Canadian Council of Natural Mothers' Library

 

Looking For Lost Bird
A Jewish Woman Discovers Her Navajo Roots

Yvette Melanson with Claire Safran

 

From the inside jacket cover:

" Lost Bird' is the name that Native Americans give their missing children--daughters and sons who are taken from tribal reservations by theft or trickery.

Looking for Lost Bird is the remarkable tale of a Navajo child adopted and raised by an affluent Jewish family who denied her nothing--except any knowledge of her roots and her heritage. It is Yvette Melanson's own story, of her search for identity and the blood ties that can never be broken."

The story begins with the history of 'Lost Bird' and without mincing words tells about the past practices of taking Native American children away from their families and placing them in foster homes or in adoptive homes. It is an important part of North American adoption history, which she covers but does not dwell upon.

Yvette's upbringing and her life prior to searching for her original family are bound in the Jewish culture. When she is reunited with her natural family, she embraces the Navajo culture. The story successfully depicts her upbringing in one culture and her willingness and openness to physically, emotionally and spiritually move into and immerse herself in her Navajo culture and her family of origin. The cultural transition is difficult but the difficulties are subordinated to the importance of Yvette's return to her origins.

Yvette's first mother is no longer alive, but for Yvette it is still important to come to know herself through knowing about and identifying with her mother on some level. Unfortunately, she refers to her mother as her 'birth mother', a distancing she does not use for her father, brother and sisters. It is a term used in adoption jargon to separate a mother from her child and it is out of place in this book. She was taken from her mother, not surrendered for adoption.

What is important in this story is her dedication to her journey of self-discovery, of uncovering the past, and of finding her identity. Her journey changes her life and the relationships in her life. It changes the lives of the people who are closest to her, her husband and her children. Her return also changes the relationships within her natural family on the Navajo reservation.

This journey is the mirror of the journey we as mothers take in returning to the past to find the identity we lost in losing our children. It mirrors the impact reunion has on our families as we reclaim ourselves and what was lost. Her story illuminates the need to put this journey of self-discovery first in our lives. The book emphasizes the importance of the natural family and the importance of bringing the 'Lost Birds' home.

Reviewer: Sandra Jarvie

Published 1999, Avon Books, New York, NY
ISBN 0-380-79553-1

 

© The Canadian Council of Natural Mothers