Book a Week: A Ghost at Heart’s Edge, edited by Susan Ito and Tina Cervin

If you’ve been following these weekly posts, you may have noticed that I’m not very concerned with selecting books that are hot right now. I’m playing catch up on my reading list, and I’m also reading in preparation to write my master’s thesis.

This week’s book falls into that second category. My thesis will be a collection of poems and short stories about the experience of growing up adopted. When I searched for material to read, I was very excited to find A Ghost at Heart’s Edge: Stories and Poems of Adoption, which was published in 1999. I was curious to see if the shifts from story to poem and back to story would work.

Ghost covers more adoption territory than I plan to, as it includes pieces on waiting to adopt, raising an adopted child, relinquishing a child for adoption, and reunion with birth family members. Of course, the stories and poems here were also written by many different authors (including Joni Mitchell, Dan Chaon, and Jackie Kay) so each has a unique voice and perspective.

I was pleased to find that the mixture of genres not only didn’t bother me as a reader, but that the poems actually enhanced the stories and vice-versa. I feel more confident about my own collection now.

Curiously, I responded most to the male perspectives in this collection and to those birth mothers who did not regret relinquishing their babies. I think my reaction probably had to do with these being voices I was less familiar with before reading the book, perspectives that felt foreign to me. I related most to the adoptees who pointed out traits they had that just didn’t mesh with their adoptive families. But it was good to read all the angles of adoption.

This is a well-rounded collection that I think would benefit anyone in the adoption triad. But I was left wondering, what would make someone outside of the triad pick up this book? One of my goals for my own collection is for it to reach a wide range of readers, including those with a link to adoption and those who may have never thought about adoption at all. I think it’s important to make those outside of the adoption circle aware of all the issues in adoption if we’re ever going to see true adoption reform. We’ve come a long way in opening adoptions and in putting the focus on kids who really need to be adopted, like those in foster care who have no hope of ever being reunited with their families. But we still have a long way to go. Young mothers are still being pressured to relinquish their babies, and adult adoptees are still being denied access to their own family history. I think the more adoption literature we can publish and put in front of the general public, the greater chance we have of making adoption a positive experience for everyone involved.

6 thoughts on “Book a Week: A Ghost at Heart’s Edge, edited by Susan Ito and Tina Cervin

  1. Interesting collection, thank you for highlighting it and all the best with your thesis.

    Interesting question, whether adoption interests those who aren’t directly affected by it. I would suggest from my little experience of relating stories orally to people that it’s quite a fascinating and intriguing subject, because each experience is so unique even though there are common threads that run through many of them. There are so many aspects where the truth is stranger than fiction, I am one of 4 siblings and we are all adopted and between the 4 of us, there are indeed interesting tales to tell which I believe captivate as much as they teach us something about human nature.

    I just finished reading Jackie Kay’s Red Dust Road and enjoyed relating to certain familiar aspects, but equally as a reader, found it a wonderful, beautifully narrated memoir that should experience genuinely wide appeal.

    If you are interested you can read my review here.


    1. Hello Claire, glad you found this post interesting. I can certainly attest to the “truth is stranger than fiction” factor in my own life! I do think that the key to expanding the adoption conversation beyond those of us already involved in it is to ty and tell our stories in such a way that they have a broad appeal. Thanks for your book recommendation as well. I’m following your blog now also, though I utilize Google reader rather than WordPress’s follow feature. Looking forward to talking with you more. -Karen


  2. Wow – thrilled to see this review, so many years post publication! Thanks Karen. My own take is that readers – adopted or not – are interested in high quality literature, no matter what the topic. That was our primary criteria in choosing the pieces in the collection. We’re thrilled to have you as a reader.


    1. Susan, I was thrilled to see your comment this morning. Thank you! I’m happy to be able to bring your book to the attention of new readers via my blog. So glad you found this post.


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