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The Velveteen Father by Jesse Green



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The Velveteen Father is a memoir of adoption narrated by a white, gay, urban man in his mid-thirties. He is a journalist whom uses cynical honesty as his personal armor. All adoptive parents-not just those in gay partnerships-will recognize their own hopes and fears in the touchingly candid descriptions of dealing with "planning and check-writing and seminar going," waiting to be picked, fighting off urges to shop at Baby Gap for fear that having too much baby stuff at home will be a jinx, and wanting to control the expectant mom's behavior before the birth.

While The Velveteen Father presents Green as a devoted dad who truly enjoys his kids, his take on adoption seems disappointingly self-centered. The Velveteen Father's tone is one of loss from the very first sentence. "Mommy? No one came when [the baby] uttered the world's oldest word." This is a slower-paced, extremely well written book whose beautiful prose demands that the reader slow down and savor its bittersweet style. Green had resigned himself to the role of Uncle, until he fell in love with someone who was already a parent.

Nothing is sacred for this writer. He grabs hold of the reader in unexpected ways, creating articulate, moving images of the challenges gay men face becoming dads in pioneer families. 

Green is devoted to the kids; it's what's missing that's the problem. For Andy and Jesse, an adoptive child's story begins "...on the day he's turned over with his box of diapers. No past, only future…A child is better off without having to hold open the possibility that some secret mother may descend from the sky at any moment; Andy and I must always be sufficient." He is similarly blind to the children's need to build a positive racial identity, recounting that "People often ask us how we will nurture their Hispanic heritage [but they do not look Hispanic]. They can simply be what we are: Jews. We are their heritage." For the sake of the kids, we would hope that Andy and Green would consider the idea that their children must know where they come from to know where they are going; pretending their birth heritage doesn't exist serves the fathers more than the sons.

Reviewed by Gail Steinberg, Beth Hall, Co-Dirctors of Pact, An Adoption Alliance, and Natasha Moullen, book coordinator for Pact.

Copyright © 2001 Adoptive Families magazine. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.

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