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The Russian Word for Snow : A True Story of Adoption

 

 

The Russian Word for Snow : A True Story of Adoption
by Janis Cooke Newman

Newman, a freelance contributor to Salon and other magazines, had never wanted children. But her mother's death triggered in her a yearning for motherhood. After she and her husband, Ken, discovered that they were unable to conceive, they visited an adoption agency. Via videotape, the couple fell in love with a 10-month-old abandoned baby in a Russian orphanage. In lovely, image-laden prose, Newman chronicles the harrowing months before they were able to legally adopt Alex. Having been told by "experts" that the baby was developmentally disabled, they arrived in Moscow to find him malnourished but otherwise healthy. After three months back home completing the expensive, bureaucratic adoption procedures, they returned to Russia and spent several heartbreaking weeks trying to claim their son, negotiating with unhelpful and corrupt adoption personnel operating in the midst of political instability. At one point, the Newmans were so discouraged they considered kidnapping the baby and transporting him home through Finland. Their story has a happy ending--Alex is now thriving. But the bleak portrait of Russia--where many orphaned children are neglected, and many have severe physical and mental impairments that are not always served well by profit-driven adoption agencies in both countries--lingers in the reader's mind. Eight-page b&w photo insert not seen by PW.(Mar. 7)Forecast: As issues of overpopulation and intercultural relations move into the forefront of American consciousness, this account, like Anne Fadiman's The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, will find a sympathetic readership.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.



From Booklist
Newman, following her mother's death from breast cancer, experienced a change of heart about her long-held determination to remain childless. She and her husband, both in their 40s, embarked on fertilization treatments until they discovered an agency that arranges the adoption of foreign children. Once they saw videotape of a dark-eyed little Russian boy, they were determined that he was their son and began a six-month process of international adoption. The couple traveled to Russia just before the nation's first democratic election and witnessed the uncertainties of life there, and the ebb and flow of anti-American sentiment. Fearful that political turmoil could derail their adoption, Newman and her husband desperately sought to achieve a balance between pressuring and cajoling their intermediaries. In this first-person account, Newman conveys the emotional roller coaster of dealing with the ponderous adoption bureaucracy--bribes expected and gifts required--before securing the release of their son, Alex, whose original name was the Russian word for snow. Vanessa Bush
Copyright American Library Association. All rights reserved


Review
"A nail-biting adoption saga with a happy ending."-People Magazine

"The Russian Word for Snow is about the alchemy of desire, courage, grace; about the buried secrets of a foreign land; about a little boy in a Russian crib who tangles his fingers in his new mother's hair. Their story is compelling. It is poetry. It is true. It held me transfixed as I read." -Beth Kephart, author of the 1998 National Book Award finalist A Slant of Sun

"The couple's fight to bring Alex home after months of dashed hopes and bureaucratic snafus vividly illustrates the perils of foreign adoption."--People Magazine

"Newman's story, told with understated grace, reminds us that parenthood is an internal journey not measurable by blood or footsteps; that life with a child is a daily opportunity for mutual redemption in moments both unique and fleeting." --Kate Moses, Salon.com columnist and co-editor of Mothers Who Think

"On one level, this is one woman's story of going to Russia to adopt a little boy and experiencing the wrenching, exuberant passions of falling love with a child. On another level, it's every mother's story--our doubts and our fears about what kind of mother we will make. The writing is compelling, and straight from the heart." --Adair Lara, San Francisco Chronicle columnist and author of Hold Me Close, Let Me Go

"Beautifully written, intimately portrayed, it's an extraordinary tale of the power of a mother's love." --Karin Evans, author of The Lost Daughters of China
--This text refers to the
Paperback edition.

Book Description
The Russian Word for Snow takes us from Newman's efforts to become pregnant (Chinese herbs that tasted like dirt, a uterine alignment from a New Age masseuse), to the first time she saw the videotape of the little boy who would become her son (lying naked on a metal changing table while a woman in a babushka tried to make him smile for the camera), to the month she and her husband were forced to remain in Moscow during the turmoil of Russia's first democratic election.

In this memoir, Newman describes how her mother's death from breast cancer influenced her decision to have a child. "Pregnancy seemed the antithesis of cancer; another condition that caused cells to multiply and divide, but with an entirely opposite result." And how her son Alex, reacted to videotape of himself in a Moscow orphanage. "Actually, that was another baby. I was in France."

Told with humor and grace, The Russian Word for Snow is a tribute to all the ways we choose to make a family.

About the Author
Janis Cooke Newman is a frequent contributor to Salon.com and other magazines. Her stories have appeared in several anthologies, including Travelers' Tales. She lives in northern California with her husband and their son.

The author is donating 10% of her proceeds of this book to funds which provide financial assistance to people adopting internationally.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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