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Reviewed by Kimberlee J Benart for Readers' Favorite
In Adoption History 101: An Orphan's Research, author and adoption rights activist Janine Myung Ja uncovers the ugly underbelly of the modern world-wide adoption industry and recounts some of the heartbreaking and even shocking truths about historical adoption movements and programs. In a well-researched, well-referenced text which she humbly describes as “a short summary,” she educates, advocates, and warns. We need to understand the history of adoption movements, she tells us, and how some were tools in child indenturing, religious conversion, or ethnic subjugation. We need to support changes to laws, she urges, so that adoptees have full human rights, including easy and direct access to any records related to their own birth and parentage. And, she warns, we need to recognize that adoption is a very lucrative and effective screen for criminal child trafficking taking place around the world today, and which leaves countless victims in its wake.
Myung Ja wrote Adoption History 101 not just as a concerned human being, but as an international child adoptee herself who struggled to learn the truth of her own birth and was met with barriers and runarounds at every turn. “This book is a portrait of adoption from the back door,” she writes, “a view that no one really wants to look at, talk about or even acknowledge, but to me is vitally important because adoption is not always a ‘win-win-win’ for all.”
This may be a difficult book for some to read. It’s an emotional topic and an eye-opening one. In the United States, adoption has been so commonplace that any of us may have ancestors who were adopted; or friends and family who are adoptees or adoptive parents; or we may be adopted ourselves. The image of orphaned children, abandoned children, or children willingly placed for adoption being given a better start in life than they would otherwise have had, is a touching and sympathetic one. Unfortunately, it isn’t always a true one.