The Colours in Me: Writing and poetry by adopted children and young people.

Author:Betts, Bridget
Position:Book review

The Colours in Me: Writing and poetry by adopted children and young people Perlita Harris (ed) BAAF 2008 220 pages 12.95 [pounds sterling]

This is a beautiful and moving anthology of prose, poetry and artwork by adopted children and young people. The book is very accessible and well arranged in five sections exploring different aspects of growing up as an adopted child. A broad variety of experiences is included: there are over 100 contributors aged between four and 20 years old, adopted from care in the UK and from overseas and now living in all sorts of different family structures. This range of first-hand accounts and experiences from children reflects their current understanding of what it means to be adopted and helps us to understand what is important to them, how they interpret their experiences and the sense they make of their lives. Reading their stories, it was a privilege to step into an adopted child's world, although this was not always a comfortable place to be.

The Colours in Me is not an easy book to read and at times the complexity of being adopted is laid bare. As Rhona Cameron observes in her Foreword:

The complexity of adoption and the void it leaves us with must be hard for those not adopted to understand. I recognise the theme of the void in many of the stories and poems written in this book.

We are taken on a journey through the many colours of the adoption experience, moving from a short poem by a six-year-old, to a longer piece of prose by a 20-year-old and on to a piece of artwork. I was reminded that, at times, we can perhaps underestimate how much children remember and internalise about their previous experiences in their birth families, and, for some, the intense longing and sadness that accompanies living apart from them. We move from the intense and candid 'Bottom of the bottle' (pp 14-18) to the sometimes amusing, concrete reality of what adoption means for other children: 'You go on more holidays when you are adopted' (p 27). The style of the book held my interest throughout and I particularly liked the interview format for some stories. I really felt as if I were present during the conversation.

The artwork included is at times more powerful than the words in illustrating how some children manage their feelings about living between two families. 'Broken heart' by Heather (p...

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