American baby : a mother, a child, and the shadow history of adoption

by Glaser, Gabrielle,

Format: Print Book 2021
Availability: Available at 23 Libraries 23 of 29 copies
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Bethel Park Public Library New Books 362.734 GL
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Cooper-Siegel Community Library - Sharpsburg New Books 362.734 GLA
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Oakmont Carnegie Library Non-Fiction 362.73 GLA
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Robinson Library Non-Fiction 362.73 GLASER
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Sewickley Public Library New Book 362.734 GLA 2021
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Summary
"Powerful... Tells a singular story to illuminate a universal truth." --The New York Times Book Review

The shocking truth about postwar adoption in America, told through the bittersweet story of one teenager, the son she was forced to relinquish, and their search to find each other

During the Baby Boom in 1960s America, women were encouraged to stay home and raise large families, but sex and childbirth were taboo subjects. Premarital sex was common, but birth control was hard to get and abortion was illegal. In 1961, sixteen-year-old Margaret Erle fell in love and became pregnant. Her enraged family sent her to a maternity home, and after she gave birth, she wasn't even allowed her to hold her own son. Social workers threatened her with jail until she signed away her parental rights. Her son vanished, his whereabouts and new identity known only to an adoption agency that would never share the slightest detail about his fate.

Claiming to be acting in the best interests of all, the adoption business was founded on secrecy and lies. American Baby lays out how a lucrative and exploitative industry removed children from their birth mothers and placed them with hopeful families, fabricating stories about infants' origins and destinations, then closing the door firmly between the parties forever. Adoption agencies and other organizations that purported to help pregnant women struck unethical deals with doctors and researchers for pseudoscientific "assessments," and shamed millions of young women into surrendering their children.

Gabrielle Glaser dramatically demonstrates the power of the expectations and institutions that Margaret faced. Margaret went on to marry and raise a large family with David's father, but she never stopped longing for and worrying about her firstborn. She didn't know he spent the first years of his life living just a few blocks away from her; as he grew, he wondered about where he came from and why he was given up. Their tale--one they share with millions of Americans--is one of loss, love, and the search for identity.

Adoption's closed records are being legally challenged in states nationwide. Open adoption is the rule today, but the identities of many who were adopted or who surrendered a child in the postwar decades are locked in sealed files. American Baby illuminates a dark time in our history and shows a path to reunion that can help heal the wounds inflicted by years of shame and secrecy.
Published Reviews
Booklist Review: "Margaret Erle was a heartbreakingly naive 17-year-old when she was bullied into giving up her newborn son in New York City in 1961. Like thousands of other unwed mothers, she was packed off to a remote institution during her pregnancy and gave birth in secrecy. Margaret and her son's father, George, were truly in love and went on to marry and have other children, but because of draconian sealed adoption policies enforced by social agencies and state governments, they lost all contact with their firstborn. Glaser (Her Best-Kept Secret, 2013) painstakingly researched Margaret's story, and here wraps it around a social history of adoption, exploring evolving cultural and political views about motherhood. She shows how orphan trains and baby farms gave way to corporate private adoptions, and documents the years-long legal battles wrought by adoptees and birth parents trying to access their personal histories. In her prologue, Glaser reveals a bittersweet ending: thanks to a home DNA test, Margaret was reunited with her son (Glaser's personal friend) as he battled cancer. Young women like Margaret were instructed to forget that their pregnancies had ever happened. This book is a testament to the mothers who never forgot their children, and searched for them with love and longing.Women in Focus: The 19th in 2020"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review: "Journalist Glaser (Her Best-Kept Secret) chronicles the forcible separation of a young woman from her infant son, and their much-delayed reunion, in this sweeping and novelistic account. In 1961, 16-year-old Margaret Erle is sent by her outraged parents to a maternity home after becoming pregnant. There, she is bullied by the administrators into giving up her son, Stephen. Renamed David by his adoptive parents, he grows up to become a popular cantor in Portland, Ore. Glaser meets David in 2007 and learns what little family history he knows: he's adopted, and, in poor health, wants to find his birth family. In 2014, she receives a phone call from him after he'd successfully reunited with his mother. Inspired by David's story, Glaser starts looking into the history of adoption and uncovers a larger story. Post-WWII, she finds, an "adoption-industrial complex" transformed adoption from a largely informal process into an impersonal and secretive one intended to spare both teenagers and their families embarrassment. In capturing the meeting between Margaret and David as his health rapidly declines due to cancer, Glaser delivers more than just the story of "a lifelong separation and a bittersweet reunion," and the well-paced narrative is made stronger by Glaser's ability to write with intensity about a harsh reality. This is a page-turning, illuminating work. (Jan.)Correction: An earlier version of this review incorrectly stated the author helped David find his birth mother."
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Additional Information
Subjects Rosenberg, David, -- 1961-2014.
Katz, Margaret Erle.
Adopted children -- United States.
Adoption -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
Adoption agencies -- Corrupt practices -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
Teenage mothers -- United States -- Social conditions -- 20th century.
Birthparents -- Identification.
Biographies.
Publisher [New York, New York] :2021
Language English
Description 343 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Bibliography Notes Includes bibliographical references (pages 291-327) and index.
ISBN 9780735224681
0735224684
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