Leonora's Reviews > The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade

The Girls Who Went Away by Ann Fessler
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's review
Aug 20, 11

Read in August, 2011

This was a fascinating book that has changed my view of adoption. I wish I could give it 3.5 stars.

It was a good read. The bulk of the book is taken up with personal stories which are often similar and yet are individually compelling. The stories veer from the past to present tense but I think this was to preserve the feeling of immediacy you get when listening to a story in person.

I was pretty shocked by the, mostly emotional, brutality the girls were put through. It can be tempting in this day an age to say that feminism failed. However, reading this book really hammered home to me how far we've come. Overwhelming shame and hypocrisy was prevalent throughout the stories. The girls' ignorance about sex and pregnancy was simply staggering. There is no better argument for sex education than this book.

The reason I did not give it 4 stars is that I did feel the book may have an agenda. All of the women in the book professed horrible guilt at having surrendered their babies. All of them said it affected the rest of their lives negatively. I find it hard to believe that all girls who did this felt one way about it. At the back of the book, the author makes a point to say that no one was sought out to specifically say anything and I think she's an ethical writer. But she found these women mostly through Birthmother networks. I'd assume most of these organizations attract women who regret their "choice". She could have canvassed wider. I wish she'd been a bit more concerned with painting a 100% accurate picture, rather than the picture that illustrates her point which is that it wasn't easy and it wasn't much of a choice, giving up your baby in the 50s and 60s.

Personally, I found the shame and emotional abuse the girls were subjected to for getting pregnant much worse than the separation of birth mother and child. But perhaps that's because I haven't given birth and can't understand.

It has affected how I see adoption. I never considered that such a bond could be formed from giving birth. And it has made me reconsider the wisdom of encouraging money-poor women to give up their babies. Perhaps we should instead have organizations that support them financially, as the book seems to suggest. The book also woke me up, which was its purpose, to the pain that at least most birth mothers face. It's making me look at a lot of things differently. I'd certainly recommend it.

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