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

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

The scandalous truth about postwar adoption in America, told through the bittersweet story of one teenager, the son she was forced to relinquish, and their twin searches to find each other

In 1960s America, at the height of the Baby Boom, women were encouraged to stay home and raise large families, but sex and childbirth were taboo subjects. Premarital sex was not uncommon, but birth control was hard to get and abortion was illegal. In 1961, sixteen-year-old Margaret Erle fell in love and became pregnant. Her unsympathetic family sent her to a maternity home. In the hospital, nurses would not even allow her to hold her own newborn. After she was finally badgered into signing away her rights, her son vanished into an adoption agency's hold.

Claiming to be acting in the best interests of all, the adoption business was founded on secrecy and lies. American Baby lays out how a lucrative and exploitative industry removed children from their birth mothers and place them with desperate families, fabricating stories about infants' origins and destinations, then closing the door firmly between the parties forever. They struck shady deals with doctors and researchers for pseudoscientific "assessments," and shamed millions of young women into surrendering their children.

Gabrielle Glaser dramatically demonstrates the expectations and institutions that Margaret was up against. Though Margaret went on to marry and raise a large family with David's father, she never stopped longing for and worrying about her firstborn. She didn't know he spent the first years of his life living just a few blocks away from her, wondering often about where he came from and why he was given up. Their tale--one they share with millions of Americans--is one of loss, love, and the search for identity.

Adoption's closed records are being legally challenged in states nationwide. Open adoption is the rule today, but the identities of many who were adopted or who surrendered a child in the decades this book covers are locked in sealed files. American Baby both illuminates a dark time in our history and shows a path to justice, honesty and reunion that can help heal the wounds inflicted by years of shame and secrecy.

Title:American Baby: A Mother, a Child, and the Shadow History of Adoption
ISBN:9780735224681
Format Type:

    American Baby: A Mother, a Child, and the Shadow History of Adoption Reviews

  • Alexis

    This is a heartbreaking story of American adoption. Glaser focuses on the story of Margaret Erle (later Katz) and the son she was forced to relinquish for adoption, David Rosenberg (ne Stephen Mark Er...

  • Lindsay Nixon

    "Adoption doesn't guarantee a better life. It only offers a different life."Non-fiction Book of the year for me! I sobbed through the end; A must-read for feminists. If you enjoyed reading the fiction...

  • Amy B

    Adoption stories have always interested me...then, thanks to Ancestry DNA, 2 1/2 years ago I found out I have an older brother. This is a very touching book and closely mirrors my own mother's experie...

  • Donna Boyd

    This is an extraordinary book. It is the story of the birth of David Rosenberg to an unwed mother and his subsequent adoption. David's mother, Margaret, was just 16 and living in New York City when sh...

  • Leah Tyler

    "They gave birth alone and were then pressured or forced to surrender their newborns to strangers who hadn't explained that in doing so, many of these young mothers would never see or hear about their...

  • vanessa

    If you like learning about social mores in the post-WWII American baby boom, this book will be fascinating to you. I knew some bits of this story. If you've watched the documentary Three Identical Str...

  • Kelley

    This was especially revealing to me as an adoptee. I thought I knew what it was like for birth mothers, but there was much more to it. I found my birth mother when I was 18 and she continues to be one...

  • Lori

    I first heard about the new book "American Baby" by Gabrielle Glaser when I read a review by Lisa Belkin in the New York Times last weekend. By the time I was barely a few paragraphs into the article,...

  • Jill Meyer

    “American Baby”, by Gabrielle Glaser, is one of the best nonfiction books I’ve read in a few years. The subtitle, “A Mother, a Child, and the Shadow History of Adoption”, neatly summarises t...

  • Sage

    This book was so deeply fucked up — not the book itself, which was beautifully written, but the subject matter was just....WOW. Basically every other page (every page tbh) had me whispering WHAT THE...