Friday, April 13, 2012
Friday Books: Making Me Think
Last week I finished The Girls Who Went Away, The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade by Ann Fessler.
Great book! I always have been interested in adoption. I used to tell my mother that I planned to adopt 19 children and give birth to one. Of course, that didn't really happen once I realized I was not cut out to mother umpteen kids.
I still think about it, however. Just a few years ago, hubby and I looked into adopting a teenager out of foster care. We came very close to signing up to actually do it. We realized, though, that we were nearing the "too old and too tired" age. That would have taken a lot of energy that we felt we no longer possess. I still think about it, however, and kind of pine for those kids who need families.
Anyway, back to the book... it tells the stories of birth mothers who relinquished their babies to adoption during the early 1900s and especially after WWII, up until the mid-70s. The prevailing attitude after WWII was that girls in their teens to young twenties who were pregnant outside of marriage were not prepared to be mothers. Their babies, it was thought, would do much better in "stable" families. Most of the teen moms had no say in the matter, and having their babies removed against their will, or at least with no other options presented, proved to be life-altering and very traumatic for most of them.
I was floored, reading this book, and finding that I used to believe some of the rhetoric surrounding these thoughts. It was a riveting book and also gut-wrenching at the same time.
After I finished this, I had some mildly bad dreams about babies and adoption. I like to think that as a young woman in those times I did not blame the girls for being "sluts" as many of them were labeled. But... I was a product of my time. I probably did at least think they were the naughty girls. Little did I know I was falling for false rhetoric. Makes me sad to think of it. (At least I was savvy enough to know it wasn't fair that girls were shamed and boys got away with it or even were proud.)
There was a girl in my class who "went away" for several months, and, of course, rumors were circulating. She probably was in this same situation: pregnant, made to feel ashamed, removed from public, forced to give away her baby. Really makes me wonder about her and what that did to her and her future.
I want to make a comment on the title. I don't know why it is called "...in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade." That's the law that made abortions legal. The book doesn't get into the abortion question at all (or, very little). And it doesn't make the argument that adoption diminished because of abortion being a new option. Rather it tends to credit the change in thinking on how to counsel pregnant girls, making options more clear to them, and the big one: birth control being talked about openly and made much more accessible. So if you think, because of the title, that it is a pro-abortion book that you want to avoid, please don't. It's not about abortion at all and is a fascinating look at our attitudes toward adoption and toward those girls who find themselves pregnant in their teens and early twenties outside of marriage.
This was a great book. I love a book that makes me think and learn. 5 stars.