also longs to know more about all the people in her biological family.) I loved hearing your perspective because I often wonder about my children’s birth sister and what/how she thinks about the adoption.

  9. So glad to get to do this book tour with you! As Lori says, you do have such an interesting perspective, that people don’t often get to hear very much about. I respect your choice to wait for your sister to search for you someday, but appreciate how hard that must be for you and how curious you are about who she is today and what her life has been like. Just thinking about your situation makes me wonder too. I do hope and pray that someday you will all be reunited.

    Being the aunt to two adopted children in open adoptions, after reading The Sound of Hope I have such an appreciation for how times have changed (at least somewhat) and how blessed and lucky they are to have been born into an era that is more accepting and comfortable with open adoptions. I do truly believe when it is works, it is best for the child and can help to avoid so many of the issues that can arise for adoptees who don’t know where/who they came from before they were adopted.

    I also answered the last question about the lies and intentions. When I wrote my answer I said that I thought they were similar, but since then a lot of people have commented on my post to challenge my perspective and share their points of view. Your answers, a long with others’ arguments has helped me to see it may not have been that simple and the nuns especially may not have been doing what they did always in the best interest of the child.

    Great answers Esperanza! I always enjoy your writing and am glad to have shared this experience with you. 🙂

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