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When You Were Born in Vietnam

A Memory Book for Children Adopted from Vietnam

By Therese and William Bartlett

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Review by Allison Martin

When You Were Born in Vietnam, designed and written by Therese Bartlett with photography by William Bartlett, is the illustrated account of a Vietnamese adoption story as told to your adopted child. This is a unique book in adoption literature - a generalized international adoption which is professionally photographed and annotated. Combine the artistry of a talented couple - a skilled professional photographer and a creative graphic artist - with the lush beauty of Vietnam, and you will have a creation anyone would be proud to own.

Factual and thorough, When You Were Born in Vietnam takes your child through the Vietnamese adoption process and introduces them to the many people involved along the way. It is clear that a lot of thought has gone into this book; the concept of an adoption story is introduced on the very first page. Next, the evocative beauty and variety of Vietnam is portrayed - from sea to mountains to rice fields and into the cities. The accompanying text provides background on the jobs that people do, selling on the streets, fishing, and cultivating crops and animals. Despite this voluptuous land, many people are poor. This leads into the discussion of birthparents and abandonment. Following this indepth discussion, we are introduced to the orphanage. Many aspects of life in the orphanage are illustrated - food preparation, babies in cribs, children folding linens, older children waiting... Little scenes that make up a baby's life in the orphanage are illuminated, including the care the children might receive from nannies and others in the orphanage. Meanwhile, the adoption family is preparing for their time of arrival and first meeting. After the meeting with their new family, and a rather formal Greeting and Receiving Ceremony, preparations are made to depart. Documents are checked, medical evaluations are completed and all is in order. The book concludes with happy scenes of parents with their children coming home to celebrations with friends and family.

Since the adoption experience varies among different provinces and agencies, many people will want to interject their own circumstances as they share this story with their children. This will give you a great opportunity to initiate conversation with your child. There is quite a bit of text and background explanation in the book, some of which is directed more towards parents and older children (especially the discussion of abandonment). Parents of younger children are likely to find themselves concentrating on the gorgeous illustrations, and simplifying the text. If you look closely however, you will find that an effort has been made in the photographs to include a wide variety of families. A lot of thought has gone into showing the adoption experience from the point of view of the child, as well as the parents.

While the overall appearance of When You Were Born in Vietnam is stunning, it is also the little touches that make this book a treasure - the glimpses of Vietnamese memories, sorrowful nannies, those ubiquitous linoleum orphanage floors, and the memorable turn of a phrase. The layout and photography in When You Were Born in Vietnam is exceptional. Who could resist these arresting shots of Vietnam and the children and people? When You Were Born in Vietnam is effused with the vividness of Vietnam and the intensity of the adoption journey. I recommend this book not only for adoptive families but also for those just beginning the adoption journey.

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