Relinquished: The Politics of Adoption and the Privilege of American Motherhood

St. Martin’s. Feb. 2024. 320p. ISBN 9781250286772. $29. SOC SCI
Every year, nearly 20,000 women place their children for adoption. Sociologist Sisson (Univ. of California, San Francisco), whose research was cited in the U.S. Supreme Court’s dissent in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, seeks to share a new perspective on this subject. Adoption is embraced by both sides of the political aisle, but Sisson believes that TV shows such as 16 and Pregnant feature narratives about pregnancy and adoption that don’t mesh with reality or the true experiences of parents. Utilizing more than 100 interviews with birth mothers of various professions, religions, and socioeconomic statuses, the book, academic in tone, explores how they made the challenging decision to place their child for adoption and what consequences this had on their lives. The adoptions mentioned in this book took place between the years 2000 and 2020 in all regions of the U.S. Sisson also looks back at times in history when people—enslaved, Indigenous peoples, and others who were oppressed—were forced to have babies, who were then sold or yanked away. Birth fathers are not included in Sisson’s survey; the author opted to have a conversation about adoption with a single focus.
VERDICT Provocative, in-depth, and scholarly. For readers interested in the history of adoption.
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