There really are so many. However, to stay true to the themes of this blog – Adoption and Multiracial family – I shall choose two memoirs by people who have been adopted. And these are both books that I really treasure.
In 2012 I received the Memoir Problem Child by Caradoc King, published by Simon and Schuster in 2011. It is described on the cover as “A tale of neglect, courage and hope”. Caradoc, a white child, was adopted by a white middle-class family. This is a tale of a fairly love-less adoption. It is disturbing and heartbreaking to hear that he was sent to school with ‘I am a Liar’ embroidered on his jersey. What is even harder to comprehend is that his adoptive parents rejected him completely at the age of sixteen. I cannot even write or think about this without feeling a pang of sorrow in my heart for him. Apparently he did not even find out that he was adopted until the age of fifteen.
However, this Memoir is written by a wonderful writer and is in no way a “misery memoir”. It has been described as devastatingly honest and written with warmth. This is not surprising, as Caradoc King grew up to be a highly respected Literary Agent. He writes at length about the boarding schools he attended. (He was sent away to school from the age of six. ) He mentions the sisters he was brought up with and I was relieved to learn that much later in his life he has been able to re-connect with them. It was interesting to learn that he managed to meet his birth mother, just a few months before her death.
The second Memoir that I would like to share with you is Red Dust Road, by Jackie Kay, published by Picador in 2010.
Jackie, a mixed-race child, was adopted by loving white parents who were both ardent Communists. They lived in Glasgow. As a result Jackie has a strong Glaswegian accent – at least that is how it sounds to my ears when I hear her talk on the radio and read her poems. Her parents first adopted a black son. (In those days the term ‘coloured’ was more often used). They then adopted Jackie to complete the family. Jackie’s birth mother was from the Highlands of Scotland and her birth father from Nigeria.
Jackie’s account of her first meeting with her Nigerian birth father is brimming over with humour. Warmth, humour, honesty and deep emotions run through this whole memoir. Her account of her eventual meeting with her birth mother, following a few cancelled dates, had me sitting on the edge of my chair. My heart was ‘fluttering’ along with hers. Would her mother turn up this time? She did.
The Independent quoted on the back cover says: “Like the best memoirs, this one is written with novelistic and poetic flair. Pitch-perfect, page-turning.”