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Monday 27th of March 2017

When One Thing Leads to Another: From Adoption to Publication

By Karen Henry Clark, author of Sweet Moon Baby: An Adoption Tale

 

When the nanny handed our daughter to us on a summer day in China, I remained calm. The journey was finally finished. Little did I know it was just beginning.
I smiled brightly until my husband handed me the orphanage report and my eyes froze on these words: "Baby found forsaking on steps of leather factory." Tears rolled down my face as I realized this tiny girl in his lap would always live with a mystery. While I'd known this, I'd never felt its truth. She would carry unreachable memories locked forever in her mind, her bones, her heart.
So I began to dream of a history for her—something beyond the confines of that basket balanced on a step.
She was eleven months old and....

spoke Chinese baby talk, slowly moving into recognizable English sounds. However, she refused to repeat the words we recited to her. She turned her face away stubbornly. Then one night in our yard a cloud drifted away from a full moon hung in a navy blue sky. Leaning out of my arms, she pointed up and said, "Moon!" with a sense of certainty and joy that made me believe they had been dear friends from the very first day of her life.
What else could have made such an impression on her? What inspired her toddler games of make-believe? Clearly she loved the stories about a young turtle named Franklin. She told everyone about the peacocks she'd once seen on a farm. She played faithfully with a sock monkey stitched with love by her grandmother. Each night of her life she slept with a stuffed panda in her arms. And like an Asian Huckleberry Finn, she happily carried a miniature pole over her shoulder with a plastic fish affixed. Who's to say a turtle, peacock, monkey, panda, and fish weren't part of her early life? That basket on a step in China became the basket that carried a baby down a river from claw to paw to wing.
These became the snippets of tales I told her, trying to fill those first days of her life. I wrote it down. Once upon a time, I had imagined myself as a published author, but decades of rejection had eroded my resolve. Until now. I had to show her the importance of trying one more time.
This one was the charm. My first picture book was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 2010. What began as an answer for her ended up being an answer for me. After I read the book at a school, I received my most stunning review of all when an adopted Chinese kindergarten girl whispered to my husband, "I'm the real Sweet Moon Baby." I understood it held powerful imaginary answers for children other than mine who are on this remarkable adoption journey together.

 

 

 


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