Council of Natural Mothers' Library
Transparent: Seeing Through the Legacy of Adoption
It's difficult to write a good
review of this very fine book. First of all, unlike a novel, one can't
simply summarize the story. This book is a collection of essays, and summarizing
them all would require a book to do properly. Better to simply suggest
you purchase the book and read it all yourself. This book is a fine one
to have in one's library for three reasons:
1. It treats the effects of adoption equally on the three family members
who lose one another: the mother, the father and the individual who is
adopted. It makes the parallels between the three family members very
2. It gathers together a great deal of information on adoption effects
from a variety of sources, and offers opinions and information on a wide
variety of adoption-related issues and topics.
3. It is well written.
Other books exist which treat
the effects on mothers who lose children to adoption (The
Other Mother, BirthBond, Adoption
and Loss). Nancy Verrier and Evelyn Robinson, among others, deal
with the effects on those adopted. Very few books examine the psychology
of fathers who lose children to adoption. In fact, natural fathers are
often ignored. Gary Coles' previous book, Ever
After, and another Australian, Rohan McEnor in Rebecca's
Law, are among the first book length works to examine how fathers
respond to losing their children to adoption. This book summarizes what
little else there is on fathers who lose their children to adoption, including
Michelle Stromberg's thesis on the topic from the University of Regina,
in Saskatchewan, Canada and other such sources which may not be easily
This book's essays explore
in more depth and go beyond what Coles has written in his previous book.
It is divided into five sections: Being there, Pain and prejudice,
Cut to the core, Separation and integration and To spread our wings.
The first section recapitulates Coles' journey as a father who's lost
his child to adoption, not so much in story as in thought pieces. The
third and fourth sections contain essays that investigate both the external
view of the effects of adoption and the view from inside adoption looking
out. The fourth section provides a deep, referenced consideration of the
damage of adoption. The final section looks to the future. It examines
the paths to healing.
The first two essays tell in brief Coles' story of losing his son. They
do not replace the story told in Ever After,
but allow the reader of this book to understand his viewpoint and background
so that if the reader has not read the previous book, he or she is not
locked out of understanding. The fifth essay, My vote on the veto, would
be particularly useful for anyone involved in seeking to open adoption
records. Typically a few individuals who wish to hide behind adoption
secrecy argue for various vetoes. In this essay, Coles examines the pitfalls
of these vetoes and how they are easily misunderstood and cause more difficulties
than they solve. People who place vetoes seek to protect their denial,
not their privacy or confidentiality, Coles argues. It's worth buying
the book to see how he lays this argument out. Other essays in this section
show Coles' personal development in reaction to adoption loss.
Pain and Prejudice
This section examines many issues related to adoption today. The first
essay examines Father's Day and what it means for fathers who've lost
a child to adoption. No support is publicly offered fathers on that day,
though this sometimes does happen for mothers. Coles goes on to discuss
briefly the fact that fathers who've lost children to adoption also suffer,
as do their mothers.
The saccharine view
looks at media views of adoption. Coles has collected views of adoption
through several years, showing the positive media portrayals which completely
ignore the true effects on families devastated by the loss of their children.
One of the joys of this book is Coles' careful use of language. In Disturbing
adoption, Coles plays with all the 'dis' words in adoption. It's a
clever essay making a clear point about the disturbing outcomes of adoption
loss. He plays with word roots in many places, illuminating their deeper
meanings in doing so.
Motherless child examines
how the loss of his parents affected Eric Clapton's life. It covers the
discovery of his informal adoption by his grandmother, Rose, through the
death of his son, ? to contact with Ruth, the daughter of whom he was
previously unaware. Clapton's insights on family loss can inform our understanding
Cut to the Core
This section of the book explores the impact of adoption. Two loaded
words starts with the words 'abandonment' and 'rejection'
to see how these play out in the lives of those cut by adoption. The next
two essays similarly start with 'secrecy/denial' and 'honesty.'
Each essay discusses psychological effects within natural and adoptive
families from these constructs. Down with secrecy and denial is
a truly excellent essay describing how secrecy and denial, so central
to closed adoption, augment the damage caused by the adoption loss. In
the final essay, Where have all the birth fathers gone?, Coles
seeks to understand the invisibility of many natural fathers, indicating
their possible psychology and how they also have been silenced to support
the institution of adoption
Separation and Integration
The three essays in this section form a core to the book, detailing Coles'
views on adoption effects, and balancing the treatment of adoption loss
on all three members of the family. Fathers have never heretofore been
accorded equal place to mothers and those adopted. The middle long essay,
The long and wounding road, deals with core issues in adoption
loss, such as loss, grief, denial, anger, guilt/shame, fear (of intimacy,
of rejection and of being controlled and of losing control), trust, identity,
self and reunion. In this essay, you get a clear, succinct analysis of
the core issues in relation to the research on them and their effects
on natural family members. Coles' discussion here draws on previous research,
but goes beyond with his own understandings as well. The book is worth
reading for this essay alone, and it's an excellent introduction for those
new to considering the effects of adoption loss. The final essay in this
section, Love's labour's lost, is the only treatment at length
of interactions between mothers and fathers at the time of reunion with
their offspring that I have seen. It's balanced and interesting, not the
least because reunion with the adult lost to adoption inevitably brings
thoughts and sometimes contact again between parents who were so frequently
separated at the loss of their infant.
To Spread Our Wings
The fifth and final section looks to the future in its essays, and looks
to healing the damage caused by adoption. In order to heal, Coles believes
that openness, honesty and dialogue among family members promote healing.
Pretence, artifice and hiding the truth are detrimental to personal growth.
However, at the policy level, often little has been learned from the failed
social experiment that is closed adoption.
Wither adoption begins
the discussion of the future of adoption. Open adoption, its often empty
promises, and the dislocation of inter-country adoption are examined.
Coles notes that social workers and those who profit from adoption rarely
check back after receiving their fees to see if their actions have had
positive consequences for the parents and children who are so affected
by their separation. Coles ends on a positive note with Recommendations
for living an authentic life. This is wisdom gleaned from his life
and readings, and has many suggestions worth considering.
This book will be of use to all who have an honest and serious interest
in the effects of adoption on all members of the natural family. Because
of its balanced viewpoint, it is particularly appropriate for prospective
adopters, social workers and other adoption facilitators. They should
know the damage that they participate in or cause.
Many of the essays are suitable
as short pieces to offer to others in discussions about particular aspects
of adoption's effects. All the essays are thoughtful and considered. They
express sometimes terrible truths in calm language, and thus may have
more effect on those who don't want to hear than some more radical treatments
of the same topics may have. This is an excellent addition to the literature
on the effects of adoption.
Sandra Falconer Pace
(2005) Australia: Mermerus Books
Amazon.com or booksurge.com.au
The Canadian Council of Natural Mothers