Hello blogger friends and family…I’m doing another book review post today. I was going to do a post about some of the goings on in my life over the past couple of weeks, but this book was so AMAZING, I had to do it ASAP.
PRISON BABY – A Memoir Deborah Jiang Stein
***** FIVE STARS *****
From the back cover:
‘Twelve-year-old Deborah Jiang Stein felt like an outsider. Her multiracial features set her apart from her well-intentioned adoptive Jewish parents, who evaded questions about her past. When Deborah discovered a letter revealing the truth — that she was born in prison to a heroin-addicted mother and spent the first year of her life there — she spiraled into emotional lockdown and deeper trauma. For years Deborah turned to drugs, violence, and crime to cope with her grief until she abandoned her reckless life and forged her way through healing and, eventually found peace. Prison Baby proves that redemption and acceptance are possible, even from the darkest corners
Ms. Jiang Stein’s story engrossed me from the moment I picked it up until the end. I ready it in one sitting. Deborah and her ‘brother’ (also adopted), were adopted in the 1960’s when there weren’t many caucasian families with mixed race adopted children, and even fewer resources.
I felt her emptiness, her sadness, and later, her ever-growing distance and anger from her adoptive parents, especially her mother after she found the letter.
I found myself internally yelling at her mother in the book to talk to her, explain what you can about her history, about who she is. I know her adoptive mother felt she was protecting her then, but Deborah was fully aware of the physical differences between her and her family. Ignoring them and pretending they didn’t exist would only lead to more angst for her.
One particular incident that nearly set me off was when one of her classmates called her a “nigger” on the school bus. The problem was, Deborah had no inkling what race she had in her at all. She doesn’t respond, but shoves the anger deeper inside herself. When she gets home and her adoptive mother presses her about how her first day was, she finally tells her; she still doesn’t get it:
‘I yearn for her arms around me so I can fall apart against her chest, but I don’t want to break down before my mother reaches out first. I wish I could melt into her. Into someone. Anyone. But I can’t, don’t know how.
She heaves a sigh like I’ve forced her to talk about my race again. All I want is a hug. Also, all I want is to shove her into the wall.
“But you’re one of us, dear, and we love you,” she says…
…I gave up on the idea of ever having a mother. I was on my own. She’s one of them, I thought. White, and she won’t understand. (pg. 38)
The older she gets, the more Deborah rebels. She causes trouble in school, is confrontational with her mother and delves into the world of drugs and alcohol. She leaves home for college at 18 and quickly gets herself involved in toxic relationships, drug crimes and more heavy usage. It’s not long before the school asks her to leave and she disappears for a few years into her own dysfunctional world.
She comes back a few years later, after a harrowing incident, and stays with her uncle Peretz while she cleans up. From here Deborah began picking up the pieces of her shattered life and commits to find out everything she could about her birth mother, and herself. Her ability to finally reconcile with her adoptive family and find redemption makes this all the more powerful.
I would recommend this book to anyone to read. It is powerfully written and the author is brutally honest and holds nothing back. Even if you aren’t into memoirs, this is one you might want to consider.
I happened to win a copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway, and I consider it a blessing that I did.
Until next post…