Monday, November 23, 2009

3 Peas in a Pod interview

3 Peas in a Pod,
November 21, 2009

Red in the Flower Bed: An Illustrated Children's Story about Interracial Adoption
by Alyson LaBarge

To go along with National Adoption Month, I have come across a wonderful book, written by an adoptive mom. Her name is Andrea Nepa and she is the author of Red in the Flower Bed: An Illustrated Children’s Story about Interracial Adoption.

The journey of adoption is beautifully depicted with the comforting imagery of a poppy flower who is welcomed into a garden family. It is a charming story of seeds being planted in the perfect place – exactly where they belong. Children and adults will enjoy this simple yet meaningful story and homespun illustrations. The book’s loving approach helps children to understand adoption.

I read it and loved it immediately. As the Mama to a foreign-born child myself, and one who knew the moment my daughter was placed in my arms that my family was complete, this story resonated especially true. I have shared it with my daughter who, although she is only three, loved the bright cheery colors and tender message of the book. Andrea, the author of the book, was kind enough to allow me to interview her.

What inspired you to write this story? How did you come to choose adoption?

Thanks for the interview. I was inspired to write this story when my daughter Leah was a toddler, because she asked questions about her adoption that we didn’t know the answer to (we were not given any info. about her biological parents), and because she sometimes would cry that she missed her birth mother. Although she really didn’t know her birth mother (she was given up the day she was born), I took this to mean that she felt abandoned by someone very close to her. It must be upsetting and confusing for a child to know this. I wanted Leah to know that she was very much wanted and loved by us, but that we would never ask her to forget her roots. The story took on more significance when she was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 5. Since my husband and I are both health professionals, and live 20 minutes from the best children’s hospital in the country (and probably the world), it seemed that she was meant to be with us. In fact, I work at that hospital and that is where Leah was cured (actually she has been in “remission” for 2 1/2 years).

Did you choose to not use the word “adoption” in the story on purpose?

I deliberately did not use the word adoption in the story so that the reader can interpret the book in their own way at their own pace according to their age level.

When you decided to adopt your daughter internationally did you feel that there would be challenges unique to becoming parents of a child with a different cultural background?

As far as adopting a child of a different cultural background, our adoption agency encourages all international adopters to learn about their child’s culture of birth.

How have you chosen to help her have pride in her birth heritage?

We were in Vietnam for 2 weeks when we adopted her, and participate in Asian New Year events, etc. and take Leah to Vietnamese restaurants (along with other ethnic restaurants, too). We enjoy learning about Vietnamese culture, too, which makes these experiences positive. Leah is proud to call herself Vietnamese, but I do remind her that she is also American, so that she feels that she belongs here too.

As your daughter grows older, have you found any unique challenges from being a multi-cultural family?

So far we have not encountered much prejudice, and there are a lot of Asian adoptees in our neighborhood and school system. Leah doesn’t seem bothered by the fact that she doesn’t look like us, but this might change when she is older. She does seem a little jealous, though, that I look like my twin sister!

Those who choose to adopt internationally go through many of the same requirements and experiences as do those who adopt domestically and I found Red in the Flower Bed to be very applicable to my oldest daughter who we adopted here in Texas as well.

We read the book together and she could really seem to relate to the thought process of how she needed to come be a part of our family, just like the seed. It was a great jumping off point for some conversation about her birth mom and how we could not be a family with out her.

There are many children’s books relating to adoption that can help families talk about their feelings and begin conversation that just come as part of the territory when you become a parent of adopted children.

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