Wednesday, May 6, 2015

"Finding Zoe": Book Review

I read a book, yall. It's a miracle! I rarely have the time these days, but I'm trying to make time. I forget how much I love reading until I force myself to open a book... and then get sucked in. It's really about me not making time for myself in general, but that's another story!

"Finding Zoe" (by Brandi Rarus and Gail Harris) was sent to me in exchange for a review. I always say yes when I already know I'll like it. :)

Brandi Rarus lost her hearing at age 6 after contracting spinal meningitis. She has traveled the country speaking out for Deaf children and building awareness of what it means to be Deaf. This book was about her experiences growing up, going to college during a significant time in Deaf history, finding acceptance in the Deaf community, marrying, having 3 hearing sons, and then finding her Deaf daughter Zoe through adoption. It was as if her life had come full circle and Brandi and Zoe were meant for each other. 

I started writing down quotes I liked from the book and then put the pen down and forgot about it. Ha ha. What's funny is when I went back, the 3 quotes I wrote down were all from the Foreward at the very beginning. (That should show you how well I can keep up with something I start.) But they actually did an amazing job of summarizing what the book was really about all the way through. The kind of quotes that just hit you (enough where I said, "I've gotta write that down.") ...

"Some miracles come easy; others are disguised by struggles and weighted with challenges and tough decisions."

"... I have always moved easily between the hearing and Deaf communities, but rather than seeing the separation between the two, I recognize that we all live in one world - a world in which our differences can be celebrated."

"I know without question that the love a mother has for her child is fierce and strong and that whether that child is biological or adopted, a mother's heart knows no boundaries."

-- Marlee Matlin ("Finding Zoe")
Before reading this book, I didn't know much about the Deaf community as a whole or anything about the history of prejudice against them or each individual's struggle for acceptance in a hearing world. I have had absolutely zero exposure and will openly admit I'm ignorant.

The only actual time I had a "brush" with Deaf culture was when I worked as a web editor in college. I was setting up an online ASL course. It had lots of videos that needed to be programmed in and I had to make sure everything showed up correctly. I'd catch myself reading the material as I set up the site. It mentioned cochlear implants and how the Deaf community was generally "against" them. I remember thinking that was so bizarre. If you could fix a problem, why wouldn't you?

Well, now I feel like a dummy because I get it. That was exactly the problem - that most hearing people would assume that someone who communicates differently than them needs fixing. When really self-acceptance and the acceptance of others is an essential, fundamental part of being a human being. Thinking of yourself as broken or needing fixing can really mess with your ability to feel good in your own skin. I get it because - hello - infertility! Embracing my infertile-ness and realizing I'm still a completely whole/wonderful/amazing person just the way I am right here and right now... well, yeah. I get it. "Why don't you try in vitro?" feels like my version of the Deaf community's "Why don't you try getting a cochlear implant?" Sometimes you are who you are and you don't want to "fix" it and that is perfectly okay. (I know this isn't a perfect comparison, but still... it's how I related to it.)

So, not knowing much about Deaf culture didn't hinder my ability to really dig into this story. Adoption, motherhood, acceptance, growing up, fitting in, fighting for equality and against prejudice, loving who you are and thriving. Teaching your children from your experiences. Wanting to give them a better chance than you had. Being the parent your child needs. Yep, I totally get all of that.

There was a section of the book called "The Roads of Others" that really took the story to a place very near and dear to me - the story of baby Zoe from the perspective of her birth parents. At first it felt like a really abrupt change in point-of-view and caught me off guard. It was odd to me that the adoptive mom in the story would be writing from the birth parents' perspective in such detail. Apparently (from what I gathered) they were interviewed much later, the story was pieced together, and it was a collaborative effort. That's the benefit of being open in adoption - all sides of the story can be told.

The book was pretty straightforward until it got to this point and then I was just mesmerized hearing all the different people's stories who were touched by baby Zoe. There are a million adoption stories told by adoptive parents... we need more adoption stories told by birth parents. Seriously.

Overall, this was a good one! Eye-opening and engaging. I love true stories, so it totally appealed to me. Plus - adoption!! :D

Sitting out in my purty grass and relaxing with a book and my boys... Ahhhh....

Oh, and cookies... :)

My weird kid. Ha ha.

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