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American Baby: A Mother, a Child, and the Shadow History of Adoption by Gabrielle Glaser

This is Jennifer Havlik with the Sioux City Public Library, and you’re listening to Check It Out.

Today I’m recommending American Baby: A Mother, a Child, and the Shadow History of Adoption by Gabrielle Glaser. This recently released work of nonfiction tells the story of Margaret Erle who falls in love and becomes pregnant with her first child at the age of sixteen. Unfortunately for Margaret and many young women like her, she came of age at a time when birth control was difficult to obtain, abortions were illegal, and young, unwed mothers were deemed pariahs. With the threat of eternal shame looming over her family, Margaret is sent to a home for unwed mothers where she discreetly gives birth. While she dreams of marrying her boyfriend and keeping her son, she doesn’t realize the battle she’s up against. 

The book is equal parts Margaret’s story and a history of adoption in the United States, primarily focusing on the post-World War II years through the women’s movement of the 1970s, a time in which adoptions were closed and sometimes a financially lucrative business. Covering topics such as the scientific debate between nature vs. nurture, infertility, foreign adoptions, and the rise of both genetic testing kits and legal challenges to closed adoptions, American Baby provides much thought-provoking material. 

Compelling and at times heartbreaking, American Baby is both a page-turning history lesson and a story of hope. Considering that six out of every ten Americans have personal connections to adoption, this story is more relevant than ever.  If you’re a fan of investigative reporting and human-interest stories, this one’s for you.  Check out American Baby: A Mother, a Child, and the Shadow History of Adoption at the Sioux City Public Library. 

Support for Check It Out on Siouxland Public Media comes from Avery Brothers.