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Publisher's Summary

A New York Times Notable Book

The shocking truth about postwar adoption in America, told through the bittersweet story of one teenager, the son she was forced to relinquish, and their search to find each other.

“[T]his book about the past might foreshadow a coming shift in the future… ‘I don’t think any legislators in those states who are anti-abortion are actually thinking, “Oh, great, these single women are gonna raise more children.” No, their hope is that those children will be placed for adoption. But is that the reality? I doubt it.’”[says Glaser]” -Mother Jones

During the Baby Boom in 1960s America, women were encouraged to stay home and raise large families, but sex and childbirth were taboo subjects. Premarital sex was common, but birth control was hard to get and abortion was illegal. In 1961, sixteen-year-old Margaret Erle fell in love and became pregnant. Her enraged family sent her to a maternity home, where social workers threatened her with jail until she signed away her parental rights. Her son vanished, his whereabouts and new identity known only to an adoption agency that would never share the slightest detail about his fate.

The adoption business was founded on secrecy and lies. American Baby lays out how a lucrative and exploitative industry removed children from their birth mothers and placed them with hopeful families, fabricating stories about infants' origins and destinations, then closing the door firmly between the parties forever. Adoption agencies and other organizations that purported to help pregnant women struck unethical deals with doctors and researchers for pseudoscientific "assessments," and shamed millions of women into surrendering their children.

The identities of many who were adopted or who surrendered a child in the postwar decades are still locked in sealed files. Gabrielle Glaser dramatically illustrates in Margaret and David’s tale--one they share with millions of Americans—a story of loss, love, and the search for identity.

©2020 Gabrielle Glaser (P)2020 Penguin Audio
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

“A searing narrative that combines the detailed saga of one unwed teenage mother with deep research on all aspects of a scandalous adoption industry.... Throughout, the author deftly follows this genuinely human story, exposing the darker corners of adoption in 20th-century America. In 2006, Ann Fessler's The Girls Who Went Away lifted the curtain on the plight of other women just like Margaret, and Glaser accomplishes an equally impressive feat here. In a narrative filled with villains, a birth mother and her son exhibit grace. A specific story of identity that has universal appeal for the many readers who have faced similar circumstances.” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)

"A heart-wrenching tale that will resonate with many... The results of Glaser’s extensive research read like a well-crafted, tension-filled novel.” (BookPage starred review)

"[A] sweeping and novelistic account ... This is more than just the story of “a lifelong separation and a bittersweet reunion.” It’s a well-paced work of research made stronger by Glaser’s ability to write with clarity and intensity about a harsh reality. Never losing sight of her story’s emotional heart, Glaser delivers a page-turning and illuminating work." (Publishers Weekly)

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I felt the love of my birth mom...

As I listened to this story I could feel the love of my first mom. She passed before I found her (25 years ago). From what I learned from her family her experience was similar to Margaret's in that that desperately wanted to keep me and thought about me though out her life. Listening to Margaret's story saddened me, and filled my heart with joy. I know she loved me❤️

6 people found this helpful

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Really informative

I loved this book. Another history of how we are so influenced by religion and society. It was both sad and invigorating. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants additional Information about adoption .

4 people found this helpful

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This Ripped at My Soul

As a 61 year old adoptee, this book followed very closely to my own story. I can't say enough good things about this book. In addition to being a heart wrenching story with the particular adoption being followed, Glaser has done a wonderful job of digging into the history of how adoptions have been handled in this country over time. I learned a lot of things that answer many questions I've had for decades. If you are, or you love an adoptee or a birth parent, you need to read this book.

3 people found this helpful

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Heartwarming, Heartbreaking Story

I’m not great at reviews. I’ll just say that this book touched me. I was riveted as the story unfolded, especially since it’s true. I’m very picky about who I listen to, and this narrator was excellent.

2 people found this helpful

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Phenomenal

A very in-depth examination of adoption through the lens of a journalist who tells the story of Margaret, who gave birth to her son in the post world war 2 adoption craze, and her son Steven "David". This novel examines the aftermath of closed adoptions which cut off so many birth families from any knowledge of the baby they placed into adoption and the life they would set out to lead with particular focus on Margaret and Steven's story. I enjoyed so many aspects of this book, but one thing struck me toward the end. Only one half of 1% of mothers today choose a closed adoption compared to the nearly 100% who were forced into closed adoptions for decades in post-war America. Think of the 99.5% of mothers who would never have chosen a closed adoption if they had a choice. It's mind boggling.

1 person found this helpful

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Exposé About Baby Mill Adoption Practices in USA

This book is a MUCH NEEDED exposé on the archaic "baby mill" adoption practices in the United States of America up until very recently. I know first-hand because I was caught up in it too!

Up until recently, women who became pregnant out of wedlock were shamed and ostracized by their families, friends, churches, and government. They were blamed for the unholy sex (boys were not held responsible). The young women were usually strongly coerced (practically forced) into giving their baby's up for closed adoptions.

This process set up milions of human beings for life long grief, both the mothers and children.

I am very thankful to hear this story, told from the point of view of one woman's, one family's, and one adoptee's experience. It is a story of untold grief that needs to be shared over and over again because the shaming continues.

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very interesting, and eye opening

The narrator presented clearly with a good tone. The story presented a great deal of true information.

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The Real Story of Adoption

I had NO idea! I'm so overwhelmed with all the secrecy and lies by adoption agencies. This book This book follows the story of a reunited mother and son, while also shedding light on the shadows created by adoption agencies

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amazing book

amazing book! loved it so much, had me in tears. would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in history throughout the 1900s in relation to adoption, it's also just a good general nonfiction historical read!

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Very interesting

I really enjoyed this story. I enjoyed the format as well. Non-fiction stories that intertwine a real story with the history and ideals are my favorite. The story is heartbreaking, and made me quite angry that women could treat one another so horribly. The nurses and social workers were truly despicable. I really wish however that Gabriella read the story herself. The ending with her was very good and would have added to the audio book. I am glad for Margret that she got some memories and closure.