100 books like Dear Birthmother

By Kathleen Silber, Phyllis Speedlin,

Here are 100 books that Dear Birthmother fans have personally recommended if you like Dear Birthmother. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Unnatural Selection: A Memoir of Adoption and Wilderness

Vanessa McGrady Author Of Rock Needs River: A Memoir About a Very Open Adoption

From my list on adoption and what it means to be a family.

Why am I passionate about this?

I don’t just write stories, I study them. I’ve noticed that nearly every major hero/ine’s journey and epic tale has an adoption component. From Bible stories and Greek myths (adoption worked out well for Moses, not so much for Oedipus) to Star Wars through This Is Us, we humans are obsessed with origin stories. And it’s no wonder: “Where do I come from?” and “Where do I belong?” are questions that confound and comfort us from the time we are tiny until we take our final breath. As an adoptive mother and advocate for continuing contact with birth families, I love stories about adoption, because no two are alike. They give us light and insight into how families are created and what it means to be a family—by blood, by love, and sometimes, the combination of the two.

Vanessa's book list on adoption and what it means to be a family

Vanessa McGrady Why did Vanessa love this book?

This beautifully told tale of an adoptee searching for her original family is set against her ongoing relationship to the Southwest’s most awe-inspiring terrain, and the people who bring her there. I loved this book because it showed her evolution as a wilderness lover, romantic partner, and mother as she navigated fitting into various incarnations of family, which felt just as perilous, frustrating, and rewarding as finding the right footholds in the natural world. While we are all from Mother Earth, our earthly parents can be critical to a deeper understanding of who we are as people.

By Andrea Ross,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Unnatural Selection as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Adopted at birth, Andrea Ross grew up inhabiting two ecosystems: one was her tangible, adoptive family, the other her birth family, whose mysterious landscape was hidden from her. In this coming-of-age memoir, Ross narrates how in her early twenties, while working as a ranger in Grand Canyon National Park, she embarked on a journey to discover where she came from and, ultimately, who she was. After many missteps and dead ends, Ross uncovered her heartbreaking and inspiring origin story and began navigating the complicated turns of reuniting with her birth parents and their new families. Through backcountry travel in the…


Book cover of God and Jetfire: Confessions of a Birth Mother

Vanessa McGrady Author Of Rock Needs River: A Memoir About a Very Open Adoption

From my list on adoption and what it means to be a family.

Why am I passionate about this?

I don’t just write stories, I study them. I’ve noticed that nearly every major hero/ine’s journey and epic tale has an adoption component. From Bible stories and Greek myths (adoption worked out well for Moses, not so much for Oedipus) to Star Wars through This Is Us, we humans are obsessed with origin stories. And it’s no wonder: “Where do I come from?” and “Where do I belong?” are questions that confound and comfort us from the time we are tiny until we take our final breath. As an adoptive mother and advocate for continuing contact with birth families, I love stories about adoption, because no two are alike. They give us light and insight into how families are created and what it means to be a family—by blood, by love, and sometimes, the combination of the two.

Vanessa's book list on adoption and what it means to be a family

Vanessa McGrady Why did Vanessa love this book?

Deciding to place a child for adoption is one of the most excruciating decisions in the human experience. When Amy Seek, a promising architecture student, becomes pregnant, she’s not yet ready to become a parent. But she’s also not ready, completely, to hand over her child to a perfectly lovely family. Her tale of love, heartbreak, and acceptance is a reminder to parents and non-parents of all circumstances that there are lots of ways to make a family—and in this case, it was the best, most perfectly imperfect option. I think this is a really important book for everyone in the adoption triad (birth parents, adoptive parents, adoptees) to read, because it really gets up close and uncomfortably personal with the struggle some birth mothers undergo, despite the unlimited love they have for their babies. 

By Amy Seek,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked God and Jetfire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

God and Jetfire is a mother's account of her decision to surrender her son in an open adoption and of their relationship over the twelve years that follow. Facing an unplanned pregnancy at twenty-two, Amy Seek and her ex-boyfriend begin an exhaustive search for a family to raise their child. They sift through hundreds of "Dear Birth Mother" letters, craft an extensive questionnaire, and interview numerous potential couples. Despite the immutability of the surrender, it does little to diminish Seek's newfound feelings of motherhood. Once an ambitious architecture student, she struggles to reconcile her sadness with the hope that she's…


Book cover of Instant Mom

Vanessa McGrady Author Of Rock Needs River: A Memoir About a Very Open Adoption

From my list on adoption and what it means to be a family.

Why am I passionate about this?

I don’t just write stories, I study them. I’ve noticed that nearly every major hero/ine’s journey and epic tale has an adoption component. From Bible stories and Greek myths (adoption worked out well for Moses, not so much for Oedipus) to Star Wars through This Is Us, we humans are obsessed with origin stories. And it’s no wonder: “Where do I come from?” and “Where do I belong?” are questions that confound and comfort us from the time we are tiny until we take our final breath. As an adoptive mother and advocate for continuing contact with birth families, I love stories about adoption, because no two are alike. They give us light and insight into how families are created and what it means to be a family—by blood, by love, and sometimes, the combination of the two.

Vanessa's book list on adoption and what it means to be a family

Vanessa McGrady Why did Vanessa love this book?

First of all, Nia Vardalos is just hilarious. She could write an Ikea assembly brochure and it would probably be side-splitting. But in the book, she tells about being a rising star (a great story on its own) who had it all – except a baby. After a grueling battle with infertility, she eventually came around to the idea of adoption, and started to learn more about the fost-adopt process of taking an older child who is unlikely to reunite with their original family. With great heart, she tells the roller-coaster story of bringing a 3-year-old with attachment challenges into her life—and the inevitable universality of motherhood. “Nothing prepared me for the life I would feel for my child. Nothing prepared me for how quickly it happened for me. And here’s what I just figure out now: no one is ever prepared. In a way, we’re all instant moms.” She’s…

By Nia Vardalos,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Instant Mom as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Instant Mom, Nia Vardalos, writer and star of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, tells her hilarious and poignant road-to-parenting story that eventually leads to her daughter and prompts her to become a major advocate for adoption. Moments after Nia Vardalos finds out she has been nominated for an Oscar for the screenplay for My Big Fat Greek Wedding, she is alone and en route to a fertility clinic, trying yet again for a chance at motherhood. Vardalos chronicles her attempts to have a baby, and how she tries everything-from drinking jugs of green mud tea, to acupuncture, to working…


Book cover of Everything You Ever Wanted: A Memoir

Vanessa McGrady Author Of Rock Needs River: A Memoir About a Very Open Adoption

From my list on adoption and what it means to be a family.

Why am I passionate about this?

I don’t just write stories, I study them. I’ve noticed that nearly every major hero/ine’s journey and epic tale has an adoption component. From Bible stories and Greek myths (adoption worked out well for Moses, not so much for Oedipus) to Star Wars through This Is Us, we humans are obsessed with origin stories. And it’s no wonder: “Where do I come from?” and “Where do I belong?” are questions that confound and comfort us from the time we are tiny until we take our final breath. As an adoptive mother and advocate for continuing contact with birth families, I love stories about adoption, because no two are alike. They give us light and insight into how families are created and what it means to be a family—by blood, by love, and sometimes, the combination of the two.

Vanessa's book list on adoption and what it means to be a family

Vanessa McGrady Why did Vanessa love this book?

In this exquisitely written poem of a memoir, Jillian Lauren splays her heart wide open, on every page as she transforms from an addict whose used up most of her luck to a mother whose role requires great stores of grit, determination, and love. We’re right there with her as she and her husband decide to adopt a boy from Ethiopia, and we’re along for the bumpy, often painful, occasionally joyful, ride through the challenges of parenting this tiny person who has already lost so much, but has so much to give. Outside of motherhood, she’s so funny and interesting I kind of want to be best friends with her. Not in a weirdo-stalker way, though.

By Jillian Lauren,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Everything You Ever Wanted as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Best Memoir of 2015, "This memoir is compulsively readable and full of humor and heart."-AdoptiveFamilies.com

"A punk rock Scheherazade" (Margaret Cho) shares the zigzagging path that took her from harem member to PTA member...

In her younger years, Jillian Lauren was a college dropout, a drug addict, and an international concubine in the Prince of Brunei's harem, an experience she immortalized in in her bestselling memoir, SOME GIRLS. In her thirties, Jillian's most radical act was learning the steadying power of love when she and her rock star husband adopt an Ethiopian child with special needs. After Jillian loses…


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

Rebecca Wellington Author Of Who Is a Worthy Mother?: An Intimate History of Adoption

From my list on straight up, real memoirs on motherhood and adoption.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am adopted. For most of my life, I didn’t identify as adopted. I shoved that away because of the shame I felt about being adopted and not truly fitting into my family. But then two things happened: I had my own biological children, the only two people I know to date to whom I am biologically related, and then shortly after my second daughter was born, my older sister, also an adoptee, died of a drug overdose. These sequential births and death put my life on a new trajectory, and I started writing, out of grief, the history of adoption and motherhood in America. 

Rebecca's book list on straight up, real memoirs on motherhood and adoption

Rebecca Wellington Why did Rebecca love this book?

Okay, this is not a memoir, and Glaser doesn’t have a personal connection with adoption. BUT she is a phenomenal writer and excellent reporter, which means she beautifully tells other people’s stories. And she does so here with so much empathy and integrity. This is the story of the forced relinquishment of a baby boy during the Baby Scoop Era and his journey of reconnecting with his birthmother decades later.

It’s an astounding, heart-wrenching story that highlights the incredible tenacity of a young mother and her stunning fight to keep her baby. This story made me cry….a lot.

By Gabrielle Glaser,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked American Baby as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

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.

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, and after she gave birth,…


Book cover of Baby of Mine: A Birthmother's Journey Through Forced Adoption

Holly Marlow Author Of Delly Duck: Why A Little Chick Couldn't Stay With His Birth Mother

From my list on helping adoptive parents be better parents.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an adoptive parent and I often use stories to help my children to understand and process emotive topics. While we were going through the adoption process, I couldn’t find any stories that adequately explained why some children can’t stay with their birth families, so I decided to create my own! I found the waiting during the adoption process quite unbearable and put every spare minute to good use, reading books by adoptees and birth parents, so that I could understand the experiences of the people affected most by adoption. These autobiographies were a tough, emotional read at times, but they all changed me for the better. 

Holly's book list on helping adoptive parents be better parents

Holly Marlow Why did Holly love this book?

It’s difficult to find the words to do this autobiography justice. A likable and engaging birth mother shares the events that led to the removal of her sons by social services and talks about the incredible friendship she later develops with the mother who adopts them. This book made me imagine how my son’s birth parents may feel, and is essential reading for any adoptive parent struggling to find or maintain empathy for birth families. I felt inspired by Laura’s strength, selflessness, and personal growth, and admire the relationship she now has with her sons’ new mother, which is so beneficial to their sons.

By Laura Anderson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Baby of Mine as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

At the young age of 17, Laura is pregnant and naïve. Upon welcoming her little boy, CJ, into the world life isn’t as perfect as she’d hoped, and she ends up a single mother. Falling into the arms of someone from her past; Laura is soon swept up in a monsoon when her 5-month-old son is unexpectedly injured and social services step in and take him from her care.

Trapped in an abusive marriage and pregnant for a second time, will Laura find the courage to walk away, when doing so means she will lose another son? Will there ever…


Book cover of The Adoption Papers

Shanta Everington Author Of Another Mother: Curating and Creating Voices of Adoption, Surrogacy and Egg Donation

From my list on the adoption triangle in poetry and prose.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was going through the process of adopting my second child, after having my first by a more conventional route, I looked for diverse representations of mothering to help me make sense of my journey. These recommended books helped me to understand the lived experience from all sides of the adoption triangle: adoptee, birth mother, and adopter. I was curious about the experience of other mothers whose children have an additional mother and found a lack of life writing on surrogacy and egg donation. As a published novelist and poet, I decided to move into experimental life writing and undertook a PhD in Creative Writing to discover and write their stories.

Shanta's book list on the adoption triangle in poetry and prose

Shanta Everington Why did Shanta love this book?

Adoptee Jackie Kay’s poetry collection presents the voices of three speakers who are distinguished typographically: the daughter, the adoptive mother, and the birth mother.

Read in conjunction with Kay’s memoir on adoption, Read Dust Road, this poetry collection offers a fascinating insight into the adoption triangle through multiple versions of the same events. 

By Jackie Kay,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Adoption Papers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Jackie Kay tells the story of a black girl's adoption by a white Scottish couple, from three different viewpoints: the mother, the birth mother, and the daughter. The Adoption Papers won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. In 2022 The Adoption Papers was selected as one of ten books representing the 1990s in The Big Jubilee Read, a celebration of great books from across the Commonwealth to mark the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, one of only three poetry collections out of 70 books on the list.


Book cover of Little Universes

Deborah Crossland Author Of The Quiet Part Out Loud

From my list on YA that made me cry.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have loved story since I was little, and I’ve curated a life where it has always taken center stage in some or another. I was a high school English teacher for ten years, and have been a college professor for eight. But what really inspires me to write the books I do is my PhD in mythological studies. As a mythologist, I’m lucky enough to be able to see why stories resonate with us for so long and use those same themes and metaphors to write my own. 

Deborah's book list on YA that made me cry

Deborah Crossland Why did Deborah love this book?

First of all, Heather’s writing is so clear and so emotional, it’s hard not to get sucked into this world immediately. Second, the characters are so well-rounded.

You can feel their ache radiating off the page. The micro poetry Hannah leaves all over the city breaks my heart every time I read them, but what absolutely sends me is how the girls learned to process grief and all the other Big Emotions by making soup. This book easily has crossover appeal for both teens and adults.

By Heather Demetrios,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Little Universes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

Heather Demetrios's Little Universes is a book about the powerful bond between sisters, the kinds of love that never die, and the journey we all must make through the baffling cruelty and unexpected beauty of human life in an incomprehensible universe.

One wave: that’s all it takes for the rest of Mae and Hannah Winters’ lives to change.

When a tsunami strikes the island where their parents are vacationing, it soon becomes clear that their mom and dad are never coming home. Forced to move to Boston from sunny California for the rest of their senior year, each girl struggles…


Book cover of Self-Portrait with Nothing

Victoria Costello Author Of Orchid Child

From my list on realist that use magic to say hard things.

Why am I passionate about this?

Like most children growing up with fairy tales and Bible instruction, I believed in miracles and magic. But it was the death of my father at age eight, then having his spirit return to my childhood bedroom to comfort and reassure me, that planted in me a core belief in dimensions beyond material reality. Other influences, including living as a neurodiverse woman and raising a neurodiverse son, working as a science journalist, and reading quantum physics, helped me re-embrace the liminal as part of my adult worldview. The most interesting novels to me often carry subtle messages and bring awareness to underrepresented people and issues, and many do this using magic and the fantastic.

Victoria's book list on realist that use magic to say hard things

Victoria Costello Why did Victoria love this book?

This novel’s protagonist, Pepper Rafferty was raised by two Lesbian mothers, who found her as a newborn on the doorstep of their vet practice.

But at 36, Pepper is still trying to find her footing in the world and understand things about herself, like her habit of imagining she’s living in different worlds, based on different choices she might have made.
Without being shown exactly why, the reader soon grasps that this has something to do with the fact that her birth mother is Ula Frost - a very famous portrait painter about whom fantastic claims are being made.

These come primarily from the models in her portraits, these are her clients, who say that her painting them brought forth their mirror selves from other universes, often with disastrous consequences. Outrageous as this claim seems, many in the art world believe it, and Ula's paintings sell for millions of dollars.…

By Aimee Pokwatka,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Self-Portrait with Nothing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Orphan Black meets Fringe in a story that reminds us that living our best life sometimes means embracing the imperfect one we already have.

"Fraught and deeply moving...the work of a genuinely exciting new talent." ―Booker Prize winner, George Saunders.

“Aimee Pokwatka’s Self-Portrait with Nothing is tantalizing and elusive lacework, delicately balanced between the branches of fantasy, mystery and realism like a spider’s web.” ―The New York Times

If a picture paints a thousand worlds . . .

Abandoned as an infant on the local veterinarian’s front porch, Pepper Rafferty was raised by two loving mothers, and now, at thirty-six…


Book cover of Hello from Renn Lake

Diana Renn Author Of Trouble at Turtle Pond

From my list on young environmentalists.

Why am I passionate about this?

I live in a town near a wildlife refuge. I frequently encounter wildlife, including turtles, in my neighborhood. Trouble at Turtle Pond was inspired by volunteer work my son and I did with a local conservation group, fostering endangered Blanding’s turtles. Although my previous books were mysteries set in other countries, I have become interested in the mysteries we can find in our own back yards and in other community spaces we share with nature. I love eco-fiction about kids who love animals, who are “nature detectives,” who have strong opinions, and who are working for the environment, recognizing that every small step makes a difference.

Diana's book list on young environmentalists

Diana Renn Why did Diana love this book?

Aside from the fun coincidence that I share my surname with the lake in this book, I fell in love on page one because one of the narrators is actually the lake! Chapters alternate between Renn Lake and 12-year-old Annalise, whose family owns lakeside cabins. Annalise has always felt a special connection to this water. When a toxic algae bloom threatens Renn Lake, she and her friends fight to save it. I grew up on a lake in Washington State that became clogged with Eurasian Milfoil, a highly invasive plant affecting water quality, fish, and other things. Remembering what it felt like to see my local lake transform, and how powerless I felt to help it, I rooted for Annalise and her friends and felt hope for this new generation of activists.

By Michele Weber Hurwitz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hello from Renn Lake as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

The environmental activism of Hoot meets the summer friendship of Lemons in this heartfelt story about community, conservation, and standing up for the things you love.

Annalise Oliver's family has owned and run lakeside cabins in Renn Lake, Wisconsin, for generations. This summer, she gets to help out while her younger sister focuses on being an actress and her best friend is babysitting rambunctious twin boys. It's the perfect opportunity for Annalise to work and spend more time by her beloved lake.

When she was three years old, Annalise discovered that she could sense what Renn Lake was thinking and…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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