I reviewed Dan Savages new book American Savage over the summer. When I heard that The Kid was available on audio book read by Mr. Savage himself, I quickly downloaded it. I planned to listen to it on runs but it was so good that after about three 20-minute runs I said screw it and listened to it all day until it was done. And it was good.
The Kid follows Mr. Savage and his boyfriend (now husband) Terry Miller’s adoption of a baby through an open adoption process in Portland, Oregon. The book is broken up into sections that roughly follow the idea of pregnancy – gestation, birth, afterbirth (heh) – and include details of the challenges they faced as well as some fun stories about Mr. Savage and Mr. Miller that are relevant but not just about choosing to have a baby. For example, Mr. Savage became a republican in 1996 because there weren’t any in his neighborhood, which meant he was the precinct captain and got to try to influence the platform. That’s pretty funny.
Many of the stories focus on the uniqueness of two gay men adopting a child, especially the many years ago when Mr. Savage and Mr. Miller made the decision to become parents. In their intro seminar with the agency, it was all couples who were adopting because they weren’t able to conceive. As you can imagine, that meant they were coming at the process from a somewhat different place than other families. They weren’t trying to come to terms with infertility issues – that was kind of the deal from the beginning, being two men and all. Mr. Savage was also clear to point out that gay adoption wasn’t legal in all states at this time, and that “the more gay and lesbian couples raise children, the less easy it will be for the religious right to convince everyone that we’re monsters.”
They chose to adopt through an agency that deals solely in fully open adoptions, and I found it very interesting to learn details of Oregon law. In the past I’ve heard about open adoptions, but really learning about them, and about the laws that help make it easier for all involved was fascinating. And please note – I have no interest in bearing or adopting children, and this was still extremely interesting to me, so don’t be worried you won’t like it just because you aren’t interesting in having kids, or adopting them. As you can imagine (otherwise there wouldn’t be a book), they do eventually get chosen by a birth mother. Her story is interesting too, as is their attempts to navigate the relationship they are building together, premised around this baby she is going to give to them to raise. It’s sweet, but NOT overly sentimental. I loved that.
A couple of recommendations – if you are going to listen to or read the book, as it gets near the end, if you’re a crier, maybe set some alone time. When it comes time for them to take the baby, it’s heartbreaking. The language Mr. Savage uses is lovely, and a real tribute to all parties involved – the birth mother, the agency, and Mr. Savage and Mr. Miller. Adoption is obviously hard but an amazing choice, and the open adoption process seems to be filled with so much compassion and caring for the child and all the parties involved.
One point Mr. Savage made repeatedly that is obvious but good to be reminded about is the assumptions people make when they see babies. Living in the Pacific Northwest, I find that I’m surrounded by mostly progressive, or at least liberal, folks. I live in the same neighborhood as Mr. Savage and Mr. Miller and their son; seeing same-sex couples with babies is not something that makes me bat an eye. But people who either have not been exposed to that, or have chosen to ignore that it’s a real thing can make unintentionally hurtful comments. For example, if you see two men with a baby, don’t ask where mommy is. Maybe there is no mommy in the picture. It’s none of our business though – it’s important to not jump to any conclusions.
As you can see, I really enjoyed this book, especially the audio version of it. If you’re in the market for a great story with heart but no saccharine, check this one out.