This is the story of Allison. But at the end of it all you will realise that it is the story of each one of us.
In his own remarkable style Allen Say has touched upon a difficult subject that not many are comfortable with – interracial adoption. Allison discovers, on her own, that she looks nothing like her father or mother. She starts questioning everything and everybody around her. Anger sets into this young girl, as she goes about destroying all that is precious to her parents. She finds comfort only in her doll, Mei Mei who looks and is dressed like her. Soon she finds comfort in the stray cat that is always calling out to her. Allison realises the cat, just like her, has no parents and decides to adopt the cat. She asks her parents and they are more than happy to make the stray cat a part of the family. The stray cat was stray no more.
We don’t find too many books on adoption and especially interracial adoption. Allen Say has, with immense subtlety, covered this subject which will help families use the book as a conversation starter with their adopted children. The narration is as sensitive as the illustrations. Not having over dramatized the situation, Allen Say, has used spaces, distances and directions between characters to express different feelings. Allison is a poignant tale that will linger in your mind beyond the 32 pages.
Here is the reason I say this story is also about each one of us. You need not have an adopted child of a different race or even have a child at all to understand this. At the core of all our existence lies the basic necessity to belong. Blood is thicker than water and when we have families of our own blood we feel safer and more secure. It is not because they like you better but we just assume that the obligation to like us will never allow them to abandon us. So we live in a desperation to belong and to be accepted. It stems from our fear of being alone. Our actions support only that need to belong.
I believe in adoption, very strongly in fact, because for me being a mother is being a mother. It does not matter if the child is of my flesh and blood. But I have heard of so many people who don’t believe that they can look at someone else’s flesh and blood as their own. Try as they may, parents who are unable to have children would rather go childless forever than adopt a child and give it a family. Sorry. My bad! Not give the child, but give themselves a family.
Families are not made by being blood connected. My father and mother are not but they are family by default now. My husband and I will not be related through blood when we decide to start a family. Then why must our child be of our own flesh and blood. I am not against people having children of their own. Creating life inside of you is indeed a blessing and a miracle. I am only against people not wanting to have those children who are not their own. Just like the miracle of birth lies in birth itself, the miracle of being a parent lies in just raising a young life as one of your own. I believe you’re a parent not just by giving birth to a child. You are a parent when you are raising, guiding and supporting them every step of the way through the difficult path known as life.
I am not sure if I will ever get to be a parent but when I do, I want to be a parent to A CHILD. A great read by Allen Say and a keeper for the shelf.