The oh-so-clever editorial conceit here at my3books is to write about things in threes, and I'm sure that if I cast my mind back to a couple of years ago when I registered the domain, I'll be able to hear an echo of the smug chuckle in my brain.
But sometimes I feel a little constrained by that format when all I want to write about is one damn fine book and not worry about the editorial straitjacket that I've zipped myself into.
So here goes – a post about ONE damn fine book.
This Is Us: The New All-American Family
by David Marin
Exterminating Angel Press / Consortium | 9781935259343 | $16.95 | Sept 2011
The book opens with a scene that could have been borrowed from the movie GIANT – the one at the end where Rock Hudson's character, Bick Benedict, and Liz Taylor's character, Leslie Benedict, take their Mexican daughter-in-law Juana and their mixed race granddaughter to Sarge's Diner. Sarge does his thing about not serving Latinos, Bick stands up for a table of Mexicans, and then Sarge and Rock Hudson have a diner-trashing fistfight.
In this version of that scene, the prologue to This Is US (which you can read on Exterminating Angel's web site) David Marin and his three adopted children stop at a Highway 101 diner in Santa Barbara County, where they're eyed with suspicion by the staff and customers. It's not that he's a single man with three kids under 10 who might disturb their meals. The problem is that he's a single white man with three kids who are obviously of Mexican heritage.
Why is he there? Why does he have these kids with him? To the eyes of everyone in the diner, something is not right.
Someone calls the Highway Patrol, and on their way out of the restaurant, Marin and his family are stopped by a CHP trooper. He tells Marin that the caller was worried that something "inappropriate" was going on, and though the question seems innocent enough, if insulting, the paternalism masks an uglier side, an unstated but all-too-clear racism. The inappropriate "something" is that a white man has three Latino kids with him and that's just not right.
As you start this long journey with David Marin, you need to prepare yourself to be immersed in some new worlds: the world of California's adoption system (which Marin clearly believes is quite broken), the world of how we think about and treat the immigrants who come to our country, and the world of a man who simply decided that he was ready to have a family, even if he didn't yet have a wife or partner to start that family with him.
I read this book in a flash – maybe two days? – and as I read, I kept swinging from shock and outrage on Marin's behalf as he navigates the crazily complicated mazes of foster care, child protective services, and adoption law to overwhelming sentiment as he writes about his first months with his three amazing and resilient new children.
It's enough to close here with a paragraph from the back of the book:
"[Marin's] journey, and the deeply moving story behind the children's lives, proves once again that love is colorblind, that fathers love their children as much as mothers do, and that families like his – happy, loving, secure, and multi-ethnic – represent our single greatest hope."
I'm looking forward to talking about this book with all my booksellers this summer, and watching the splash it makes in the national discussion when it comes out this fall.
FURTHER READING & RESEARCH: