"Open Adoption" Gets an Airing at Battery Books Reading

Published : Wednesday, September 11, 2019 | 11:23 AM

[Updated] Author Vanessa McGrady will share her popular tale about how she became a mother via open adoption.

McGrady’s memoir, “Rock Needs River,” has sold in excess of 10,000 copies since its release earlier this year.

“Rock” is more than a story about an “open adoption,” whereby the parents putting a child up for adoption remain part of that child’s life.

McGrady’s personal journey toward adoptive motherhood details the process by which she was able to locate a couple desiring to give up their daughter so as to focus on their dreams as musicians.

You will read about groups she joined as part of that process, mistakes she made which turned her ears red, the anxious, hopeful waiting and the rather tortuous path she had to traverse since the few existing roadmaps were cursory and particular at best.

The parents, Bridgett and Bill, are a curious study: a pair of artists somehow inured to a hardscrabble life of homeless tent-living and off-the-grid shack habitation. The author explains her tireless, well-meaning efforts at keeping the feckless couple in her/their daughter’s life and to help get them on their feet.

They don’t seem to want a better life, or view working and fitting their life into a paycheck as better than methodically picking through dumpsters for their necessities. They are respectful, talented and smart, but mistrustful, elusive and, ultimately, too far afield to become part of Vanessa and Grace’s (the little girl) life together.

Although “Rock Needs River” opens the door on a particular type of adoption arrangement, it is no simple “how-to” if only because you’re not Vanessa McGrady. Important as her adoption story is, the recounting of the path by which she made that decision is equally novel.

Here we have a young American woman, the product of a broken home, imbued with a good education and significant freedoms those of her gender once only dreamed about. Hers is a story of youth out to savor life, love, and travel, still cutting paths through territories for which there are few maps, making mistakes, learning from them, absorbing set backs, and then forging ahead.

The prose is very smart, lively and, though McGrady’s story is a personal one, there is never a sense of overindulgence with her “self.”

Her closing discussion about the prevalence of adoption in the literature and, thus, history of Western Civilization is enlightening and important to the book.

She employs a light tone laced with humor and observations often apropos of nothing, yet somehow apropos, so that with “Rock” the author has fashioned a complete and multi-layered piece of lovely literature.

McGrady will be joined at Battery Books and Music by Carla Sameth, whose “One Day on the Gold Line,” has been covered in these pages, and Gerda Govine Ituarte.

Ituarte is the author of four poetry collections, most recently, “Poetry Within Reach in Unexpected Places” (2018) She is editor of the upcoming Pasadena Rose Poets Collection, set for November release.

Sept. 26, 8 p.m., Battery Books and Music 26 South Los Robles Avenue.

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