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Faces of Layla, A Journey Through Ethiopian Adoption

by Melissa Fay Greene and Jennifer Armstrong; Photography by Emma Dodge Hanson ($50.00)

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As the mother of two internationally adopted children, I am grateful that my kids can see others like us—families whose members do not look alike, but who belong, nevertheless, to each other. It was not always so—in our culture. Reinforcing this reflection, to beautiful effect, are two stunning new photography books: Now We Are One: Faces of International Adoption and Faces of Layla: A Journey Through Ethiopian Adoption.

Faces of Layla: A Journey Through Ethiopian Adoption introduces us to the children who live at Layla House in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. All the children there—babies to 15-year-olds—await adoption. In a poignant foreword, Melissa Fay Greene writes about meeting her nine-year-old son, Fisseha, there. She describes some of their earliest interactions as they were learning to be mother and son: "Without words, we made up games. It was our game to race-walk across the hotel lobby. We slowed to a stately march whenever we felt watched by hotel staff or other guests; the moment an onlooker turned away, we race-walked again. I never won."

In Emma Dodge Hanson’s stunning color photographs, we see children eating, playing, praying, learning, smiling. We see caregivers cooking, doing laundry, serving food, holding kids. And while the caregivers do their best for the children, the authors remind us that each child is silently praying, "Please send me a family."

Both books beautifully show us that, while it may be unusual to adopt a child born in a far-away place, the family created in this way is a family like any other. One mother says, "We pick them up when they fall down. We help them discover who they are. We’re a family, different from every other family and just like every other family." This sentiment, and these books, are gorgeous gifts to give our children.

Reviewed by Ann Keisling, a documentary filmmaker, in Portland, Oregon. She and her husband have adopted two children.

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