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

4.38  ·  Rating details ·  1,335 ratings  ·  217 reviews
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,
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published January 26th 2021 by Viking
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 ·  1,335 ratings  ·  217 reviews

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Petra X is feeling very sad
Apr 16, 2021 marked it as 1-awaiting-review-but-read
Shelves: 2021-read
I have done nothing at all today except read this book. A history of adoption and all it's dirty secrets and misguided paths, woven around the main story of parents whose son had been forcibly put up for adoption, a mother who never stopped searching for him, a father who carried his loss silently, in his heart, and a son who was quite content with his adoptive parents, but... still he wondered.

Review to come
Lindsay Nixon
Feb 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing

“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 fictional Before We Were Yours This is an absolute must.


I'm ever grateful PA unsealed theirs a few years back and through a petition, I was able to get my original birth certificate.

I am sure there are good adoptions; m
Feb 01, 2021 rated it really liked it
This book resonated deeply with me. I connected with it on many levels. My story parallels with the boy in the book. I was an adopted child. Born in 1959. My birth mother came to the US from Eastern Europe when she was a teen. She was 17, still in high school, when she got pregnant after her first time having sex. Her immigrant Old World parents banished her to the Florence Crittenden home in San Francisco. Her parents were too ashamed to drive her there. She had to get herself there alone, on t ...more
Feb 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, adoption
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 Erle). Through their story, she looks at the history and workings of the Baby Scoop Era of American adoption and adoptees' push for information.

In 1961, 17 year old New Yorker Margaret became pregnant by her boyfriend, George Katz. Her Holocaust-survivor parents were horrified, and both sets of paren
Carol Mathews
Feb 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This book could have been my story. I was adopted when I was 10 months old.
When I was a sophomore in college I got pregnant. I returned home to my family
in Florida as an unwed.mother and was hidden away in a maternity home where
I would live until my baby was born. I did not want to give up my baby for adoption, but Catholic Charities was called in. I was 20 years old without a job or family
support. I.was not allowed contact with the birth father and both set of parents
and the Parrish priest who
Leah Tyler
Feb 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Amy B
Jan 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Carol Dimitriou
May 30, 2021 rated it it was amazing
An amazing, eye-opening book!
Feb 05, 2021 rated it really liked it
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 of my closest friends. After reading this, I have more questions for her. This is a powerful book for any person who is part of the adoption triangle to read, along with people who just wish to know more for an adoptee in their lives.
Donna Boyd
May 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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 she fell in love with George. Margaret became pregnant and her Orthodox parents immediately forced her to go to a maternity home. As was the norm in the early 1960's Margaret was not allowed to see or hold her son and after being badgered relentlessly to sign away her rights to her child, she eventual ...more
Panda Incognito
This well-written, expertly researched book shares the story of a white Jewish birth mother and adopted child that the author became connected with late in their lives. She tells their story while grounding it in the specific historical and cultural context of post-WWII America and Jewish immigration, and addresses the experiences of people caught up in the changing social forces that led to rising numbers of unplanned pregnancies during the Baby Boom.

This book is full of well-cited, clearly exp
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 Strangers for example, this covers similar ground but is much more detailed. It focuses on closed adoption by following an unwed teenager being forced to give up her child in 1961, and what happened to that child after he was placed in a home with a couple that was unable to have a baby. I thought the ...more
Sandra Stein
Feb 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing
As an unwed teen mom in the sixties, I experienced the shame and shunning so genuinely reported in this book. So much of this story hit home. This book is one of those that will stay with me. Somehow reading it has relieved me of much of the negative feelings I have carried about myself. The author did an excellent job of research and weaved in a story that will tug at the readers heart.
Jan 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing
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, I knew I wanted to read this book, and I downloaded a copy to my e-reader as soon as it became available (yesterday morning). I finished it this afternoon. I also listened to the author being interviewed on the Times's Book Review podcast.

"American Baby" uses the story of David Rosenberg (born in
Jill Meyer
Feb 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
“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 the book’s premise by looking at the adoption triangle from all three facets.

I’ve not experienced any part of adoption first hand. I’m not adopted, I haven’t adopted a child, and I have not given a child up for adoption. But I’ve read with interest the stories by women who have made the heart wrenching decisio
Jan 31, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 17, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As an adoptee born in 1968, many of the stories and scenes were familiar to me as I listened to this beautifully told but sad story. I admire the courage of David and Margaret and their relatives and thank them for sharing this important story. I had many moments of outrage while listening to tales of the "adoption industrial complex" and it brought back that sense I had that as a child placed for adoption I was not just a child but a commodity. I too have had an adoption reunion and as wonderfu ...more
Ann Joyce
Feb 18, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: read2021
For the sake of transparency, I will state upfront that I was adopted in 1960 through a catholic charitable organization. “American Baby” is a well-told account of the experiences of an adopted boy and has biological parents. However, the compelling story overwhelms the issue that the author wishes to illuminate: 20th century adoption. Adoption is a much more complex issue than the author is willing to admit. Because she leaves out the complexity, this account is overly simplistic and one-sided. ...more
May 25, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This book is a must read for every child and every parent, for every adoptee and for every birth parent who places their child for adoption. It is also a look into the misogyny and infantilization of women in this country that must stop! This book is another reminder of the extreme importance of every human having bodily autonomy, and that birth control and abortion must be accessible to everyone who needs it.
Feb 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
If you liked before we were yours or the show three identical strangers, you'll love this book. The story of a teen couple forced to give up their baby is interspersed with stories from the Tennessee childrens home (before we were yours) and the Louise wise adoption agency (three identical strangers) and the crazy and sometimes horrible history of adoption in the u.s. ...more
Feb 26, 2021 rated it really liked it
Absolutely tragic account of the “Baby Scoop” era in which scores of unwed teenage mothers were coerced into giving up their children. This book makes me grateful for birth control, feminism, and the destigmatization of unwed motherhood. I am grateful Margaret had a chance to tell her story!
De Ann
May 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing
What a powerful and informative book which investigates the abuse of birth mothers and their children. Gabrielle Glaser shares heartbreaking stories of the often cruel and shaming adoptions many young women endured. These brave women are to be commended for sharing their stories.
Ann-Marie DeStefano
Jun 17, 2021 rated it really liked it
A book that hit extremely close to home. Detailed discussion of the reality of adoption, focusing primarily on one family’s true story. Opened my eyes to a lot of things I wasn’t aware of and made me curious about my own adoptive past.
Sophie Katzman
Feb 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an amazingly captivating narrative nonfiction telling of adoption in America. I learned so much about the history of adoption through the eyes of those who loved it . The author does an incredible job of representing the characters and the history .
May 09, 2021 rated it liked it
Beginning was gripping but went down hill from there; thought the personal story was better done than the general history/commentary.
Ginny Rorby
Apr 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Adopted? Adopting? A Must Read.

This is a must read for every adoptee, every birth parent and every parent of an adopted child. I was adopted in the 1940s and found my birth mother in 1996. This book gave me insights into the wrongheaded practices that continue to this day.
Apr 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing
If I were to write a review for this book, I think it would be a garbled mess of more than ten pages. Those of you who know me, know that I am extremely overcritical about books. I do not use the words "life-changing" or "heartbreaking" lightly. Well...

This book was life-changing and heartbreaking.

My own reasons for loving this book will probably differ from yours if you are non-adopted. So first I'll oversimplify a few reasons why I got really attached to this book and then try to provide some
Apr 09, 2021 rated it liked it
I was outraged when I finished this book, but not for all the reasons you might think. I, of course, was outraged for all those things that were relayed in this book, but I also found I had an additional outrage by the end.
The author clearly did so much research to bring to light an ugly past of ignorance, and willful ignorance, that served no one well but those profiting in some way. Even those children in true need of a home where not well served by being denied that love and attention for mo
Carl Pilsecker
Apr 21, 2021 rated it it was ok
The stories of Margaret (mother) and David (the son she placed for adoption) are riveting. Their improbable reunion is a testimony to their long-term commitment to find each other. So their get-together is a “good-for-you” event and makes it easy for the reader to want to believe the rest of the author’s stories about the adoption process in the U.S. in the 1960’s.
In this effort to demonize 1960’s adoption agencies and adoption social workers the author undermines her credibility t
Elizabeth Schroeder
Feb 21, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
3.5 stars

This well-written, fast read is the powerful story of one male-female couple's experience with adoption at a time when deep stigma and shame were assigned to teens involved in a pregnancy -- shame and stigma that have continued into present-day sex education and social service programming.

The book was very moving, and utterly heartbreaking at times. The reason for my 3.5 star rating is because what was missing in terms of social context felt egregiously distracting at times. The history
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Gabrielle Glaser is the best-selling author of Her Best Kept Secret: Why Women Drink and How They Can Regain Control.

Glaser grew up in Tangent, Oregon, the Grass Seed Capital of the World (pop. 440). She spent her teenage summers driving John Deere combines on her family farm, listening to an unusual mix of local radio programming: the BeeGees, Marvin Gaye, Johnny Cash, and NPR. She was an indiff

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