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Publisher's Summary

“Powerful.... Tells a singular story to illuminate a universal truth.” (The New York Times Book Review)

The shocking truth about postwar adoption in America, told through the bittersweet story of one teenager, the son she was forced to relinquish, and their search to find each other

During the Baby Boom in 1960s America, women were encouraged to stay home and raise large families, but sex and childbirth were taboo subjects. Premarital sex was common, but birth control was hard to get and abortion was illegal. In 1961, 16-year-old Margaret Erle fell in love and became pregnant. Her enraged family sent her to a maternity home, and after she gave birth, she wasn't even allowed her to hold her own son. Social workers threatened her with jail until she signed away her parental rights. Her son vanished, his whereabouts and new identity known only to an adoption agency that would never share the slightest detail about his fate. 

Claiming to be acting in the best interests of all, the adoption business was founded on secrecy and lies. American Baby lays out how a lucrative and exploitative industry removed children from their birth mothers and placed them with hopeful families, fabricating stories about infants' origins and destinations, then closing the door firmly between the parties forever. Adoption agencies and other organizations that purported to help pregnant women struck unethical deals with doctors and researchers for pseudoscientific "assessments", and shamed millions of young women into surrendering their children. 

Gabrielle Glaser dramatically demonstrates the power of the expectations and institutions that Margaret faced. Margaret went on to marry and raise a large family with David's father, but she never stopped longing for and worrying about her firstborn. She didn't know he spent the first years of his life living just a few blocks away from her; as he grew, he wondered about where he came from and why he was given up. Their tale - one they share with millions of Americans - is one of loss, love, and the search for identity. 

Adoption's closed records are being legally challenged in states nationwide. Open adoption is the rule today, but the identities of many who were adopted or who surrendered a child in the postwar decades are locked in sealed files. American Baby illuminates a dark time in our history and shows a path to reunion that can help heal the wounds inflicted by years of shame and secrecy.

©2020 Gabrielle Glaser (P)2020 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

“A searing narrative that combines the detailed saga of one unwed teenage mother with deep research on all aspects of a scandalous adoption industry.... Throughout, the author deftly follows this genuinely human story, exposing the darker corners of adoption in 20th-century America. In 2006, Ann Fessler's The Girls Who Went Away lifted the curtain on the plight of other women just like Margaret, and Glaser accomplishes an equally impressive feat here. In a narrative filled with villains, a birth mother and her son exhibit grace. A specific story of identity that has universal appeal for the many readers who have faced similar circumstances.” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)

“Through powerful empathy and tireless reporting, Gabrielle Glaser lays bare the coercive system under which three million young mothers surrendered their babies for adoption in the years leading up to Roe v Wade. Piecing together the heartbreaking parallel stories of one woman and the child she could never forget, Glaser skillfully unearths the attitudes toward sex, marriage, gender, and race that underlay this chilling chapter in a not-so-distant American past. American Baby will shatter once and for all the comforting myth that relinquishing an infant to a stranger in a ‘closed adoption’ was invariably ‘better for everyone.’” (Janny Scott, author of The Beneficiary and A Singular Woman

“This moving story of one teenager's experience with coerced adoption in the 1960s is also an eye-opening expose of an entire industry built on lies, greed, racism, sexism, and stunning amounts of medical malpractice. Riveting - and sobering.” (Stephanie Coontz, author of The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap and Marriage: A History

What listeners say about American Baby

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I felt the love of my birth mom...

As I listened to this story I could feel the love of my first mom. She passed before I found her (25 years ago). From what I learned from her family her experience was similar to Margaret's in that that desperately wanted to keep me and thought about me though out her life. Listening to Margaret's story saddened me, and filled my heart with joy. I know she loved me❤️

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Really informative

I loved this book. Another history of how we are so influenced by religion and society. It was both sad and invigorating. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants additional Information about adoption .

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This Ripped at My Soul

As a 61 year old adoptee, this book followed very closely to my own story. I can't say enough good things about this book. In addition to being a heart wrenching story with the particular adoption being followed, Glaser has done a wonderful job of digging into the history of how adoptions have been handled in this country over time. I learned a lot of things that answer many questions I've had for decades. If you are, or you love an adoptee or a birth parent, you need to read this book.

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Adoption Heartbreak*History*Hope

Highly recommend this book for everyone, especially those interested in or touched by adoption. Loved the balance of a narrative story with the well-researched history of Judaism, adoption agencies and questionable practices, social climate and issues which affected adoptions and adoptee access to personal records.

Great narration, suggested resources and includes a bonus interview at the end. My first listen won’t be my last!

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Unbelievable Hope and Strength

American Baby is a book you will not be able to put down. It is a beautifully written book about so much sadness and heartbreak. The story about Margaret and George Katz and their beautiful baby Stephen who they were forced to give up is profoundly moving. The cruel and secretive aspects of adoptions once practiced in this country are shocking. I highly recommend this book.

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Required Read!

This book perfectly weaves together the story of one mother and child with the sordid history of adoption in the US. It should be a required read for all persons considering adoption, but also a great read for anyone.