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The scandalous truth about postwar adoption in America, told through the bittersweet story of one teenager, the son she was forced to relinquish, and their twin searches to find each other In 1960s America, at the height of the Baby Boom, women were encouraged to stay home and raise large families, but sex and childbirth were taboo subjects. Premarital sex was not uncommon, The scandalous truth about postwar adoption in America, told through the bittersweet story of one teenager, the son she was forced to relinquish, and their twin searches to find each other In 1960s America, at the height of the Baby Boom, women were encouraged to stay home and raise large families, but sex and childbirth were taboo subjects. Premarital sex was not uncommon, 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 unsympathetic family sent her to a maternity home. In the hospital, nurses would not even allow her to hold her own newborn. After she was finally badgered into signing away her rights, her son vanished into an adoption agency's hold. 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 place them with desperate families, fabricating stories about infants' origins and destinations, then closing the door firmly between the parties forever. They struck shady deals with doctors and researchers for pseudoscientific "assessments," and shamed millions of young women into surrendering their children. Gabrielle Glaser dramatically demonstrates the expectations and institutions that Margaret was up against. Though Margaret went on to marry and raise a large family with David's father, 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, wondering often 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 decades this book covers are locked in sealed files. American Baby both illuminates a dark time in our history and shows a path to justice, honesty and reunion that can help heal the wounds inflicted by years of shame and secrecy.


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The scandalous truth about postwar adoption in America, told through the bittersweet story of one teenager, the son she was forced to relinquish, and their twin searches to find each other In 1960s America, at the height of the Baby Boom, women were encouraged to stay home and raise large families, but sex and childbirth were taboo subjects. Premarital sex was not uncommon, The scandalous truth about postwar adoption in America, told through the bittersweet story of one teenager, the son she was forced to relinquish, and their twin searches to find each other In 1960s America, at the height of the Baby Boom, women were encouraged to stay home and raise large families, but sex and childbirth were taboo subjects. Premarital sex was not uncommon, 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 unsympathetic family sent her to a maternity home. In the hospital, nurses would not even allow her to hold her own newborn. After she was finally badgered into signing away her rights, her son vanished into an adoption agency's hold. 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 place them with desperate families, fabricating stories about infants' origins and destinations, then closing the door firmly between the parties forever. They struck shady deals with doctors and researchers for pseudoscientific "assessments," and shamed millions of young women into surrendering their children. Gabrielle Glaser dramatically demonstrates the expectations and institutions that Margaret was up against. Though Margaret went on to marry and raise a large family with David's father, 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, wondering often 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 decades this book covers are locked in sealed files. American Baby both illuminates a dark time in our history and shows a path to justice, honesty and reunion that can help heal the wounds inflicted by years of shame and secrecy.

30 review for American Baby: A Mother, a Child, and the Shadow History of Adoption

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay Nixon

    "Adoption doesn't guarantee a better life. It only offers a different life." Non-fiction Book of the year for me! I sobbed through the end; A must-read for feminists. If you enjoyed reading the fictional Before We Were Yours This is an absolute must. ORIGINAL BIRTH RECORDS SHOULD NOT BE SEALED. ADOPTEES HAVE THE RIGHT TO THEIR RECORDS. I'm ever grateful PA unsealed theirs a few years back and through a petition, I was able to get my original birth certificate. I am sure there are good adoptions; m "Adoption doesn't guarantee a better life. It only offers a different life." Non-fiction Book of the year for me! I sobbed through the end; A must-read for feminists. If you enjoyed reading the fictional Before We Were Yours This is an absolute must. ORIGINAL BIRTH RECORDS SHOULD NOT BE SEALED. ADOPTEES HAVE THE RIGHT TO THEIR RECORDS. I'm ever grateful PA unsealed theirs a few years back and through a petition, I was able to get my original birth certificate. I am sure there are good adoptions; my story isn't one and for most people born/adopted before the 90s it probably wasn't. This book also took me out of my own story and gave me insight into what it was like for my mother. It is terrible how we treat women as a society. I don't know that I'll ever believe in adoption. I had a negative view about adoption before this book and the facts and history here did little to sway my mind. What I do know is that mothers who want their babies should be given every ounce of help and support to be able to keep them, and for mothers who do not want to be pregnant, that abortion is safe and available.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Alexis

    This is a heartbreaking story of American adoption. Glaser focuses on the story of Margaret Erle (later Katz) and the son she was forced to relinquish for adoption, David Rosenberg (ne Stephen Mark Erle). Through their story, she looks at the history and workings of the Baby Scoop Era of American adoption and adoptees' push for information. In 1961, 17 year old New Yorker Margaret became pregnant by her boyfriend, George Katz. Her Holocaust-survivor parents were horrified, and both sets of paren This is a heartbreaking story of American adoption. Glaser focuses on the story of Margaret Erle (later Katz) and the son she was forced to relinquish for adoption, David Rosenberg (ne Stephen Mark Erle). Through their story, she looks at the history and workings of the Baby Scoop Era of American adoption and adoptees' push for information. In 1961, 17 year old New Yorker Margaret became pregnant by her boyfriend, George Katz. Her Holocaust-survivor parents were horrified, and both sets of parents refused to consent to marriage. Instead, Margaret was sent to Lakeview, on Staten Island, run by Louise Wise Services. I was aware that girls and women of that era were coerced into giving up their babies and sent away to erase the shame. I did not know the level of force placed onto them. Margaret never wanted to give up her baby and refused to sign papers; she and George wanted to get married and raise him. Instead, he was taken into foster care, and when she tried to get him back, she was threatened with juvenile hall if she did not sign him over. On their side, as well as lying to and coercing the birth mothers, Louise Wise lied to adoptive parents and permitted unauthorized research to be undertaken on adoptive children (famously the Three Identical Strangers triplets). Glaser draws back into the history of adoption to contextualize this era in American history and how social mores developed into a culture of turning teenage girls into a source of babies for infertile couples. She also looks back at how agencies engaged in illegal and immoral practices. Above all, this is the story of Margaret and David. Margaret never forgot about her baby, and tried to get information from Louise Wise and other sources after her initial attempts to get him back. David, though he was raised by adoptive parents who cared for him and loved him deeply, still suffered from knowing he had been given up without knowing why or how. Glaser is an excellent journalist and tells their story with great sympathy and emotion. Although many of the laws surrounding adoption have changed, even today not all adoption agencies or lawyers act ethically. A personal note: This book was particularly important to me because my own mother was one of the women sent to Lakeview by Louise Wise in 1968. If she hadn't been forced to give up my brother--if she had had the choice--I would not exist today.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Leah Tyler

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. "They gave birth alone and were then pressured or forced to surrender their newborns to strangers who hadn't explained that in doing so, many of these young mothers would never see or hear about their children again." A nonfiction expose about the unmarried young women, over 3 million in number, who became pregnant after World War II and were forced to surrender their children for adoption. Ripping off the lid on one of the secrets in American history nobody talks about, Glaser uses impeccable r "They gave birth alone and were then pressured or forced to surrender their newborns to strangers who hadn't explained that in doing so, many of these young mothers would never see or hear about their children again." A nonfiction expose about the unmarried young women, over 3 million in number, who became pregnant after World War II and were forced to surrender their children for adoption. Ripping off the lid on one of the secrets in American history nobody talks about, Glaser uses impeccable research and follows the personal narratives of a woman named Margaret and her son David. Diving deep into the story of how in the face of rising infertility rates after World War II, the American government and religious institutions created a social, moral, and legal solution by forcing unmarried women to surrender their (mostly white) infants to married couples desperate for a child to contribute to the baby boom. But that's not all. Pain experiments were conducted on some of these infants during the time they spent in foster care prior to adoption. Oregon State University operated a "practice home" for their Home Ec department using surrendered babies as human dolls. Mixed race babies had their ethnicity changed and birth certificates falsified if they were able to "pass" as white. The adoptive parents were lied to about the pedigree, mental health, or religion of the unmarried couple. The young mothers were shipped off to maternity homes and threatened with juvenile detention if they didn't sign away their parental rights. Amended birth certificates were reissued stating the adoptive parents were the natural-born parents and the original birth certificates were sealed into perpetuity. Adult adoptees found themselves unable to discover who their birth parents were. And all of this was perfectly legal. None of this came as a shock to me, for it is a major theme in the fiction book I am writing, but most people do not know this happened. It's time to start talking about all the dirty little secrets America is hiding in her closet and this is one that impacted millions of people and caused outrageous pain.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    This book resonated deeply with me. I connected with it on many levels. My story parallels with the boy in the book. I was an adopted child. Born in 1959. My birth mother came to the US from Eastern Europe when she was a teen. She was 17, still in high school, when she got pregnant after her first time having sex. Her immigrant Old World parents banished her to the Florence Crittenden home in San Francisco. Her parents were too ashamed to drive her there. She had to get herself there alone, on t This book resonated deeply with me. I connected with it on many levels. My story parallels with the boy in the book. I was an adopted child. Born in 1959. My birth mother came to the US from Eastern Europe when she was a teen. She was 17, still in high school, when she got pregnant after her first time having sex. Her immigrant Old World parents banished her to the Florence Crittenden home in San Francisco. Her parents were too ashamed to drive her there. She had to get herself there alone, on the bus. After she gave birth to me, she took the bus back to her parents' house, forbidden to speak of it. I was placed in foster care, then adopted by a loving family, where I thrived. As an adult, I searched for my birth mother for many years. A search assistant helped me locate her. My birth mother and I remain in touch, to this day. This entry is less a review of the book and more a sharing of my personal story. An indication of how the book affected me. It is a very moving read. I cared a great deal for the people involved and turned page after page, hoping for a happy reunion between mother and child (I won't spoil if that happens or not). I also learned a lot about the mainstream system of adoption underway in our country at that time (1950s-60s). That was eye-opening and gave me a clearer (and disturbing) understanding of what my birth mother went through at the "home for unwed mothers."

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kelley

    This was especially revealing to me as an adoptee. I thought I knew what it was like for birth mothers, but there was much more to it. I found my birth mother when I was 18 and she continues to be one of my closest friends. After reading this, I have more questions for her. This is a powerful book for any person who is part of the adoption triangle to read, along with people who just wish to know more for an adoptee in their lives.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Amy B

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Adoption stories have always interested me...then, thanks to Ancestry DNA, 2 1/2 years ago I found out I have an older brother. This is a very touching book and closely mirrors my own mother's experience as an unwed teen mom in the early 70's...being sent to a home, baskets of wedding rings to wear during outings, the secrecy, etc. So, even as the reunion was happy, the specifics of what this girl went through are infuriating! Fortunately there is much less stigma today. Adoption stories have always interested me...then, thanks to Ancestry DNA, 2 1/2 years ago I found out I have an older brother. This is a very touching book and closely mirrors my own mother's experience as an unwed teen mom in the early 70's...being sent to a home, baskets of wedding rings to wear during outings, the secrecy, etc. So, even as the reunion was happy, the specifics of what this girl went through are infuriating! Fortunately there is much less stigma today.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Donna Boyd

    This is an extraordinary book. It is the story of the birth of David Rosenberg to an unwed mother and his subsequent adoption. David's mother, Margaret, was just 16 and living in New York City when she fell in love with George. Margaret became pregnant and her Orthodox parents immediately forced her to go to a maternity home. As was the norm in the early 1960's Margaret was not allowed to see or hold her son and after being badgered relentlessly to sign away her rights to her child, she eventual This is an extraordinary book. It is the story of the birth of David Rosenberg to an unwed mother and his subsequent adoption. David's mother, Margaret, was just 16 and living in New York City when she fell in love with George. Margaret became pregnant and her Orthodox parents immediately forced her to go to a maternity home. As was the norm in the early 1960's Margaret was not allowed to see or hold her son and after being badgered relentlessly to sign away her rights to her child, she eventually signed after being told that if she did not she would be sent to juvenile detention. Margaret and George married and had three more children. At one point, unbeknownst to either family, Margaret and her family were living 10 blocks away from David and his adoptive parents. David and his parents moved to Toronto and Margaret and George and their family moved to New Jersey. Life went on for both families but Margaret and George never forgot David. In fact, George carried two small photos of David in his wallet until he died. I do not want to give away too much of this story but I will say that a birthday gift of a 23andMe kit changes lives. This story will break your heart and in the next minute make you smile. While it is the story of one person and his adoption, it is also the larger story of the lucrative adoption business and all the lies and secrecy surrounding the process during this time period. It brings to life the lifelong emotional impact this had on everyone involved, especially the birth mother and the child. The book advocates for adoptee rights and demonstrates that this is a human rights issue as well as a personal one. This is a must read. Thank you to #NetGalley and Penguin Random House for providing me with a digital copy of this book prior to publication in exchange for an honest review.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Panda Incognito

    This well-written, expertly researched book shares the story of a white Jewish birth mother and adopted child that the author became connected with late in their lives. She tells their story while grounding it in the specific historical and cultural context of post-WWII America and Jewish immigration, and addresses the experiences of people caught up in the changing social forces that led to rising numbers of unplanned pregnancies during the Baby Boom. This book is full of well-cited, clearly exp This well-written, expertly researched book shares the story of a white Jewish birth mother and adopted child that the author became connected with late in their lives. She tells their story while grounding it in the specific historical and cultural context of post-WWII America and Jewish immigration, and addresses the experiences of people caught up in the changing social forces that led to rising numbers of unplanned pregnancies during the Baby Boom. This book is full of well-cited, clearly explained information about the history of domestic adoption in America, and the various ways that doctors, Freudian psychologists, maternity homes, social workers, and adoption agencies manipulated mothers and operated at the expense of children's well-being. Although this book does not demonize adoption, and supports it as a valid and appropriate option when a child cannot be with their birth family, the author reveals how often women were coerced to give up their children through barrages of manipulative tactics, threats, and lies. This book is very eye-opening and touching, and the author did an amazing job of listening to her subjects' stories and recreating the diverging threads of their lives with accuracy and sensitivity. The birth mother, Margaret, shared in vivid, vulnerable detail about her experiences and emotions, and the book is deeply moving. It is also utterly enraging, since the system worked against her so completely, even when she was planning to marry the baby's father, eventually did, and could have provided her child with a stable home. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in adoption, family-related history, and information about sexual double standards in postwar American society. This is an excellent work of history and investigative reporting, and even though some people have critiqued it for focusing too much on white experiences, the author clearly distinguishes the limitations of her focus, and does not claim to offer the whole story of American adoption. She repeatedly brings up ways that her work isn't all-inclusive, and simply tells the white, Jewish adoption story that she stumbled upon while interviewing David, the adult adoptee, for another story that she was reporting. The only thing that is wrong with this book, and the reason why I am not giving it five stars, is because the author is intellectually dishonest about abortion. She mostly sidesteps this controversial topic, and only brings it into her narrative as touchstone in social history, but she never acknowledges how patterns of coercion continued after Roe v. Wade. Near the end, she writes about the staggering number of women who "opted" for abortion after it was legalized, and addresses how this changed the field of domestic adoption by vastly limiting the number of available babies. She never once acknowledges the possibility that some of these women wanted to keep their babies, but were pushed into abortion as any easy solution that appealed to their partners, families, and the medical establishment. Are we really supposed to believe that an entire, entrenched system of coercion disappeared overnight once abortion was legal? She writes so clearly, and so well, about the social forces that made it impossible for Margaret to keep her baby, and mentions experiences from other girls and women who were emotionally devastated about giving their babies up for adoption. However, she doesn't acknowledge that the same people who pushed, urged, and coerced these mothers into signing adoption papers would have also pushed, urged, and coerced later mothers into "choosing" abortions that they did not want. All of the same arguments continued, just to a different end. You can't possibly be a mother! You can't give a child a good life. No one will want to marry you if they know that you've already been pregnant. Do you really think that your boyfriend still wants you? You'll shame your entire family. What about your future? What about your education? You have to get rid of this, and you have to keep it a secret. Someday, you'll have another baby. You'll get married someday and have kids when it's the right time, so just let this one go. We'll pay for it. We'll keep it a secret for you. No one ever has to know. We will never have true statistics on how many women really, truly chose abortion after Roe v. Wade, and I wish that this book acknowledged that. It is naive and intellectually dishonest to move from telling stories about coercion in adoption to asserting that once abortion was an option, the number of adoptable babies dramatically dwindled by the mothers' choices. If so many mothers were used and abused by the system of adoption when they wanted to keep their children, why should we believe that as soon as abortion was legal, so many women in the same situation no longer wanted their babies at all? Obviously, throughout time, there have been lots of women who have actively chosen abortion because they did not want to have a baby. However, I never fully thought about how deep coercion must have gone until this author's cognitive dissonance brought it to the forefront of my mind. The social situation cannot have shifted that quickly, from many women being forced to give up their babies for adoption, to women not wanting to have them at all. It's a complex issue, and we can never have adequate data on it, but I wish that this author had acknowledged that not every woman who had an abortion truly "opted" for one. She can't tell us how many women felt coerced versus truly chose abortion, because we don't know, but I wish that she had acknowledged that unknown numbers of women aborted their babies because other people withheld social support, badgered them into it, and wore them down with the same kinds of arguments that left so many women in the 1950s and 1960s with no choice but to sign adoption papers. It is much easier to sidestep this subject than to truly engage with it, but because this book was so well-researched, accurate, sensitive, and even-handed the rest of the time, it disappoints me that the author glossed over this aspect so completely.

  9. 4 out of 5

    vanessa

    If you like learning about social mores in the post-WWII American baby boom, this book will be fascinating to you. I knew some bits of this story. If you've watched the documentary Three Identical Strangers for example, this covers similar ground but is much more detailed. It focuses on closed adoption by following an unwed teenager being forced to give up her child in 1961, and what happened to that child after he was placed in a home with a couple that was unable to have a baby. I thought the If you like learning about social mores in the post-WWII American baby boom, this book will be fascinating to you. I knew some bits of this story. If you've watched the documentary Three Identical Strangers for example, this covers similar ground but is much more detailed. It focuses on closed adoption by following an unwed teenager being forced to give up her child in 1961, and what happened to that child after he was placed in a home with a couple that was unable to have a baby. I thought the story of Margaret and David was sad and heart-wrenching, but also inspiring and touching. The author specifically focuses on Margaret and David's story - which is tied to their race and religion - so there are a lot of discussions of Jewish family makeup at that time and how orthodox Judaism + many folks' survival of the Holocaust informed their decision-making. The book also interjects lots of insightful tidbits about general adoption history in America, the lack of sex ed/contraception/abortion, and how teenagers of the 1960s were existing in a brand new America their parents did not understand. By the end I was googling "baby farms" and "Neubauer trials".... let's just say ethics was not at the top of anyone's concerns a few decades ago. The audiobook was also well-narrated.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Carol Mathews

    This book could have been my story. I was adopted when I was 10 months old. When I was a sophomore in college I got pregnant. I returned home to my family in Florida as an unwed.mother and was hidden away in a maternity home where I would live until my baby was born. I did not want to give up my baby for adoption, but Catholic Charities was called in. I was 20 years old without a job or family support. I.was not allowed contact with the birth father and both set of parents and the Parrish priest who This book could have been my story. I was adopted when I was 10 months old. When I was a sophomore in college I got pregnant. I returned home to my family in Florida as an unwed.mother and was hidden away in a maternity home where I would live until my baby was born. I did not want to give up my baby for adoption, but Catholic Charities was called in. I was 20 years old without a job or family support. I.was not allowed contact with the birth father and both set of parents and the Parrish priest who met with us determined we were both too young and immature to be parents. When my baby girl.was born I was not allowed to see her or hold her. My social worker told me that if I refused to sign the adoption papers she would take me to court and tell the judge I was indigent and my baby would be taken away from me. American Baby is the story of sixteen year old Margaret Erle who fell in love with George and got pregnant in 1961. Her parents were horrified and livid when they found out. Margaret was sent to a maternity home run by the Louise Wise Agency. She lived there until she gave birth to a son she named Stephen. Margaret refused to sign adoption papers so Stephen was put in foster care. Margaret and George eloped and got married and returned home to get their son as a married couple. They were lied to and eventually Margaret was threatened so badly by the social workers that she signed the adoption papers. From there on out Margaret spent years searching for her beloved son. American Baby is a story about loss and recovery. It is truly a remarkable book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    I first heard about the new book "American Baby" by Gabrielle Glaser when I read a review by Lisa Belkin in the New York Times last weekend. By the time I was barely a few paragraphs into the article, I knew I wanted to read this book, and I downloaded a copy to my e-reader as soon as it became available (yesterday morning). I finished it this afternoon. I also listened to the author being interviewed on the Times's Book Review podcast. "American Baby" uses the story of David Rosenberg (born in I first heard about the new book "American Baby" by Gabrielle Glaser when I read a review by Lisa Belkin in the New York Times last weekend. By the time I was barely a few paragraphs into the article, I knew I wanted to read this book, and I downloaded a copy to my e-reader as soon as it became available (yesterday morning). I finished it this afternoon. I also listened to the author being interviewed on the Times's Book Review podcast. "American Baby" uses the story of David Rosenberg (born in 1961, the same year as me) & his birth mother, Margaret Erle Katz, to tell a broader story about the history and ethics of adoption in America, and its impact on all three members of the adoption triangle -- birth parents, adoptive parents and the adoptees themselves. And, linking them all, the adoption agencies, social workers and lawyers, who sometimes pressured, coerced and threatened the mothers into relinquishing their babies, often falsified the few details they provided to both birth mothers and adoptive parents, and profited from their losses and pain. In this case, the adoption agency was Louise Wise Services in New York City (and its affiliated maternity home on Staten Island, Lakeview), which provided babies used in the infamous "twins experiment," in which at least 11 sets of twins and one set of triplets (whose stories have been told in the book "Identical Strangers" and the documentaries "Three Identical Strangers" and "The Twinning Reaction") were deliberately separated and then studied. Essentially, Glaser argues, the history of adoption in the 20th century was "a massive experiment in social engineering" fraught with shame, fear, secrecy and lies, in an era before second-wave feminism, sex education, modern birth control, safe and legal abortions, and modern infertility treatments. The book is full of fascinating details and historical context. We learn about life in a maternity home (a basket of gold wedding bands was kept by the door for the girls to put on when they went out in public), about the sometimes horrific experiments conducted on babies in foster care before they were finally adopted, about how the practice of sealing original birth certificates came about, about the rise of the adoption rights movement in the 1970s, and about how modern DNA testing is making once-unimaginable family reunions possible. This was an absolutely riveting book -- I could not put it down. The story of naive teenaged parents Margaret & George, who desperately wanted to marry and keep their baby, was sweet and heartbreaking. I shed tears at several points in the story. It's a book that deserves to be widely read, and should be required reading for anyone considering adoption -- or perhaps for anyone who dares to ask an infertile couple, "Why don't you just adopt?" Things may be different today, yes -- but perhaps not different enough -- not yet. The old attitudes, myths and misconceptions about adoption linger. While greater openness is increasingly common, adoption records remain sealed in many jurisdictions around the world, and many adoptive parents still request "traditional" closed adoptions. And there are echoes of the past in the growing use of eggs and sperm from anonymous donors in fertility treatments, and in the questions of the children conceived this way. Apparently, we still have lessons to learn... (My one (relatively minor) quibble with the book (the e-version that I read, anyway) is that I wish the notes at the back were accessible through clickable links. There's a lot of great information there.) 5 stars.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jill Meyer

    “American Baby”, by Gabrielle Glaser, is one of the best nonfiction books I’ve read in a few years. The subtitle, “A Mother, a Child, and the Shadow History of Adoption”, neatly summarises the book’s premise by looking at the adoption triangle from all three facets. I’ve not experienced any part of adoption first hand. I’m not adopted, I haven’t adopted a child, and I have not given a child up for adoption. But I’ve read with interest the stories by women who have made the heart wrenching decisio “American Baby”, by Gabrielle Glaser, is one of the best nonfiction books I’ve read in a few years. The subtitle, “A Mother, a Child, and the Shadow History of Adoption”, neatly summarises the book’s premise by looking at the adoption triangle from all three facets. I’ve not experienced any part of adoption first hand. I’m not adopted, I haven’t adopted a child, and I have not given a child up for adoption. But I’ve read with interest the stories by women who have made the heart wrenching decisions to give up a child and those stories about parents and children who reunite after many years. Glaser in her book traces the lives of Margaret and David, mother and son separated at birth, and how they lived during the years. It’s not a spoiler to say upfront that their reunion, when made, was definitely bittersweet. Margaret was 17 in 1962 when she became pregnant by her high school boyfriend, George. They did marry a few years later and had three more children. But she always wondered what happened to their first born. Glaser goes into detail about Margaret’s time in a home for unwed mothers on Staten Island and the baby’s adoption through the Louise Wise adoption agency. (As described, the Wise agency is definitely the villain in this story). She also recounts the years Margaret spent looking for her baby - looking at dark eyed-dark haired children on the streets of New York City, wondering if this child or that was her “Stephen Mark”, the child of her heart she was forced to give up. And as the years passed and “Stephen Mark” became David, he looked for his mother. He became a famous cantor in Portland, Oregon, married well, and had three lovely children. He also lost his good health, which made finding her and learning about his health history even more urgent. Gabrielle Glaser met up with David when she was writing about his search for a kidney transplant and the book soon turned into the story of his adoption. She’s an excellent writer and brings the main characters into focus for the reader. It was a pleasure to read her book. Another book, not about adoption but of interest In family dynamics, is “Home Fires”, by Donald Katz. Look it up if you’d like a good picture of a family in the post WW2 era. Both Katz and Glaser’s books are superlative.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sage

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This book was so deeply fucked up — not the book itself, which was beautifully written, but the subject matter was just....WOW. Basically every other page (every page tbh) had me whispering WHAT THE FUCK to myself. Just...SO WILD and deeply wrong and bad and wooooowwww. Adoption is SUCH a huge, complex topic and I think the book was really well structured by centering on Margaret Katz and the son she had to give up as a teenager, Stephen/David. Every single thing about that was so incredibly hea This book was so deeply fucked up — not the book itself, which was beautifully written, but the subject matter was just....WOW. Basically every other page (every page tbh) had me whispering WHAT THE FUCK to myself. Just...SO WILD and deeply wrong and bad and wooooowwww. Adoption is SUCH a huge, complex topic and I think the book was really well structured by centering on Margaret Katz and the son she had to give up as a teenager, Stephen/David. Every single thing about that was so incredibly heartbreaking, especially the fact that Margaret and George ended up getting married 2 years after they were forced to give up their child, and had 3 other children — and *this* time they were supported by their parents because they were married!!! SUCH BULL. So messed up, I can’t even, like I don’t even know what to say. These maternity homes treated unwed mothers like animals, and these women had no (bodily) agency at all. Their children were essentially stolen from them, and sold to the highest bidder, and they were expected to just go on with their lives and FORGET??? I’m not a parent, but that is just cruel and fucking awful. And the importance of early childhood development/attachment wasn’t really known or cared about — the fact that these brand new infants were used in experiments to monitor babies’ cries, among other things, was just absolutely insane to me. What the fuck is wrong with these people. The book also referenced the triplet/twin studies at the Louise Wise adoption agency, and I had seen a stunning documentary about the triplets so I knew a bit about it but it was no less shocking the second time. Two passages in the book, one in the introduction and one in the last chapter, really resonated with me. “I also realized that the way the United States dealt with unplanned-for babies in the decades after World War II—when abortion was illegal, contraception forbidden even for married couples, and discussion of sex and reproduction was taboo—revealed a great deal about this country. Again and again, the nation’s powerful religious and political institutions collaborated to control women’s bodies, and the destinies of babies born out of wedlock...For David and Margaret, and for countless others, the miracle of modern genetics smashed open the secrecy created by the politicians of the twentieth century.” “To [Shawna] Hodgson and other adoptees searching for their genetic backgrounds and families, it seems astonishing in an era in which privacy has been obliterated, in which apps track our whereabouts, in which targeted ads stalk our computer screens, and which surveillance cameras record our every gesture, they remain barred from finding their kin or seeing records of their birth.” I just have so many things to say about this book, but I am so deeply relieved that Margaret and David got to reunite before David’s passing, and also heartbroken that George never got to meet his firstborn son (even though he kept pictures in his wallet for 50 years!). As a child of an adoptee, it makes me curious about my parent’s background, if only for medical history.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Cathleen

    As an adoptee born in 1968, many of the stories and scenes were familiar to me as I listened to this beautifully told but sad story. I admire the courage of David and Margaret and their relatives and thank them for sharing this important story. I had many moments of outrage while listening to tales of the "adoption industrial complex" and it brought back that sense I had that as a child placed for adoption I was not just a child but a commodity. I too have had an adoption reunion and as wonderfu As an adoptee born in 1968, many of the stories and scenes were familiar to me as I listened to this beautifully told but sad story. I admire the courage of David and Margaret and their relatives and thank them for sharing this important story. I had many moments of outrage while listening to tales of the "adoption industrial complex" and it brought back that sense I had that as a child placed for adoption I was not just a child but a commodity. I too have had an adoption reunion and as wonderful as that was, it was also difficult in ways I am still trying to process. In addition to the moments of outrage I experienced listening to this book, there were also tears along with a sense of unresolved grief. I do believe this is an important read for anyone who's life has been touched by closed adoption.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ann Joyce

    For the sake of transparency, I will state upfront that I was adopted in 1960 through a catholic charitable organization. “American Baby” is a well-told account of the experiences of an adopted boy and has biological parents. However, the compelling story overwhelms the issue that the author wishes to illuminate: 20th century adoption. Adoption is a much more complex issue than the author is willing to admit. Because she leaves out the complexity, this account is overly simplistic and one-sided. For the sake of transparency, I will state upfront that I was adopted in 1960 through a catholic charitable organization. “American Baby” is a well-told account of the experiences of an adopted boy and has biological parents. However, the compelling story overwhelms the issue that the author wishes to illuminate: 20th century adoption. Adoption is a much more complex issue than the author is willing to admit. Because she leaves out the complexity, this account is overly simplistic and one-sided. That is a shame as adoption raises lots of issues about prejudice, how we treat children, and how we build families that are certainly worthy of discussion.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Misty

    If you liked before we were yours or the show three identical strangers, you'll love this book. The story of a teen couple forced to give up their baby is interspersed with stories from the Tennessee childrens home (before we were yours) and the Louise wise adoption agency (three identical strangers) and the crazy and sometimes horrible history of adoption in the u.s. If you liked before we were yours or the show three identical strangers, you'll love this book. The story of a teen couple forced to give up their baby is interspersed with stories from the Tennessee childrens home (before we were yours) and the Louise wise adoption agency (three identical strangers) and the crazy and sometimes horrible history of adoption in the u.s.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Absolutely tragic account of the “Baby Scoop” era in which scores of unwed teenage mothers were coerced into giving up their children. This book makes me grateful for birth control, feminism, and the destigmatization of unwed motherhood. I am grateful Margaret had a chance to tell her story!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sophie Katzman

    This is an amazingly captivating narrative nonfiction telling of adoption in America. I learned so much about the history of adoption through the eyes of those who loved it . The author does an incredible job of representing the characters and the history .

  19. 5 out of 5

    MARY T

    I was outraged when I finished this book, but not for all the reasons you might think. I, of course, was outraged for all those things that were relayed in this book, but I also found I had an additional outrage by the end. The author clearly did so much research to bring to light an ugly past of ignorance, and willful ignorance, that served no one well but those profiting in some way. Even those children in true need of a home where not well served by being denied that love and attention for mo I was outraged when I finished this book, but not for all the reasons you might think. I, of course, was outraged for all those things that were relayed in this book, but I also found I had an additional outrage by the end. The author clearly did so much research to bring to light an ugly past of ignorance, and willful ignorance, that served no one well but those profiting in some way. Even those children in true need of a home where not well served by being denied that love and attention for months while being "studied." I appreciated the way Glaser wove the personal story in with the facts. It is a story well told. And I hope it will bring much needed healing to those whose stories can be found there. And this is where the story will end for most folks, that aren't familiar with international adoption. They won't understand the hurt caused by her statement on page 277. My outrage is that of a Mom who adopted a child internationally. I simply do not understand why Glaser felt compelled to detour from the poignant topic of this book and briefly walk off the deep end into international adoption when the focus of the entire book was domestic adoption pre 1973. She makes a blanket statement about international adoption in general followed by this sentence, "But it is almost never guaranteed that adoption will provide a child with a better life. Most often, it is a different life." The implication seems to be, if not adopted internationally, the child would live a parallel existence in his/her home country. The child might not have as many advantages, but at least the child would have its culture. Oh, but were it that simple. And that is where all Glaser's painstaking research went by the wayside, as if she just got tired. Or, perhaps she thought she was now an authority on all things adoption. Whatever the reason, it showed her complete lack of research and knowledge on this topic. Instead, she is viewing all adoption through her "American lens." In China, for instance, if you are abandoned, you are forever "cursed" in the eyes of the citizenry. (Only recently, has domestic adoption been encouraged. ) Orphans don't get to "rise above their station" without the stigma of their past as they do in the U.S. This is even more pronounced if child has a special need. So yes, would it be nice if all children everywhere could grow up healthy and happy with their birth families? Absolutely! But sadly, there will always be situations where that is not possible. And some of us, will try to do the best we can to fill those gaps and heal those holes in the hearts of those children. Many of us understand the loss our children have suffered. We understand that love is not enough, and that what we can give won't be perfect, but it may well be VERY different--in a better way---than the life of "cursed shame" they would have lived in a country that no longer considers them worthy of love or consideration. I would urge the author to give the same due diligence she gave to domestic adoption to adoption specifics in different countries (as it differs greatly from one to another) BEFORE making comments on a topic she apparently knows little about. Every day that I live as an adoptive mother, I learn a little more about how imperfect adoption is. But what would the author suggest? Go back to orphanages? Abandoning children to the streets to live by their wits a la Charles Dickens? I surely don't know the answer at this time, but I know oversimplifying this topic does nothing to help those suffering now or in the future. It's important to discuss these things and continue to look for better solutions, but make no mistake, adoption is complicated--and perhaps, there's just no way around it. However, I do know that slapping a blanket statement on an afterthought and trying to pass it off as some sort of "sage wisdom" doesn't help anyone.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Schroeder

    3.5 stars This well-written, fast read is the powerful story of one male-female couple's experience with adoption at a time when deep stigma and shame were assigned to teens involved in a pregnancy -- shame and stigma that have continued into present-day sex education and social service programming. The book was very moving, and utterly heartbreaking at times. The reason for my 3.5 star rating is because what was missing in terms of social context felt egregiously distracting at times. The history 3.5 stars This well-written, fast read is the powerful story of one male-female couple's experience with adoption at a time when deep stigma and shame were assigned to teens involved in a pregnancy -- shame and stigma that have continued into present-day sex education and social service programming. The book was very moving, and utterly heartbreaking at times. The reason for my 3.5 star rating is because what was missing in terms of social context felt egregiously distracting at times. The history parts she chose to share were both fascinating and horrifying, if far more surface than a longer book would have offered. This is a story that centers a white, Jewish family and their communities; as a result, it centers whiteness and the white experience of adoption at the time. In a few places, she mentions Black individuals and families, as well as Native American and then non-North American adoptees, but whether due to an even greater limitation of information and data available, or in order to center the main families involved in David's/Stephen's story, the cursory mention was distracting to me. To be sure, the last two sentences of her author's note on page 289 are, "White middle-class parents were the primary customers of the adoption industry. The experiences of [B]lack women with unplanned pregnancies unfolded in an entirely separate realm, typical of our segregated nation." I do feel like a bit more about that realm would have been helpful. There is also no mention in the history section of lesbian and gay parents. While lesbian and gay parents were not a part of this particular history, the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse states that "[i]n 1976, there were an estimated 300,000 to 500,000 gay and lesbian biological parents; as of 1990, an estimated 6 to 14 million children have a gay or lesbian parent." It was an oversight, in my opinion, to not acknowledge these parents in some way as part of the history of adoption. The other context that was missing was the more recent developments relating to complementary or alternative fertility methods, which had a significant impact on adoption as well. She does mention things like the advent of the birth control pill (for married couples starting in 1965) and then abortion (with Roe v. Wade in 1973) -- but for other single parents or couples who may have thought they could not have a child biologically and therefore sought to foster and/or adopt, much changed. Finally, I echo a few people's sentiments that the views expressed relating to adoption felt one-sided. The book focuses exclusively on the right of the adoptees to seek out and find their birth parent(s), but does not address the rights of folks like sperm donors who intentionally do not wish to be found for a variety of reasons. I absolutely honor the adoptees' experiences, both in the book and who wrote reviews sharing how validated they felt by the book. And at the same time, from my own personal experiences, I will say that the many ways in which people choose to or not to become parents or reproduce is not uncomplicated...

  21. 4 out of 5

    Joe Kessler

    This book is centered on one (white, Jewish) family's experience with adoption in the 1960s, but it's also a fascinating sociological and historical account of a topic that I had previously known little about. As author Gabrielle Glaser explains, the postwar era in America was a time when sexual education was practically nonexistent, teenagers had more freedom and privacy than ever before, abortion was illegal, and birth control was often impossible for unmarried people to procure. Unsurprisingl This book is centered on one (white, Jewish) family's experience with adoption in the 1960s, but it's also a fascinating sociological and historical account of a topic that I had previously known little about. As author Gabrielle Glaser explains, the postwar era in America was a time when sexual education was practically nonexistent, teenagers had more freedom and privacy than ever before, abortion was illegal, and birth control was often impossible for unmarried people to procure. Unsurprisingly, the 'Baby Boom' was made up in part by a spike in unplanned pregnancies, and many underage expectant mothers were hidden away and pressured into giving up their infants. Meanwhile, strict laws shielded the identity of adopters, such that neither the children nor their biological parents could realistically hope to reunite. Even that summary obscures the sheer awfulness of this treatment, in which the pregnant girls were fed lies -- like that a wealthy diplomat was waiting to adopt their baby, while in reality there was no recipient household lined up -- and threatened with jailtime under antiquated morality statutes if they wouldn't sign over their parental rights. Viewed as a likely bad influence on the offspring, these new mothers were cut off as quickly and cruelly as possible, then to face a dauntingly Kafkaesque bureaucracy aimed at keeping them apart forever. Only recently, as public sentiment has swung around to the importance of everyone knowing their roots, birth parents knowing the fate of their kids, and families staying together whenever they feasibly can -- and as genetic testing has further smashed through the idea of maintaining that sort of secret anyway -- have some of those walls started to crumble. Drawing on deeply personal interviews of a mother in this position and the son she was forced to abandon, Glaser presents a heartbreaking tale of lives that went decades feeling unwhole as both parties sought in vain to reconnect. She left regular messages at the agency that had taken him, updating them on relatives' medical issues and begging for his new name and contact information. (They wrote down the notes and never passed them along.) He combed through available records looking for a hint of his origins, going off the few scraps that his adoptive parents had been told. (Those turned out to be falsehoods as well, painting a glamorous picture of busy professionals who didn't have time for a child, not high school sweethearts who married soon after losing him.) It's infuriating to read despite the eventual closure, and definitely made me hold my own daughter tight. But it's a moment we can't look away from or allow to ever repeat, and this writer has done a valuable service in researching and publicizing the story. [Content warning for domestic abuse, racism, antisemitism, and mention of sexual assault.] Find me on Patreon | Goodreads | Blog | Twitter

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    An eminently readable story of the mores and laws related to premarital sex and adoption in the 1950s and 60s told with an emphasis on a particular mother/son pair. Margaret is 16 years old when she becomes pregnant. Her Holocaust-survivor parents send her to a maternity home in Staten Island where she gives birth but never gives up hope of making a home for her son. She is pressured by the adoption agency to give up her son but remains firm in her belief that she and her boyfriend will marry and An eminently readable story of the mores and laws related to premarital sex and adoption in the 1950s and 60s told with an emphasis on a particular mother/son pair. Margaret is 16 years old when she becomes pregnant. Her Holocaust-survivor parents send her to a maternity home in Staten Island where she gives birth but never gives up hope of making a home for her son. She is pressured by the adoption agency to give up her son but remains firm in her belief that she and her boyfriend will marry and make a home for him. After months, Margaret finally signs the adoption paperwork after being threatened with imprisonment in "juvie" for lewd behavior. She still believes that she will be able to retrieve her son at a later date. Margaret and her boyfriend George marry and have three more children but she never forgets her first born. She calls the adoption agency both to ask for information (none was provided) and to give them health information to pass along to the adoptive family. This was not done. Meanwhile, her son, who has been renamed David, was adopted by a Jewish family who raise him predominantly in Toronto. He is an only child and very athletic like his birth father. He also has a temper and conflicted feelings about being adopted. He becomes a celebrated cantor and moves to Portland where he develops significant health problems, as did his birth father. David decides to do genetic testing and learns of a distant blood relative. He tells her that he is adopted and she volunteers to try and track down his birth mother. Through a combination of old-fashioned detective work and a stroke of luck, he is able to reunite with his mother and siblings prior to his premature death. This book reminded me a lot of Dani Shapiro's "Inheritance" both in terms of the search for identity and the role of family in the Jewish faith. Some of the myths about adoption that the author exposed resonated with me because I could remember hearing them as a child. The abuse of adoptive babies was horrific (they were placed in foster families for 6 months to a year and subjected to tests including having rubber bands shot at their feet to determine their personality and intelligence so that they would better "fit" with their adoptive families). Information also provided about Georgia Tann who actually stole children and resold them ( as told in "Orphan Train") and "practice houses" in universities where rotating students provided care for foster babies with no thought as to the importance of stability and attachment during infancy.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Randall

    This book indicts the "closed adoption system" that was prevalent in the post-World War II period through the 1970s, and for good reason: research demonstrates its multiple harms, including the damage that stems from cutting people off from their histories, the damage caused to many birth mothers who had no agency in the relinquishment of their babies and were often at the mercy of duplicitous adoption agencies, the damage that can stem from loss that goes unacknowledged. There are moments in th This book indicts the "closed adoption system" that was prevalent in the post-World War II period through the 1970s, and for good reason: research demonstrates its multiple harms, including the damage that stems from cutting people off from their histories, the damage caused to many birth mothers who had no agency in the relinquishment of their babies and were often at the mercy of duplicitous adoption agencies, the damage that can stem from loss that goes unacknowledged. There are moments in this book when the author makes strong statements that need to be made still, even as adoption practices have changed. Of her discussions with many adoptees, the author writes, "Sooner or later, nearly every conversation with them circled back to the foundational fact of closed adoption: it begins with an erased past, and facts replaced with myths." To adoptive parents, she writes, [you] must understand that adoption always equates to loss for the adoptee...There is no disputing that their families love them, and in that sense, of course, they are lucky. But love and devotion can only go so far in annulling loss, even if--especially if--it is not verbalized." I admit, though, that I was disappointed in this book. By focusing deeply on the story of one triad (the adoptee, birth mother, and adoptive parents), a lot of the complexity of adoption is lost. There are so many commonalities in the stories and experiences of adoptees, but there are also many differences. It's important to hear the rich and varied voices of adoptees. She also focuses on white babies born in a particular era, leaving out issues related to transracial and international adoptions--the author acknowledges that these were not her focus, but I think the stories of these adoptees need to be prioritized in this particular moment in history for all the reasons the author acknowledges in passing: the ability to reconnect with their birth families is even more complicated and fraught, they must grapple with internalized racism, etc..... In spite of my disappointment, I'd still recommend this book....

  24. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    As a Jewish Baby Boomer with friends who were adopted, this book made a big impression on me. I knew the basics of how adoptions worked in the 1950s-60s but hadn't really stopped to think how cruel the process was to both birth parents and their children. The fact that the children were frequently placed in foster care limbo for months while a "perfect match" was sought for their personalities and intelligence is just horrifying to me considering what we know now about attachment, and the damage As a Jewish Baby Boomer with friends who were adopted, this book made a big impression on me. I knew the basics of how adoptions worked in the 1950s-60s but hadn't really stopped to think how cruel the process was to both birth parents and their children. The fact that the children were frequently placed in foster care limbo for months while a "perfect match" was sought for their personalities and intelligence is just horrifying to me considering what we know now about attachment, and the damage that can be caused when that process is disrupted. And the shame and grief that the birth mothers had to bear, while being told to "forget about" children they carried for nine months, is inconceivable in today's world where single parenthood is no longer a stigma. Glaser does a good job balancing the portrayal of Margaret and the son she was forced to relinquish, with the larger picture of how the adoption process evolved over time and the unethical, immoral practices that were carried out, frequently in the name of "science." I wish she had delved a little deeper into the macro issues; while Margaret and David's stories were poignant, there was nothing unique about them. Also this book might speak less to readers who are not white and Jewish like me; Glaser admits that there is a very different history of adoption in the black community that she is not capable of telling. I had a childhood friend who was adopted, with a biological younger sister who was frequently referred to as the parents' "real" daughter. My friend never discussed how much that must have hurt her, but years later after both parents had died, she found her biological parents through genetic testing. Now in her late 50s, she has half siblings, nieces and nephews who have enriched her life. If her adoption had been open, how would her life had been different? Glaser's book shines a spotlight on Margaret, David, my friend, and thousands of other individuals whose pain was minimized unjustly. American Baby rightfully speaks for them by acknowledging a shameful part of American history.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Lori Knisely

    American Baby is a book that will make you think, make you cry and make you angry. Gabielle Glasar does an amazing job of telling the heart-wrenching story of a birth mother who was forced to surrender her son, while also exquisitely weaving in the horrid history of the adoption industry. The heart-wrenching story of Margret, forced to surrender her son Stephen (David), reads like a New York best selling fiction story; however, the story is far from fiction. Glasar goes beyond simply telling Mar American Baby is a book that will make you think, make you cry and make you angry. Gabielle Glasar does an amazing job of telling the heart-wrenching story of a birth mother who was forced to surrender her son, while also exquisitely weaving in the horrid history of the adoption industry. The heart-wrenching story of Margret, forced to surrender her son Stephen (David), reads like a New York best selling fiction story; however, the story is far from fiction. Glasar goes beyond simply telling Margret’s and her son’s story. She takes the time to develop the family history of both sets of parents; Margret and George, the birth parents, and Esther and Ephraim, the adoptive parents. The history and stories are written so entertainingly and intriguingly, that by the end of the book, you feel as if Margret, George, David, Esther, & Ephraim are old family friends. But American Baby is so much more than a biography of Margret’s or David’s life. It is also an exceptional expose on the ugly secrets of the adoption industry. Glasar puts her investigative skills to work in order to expose the terrible history of the adoption industry. She left no stone unturned. She writes about the awful experiments done on the, sometimes hours old, enfants at Louise Wise, the countless illegal adoptions done through Georgia Tann and others, international adoptions, midwestern orphan trains, the appalling treatments bestowed upon the birth mothers at maternity homes, the systemic deletion of adoptee’s origins and past, and the limitless forms of deceptions carried out by the adoption industry, just to name a few. It might be a little cliché to say, American baby should be required reading for EVERYONE! But I truly believe it needs to be read by everyone. Whether you are affected by adoption or not, you need to be aware of why adoption is trauma for both the birth parent(s) and the adoptee. Thank you, Gabrielle Glasar for elevating the voice of birth parents and adoptees and for shinning a light on the ills of the adoption industry.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Martha

    Glaser details the moving story of an unwed teen who gave birth to a son in 1961 and was forced by her family to give him up. Her story and her son’s story are one of millions the author describes as a social experiment—closed adoptions—that left mothers, fathers, and the children they conceived and gave birth to in a place of grief, shame, and uncertainty. Birth mothers were expected to forget about their child, children were told how lucky they were to be with a loving family. Margaret’s famil Glaser details the moving story of an unwed teen who gave birth to a son in 1961 and was forced by her family to give him up. Her story and her son’s story are one of millions the author describes as a social experiment—closed adoptions—that left mothers, fathers, and the children they conceived and gave birth to in a place of grief, shame, and uncertainty. Birth mothers were expected to forget about their child, children were told how lucky they were to be with a loving family. Margaret’s family are Jewish Holocaust survivors trying to make their way in New York. Appearances are important, getting ahead is important, a pregnant 17 year old daughter is shameful. Like so many pregnant out of wedlock young women of that era, she was sent away to a home for unwed mothers until she gave birth. Margaret’s experience at a well known Jewish institution that placed children with Jewish families, was one of humiliation and disregard for her emotional well being. She was not alone. These young women were considered morally corrupt and treated without much respect. But their babies were desired commodities. Into the back door walked the shamed, pregnant teenager. Out the front door walked the beaming married couple with their new baby. It was a business. Margaret didn’t want to give up her son and eventually married his father, but at that point they were too young to gain custody and were forced to sign their child over or Margaret could face being placed in a juvenile facility for her immortality. A sad tale told over and over in the years following the war until women began to make some headway in obtaining birth control and access to safe abortions. The author highlights the flaws in the system as they relate to Margaret and her son David, but digs even deeper than their story, turning up stones under which so much sadness lived for more than a generation as young mothers were forced to give up children to strangers and relinquish contact and knowledge of who they had become, and the door closed to children who longed to know their own history.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Tracy

    First, I think this is a book that Cathe would like. A mix of narrative and history. I don't think this is a review contains spoilers b/c from the prologue you know that Miriam and David are reunited. This story was about mother (Miriam) who gave up her son (David) in the 60s because her mother and father were horribly embarrassed by her situation. She maintained contact with the adoption agency in New York and desperately longed for information about her son. Her son, had tried to obtain some in First, I think this is a book that Cathe would like. A mix of narrative and history. I don't think this is a review contains spoilers b/c from the prologue you know that Miriam and David are reunited. This story was about mother (Miriam) who gave up her son (David) in the 60s because her mother and father were horribly embarrassed by her situation. She maintained contact with the adoption agency in New York and desperately longed for information about her son. Her son, had tried to obtain some information about his biological parents but never dug too hard until he was in the midst of a terrible battle with cancer. Enter Gabrielle Glaser, a journalist who knew David from some of her other articles. David reached out to Gabrielle, who helped him find Miriam. The book chronicles that process as well as a pretty detailed history of adoption in America which includes the Louise Wise Agency (where Miriam went to deliver her baby), The Tennessee Home Society and the Orphan Train. I had generally been ambivalent about keeping adoption records sealed, thinking it was unfair to the birth parents who gave them up under the promise of anonymity, but I think I'm wrong. Most biological parents do want to know about the children they gave up. Many women were forced to give up their newborns or had them stolen from them to were told they died. I really had no idea. I'm not sure my opinion matters all that much because the advent of DNA testing probably makes a lot of this moot.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mary Payne

    American Baby’s author Gabrielle Glaser dives deep into the story of a mother who was forced to surrender her son for adoption by an aggressive social worker. Margaret Erle and the baby’s father George Katz married, but that didn’t sway the establishment. The worker threatened to throw her in juvie if she didn’t sign her rights away. As Glaser’s research shows, this was no isolated incident. These kinds of threats ran rampant within the adoption industry during the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Although Ma American Baby’s author Gabrielle Glaser dives deep into the story of a mother who was forced to surrender her son for adoption by an aggressive social worker. Margaret Erle and the baby’s father George Katz married, but that didn’t sway the establishment. The worker threatened to throw her in juvie if she didn’t sign her rights away. As Glaser’s research shows, this was no isolated incident. These kinds of threats ran rampant within the adoption industry during the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Although Margaret called the agency numerous times with updated medical information, nothing was ever placed in the adoption file. Baby David grew up with loving adoptive parents, who only wanted the best for him. He loved sports and became an accomplished cantor in the Jewish community, but his medical history remained a mystery. When his health deteriorated, his wife gave him a “23andMe” kit. While Margaret and David’s reunion brought joy to their lives, it became bittersweet. He died seven months after their first phone call. He was 52. If state law allowed adult adoptees to access their information and their own original birth certificate, David and other adoptees might be alerted to preventive measures which could extend their lives. Kudos to Gabrielle Glaser. She’s done a masterful job of detailing the negative outcomes built into sealed records and the adoption industry that supports it. --Mary Payne, author of Adoption’s Hidden History

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tina Gordon

    This book does a deep dive into the shadowy world of American adoptions, women's reproductive rights, and the horrendous way out-of-wedlock pregnancies were handled in the post-WWII years. Little has been written about this topic and Glaser shines a long overdue bright light on the subject. She frames the facts in the story of one mother and son who both spent decades wondering about one another. Closed adoptions made records unreachable for them both, but they were reunited before the son's unt This book does a deep dive into the shadowy world of American adoptions, women's reproductive rights, and the horrendous way out-of-wedlock pregnancies were handled in the post-WWII years. Little has been written about this topic and Glaser shines a long overdue bright light on the subject. She frames the facts in the story of one mother and son who both spent decades wondering about one another. Closed adoptions made records unreachable for them both, but they were reunited before the son's untimely death. The mother went on to marry her teenage lover and had three more children. She had been coerced to give up her first son by her family and the home for "unwed mothers" which profited from adoptions. Glaser's research is detailed and fascinating. Every woman should know the facts about how millions of women were degraded because they had engaged in pre-marital sex and got "in trouble." I hope this book finds a wide audience. My interest in Glaser's book came about because I recently completed a novel about a young widow who had an affair and became pregnant during the 1940s. An unwed, pregnant woman in those years had limited choices and none of them were good. Her secret is discovered by her granddaughter decades later. The background of my story led me down the same research trail as Glaser's and I was horrified at what I learned. My novel is not yet published.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    Incredibly touching story of one adoption history, set in the general climate of adoption in the mid 20th century, so beautifully researched and written. Every part of the book is memorable and immensely readable, but I had to stop around page 100 for a few minutes, to digest the "scientific" way in which babies in the adoption system were measured, watched, and tortured. NIH gave grants to a doctor and his team to determine the intelligence of newborn babies, by shooting their feet with rubber Incredibly touching story of one adoption history, set in the general climate of adoption in the mid 20th century, so beautifully researched and written. Every part of the book is memorable and immensely readable, but I had to stop around page 100 for a few minutes, to digest the "scientific" way in which babies in the adoption system were measured, watched, and tortured. NIH gave grants to a doctor and his team to determine the intelligence of newborn babies, by shooting their feet with rubber bands, to measure their crying responses, for the purposes of screening babies for adoption. Doctors and agencies following the "science" were lauded, their studies published in medical journals. Ten years after Nuremberg, these doctors and adoption agencies neglected the idea of informed consent and had no ethical concerns about conducting research on defenseless infants. My conclusion as a postscript to today's emphasis on "following the science." Science can be sinister, authoritarian and judgmental, and plain wrong, and those revered figures pushing their "science" can be dangerous. Recent history has shown often, that today's science can be tomorrow's revealed folly. Thank you to the author for this significant work.

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