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Reviewed by Jane Allen Petrick for Readers' Favorite
"Being a birth parent in the adoption world can be difficult. It is hard to talk or write about." So confides Darrick C. Rizzo, author of The Open Adoption. That difficulty takes on a special meaning for birth fathers, silent voices rarely heard regarding the messy issue of domestic adoption. My hopes, when I picked up The Open Adoption, were that Rizzo would break a powerful hole through this silence. And my hopes were not disappointed.
Darrick Rizzo was an eighteen-year-old African American college freshman and track and field star when he and Sherri, his white high school sweetheart (a girls' basketball star) found that she was pregnant. The couple's relationship had strengthened during interracial struggles in their western Washington state small town, and Darrick was ready to marry Sherri sooner rather than later and do whatever it would take to care for his family. But five months into the pregnancy, under pressure from her family and a desire to follow through with her own career, Sherri decided she was not. She demanded that Darrick agree to give up their child to an open adoption.
"Finally," Rizzo writes, "I said the words that still sting today, 'I will give up my baby boy, my only boy, my son, because I love you, Sherri.' At such a young age, I lost both my first love and my first born."
The Open Adoption then goes on to movingly chronicle sixteen years of a father's attempt to keep track of his son, of hopes dashed and reconciliation emerging from the most unexpected of places. What emerges is a deep look into the heart of a father. Fathers, and men in general, seem to be fading out as a voice and presence in American life today. Darrick C. Rizzo has written about adoption, but he has spoken to so much more. The Open Adoption is not a sob story. It is a "straight up" saga of promises, betrayal, responsibility and perseverance. Get it. Read it. And ponder what one American father has to say.