Book Review: When We Become Ours

There are five different hands on the cover of this book. Several of them are holding something to write with and are journaling. Two of the hands are open as if to hold something. There are calendars, photos, and other bits of paper around the edges.

When We Become Ours: A YA Adoptee Anthology edited by Shannon Gibney & Nicole Chung

Summary: There is no universal adoption experience, and no two adoptees have the same story. This anthology for teens edited by Shannon Gibney and Nicole Chung contains a wide range of powerful, poignant, and evocative stories in a variety of genres.

These tales from fifteen bestselling, acclaimed, and emerging adoptee authors genuinely and authentically reflect the complexity, breadth, and depth of adoptee experiences.

This groundbreaking collection centers what it’s like growing up as an adoptee. These are stories by adoptees, for adoptees, reclaiming their own narratives.

With stories by: Kelley Baker, Nicole Chung, Shannon Gibney, Mark Oshiro, MeMe Collier, Susan Harness, Meredith Ireland, Mariama J. Lockington, Lisa Nopachai, Stefany Valentine, Matthew Salesses, Lisa Wool-Rim Sjöblom, Eric Smith, Jenny Heijun Wills, Sun Yung Shin, Foreword by Rebecca Carroll, Afterword by JaeRan Kim, MSW, PhD

My Thoughts: This is a much needed collection that provides an excellent collections of stories representing the adoptee experience. There are so few adopted characters in YA literature and of those few, rarely are those stories told by adoptees. I first heard about this book through Dr. Sarah Park Dahlen, who is an adoption studies scholar and was happy to finally get to read it this week.

In some of these stories adoption is a huge focus, but in some, while the main character is an adoptee, that isn’t really a major part of the plot. It’s a strength that there are such a variety of ways that the adoptees are portrayed. There is a poet, a relative of a queen, a road tripper, a person learning indigenous ways, two people on farms, someone who speaks to ghosts, and many more characters. The majority of the tales are contemporary realistic fiction, but one is sci-fi, one happens in a mythical queendom and two might be described as speculative fiction. One also has a comic format.

Each story feels distinct and unique, but there are common threads of identity, belonging, questioning, loss, anger, love, pain, and healing. Who am I? Where and who do I come from? Am I enough? Where do I fit? and so many other questions are asked and sometimes answered in these narratives. Like anyone coming of age, these teens are wondering so much about themselves, but living as adoptees adds another layer as they navigate the world and their place in it.

Recommendation: Get it now! This is a fantastic collection that many readers will connect with in many ways. It’s an excellent way for adoptees to possibly see some of their experiences on the page of a book and for others, this will be a way to possible see things from that perspective. Shannon Gibney & Nicole Chung have gathered together a talented group of authors and we’re fortunate to have this anthology in the world.

Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 352
Availability: On shelves now
Review Copy: Digital ARC