Every Year on Your Birthday (Review)

Every-Year-on-Your-Birthday

Every Year On Your Birthday

Authors: Rose Lewis, Jane Dyer (Illustrator)

Ranking: ★★★★☆

Plot Summary:

This is the sequel to I Love You Like Crazy Cakes and is a beautiful narrative by an adoptive mother. In this book, she recounts special memories of her daughter on various birthdays. The book reminisces about the daughter’s first through fifth birthdays and ends with an illustration of the daughter around preteen age.

Praise:

Jane Dyer’s watercolor illustrations perfectly help visually tell Lewis’ story. They are soft and gentle and simply gorgeous.

The girl’s first birthday party is described as having “family, friends, and even pets” there to celebrate. In the corresponding illustration, the girl is surrounded by four people, a blonde child, a brunette, an African American child, and a woman with dark hair (who could presumably be of Asian descent). While this could be seen as simply trying to fulfill some sort of diversity quota for the book, I think it is a positive image nonetheless. It shows that this mother has made sure her daughter will have friends of different ethnicities, ensuring that the girl will not be the only child of color in a given situation. Mila from the Lost Daughters blog writes, “One of the most damaging experiences for me personally as a transracial, intercountry adoptee was growing up completely isolated within a predominantly White community. All my parents’ friends were White. All my White siblings’ friends were White. The neighborhoods we lived in were White. The schools we attended were majority White.” The illustration in Lewis’ book shows that this adopted girl’s life will be enriched by knowing people of many different backgrounds, including her own and that she will not face that same issue as Mila did.

On the next page, Lewis says that when she looks at her daughter, “[She] still wonder[s] what miracle brought [them] together.” Obviously the circumstances that brought them together were very negative – either China’s devastating One Child Policy, societal pressure for a male, or some other type of family tragedy. Calling any of those situations a “miracle” would certainly display a sense of ignorance or at the very least trying to sugar coat an extremely tough subject matter. Instead, her sense of awe could come from knowing that in the year 2000 (when Lewis adopted her daughter) there were more than 5,000 adoptions out of China, meaning that there was about a 0.02% chance that she and her daughter would end up being paired together. Her sense of wonder also shows a lack of entitlement that her child would inherently belong to her from the beginning. Entitlement is present in many other books on the topic of international adoption, and it perpetuates the theme of objectification of children available for adoption.

In the middle of the book Lewis writes, “Every year on your birthday, I think about the six Chinese girls who shared a big room with you in China. They knew you before I did. They are your first friends, like sisters, the ones who touched you and heard you cry and laugh for the first time.” This shows care for the other children who were with her daughter in the orphanage and who may or may not still be there. It also displays a sort of respect for all of the people who have touched her daughter’s life.

On the girl’s fifth birthday, the mother and daughter go to a dragon boat festival. They then make plans to celebrate the Autumn Moon celebration and exchange hongbao (red envelopes) at the Chinese New Year. Through a knowledge of Chinese cultural traditions, Lewis is making an effort to keep her daughter connected to her Chinese roots. Various events and festivities throughout the year serve as an aid to this goal as well as keeping her connected with other Chinese people.

The last page of the book is particularly touching. The girl is no longer a small child, and the stuffed bear she cuddled with as an infant is resting on the window sill. The words read, “Every year on your birthday, we look up at the stars and remember your Chinese family. They are a part of our family now, and I hope somehow they feel the magic of your love too.” These sweet, parting words allow adoptee readers to know that their families, too, keep their birthparents dear to their hearts.

Criticism:

In this book Lewis pays tribute to her daughter’s birth family and the other girls who lived with her daughter in the orphanage (or as she prefers to call it, the “big room”), but she fails to mention the girl’s nanny who would have played a large role in the caregiving between mothers.

Another character Lewis leaves out of the picture is the father. Since this is the very personal story of Rose Lewis and her daughter, Alexandra Mae-Ming Lewis, a very loving and active mother role is presented with no father figure. This feature could be something that is relatable for families led by single mothers, but for the general collection of adoption literature it maintains a completely missing role for fathers.

Lastly the final page shows an illustration of the inside of the girl’s room. The book, I Love You Like Crazy Cakes, is resting on the dresser. This could be a positive characteristic, showing that the girl grew up with stories and children’s books about adoption from China. However, considering this is the other book that Rose Lewis and Jane Dyer partnered to create, it appears to be less of a message of the importance of good children’s literature on adoption, and more about subtle product placement.

Conclusion:

This book certainly doesn’t delve into anything too serious or controversial in relation to international adoption and would not be an appropriate choice if a parent was looking for a book to help explain adoption to their child. This book is, however, a beautiful emblem of love for the daughter, her birth culture and birth family.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s