Friday, July 31, 2009

Cherry Hill Public Library Event

Red in the Flower Bed
An Illustrated Children's Story about Interracial Adoption
by Andrea Nepa

Thursday, September 17, 2009
7 p.m.
Cherry Hill Public Library

1100 Kings Highway North
Cherry Hill, NJ 08034
(856) 903-1233

Friday, July 24, 2009

Interview with Grown in My Heart - An Adoption Network

Grown in My Heart - An Adoption Network,
July 24, 2009

Red In the Flower Bed: a book review
by Michelle McNally

I was recently introduced to the new children’s book, Red in the Flower Bed: An Illustrated Children’s Story about Interracial Adoption, by Andrea Nepa. This gentle, rhyming children’s story tells of a poppy seed who blows out of her original garden in search of a place to bloom and grow. It’s a sweet metaphor for an adoption placement. When reading any story about adoption, I’m alway curious to find out how the author is connected to adoption. I was fortunate enough to find out that a whole lot more when I had the opportunity to ask the author a few questions.

What inspired you to write this story as symbolic, rather than use people?

I chose a flower since it is easy to see how a flower develops from a tiny seed into a beautiful being if it receives good care, and I wanted the story to be fun for a child to read. Mostly I wanted the child to be able to identify with the seed/flower in their own way. For example, if I used an Asian child as the setting for the story, then it would mostly only appeal to Asian children.

The adoption message is clear for the adults reading the story–did you not use the word “adoption” in the story for a reason?

I purposely didn’t use the word adoption so that the child can interpret the story at his/her own pace in a way that they are ready for. A parent reading this story with their child could discuss the theme with their child to see what their understanding of their adoption is and discuss it from there.

When you decided to adopt, how did you come to chose trans-racial adoption?

We were quite open to any child when we first considered adoption, but I think we liked the idea of a foreign adoption so that the birth mother couldn’t change her mind (although a disadvantage has been that we don’t know anything about our daughter’s birth mother). Also, the process of adopting from Vietnam at the time was very quick (only 9 months), and the children are beautiful.

Did you think, at the time, that there would be unique challenges to becoming parents of a child with a different cultural background? Were there fears you had that weren’t realized or did obstacles you didn’t anticipate pop up?

Our adoption agency prepared us for these issues ahead of time, although it wasn’t a surprise to learn about the challenges of raising a child in a multi-racial family. We have always been very open with our daughter about her background and expose her to Vietnamese culture. She is proud of her background and likes to tell people that she is from Vietnam. We know many other families with adopted Asian children, so I don’t think that it seems unusual to her. I grew up with a Jewish father and Catholic mother, so I can relate to growing up in a “mixed” family, which was quite difficult for me. One thing that surprised me was how sad I was for my daughter when we flew her out of Vietnam. I felt like she was being ripped away from her homeland.

As your daughter matures, do you find the challenges of being a multi-racial family change?

Right now my daughter is only 7 1/2 years old, so there will no doubt be issues that arise when she is a teenager. So far it has been hard when she asks questions about her birth family that we don’t know the answer to, and when she sees how similar I look to my mother and twin sister I think she feels left out.

This is a story that can be read again and again, and each time, your child will be able to take a little more away from the story. With illustrations inspired by Lois Ehlert and Eric Carle (two of Nepa’s favorites), it’s bound to become a favorite on the bookshelf.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Interview with Mormon Mommy Blogs

Mormon Mommy Blogs
July 3, 2009

Red In the Flower Bed
by Jennifer Jackson

Andrea Nepa's new children’s book, Red In the Flower Bed: An Illustrated Children’s Story About Interracial Adoption fills a great void in the canon of books for transracially adopted children. While the body of "books for adopted kids" includes many wonderful books that would be a treasure on any adopted child's shelf, the presence of transracial adoptive themes are noticeably underrepresented. As I read and re-read this book (all the while picking the brain of the author), it was clear that this literary effort was certainly rooted in love.

Red In the Flower Bed tells the story of a small poppy seed and its long journey to a beautiful garden where it doesn't resemble any of the other flowers. As it grows tall and blooms, it learns that our differences are beautiful and needed - and we, the readers, take away the idea that transracial adoptive families are more complete and radiant because of those differences.

The author and her husband adopted their daughter, Leah, from Vietnam more than seven years ago. A registered dietician by trade, Ms. Nepa didn’t consider writing a children’s book until Leah was diagnosed with cancer at age five. In an interview with the blog Road to Ethiopia, the author said, "The idea started when my daughter started asking questions about her adoption, and we didn’t have the answers. One especially sad memory is her at 5 years-old sitting in a hospital bed receiving chemotherapy and asking, 'Does my birth mother know I’m here?'…Her journey as a young infant to the other side of the world and then fighting cancer seemed like a big journey for a little girl."

Though the author clearly intended this book to benefit adopted children - especially her own - it’s obvious that residual benefit resulted. I asked Ms. Nepa how the book-writing process was for her, as an adoptive parent, and she responded, "I think that writing this book has been good for me possibly because it has forced me to see adoption from my child's point of view and it has helped to define how I feel about adoption. More than anything it has allowed me to use my artistic abilities in writing and illustrating that I wouldn't normally use in my career. It has also allowed me to have more contact with other adoptive families."

Those contacts with other adoptive families that have come in the sharing of this book and through their adoption experience have also been of great benefit to the author. When I asked how those interactions have impacted her family, she replied, "We are in close contact with several of the families that we traveled to Vietnam with to adopt, and they feel like a second family to us. The kids call each other 'cousins' and know that they all came from the same orphanage… I think it is important for the kids to see that not all kids look like their parents and that families can be different from other families."

Through simple (but beautiful) illustrations, Ms. Nepa has created a subtle-yet-profound venue in which parents can open an age-appropriate dialogue with their children to answer the inevitable questions of "Why don’t I look like you?" and "How did I come to our family?" and the heartstring-tugging "Didn’t my birth mom love me?" Having a catalyst for those important conversations - in this case, for transracial families - is a valuable tool to create unity and understanding while celebrating the differences.

The idea of a seed and a flower is powerful, yet a concept that even young children can understand. The author said she chose a flower and a seed "because of several reasons: The seed blossomed into another red poppy like its birth mom to represent the fact that a child retains his/her heritage no matter where it lives…When my daughter asks what her birth mom looks like, I say 'She looks like you,' which she loves to hear."

You really can’t place enough value on the books written for kids that are about kids who are just like your kids. And while Red In the Flower Bed was intended for transracial adoptive families, it has great value for adoptive families at-large. As the mother of a Caucasian, adopted child (who is often mistakenly pegged as biological), I found this book to be an asset to our ongoing adoption dialogue - a conversation that grows and matures as our son does. And while "being adopted" is part of our everyday vernacular around these parts - and is as essential to our son's identity as his blue eyes and wide feet and monstrous cowlick - it's always refreshing to know that through such a routine activity as simply reading a book, we can maintain those lines of communication - the goal of which is to ensure our son that he is loved from more directions than he could possibly imagine.

After all, isn't it all about love?