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Surrendered Child: A Birth Mother's Journeyby Karen Salyer Mcelmurray
Synopses & Reviews
Surrendered Child is Karen Salyer McElmurray's raw, poignant account of her journey from her teen years, when she put her newborn child up for adoption, to adulthood and a desperate search for the son she never knew. In a patchwork narrative interwoven with dark memories from her childhood, McElmurray deftly treads where few dare--into a gritty, honest exploration of the loss a birth mother experiences.
The year was 1973, a time of social upheaval, even in small-town Kentucky, where McElmurray grew up. More than a story of time and place, however, this is about a girl who, at the age of sixteen, relinquished her son at birth. Twenty-five years would pass before McElmurray began sharing this part of her past with others and actively looking for her son.
McElmurray's own troubled upbringing and her quest after a now-fully-grown son are the heart of her story. With unflinching honesty, McElmurray recounts both the painful surrendering and the surprise rediscovery of her son, juxtaposed with her portrayal of her own mother, who could not provide the love she needed. The dramatic result is a story of birthright lost and found--and an exploration of the meaning of motherhood itself.
"While memoirs by foster parents and adopted children crowd bookshelves, we haven't heard as much from the women who've given up those children for adoption. McElmurray may seem a typical birth mother — a working-class teen unprepared to raise a child — until she describes her own upbringing. When McElmurray was 12 or 13, her mother, gripped by a cleanliness fetish, still insisted on supervising her on the toilet, wiping her bottom. Both daughter and father had to shower in the garage before coming inside. Meals, too, could be messy, so they ate only processed, packaged foods. When McElmurray started dating, her mother's vigilance heightened, and before long, her compulsions resulted in divorce. McElmurray moved in with her father, but thanks to his lax supervision and lack of contraceptive coaching, she was pregnant at 15. In Kentucky in 1971, a girl could run away and do drugs for a while — which McElmurray did — before coming home and marrying. Ignoring her father's pleas, the author still signed the baby over for adoption. That McElmurray made it out of her trailer-park marriage, out of secretarial and fast food jobs, through college and on to teaching creative writing courses is admirable. That she reached the self-awareness to birth this remarkable memoir is a gift both to her son and to readers. 22 photos." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Karen Salyer McElmurray is the author of two novels, Strange Birds in the Tree of Heaven (Georgia) and Motel of the Stars, and the memoir Surrendered Child (Georgia). She is associate professor of Creative Writing at Georgia College and State University, where she is nonfiction editor for Arts and Letters. She also teaches in the low-residency program at Murray State University.
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