Adopted adults who search out their roots may not get very far if the records of their birth family contain a lot of holes. Whatever the reason for this, there is a way at least partially to satisfy the quest for answers, as well as to complement an already successful search: the life book. A lifebook may take many forms. Basically, it is a book created to chronicle a person's life, beginning as close to birth as possible. It may be a continuing scrapbook,photoalbum, or photo-journal. While they are often homemade, lifebooks are also being published and sold today in several varieties of pre-arranged formats.
For younger children, Margie Mintz created a book called Your Very Own Adoption Story: A Photo Album/Storybook. Mintz is a Massachusetts illustrator who created the book first for her 2-year-old adopted son. It was published in 1999 by Conversations Press, but is no longer in print. Instead, you may visit Mintz's Web site (www.margiemintz.com/AdoptionBook.htm) where pages of the book are available to download.
As Tim Lemire wrote in his newspaper article on Mintz, the book "tells a story of adotion so general that it can have broad applications." For example, Mintz writes that ". . .some special people. . .helped us to find your birthmother, who had made a plan for you to be adopted. She was very glad that we would love you so much." Here, in the book, a spot is designed to feature a picture, presumably of the birthmother or birthfamily. On the last page states "Adoption is a wonderful way to make a family" and has more room for pictures - for whatever kind of family you have created.
Tapestry Books' Web site has several lifebooks available. For example, Jennie Lodien's book, I Am Chosen: A Memory Book For You, has a bold and bright version and a pastel version, with pages of acid-free cardstock peppered with "cheerful quotes." Though I have not seen this book myself, the Web site's description claims that the wording throughout is general and appropriate for 1- and 2-parent families.
Brenda Romanchik, birthmother in a 1985 open adoption and long-time open adoption advocate, is the author of A Birthparent's Book of Memories. First, she has created a section for describing the birth family, then one to detail the adoption process, and finally a section for pictures and memories of the child and times the birth parent(s) spent with him or her. This book also has a beautiful cover of an adoptive family tree, which is available as a poster through Brenda's non-profit organization called "Insight."
Finally, for older children and teenagers of adoption, Susan Gabel wrote Filling in the Blanks: A Guided Look at Growing Up Adopted. I love to create, but I also get great satisfaction from filling in the blanks that others have created for me. This book would be perfect for people who also feel this way. It is divided into four sections: "My Birthfamily," "My Adoption Process," "My Adoptive Family," and "Myself." Each section has educational text written by Gabel, fill-in-the-blanks, and room for pictures.
Everyone loves to feel like a star, at least in some context. We also like to feel that we have all the answers about our past that we need. Non-adopted people often take for granted the fact that their story is readily available to them. By creating a lifebook for an adopted person - child or adult - the adoptee gets to feel both like the star of her own story, and empowered in having and making their own answers. For those whose search for their roots has reached a dead end, a lifebook can be an especially inspiring and satisfying creation at any time in their lives.
Web sites and resources used: www.margiemintz.com/AdoptionBook.htm "Mother Makes Adoption Story Book." Tim Lemire. The Newton TAB Community Newspaper. Newton, MA. April 7, 2000. www.tapestrybooks.com