Reading Group Guide

This Is US: 
The New All-American Family

INTRODUCTION

“Inspiration is a word used too freely and too frequently. Yet, David Marin’s honesty and humanity in telling the story of how he became a father against the odds is just that, an inspiration in the truest sense. This is US fills the world with the breath of hope.” —JACQUELYN MITCHARD, author of The Deep End of the Ocean 

When David Marin fell in love with three siblings abandoned by their troubled biological parents and stuck in the California Social Services system, he made the choice to give up his relatively carefree life and learn how to become a parent. In the process, he found the future he had always wanted, but he also learned some hard lessons about single-parent adoption, the Kafkaesque side of Social Services, and America’s anti-immigrant sentiment. Heartbreaking, funny, and inspiring, This Is US chronicles Marin’s quest to create a better life for these children—and for himself. 

CONVERSATION STARTERS 

1.         What do you think of when you hear the phrase “All-American family”? How do you define “family”? How does David Marin define it? Do you think the definition of family has changed over time, and do you think it will continue to change? 

2.         How does this book compare to other you’ve read about families? How is this story different? How is it universal? What role can one family play in the structure of society? 

3.         Do you particularly identify with anyone in the Marin family’s story? With Javier, Adriana, or Craig? With David? Or with someone outside of the family? 

4.         Holidays and “traditional” family activities play a big role in the Marin family’s life. David especially feels creating traditions are vital to the growth of a family. Do you agree? What traditions do you try to observe, or change, within your own family? 

5.         David is honest about being completely unprepared for parenthood. Do you think his efforts to develop a support system made up for his early lack of knowledge and experience? How did he grow as a parent after taking the children into his home? Do you think he did a good job of helping the children understand and reconcile themselves to their troubled past? 

6.         Why do you think David felt it was important to tell the story of how he came to adopt Javier, Adriana, and Craig? Do you think his experiences would be a helpful road map for couples or individuals considering adoption? 

7.         David relates a great deal of his story through dialogue, much of which comes from conversations he noted at the time. Do you think this was an effective way to narrate the story? 

8.         What did you know about the issues surrounding adoption prior to reading this book? How has this book changed or enhanced your view of the subject? Does reading This Is US affect how likely you would be to look into adoption? 

9.         Do you think Social Services helps or hinders adoption in the United States? Have you had an experience where one dedicated person in an otherwise bogged down bureaucracy made the difference? How do you think the system could be improved? 

10.       Did reading This is US change your perspective on immigration issues in the United States and if so, how? 

11.       If you found yourself at the restaurant David describes at the beginning of the book, seeing his family without any context, how do you think you would have reacted? If it were your family, would your response have been the same as David’s? Do you believe that as multicultural families become more common in America, that families like David’s will face the same kind of scrutiny? 

12.       Do you feel this story would have had more or less impact if it included photographs or were presented as a documentary film instead of a book? With omnipresent media influences around us all day—cable television, talk radio and blogs, as well as traditional media outlets like newspapers and network television—what do books offer that other mediums cannot? 

13.       Meg Meeker says David’s story “opens our eyes to the profound significance men make in the lives of children.” Is this a common view of the family or do mothers still get the most credit? Is there still a stigma attached to being a single parent? Do you feel that traditional parental roles are changing? 

14.       What did you learn from this book that you would pass on to a new parent, adoptive or otherwise?