Oh boy…

I missed this when it was originally published in June. A book titled "Red in the Flower Bed" is about a seed who is languishing in it's original garden travels the world for a "better" place to grow. As the only "red" flower in the garden, the other flowers are curious but eventually the poppy finds that not only does it thrive, but it creates the "missing color" in the garden.

From the book description:

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. Andrea Nepa has captured the essence of adoption and family, and has illustrated it beautifully with images and poetry that even a small child can comprehend and enjoy.

Isn't it interesting that this book makes it seem like the child is supposed to have the agency to make a decision that the foreign garden where s/he is the only "red" flower is where she "belongs?"

You know how a person is not supposed to take wildflowers they see growing on the side of the road to plant in their own gardens? I think that's a more appropriate metaphor.

I've used the plant metaphor many times, only my stories typically talk about planting a flower in a different zone. They are not always successful at re-potting, just so everyone is clear.

Another in a long line of books aimed to make adoptive parents feel better.

Author: JaeRan

Assistant professor at UW Tacoma, writer, and researcher.

16 thoughts

  1. Extending the metaphor, could we ever say that there are places where seeds intrinsically “belong”? When problems associated to adoption are individualized it diverts attention away from the community, which I find is a more important topic. Transracial adoption can theoretically work if the adoptive community not necessarily mimics the original soil from which the plant came, but it provides a sort of hybrid environment where the concept of being “different” is entirely nonexistent in the first place.
    Have you heard of hydroponics? These are plants grown without a medium, without soil. If you had a hydroponic garden, it could entail endless diversity concentrated in a dense location without the need for an anchoring soil. That’s a different metaphor.

  2. “but it provides a sort of hybrid environment where the concept of being “different” is entirely nonexistent in the first place.”
    That doesn’t work in the real world, SDP. Nice metaphor, but it won’t work with outsiders.
    “It is a charming story of seeds being planted in the perfect place – exactly where they belong” …
    Original family = dismiss
    Oh, no, little adoptee. You weren’t supposed to grow up in your original family simply because *I* love you and *I* feel that way.
    So I think I’ll just say you grew in the wrong tummy but that God placed you in the right family… that’s the closest I can get to “claiming” you were “meant-to-be” here all along.

  3. This book got eight 5 star reviews! Good grief. Books like this are the reason why I (an AP of a TRA) have almost no childrens’ books about adoption in my home library. Almost all of them completely discount the original family and culture; quite a few of them invoke God or “fate” for the formation of adoptive families. It’s along the lines of the celebrity quote “I tell my children “you grew in the wrong woman’s tummy.'” That’s just brutal.

  4. I cannot tell which it is… more sad or more annoying. My daughter is adopted and Asian. We do everything with people of her race so she can be with people that look like her every day of the week. Not just once or twice a year. It is normal and comforting to her to be with people who look like you. Why should she have to try to get used to the opposite? Money and power means you get to write the books I guess…

  5. Personally, I’m adopted. Guess what? I turned out OK!! Met my BM, who had NO interest in me! ABSOLUTELY NONE! I have several friends who have had the same experience. I started reading your site after adopting, but your view seems very biased. I really want to LISTEN to adoptees, and try to do this better, but everything here is so negative!! We don’t socialize with other adoptive parents because we believe that they don’t really get it, but frankly, neither do you. NOT every adoption story is a child ripped from some loving Mother by a greedy couple who just wants children, by any means. I’m sorry for your personal story, but I am going to leave your site and never come back. I’ve browsed here for many months, I really did TRY to be open minded to your posts.You hide your anger behind your education, because it gives you “authenticity”. It’s a cop out. These are opinions…good luck.

  6. Liz, sorry you don’t find anything worthwhile in my blog. Everyone has a different take on it, and I don’t expect all adoptees to agree with me.
    If you actually read my blog you’d know I’m not always ANTI-adoption. There are plenty of news stories and sites and blogs out there that only talk about all the happy wonderful stories. I’m presenting other views.
    And also, you don’t have to be sorry for my personal story. I don’t have a personal story that is tragic or abusive or sad or anything like that. You don’t know anything, really about my “personal story.”
    And thank you for validating the posts “Adoptee vs. Adoptee” and “The personal is political and the political is personal.” You just totally lived up to the adoptees who get mad and call other adoptees who present different views “angry” and make assumptions about our “personal story” to make yourself look better.
    Good luck to you too.

  7. Wowie, you sound really angry for someone who is so O.K.!!
    I am really curious, what is O.K.!!!!?
    What is the tipping point of O.K.!!!?
    What makes you O.K.!!! and someone like myself not O.K.!!! according to your requirements?
    I am really, really curious.

  8. FYI – apparently Liz is a fake name and gave a fake email, because I tried to contact her but her email came back as undeliverable – no email with that name.
    So I guess she (or whoever Liz is) doesn’t really want to dialog. So I’m chalking this up to another hit-and-run commentary.

  9. “We don’t socialize with other adoptive parents because we believe that they don’t really get it, but frankly, neither do you.”
    … actually “Liz” – you probably won’t even witness this comment – but surprise surprise – I DO interact with adoptive parents.
    “I really want to LISTEN to adoptees, and try to do this better but…”
    Only if it doesn’t involve criticising the system, right? Or if it doesn’t praise adoptive parents?

  10. I wonder… have you read the book or just the back cover? It’s not as bad as you portrait it and even when I don’t agree with many of the thoughts of the author, I don’t think she doesn’t care about the rights of adopted children. Actually she wrote the book when her adopted daughter was under cancer treatment and very sick and probably is alive today thanks to her adopted parents.
    I think the book is meant for a VERY young child and obviously can’t explain all the complexities of the international adoption process.
    Just an opinion.

  11. “Another in a long line of books aimed to make adoptive parents feel better.”
    I don’t have too many of these kinds of books, because a lot of them are pretty sappy. But I do have a few, and one in particular still touches me: “Through Moon and Stars and Night Skies.” It includes some of the little boy’s story before he arrives at his new home, which I find more realistic and more poignant, too. Does it tell the entire story? No, but I’m not sure the whole story could be told in a child’s book. But it provides a basis for more discussion of a child’s personal story, and that’s good. Analogies that focus on uprooting and transplanting, on the other hand, provide no such jumping off point.
    If anyone knows of good books for children that tell a more realistic adoption story, particularly any that include the first family, I’d love to know about them. As my kids are older, I’ve kind of lost touch with what’s out there for new parents and kids.

  12. @ Alicia, I haven’t read the whole story, and I am sure you are right that the author does care about the rights of adopted children. I did not mean to imply she did not. And I am sorry that her family had to experience the trauma of childhood cancer.
    My issue is with the metaphor used – that it is the red poppy flower that goes searching for where she “belongs” – because it suggests (and I’m saying suggests, not that she states as a fact) that the transracially/internationally adopted child is making the decision.
    I would not necessarily agree with the point of the metaphor if an adult international adoptee wrote it, but at least it would be the adoptee’s point of view. I still disagree with the idea that a child goes looking for where s/he “belongs” in another country. That is the basis for my critique.
    Just so everyone is aware, I present my opinion on what I find problematic about children’s books about adoption because I would like to see better representations of ALL aspects of adoption in books for children.
    I still maintain that the majority of them are written with an adoptive parent’s biases. Adults writing children’s books in general has some problematic elements. I have been greatly informed by children’s literature professor Sarah Park who has introduced me to a lot of scholarly work about children’s literature.
    Books for children are purchased by adults – parents, teachers and librarians. Adults buy books they are comfortable with. Perry Nodelman has written about adults/parents writing/publishing/purchasing books for children in order to reinforce a world they – the adults – want to teach their children. So adults who only present adoption books to their children that have one view are biasing their children towards that one perspective.
    I’m a parent too, and I have done the same thing. So I’m not just sitting here condeming all adoptive parents or writers of children’s adoption books.
    Please remember that my goal is to present multiple perspectives from the typical dominant, white-privilege, non-adoptee paradigm.
    You may not agree with my assessment of the book, that’s fine. I did not say anything personally negative about the author. She’s writing from her opinion, I’m offering a different perspective.
    Sometimes we just need to agree to disagree.

  13. I am very conflicted about young children’s books on adoption, and it’s something I’ve thought about a long time. My favorites are A Mother for Choco; Over the Moon: an Adoption Tale; Mr. Rogers’ book on adoption; and Motherbridge of Love. Someone gave me The Red Blanket and it spends too much time on the adoptive mother’s inner emptiness, which should have been left out altogether. I haven’t read it to my son. I also have I Wished for You, about which I am undecided, but my son likes it.
    Basically, I think that all adoption books for kids under 5 should at least mention a birth family and should be upbeat and positive. It is extremely important for kids to feel they belong in their family and that they are loved and wanted (but NOT “chosen”). Of COURSE adoption is very complicated and messy and not all fun and games. But for the preschool set, I have decided that books can be a great way to normalize adoption and to instill positive feelings about it. Each child’s story is so different, it is up to the parents to gauge the child’s readiness for the more complex layers of the story.
    Ideally, this should be done through writing a lifebook for the child with details of his own personal story. I sheepishly admit I am still in the planning stages of my 4-yr-old’s lifebook. But we can not expect any other author’s experience to completely resonate with our own.
    In short, I am using books to lay a foundation of basic knowledge and positive feelings about adoption, but plan to introduce the complexities myself.

  14. For me, one great selfish thing about older child adoption is that for the most part I don’t have to worry about this stuff. I don’t have to create a story and tell it to my son, he already knows his story. He isn’t interested in any sort of metaphor. If adoption comes up, he pipes up right away, “I have THREE moms but one of them died”. Not that I’m claiming he’s representative of all older child adoptees… he has a very literal, direct personality.
    All I need to do is support him in case someone else happens to tell him his ideas are wrong. Right now that’s easy. I do foresee it getting harder as he grows older and people start trying to force him into other adoption narratives.

Share your thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s