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.

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