More and more Americans are looking abroad to adopt. Federal authorities estimate there are more than 200,000 children in the United States who've been adopted from other countries and they believe that number is growing by about 20,000 per year. The book publishing industry is starting to notice this trend as with the new best selling book, entitled 'You're Not My Real Mother.'
This bookstore that promotes this new best seller isn't exactly typical for a book reading in New York City's exclusive "Upper East Side" neighborhood. Instead of wine and cheese, there's apple juice and cupcakes. And the audience won't be gathering at a nearby bar later in the evening to discuss the book. They'll be going home, because it'll be way past their bedtime.
New York literary agent Molly Friedrich calls this children's book a "lap book," which means that you read it with your child on your lap.
Molly Friedrich has a very impressive list of clients. More than a few have had their novels turned into feature films. Tonight, though, Ms. Friedrich isn't promoting the work of one of her
bestselling novelists. She's here to share a personal story-about a little girl and her adopted mother.
"I think that when children are in the bubble of their household, they feel safe and unthreatened. And then once they begin pre-school and nursery school and go out into the community, inevitably the first play date (i.e. friend) will come home, and inevitably that play date will look at the child, and look at the parent, and say, 'Well, yeah, but where's your real mom?' "
Ms. Friedrich's story is one of a small, but growing number of picture books being published for children who've been adopted. 'You're Not My Real Mother' is a little different from some of the others, though, because the adoption featured in the story is clearly an international one. The mother is blonde, with fair skin and blue eyes. The daughter's skin is brown, and her eyes have a slightly Asian quality to them--not unlike those of Molly Friedrich's own daughter, P-Quy who was adopted from Vietnam.
I think the most difficult issue about international adoption is the inter-racial point" says Ms. Friedrich. "And children have to deal with this. I mean, P-Quy told me that of course she wished she had blond hair, that her hair wasn't straight. You go through that as best you can, but basically, they want to fit in, they want to look like everyone else in the family. And so you have to deal with this issue very plainly."
You're Not My Real Mother is meant for young children-three to five years old--so its message is simple: The woman who feeds you, reads to you, plays with you, and loves you is your "real mom," regardless of what she may look like. The book doesn't address some of the more complicated issues that come with international adoption - such as what relationship the family will have with the history and culture of the country where the child was born. But Molly Friedrich says all that comes later. For now, she just wants to give children a framework for understanding why they are different-and why that doesn't matter. And, she says, there's a growing need for children's books that have this message.
"Families in America take all forms. There are single (parent) families. There are families where, you know, eggs have been ordered on the Internet. There are gay families. There are inter-racial families. There are stepfamilies. There are all kinds of families, and I think the most important thing is to have the world around you, and the community around you, accept the family that you call your family, and not argue about it. And not make you feel defensive."
In that sense, says Molly Friedrich, her book is written as much for parents who have adopted from abroad, as it is for the children who love them.