Coming Together Reviews
Barbara Free, M.A.
Editor, Operation Identity Newsletter
(New Mexico's Adoptee Rights and Adoption Search Organization)
well-written, both from a technical point of view and as interesting reading. She begins by
citing various studies and well-known adoption-related literature, interspersed with some
personal memories. Then she tells her life story, about which she has learned many
Shideler discusses her adoptive parents, both the positive aspects and the negative. The
author has quite a sense of humor, and seems like a person one would enjoy knowing in
person. She recounts with both exasperation and humor several incidents after her
adoptive father's death, such as the cemetery saying they could not bury him in the
designated plot without the owner's permission, the owner of the plot being her aunt, who
had been dead many years and was buried in the adjoining plot Later, the bank said they
couldn't take his name off the checking account without his permission, even though he
was dead. Her recounting of these stressful episodes, handling them with some humor,
made her really come alive in the book.
She also recounts going to the adoption agency that had handled her adoption and trying
to get information. She had her birth mother's name, and had told her adoptive parents
she was going to do this. The woman she encountered at the agency was shaming and
gave her no information. She later learned her birth mother had contacted the agency
wanting to be notified if her daughter was searching.
She did search, off and on, which is also fascinating reading, and did finally find her birth
mother, who had also been searching for her for years. After their first reunion, also filled
with crazy incidents such as the airline tickets being written for the wrong airport, in
Tennessee instead of Michigan, she found out who her birth father was and located his
grave, between his wife and another man, with whom she also had children!
Ms. Shideler states that finding her birth father's family was not as satisfying as finding her
birth mother and those siblings, but she is glad to have done it all. She ends the book with
a brief chapter entitled “What next? And hints of a possible second book dealing with
ongoing reunion relationships. If that happens, we'll be more than eager to read it. We
would highly recommend this book and hope it will encourage both adoptees and birth
parents to keep searching!
Mary Sojourner, author of Solace: rituals of loss and desire, writes:
From Shideler’s declaration in the Introduction to her compelling book, “The truth if we
know it, can set us free.” to the second-to-last sentence, “When each side has satisfied
their initial curiosity, had their questions answered – what happens next?”, I was swept
along by her honesty, her wit, her open anger and compassion, to say nothing of her clear
and passionate writing.
I am not an adoptee. I am a birth mother who gave up her son to his natural father. In
that, I share much with other birth parents and many adoptees. I didn’t know that until I
read Coming Together. This is the greatest gift of Shideler’s book – the awareness of how
much so many of us have in common, not just in the painful reality of what it means to be
given up by one’s parents or to give up a child; but in how that experience shapes a
person for a life-time.
Martha Shideler takes us from her birth in 1940 at the Florence Crittenden Home for
Unwed Mothers (just the name of the place gave me chills), through the brutally lonely six
weeks after her birth when she was neither held nor cuddled, to her childhood with her
adoptive parents who had told her she was adopted, but never clarified much of anything
for her about the facts, to her decades-long search through a bureaucracy that seemed
determined to not only thwart her efforts, but shame her.
Shideler encounters enough road-blocks, evasions and down-right mean spiritedness
during her search to stop any but the most ardent seeker of truth. It is to her credit that
her writing and her clarity bring the reader into the search with her. She writes not only for
herself – she discusses how writing Coming Together was, in itself, a form of healing – but
for all adoptees and birth parents, and in hope of illuminating a system that once locked
people away from their true biological heritages.
Her wit shines through. Her anger shines through. Her courage shines through. Coming
Together is more than a memoir of a gutsy woman; it is a guidebook for anyone touched
by adoption in America, anyone who believes, as Martha Shideler does, that the truth,
when known, will set us free.
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