Tuesday, January 22, 2013

This Is Not About #Adoption: A Tumblr Book-in-Process By Matthew Salesses

The other day I noticed a couple of tweets from author Matthew Salesses that intrigued me:

The link in the first tweet led me to this announcement on Matthew’s Tumblr:

"This is what I will be doing while my wife and baby are gone for 3 months. Follow along? Help me out? Send me info/stories/etc? I will need help. I will need ears and eyes and mouths. Please join me.

*I will be drafting this as I go and this represents a very first, rough, draft of a nonfiction manuscript tentatively titled, THIS IS NOT ABOUT #ADOPTION. I will be tweeting, too, perhaps, at @salesses."

Matthew was adopted from Korea when he was two years old and raised by a white family in Connecticut. On a trip to Korea in 2005, he met the woman who would become his wife. Together they have a daughter. Now, his wife and baby girl are headed back to Korea for a three-month visit while Matthew remains in the U.S.

While they’re gone, Matthew intends to write a book online, in real time. You can follow along on the Tumblr This Is Not About #Adoption. There are many things I love about this project, but before I get to my reaction, here’s Matthew’s explanation of what he’s doing:

“I started writing about adoption indirectly about a year ago now, in an article about Jeremy Lin and the different racism that Asian Americans face. I couldn't write about racism without writing about my own experiences. And that essay opened the door to many other essays in which I talked somewhat about adoption, and then a few essays that dealt with adoption directly, or as directly as I could manage. One of the things that comes up for me time and again is to wonder which parts of me, which fears and desires and characteristics, are about adoption. That's what I'm playing with in the title here, that I'm not sure what's ‘about adoption’ or not. The book is obviously about adoption, but it's about adoption in that it is me trying to figure out what about me is really about adoption. I have learned a lot in the past year, and I have so much left to learn. This project was begun with the intention of really jumpstarting that learning and sharing it.”

If you’re not familiar with Matthew Salesses’ work, he’s published two chapbooks and one full-length book of fiction and has another book, I’m Not Saying, I’m Just Saying, due out in February. He’s also the fiction editor and a columnist at The Good Men Project.

The fact that Matthew has had a fair amount of publishing success, yet is writing a book on the fly, online, is one of the things I love about This Is Not About #Adoption. Another aspect that interests me about the project is that he’s not at all sure yet how the book will turn out. The act of writing it is a process of self-discovery for him—a process that many other adoptees are also going through or have gone through themselves. Despite the fact that I’m a domestically-adopted white woman, I can’t help but identify with the questions Matthew ponders in his Tumblr entries.

I was curious about why he chose to write a book via blog posts, and what feedback he hopes to receive from readers:

“The format came about after a conversation with another adoptee writer, in which I talked about my desire to write a book ‘about’ adoption and how I couldn't find a way in. I mentioned that I didn't know anything about adoption, but that I usually wrote like that, just trying to figure things out—that figuring things out was often my narrative arc. Later, I thought: why not write the book that same way? Why not learn as I go and write about that learning? And I thought: how do I learn? How have I learned so far? Mostly through a community of which you are a part. I wanted to incorporate all of that as I wrote, and a Tumblr and communication/sharing through the internet seemed the natural way to do so. I know I need help on this, so I would love any comments from readers, personal stories, sources of information, etc. I am open to being taken in completely new directions. I want that to be a part of what I am doing. I want many ways into the narrative, into adoption. I want this community to be a part of finding out where to look.”

Matthew intends to post to This Is Not About #Adoption every day that he can while his family is in Korea. I’ll be following along, and I hope you will, too.

Many thanks to Matthew Salesses for answering my impromptu questions on behalf of Lost Daughters.