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[Read by Scott Brick]
This novel is the basis for the 2007 film from New Line Cinema starring John Cusack, Amanda Peet, and Joan Cusack.
Funny, endearing, and at times, heartbreaking, this is a beautifully written testament to fatherhood. - -Gerrold, a science fiction writer from California, adopts a son who has been classified as ''unadoptable'' due to his violent emotional outbursts resulting from abuse. Another side-effect of his turbulent early years is that he believes himself to be a Martian. Gerrold begins the long, involving work of trying to earn the acceptance of Dennis, a hyperactive eight-year-old who desperately wants a father's love, but is so insecure he feels he must be an alien. Gerrold's recounting of the first two years with Dennis ends with the climax of Dennis running away and waiting in a city park at night for the flying saucers to come and reclaim him. Funny, endearing, and at times, heartbreaking, this is a beautifully written testament to fatherhood. -- This book is semiautobiographical. Gerrold did adopt a son, but he heard about a boy who thought he was a Martian from another adoptive father.
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David Gerrold is the author of the Hugo and Nebula Award-nominated ''The Man Who Folded Himself'', ''When Harlie Was One'', and the Chtorr, Dingillian, and Star Wolf series. He also wrote ''The Trouble with Tribbles'' episode of Star Trek, which was voted the most popular Star Trek episode of all time. He lives in Northridge, California.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
TOWARD THE END OF THE MEETING, THE CASEWORKER remarked, “Oh—and one more thing. Dennis thinks he’s a Martian.” “I beg your pardon?” I wasn’t certain I had heard her correctly. I had papers scattered all over the meeting room table—thick piles of stapled incident reports, manilafoldered psychiatric evaluations, Xeroxed clinical diagnoses, scribbled caseworker histories, typed abuse reports, bound trial transcripts, and my own crabbed notes as well: Hyperactivity. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Emotional Abuse. Physical Abuse. Conners Rating Scale. Apgars. I had no idea there was so much to know about children. For a moment, I was actually looking for the folder labeled Martian. “He thinks he’s a Martian,” Ms. Bright repeated. She was a small woman, very proper and polite. “He told his group home parents that he’s not like the other children—he’s from Mars—so he shouldn’t be expected to act like an Earthling all the time.” “Well, that’s okay,” I said, a little too quickly. “Some of my best friends are Martians. He’ll fit right in. As long as he doesn’t bring home any giant alien slugs from outer space.” By the narrow expressions on their faces, I could tell that the caseworkers weren’t amused. For a moment, my heart sank. Maybe I’d said the wrong thing. Maybe I was being too glib with my answers. The hardest thing about adoption is that you have to ask someone to trust you with a child. That means that you have to be willing to let them scrutinize your entire life, everything: your financial standing, your medical history, your home and your belongings, your upbringing, your personality, your motivations, your arrest record, your IQ—even your sex life. It means that every self-esteem issue you have ever had will come bubbling right to the surface like last night’s beans in this morning’s bathtub. And that means—whatever you’re most insecure about, that’s what the whole adoption process will feel like it’s focused on. The big surprise for me was discovering that what I thought would be the biggest hurdle was not. Any concerns I might have had about sexual orientation disappeared at a conveniently timed set of seminars on legal issues, held by the Gay-Lesbian Community Center in Hollywood. Two female lawyers, very thorough in their presentations, addressed adoption and custody issues. “Just tell the truth,” they said. “If you lie about who you are, the caseworkers will find out—and then they’re going to wonder why you’re lying, and what else you might be lying about. And you won’t be approved. “It has taken many years and a lot of hard work by a lot of people to educate caseworkers and judges. There are now six thousand adoptions a year by gay people, mostly in major urban areas. If you are committed and qualified in every other respect, you have the same opportunity as anyone else.” And that was all I’d needed to know. After that, it wasn’t an issue. No—what unnerved me the most was that terrible, familiar feeling of being second best, of not being good enough to play with the big kids, or get the job, or win the award, or whatever was at stake. So even though the point of this interview was simply to see if Dennis and I would be a good match, I felt as if I was being judged again. What if I wasn’t good enough this time either? I tried again. I began slowly. “Y’know, you all keep telling me all the bad news—you don’t even know if this kid is capable of forming a deep attachment—it feels as if you’re trying to talk me out of this match.” I stopped myself before I said too much. I was suddenly angry and I didn’t know why. These people were only doing their job. And then it hit me. That was it—these people were only doing their job. At that moment, I realized that there wasn’t anyone in the room who had the kind of commitment to Dennis that I did, and I hadn’t even met him yet. To them, he was only another case to handle. To me, he was … a kid who wanted a dad. He was the possibility of a family. It wasn’t fair to unload my frustration on this committee of tired, overworked, underpaid women. They cared. It just wasn’t the same kind of caring. I swallowed hard—and swallowed my anger. “Listen,” I said, sitting forward, placing my hands calmly and deliberately on the table. “After everything this poor little guy has been through, if he wants to think he’s a Martian, I’m not going to argue with him. Actually, I think it’s charming. This kid is alone in the world; he’s got to be feeling it. At least, this gives him some kind of a handle on it—the only one he’s got. It would be stupid to try to take it away from him.” For the first time I looked directly into their eyes as if they had to live up to my standards. “Excuse me for being presumptuous—but he’s got to be with someone who’ll tell him that it’s all right to be a Martian. Let the little guy be a Martian for as long as he needs.” “Yes. Thank you,” the supervisor said abruptly. “I think that’s everything we need to cover. We’ll be getting back to you shortly.” My heart sank at her words. She hadn’t acknowledged a word of what I’d said. I was certain she’d dismissed it totally. I gathered up all my papers. We exchanged pleasantries and handshakes and I wore my company smile all the way to the elevator. I didn’t say a word, and neither did my sister. We waited until we were in the car and headed back toward the Hollywood Freeway. She drove. She sold real estate; she was in her car all day long. Maybe she could deal with surly traffic; I couldn’t. Driving wasn’t fun when there were too many other cars on the road. “I blew it,” I said. “Didn’t I? I got too … full of myself again.” “Honey, I think you were fine.” She patted my hand. “They’re not going to make the match,” I said. “It would be a single-parent adoption. They’re not going to do it. First they choose married couples, Ward and June. Then they choose single women, Murphy Brown. Then, only if there’s no one else who’ll take the kid, will they consider a single man. I’m at the bottom of the list. I’ll never get this kid. I’ll never get any kid. My own caseworker told me not to get my hopes up. His caseworker says there are two other families interested. Who knows what their caseworkers are telling them? This was just a formality, this interview. I know it. Just so they could prove they’d considered more than one match.” I felt the frustration building up inside my chest like a balloon full of hurt. “But this is the kid for me, Alice, I know it. I don’t know how I know it, but I do.” I’d first seen Dennis’s picture three weeks earlier; a little square of colors that suggested a smile in flight. I’d gone to the National Conference of the Adoptive Families of America at the Los Angeles Airport Hilton. There were six panels per hour, six hours a day, two days, Saturday and Sunday. I picked the panels that I thought would be most useful to me in finding and raising a child and ordered tapes—over two dozen—of the sessions I couldn’t attend in person. I’d had no idea there were so many different issues to be dealt with in adoptions. I soaked it up like a sponge, listening eagerly to the advice of adoptive parents, their grown children, clinical psychologists, advocates, social workers, and adoption resource professionals. But my real reason for attending was to find the child. I’d already been approved. I’d spent more than a year filling out forms and submitting to interviews. But approval doesn’t mean you get a child. It only means that your name is in the hat. Matching is done to meet the child’s needs first. Fair enough—but terribly frustrating. Eventually, I ended up in the conference’s equivalent of a dealer’s room. Rows of tables and heart-tugging displays. Books of all kinds for sale. Organizations. Agencies. Children in Eastern Europe. Children in Latin America. Asian children. Children with special needs. Photo-listings, like real estate albums. Turn the pages, look at the eyes, the smiles, the needs. Johnny was abandoned by his mother at age three. He is hyperactive, starts fires, and has been cruel to small animals. He will need extensive therapy … . Janie, age nine, is severely retarded. She was sexually abused by her stepfather; she will need round-the-clock care … . Michael suffers from severe epilepsy … . Linda needs … Danny needs … Michael needs … So many needs. It was overwhelming. How do you even begin to figure who a kid might be from this kind of description? And why were so many of the children in the books “special needs” children? Retarded. Hyperactive. Abused. Had they been abandoned because they weren’t perfect, or were these the leftovers after all the good children were selected? The part that disturbed me the most was that I could understand the emotions involved. I wanted a child, not a case. And some of the descriptions in the book did seem pretty intimidating. Were these the only kind of children available? Maybe it was selfish, but I found myself turning the pages looking for a child who represented an easy answer. Did I really want anot...
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