Make Me a Mother
by Susanne Antonetta

W. W. Norton, & Company, 2014. ISBN 978-0-393-06817-7.
Reviewed by Judy M. Miller
Posted on 09/19/2014
Review of the Month, October 2014

Nonfiction: Memoir

I have read a great deal of adoption literature written by people representing varied perspectives within the adoption "constellation:" adopted adults, parents who have adopted, parents who have relinquished their children, and professionals and paraprofessionals who work with and support them. I have found a number of memoirs within the adoption genre to be challenging reads that are often too narrow in scope.

Make Me a Mother by Susanne Antonetta is a refreshing and honest adoption memoir. Her statement, "I loved him, yet I did not yet love him," caused me, as a parent through adoption myself, to feel early on that the memoir was spot on. Many of us love our children when we adopt them, but we do not yet love them because we do not know them.

Antonetta goes deeper and casts her net wider than just divulging how Jin became her son; she weaves the centuries-old history of adoption in many cultures and adoption facts throughout her narrative. Additionally she examines herself as a new mom and as a seasoned mother. She delves into her past relationships with new perspectives, gleaned from being a mother herself. She is able to reconcile her feelings for her parents, especially her mother, and able to address the trauma of almost being sexually molested by her grandfather at the tender age of ten.

Adoption is complex and one person's experience is not another person's, although there are many facets of their stories and experiences that may resonate with others. Make Me a Mother had me nodding my head many times as I read, thinking, "Yes, I have thought that. I have felt that way."

Again and again I highlighted passages and made notes in the margins, wishing I could have a long conversation with Antonetta. She is a member of my "tribe," a parent through adoption, and her story and that of the creation of her family resonated with me deeply. Like me, she honors her child's culture of origins and her child's birth parents. Like me, she realizes that her child struggles with issues that stem from being adopted. Like me, she listens to her child and allows him to explore and convey the person he is becoming. And she learns much in this evolution: "Jin has made me the mother I am and I have made him the son he is."

Susanne Antonetta is an award-winning writer and teacher, the author of three books of nonfiction (Body Toxic and A Mind Apart and the forthcoming Inventing Family) and four books of poetry, which she writes under the name of Suzanne Paola. She has contributed to the New York Times, Washington Post, Orion, Seneca Review, and Image Journal, among other publications. She lives in Bellingham, Washington. For more information, see her website.

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