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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Lost & Found: The Primal Scream

Corpse Painting
© Photographer: Anatomyofrockthe | Agency: Dreamstime.com


I don't celebrate Halloween - too dark for me.  However, a few years ago, while in the midst of waking up and walking through the disenfranchised grief of my own personal relinquishment, adoption, and reunion, I wrote this poem for Neither Here Nor There.  Because it scared even me, I thought I'd share it with Lost Daughters today.  This "happy adoptee" can attest.  The darkness is real

"Lost & Found:  The Primal Scream"

Memories buried deep within my soul
Hidden from everyday existence;
To protect the mask I hold
Tightly gripped by shaking hands
That hurt and ache like frozen death
Cover my face; the facade
The real me is dead

No life or love or personality
the soul inside me tried to flee
The terror of nothingness came
the day they "sealed" my name

Lost:  One dead baby at the courthouse with "Certificate of Live Birth" sealed around its neck, tightly riveted to a desk of "this is best"

Found:  An imitation life living the lie created the day  they made her "sign"
shell of existence; underground hiding; scared to come out, revealing

Ties that bind
a life undone
Pain seeping out my pores
muscles tight
head pounding, blood boiling
froze

It isn't fair for death to give life
and leave unannounced
to a terrorist plot
 
Gone in a moment; wake up to the day
of new life and name: adoption's cruel game
amended reality; in courts to fulfill
Shamed with ink; fate by pen
entombed; locked away

The corpse baby comes to life to terrorize and maim
the family name
no tears it cries; it's dead inside
moving on energy not its own

Eyes glazed over, talking dead
spewing lies that fuel it's head
no life inside, just a shell
living this life in silenced hell
of rescued bastard
baby shame with no real name
 
Set me free with ties that bind
turn these black dead veins
into real live blood
 
"Adoption" in the original Biblical language was not the same form of adoption that is practiced in today's society, with it's falsifying of birth records, elaborate brokerage networks and exchange of money.  What Christianity now calls "Orphan Care" actually reeks with the stench of child-trafficking; all dolled up and "legal".    

When I hear a Pastor compare our relationship with God to being "adopted", my heart aches.  The book of I John says we are born of God ('sperma').  Whave no need of "adoption"; instead, we receive the spirit of sonship, whereby we call Him Abba (Daddy) - "reunited" (better translation of the original text) with our Creator, who lovingly gives His own life to "redeem" us (meaning "to buy back" from slavery; to pay a ransom).

Father, reunite me with You and with myself, the baby lost to adoption death 
still screaming from the womb of my mother, once alive

Do it freely without pay; our family names
not fake or wrought in greed
Make real, I plead

Raise up like Lazarus, who stunk with rot
three days dead; decades lost
 free our children from this web

Break the yoke off our necks and tear off these bonds
Save us from a distant land and our descendants from exile.

You are a chosen generation...to show forth the praises of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. 
I Peter 2:9

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Never Judge The Life Of Others

Have I ever mentioned here what profession I currently have? I can't recall if I did, so I will do so now. I work in a predominately female environment in a traditionally female profession. As an Asian person and woman I have unfortunately experienced many prejudices. Because of the colour of my skin, people view me differently than they do my Swedish coworkers.  I am seen as an immigrant.

During the past 20 years, Sweden has been asked to accept refugees from foreign countries.  For the first few years, the refugees and immigrants mainly arrived from within Europe. But in the last 10 years or so, the refugees have come from outside Europe; mainly Africa and Asia. I assume this created confusion for my new colleagues before they got to know me better. Unfortunately, some people seem to be so stuck in their ways, maybe because of fear of the unknown, that they let their prejudices tell them how to act around me and how to treat me.  I kid you not when I tell you that I have received special treatment--and yes--racism as well.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

My race is not a costume





With Halloween just around the corner, as your friendly neighborhood Asian, I'd like to say something--Hey, [mostly White] people, my race is not a costume.

Just because it's Halloween does not mean it's okay to run around in Blackface or Yellowface or to dress up as an "Indian" or whatever other ways you want to fetishize, objectify, and denigrate the reality and viability of someone's racial identity and culture.

Sure, you can accuse me of being hypersensitive or being a tightwad, but seeing White women and little White girls "dressed up" as "me" for Halloween alongside zombies and monsters and other fictional or freakish characters is a bit humiliating and just makes me feel plain weird. There's something about seeing White folks "dress up" as an "Asian woman" for Halloween that just ain't right. It's demeaning and objectifying. I'm not some make-believe doll here for your entertainment.

I'm a real person.

And the histories of people of color are not make-believe stories to trivialize.

For instance, do you realize when you dress up as a "Geisha" you're dressing up as a woman whose body was exploited and enslaved and sold to Japanese and Western men? You are turning someone's pain and suffering into a game, a land of make-believe and fantasy.

I can't tell you how many times I've been out, and I see a young White girl "dressed up" as some nondescript "Asian woman"--her hair in some kind of up-do with chopsticks (because chopsticks make everyone look Asian), wearing some random robe that she thinks "looks Asian" because it's shiny and has an "Asian-looking" print, with too much black eyeliner drawn around her eyes in an upward slant all the way to her temples, and red lipstick caked on her lips in a heart-shape.

Furthermore, if you think that dressing up as an Asian woman for Halloween is somehow sexier than dressing up as a flower? I repeat, my race is not here for your objectification or exploitation so you can get a few cheap looks.

And just because you claim to have that one "black friend" who you say approves of your "costume" does not make it cool for you to [exploit someone else's race for your own personal jollies] don Blackface at the Halloween party.

So, this Halloween when you're rushing through the costume aisle last minute, and you feel tempted to buy that "Asian female" costume for you or your little girl [or whatever racist getup you think is funny but really isn't], please resist. Just because your neighbor or college friend is doing it doesn't mean you should too. Or if you already bought the costume, return it, or better yet burn it, and get creative. There are a lot of things you can do with a cardboard box and a pair of scissors--and if you are out of ideas just go as a box for crying out loud. Anything but someone else's race.

And for the sake of all that's true, if you're an adoptive parent, PLEASE, do not let your Asian adopted daughter dress up as herself for Halloween. In your mind it may seem a cute and special way to allow your daughter to express and embrace her ethnic heritage, but believe me, it does quite the opposite. It trivializes and novelizes her race and heritage. It communicates to her that her race and heritage are only appropriate as a costume rather than a very real, daily part of her identity. Rather than teaching her to be proud of her race and heritage as a part of who she is, you're teaching her to objectify herself and that her racial identity is only acceptable when the freaks and werewolves come out.

And for full disclosure, when I was in elementary school, probably 1st or 2nd grade, we have photos immortalizing the fact that I dressed up as a "Korean girl in hanbok" for Halloween with black eyeliner drawn around my eyes in a slant (as though I needed any more help with that). Obviously, I was a child and had no idea that I was caught in a White fog from which I would not emerge until, well, right about now.

I say this not to condone it or make excuses for myself or anyone else, but to say that ignorance is not bliss (and in fact can lead to humiliation) nor is it an exemption from culpability. And if you're reading this, well, hate to break it to you, but now you're not ignorant anymore and you have a choice to make.

I hope you choose wisely as well as with love and respect for your fellow humans whose race is not here for your Halloween entertainment.

But otherwise, Happy Halloween--may we enjoy all the candy gorging and cute kids in bumblebee and elephant costumes (save the honeybees and elephants)!

* * *

(And if this doesn't seem super well-thought out or feels thrown together and rushed, that's because it was...I had to type it up in like 30 minutes while my toddler and infant were snoozing--good gracious, a miracle that they were even sleeping at the same time for that long!)


____________

To view previous posts written by Mila at Lost Daughters, click here.



Monday, October 28, 2013

How Long Are Adoptees Going to Have to Keep Paying for Our Adoptions?

I'm 47 years old.

I was adopted as an infant, in a closed domestic adoption.

This year I have paid more adoption-related expenses than ever in my history.

I have never lived with a sense of entitlement. I am the type of person who has worked extremely hard all my life, having no problem paying for anything I decide to do. 

My frustration with all that I've paid for adoption is that I never decided to be adopted.


Photo Credit: bfishadow, Flickr

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Reach of Adoption: House Hunting

I recently bought a new house.  It was stressful, and hard, and I don’t think I’d want to do it again while also getting married (not our brightest move).  However, it’s done and over, we own the house (well the bank does, but we’ll own it soon enough), and now we can make it our own.  The whole process has me thinking about relationships.  It was a challenge for me and my husband, and oddly enough I was more prepared for the whole situation because of my reunion.  Yes, my reunions factored into the house situation.  Who knew adoption had such a far reach?

For starters, in the beginning my husband and I wanted different things for our new home.  We both had “must have” lists and almost nothing matched.  He wanted a colonial; I wanted a cape or ranch.  He wanted a garage; I’d much rather have a nice kitchen.  I wanted an open floor plan; he just wanted something with a finished basement.  We also wanted to spend a different amount of money.  That was a lovely conversation to have.  However, I'm used to wanting something different.  My reunion prepared me for this conversation.  I learned that there isn't a right and a wrong, merely two people who need to find a way to compromise when they can and agree to disagree where they can't compromise.  It's a dice roll but hopefully it all works out.

Normally, my husband is a bit more conservative than I am.  The only time this differs is when it comes to the big stuff and money.  If I’ve learned nothing else from the past two years it’s that things can change tomorrow.  You never know what’s going to happen, so I want to have a little security net.  My husband hasn’t gone through that personally.  He didn’t have a natural parent (or two) walk out of his life very quickly with little to no warning.  He didn’t have a parent be diagnosed with a life threatening disease.  He didn’t move home because he had to, he moved home because he wanted to.  He had a job lined up after graduation and didn’t have to go through a painful job search.  Now don’t get me wrong, I am very happy that he hasn’t dealt with all of these things.  I wouldn’t wish them on my worst enemy.  But dealing with hard stuff has given me a different outlook.  We had to learn how to communicate and to figure out what would work best for us as a couple.  We were able to compromise so that we were both comfortable, but that was the first hurdle to get through.

Next, we combined our “must have” lists and learned to each give something up.  He agreed that a nice kitchen was a must after he attempted dinner for a whole week in our apartment.  He understood why I wanted more space when he dropped three pans trying to get a fourth out of an overloaded cabinet (story of my life!).  I agreed to find a house with a garage because it was agreed that more often than not he’d be the one shoveling out both cars as he leaves for work first.  While I can shovel my own car out, he told me he’d have a hard time leaving knowing there was more work to be done (and we have some bad winters where we live).  We both agreed that we wanted a basement we could finish in the future, but that it would be better for the house to have an unfinished basement for now so we could do what we wanted with it.  And we agreed to look at all different sorts of houses with open minds.  Again, reunion taught me the value of compromise.  Sometimes the "big things" aren't really that big at all.  In the long run, having a garage wouldn't make THAT big of a difference to me, but would make a huge difference for him.  Just like certain aspects of reunion.


We eventually found a house that worked for both of us.  It has a big kitchen and open floor plan for me, plus a huge unfinished basement and garage for my husband.  It was a house that he fell in love with and for the first time I really understood what it was like to want a major thing for a partner.  I liked the house, but I loved it because he loved it.  I saw the house through his eyes, and wanted the life he saw for us in that house.  Who knew?  I’m pretty independent, so it was an interesting experience for me.  I learned a lot about our relationship and it challenged how I thought about myself.  Apparently some of the premarital counseling sank in!  Once again, I'm used to relationships changing.  In reunion, relationships change all the time.

My husband also agreed to set some money aside in case the other shoe dropped.  We had to wait a long time to see if we were even going to get the house.  Because of my experiences with reunion, I’ve gotten to be a lot more patient.  It served me while in the “waiting period” that was horrible to deal with.  I also knew deep down that if the house didn’t work out, it would not be the end of the world.  I’ve survived much worse disappointment.  That fact alone helped me to keep a clear head.  It was stressful, but I survived it knowing that everything would be OK in the end.

Now that we’re fixing our house up (yay for having an apartment we’re stuck in for a few more months!), it’s wonderful to think of the possibilities.  I know that something could change tomorrow, but we have a small safety net under us for now.  We the support of our amazing families and friends, and we could be in this house for a long time.  It could very well be the home we raise our children in.

This house will be very different than anywhere I’ve ever lived before.  I have pictures, good pictures, of me with my siblings, ALL of them.  I can leave my adoption books out in the bookcase without worrying about backlash (which I sort of do now, but it’s still something I’m getting used to).  My sisters will all be at that house at some point or another, and I can chose to welcome them with open arms.  Nobody can stop me.  It’s a wonderful feeling to know that in my house, I get to make the rules and decide how to live my own life.  It’s truly a wonderful feeling.  Plus the process strengthened my relationship with my husband right off the bat as we learned to work through everything as a team.  I got to be his cheerleader, something that he was for me for a long time when things were rough.  I was able to help him because of what I’d learned through everything.  It’s nice to be able to say that about a relationship that recently went through a change (and yes, marriage has changed things for us).

So once again, I’m sitting here thinking about what a far reach adoption has.  My reunion positively factored into buying a house.  Who would have thought?  And it’s another step towards being my own person and defining my own rules for my life going forward.  I’m much more at peace than I ever have been and I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Complexity of Our Racial Identity


The conversation in our family car went like this:

My son, “Are there any racial slurs for white people?”

My husband, “Yes, ‘Whitey’ and ‘White trash.’”

Me, “‘Honkey,‘Redneck.’ Why?”

My son, “Just asking. Does anyone use them?”

My husband, “Yes, and they are offensive.”

My son, silence.

This conversation played over and over in my head.

I have jokingly used “Whitey” to describe my husband when I am with my Asian women friends who are also married to Caucasian men. This reminded me that I am just as guilty of being callous in my choice of race words, and though I haven’t said it with my children around, I have stopped.


But it also got me thinking. My son was asking this question as a means of exploring his racial identity. He knows he is not identified by these white racial slurs, despite the fact that he is a mix of Caucasian and Asian. The rub? I have passed on to him the genetic and visual racial identity of Korean. Our outward appearances invite these Asian racial slurs. People we do not know, will use them on us. I asked my husband if he had ever had a complete stranger walk up and use a white racial slur on him. He said that he had not.

A new adoptee friend, Dan, had given me a recent study, “The development of racial identity in transracially adopted people: An ecological approach,” by Tien Ung, Susan Harris O’Connor and Raymond Pillidge. They discuss an interesting idea that our racial identity is five part: genetic, imposed, cognitive, visual and feeling.

Genetic is simply the biological traits we inherit from birth parents. The Imposed is more complex for the adoptee since it involves the adoptive family and is often harder for the mixed race child; it is an inaccurate “construction of race” given by those around the child. My son is questioning and struggling with this part of his racial identity.

This brings me to the Cognitive racial identity. This is “what a person thinks and/or knows her or himself to be.” The Visual racial identity is the “color one sees one’s skin.” This one lies closely with the Genetic.

The last and final one is the Feeling racial identity. This gives those of us with mixed racial backgrounds our “sense of self.” This sense of self is “heavily influenced by the race(s) of the social community that surrounds” us. Feeling is the root of my confusion. I truly have believed myself to be white and Puerto Rican.

For my son, I believe he is struggling most with the Cognitive and the Feeling, I asked my son a few questions:

Me: “Are you Korean?”

My son: “Yes.”

Me: “Are you Puerto Rican?”

My son: “No.”

Me: “Are you American?”

My son: “No.”

Me: “No?”

My son: “It is a nationality.”

Me: “Are you British?”

My son: “Yes.”

I have ferociously defended my right to be an American. I have referred to America as “The Melting Pot.” But in hindsight, I believe I was fighting for the right to feel white. The nuances of this have been interpreted by my son. While he says being American is a nationality, so is being British. He is both, but he is identifying his race in a nationality. I wonder if he, like I have done, equates the word “American” with being white.

I now realize how important our Asian friends in Virginia have been. In Wisconsin, what my son and I have been missing were our anchors for our Asian identities. My daughter has found her anchor in a friend whose mother is Korean. My daughter relishes time at her friend’s house and loves her friend’s mother’s cooking.

I am still in my identity infancy, but my son looks to me and many of my new Korean adoptee friends for a compass in navigating race. As transracial adoptees, we are ever changing and morphing as we learn more about ourselves. Sometimes, just looking in the mirror is not enough.



Feminist columnist, Rosita is a transracial, Korean-American adoptee. She is married to a Brit who refers to himself as an Anglo-American and is a mother to two multiracial children. Rosita was adopted in 1968 at the age of one through Holt International. Her road has been speckled with Puerto Rican and Appalachian relatives and her multiracial sister, the natural child of her adoptive parents. While quite content with her role as a “Tennerican,” her curiosity has grown recently as her children explore their own ethnic identities. She considers herself a lost daughter, not only because of the loss of her birth family, but also because of the loss of her adopted mother, who died in 2001 as she became a first time mother. Rosita has recently started her search for her natural family. With the help of G.O.A.’L., she visited Korea in August 2014. When she is not supporting her children on their individual paths, Rosita spends her time as an art educator, ceramicist and an art photographer. She also shares her adventures as an adoptee and parent on her blog, mothermade.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Guest List Question

When my husband and I first got engaged, we were absolutely thrilled that we were going to get married and start our lives together.  Then, reality started to sink in.  Every marriage and wedding is different.  There are a million and one choices to make, some easy and some harder.

We sat down and eventually worked our way through some of the big ones like most couples do.  We started with the location, decided on the church wedding thing, and found our vendors.  The big decisions were made and we thought things were going to get easier.  And then we came to the guest list.  That’s where things got really interesting for the adoptee recently in reunion.

I love my sisters.  They are a huge part of my life, and I couldn’t imagine getting married without them there.  However, we’d only been communicating for a year.  They hadn’t met anyone in my adoptive family because there just wasn’t time.  We had a huge decision to make when it came to inviting them or not.  And there was also the question of my natural parents.  Do we invite them or don’t we?
As a little girl, whenever I pictured reunion, I always assumed that it would happen before I got married (which actually now that I think of it was something I wasn’t actually expecting at all).  I imagined my natural parents there when I walked down the aisle.  It was something that just went with my childhood fantasies.  One of the things I was most excited about when things were good with my natural father was that at least my natural parents would be at my wedding when my husband and I eventually got married.  I was excited about it!  Then when things changed, it got a lot harder to deal with.  Getting engaged when we did made things even more challenging.

My husband is an amazing person and has been wonderful throughout the entire process.  But he’s also been holding my hand through the entire process.  Which means he’s seen the good, the bad, and the ugly.  And it was his day, just as much as it was mine.  So when he asked to talk to me about something serious regarding the wedding, it wasn’t a total shock to me that he wanted to ask that we not invite my natural parents.  He had seen them hurt me too many times, had a pretty good read on how well it would go over with my adoptive family, and just didn’t want to deal with it on our wedding day.  I couldn’t blame him one bit because to be honest, I didn’t really want to deal with it either.  I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like for me to have to deal with all of that on my wedding day, especially where we weren’t really even talking at that point.  Why put myself through that for two people who weren’t honest with my other family members about me?  And would they even want to come (probably not)?

We agreed that my natural parents would remain off the guest list.  It should have been an easy decision, but it wasn’t.  I still feel guilty about it, but it’s done and over with now.  We did however agree that my natural sisters would be on the guest list.  It would be OK if they didn’t want to come, but we wanted to invite them anyway.  Because they were worth any potential drama and any blowback.  My husband had met them, really liked them, and saw how happy they make me.  He saw how much effort they put in with me, and appreciated it.  And we both couldn’t imagine our day without them.

My adoptive family wasn’t as thrilled with that decision as I had hoped they would be.  My adoptive parents weren’t all that jazzed about it, but agreed to meet them beforehand.  Things went pretty well all things considered and I think it made everyone feel just a bit more comfortable.  My adoptive sister refused to meet them and stopped talking to me for three weeks leading up to the wedding.  She came around eventually as it was something that she had to deal with on her own and things went smoothly as far as I know (to be honest, I don’t know if they met at the wedding).  I only told a few people in my extended family about the decision to invite them, and word spread like wildfire.  A few people were not aware and apparently it lead to a few funny moments at the church.  It happens.  From what I’ve gathered, the majority of my family was excited to meet them and was very happy about everything.  A few were not as excited as I would have liked, but again, that’s something they really have to work out on their own.

In the end, I’m so happy that we made the decision to have my sisters at our wedding.  It was a once in a lifetime event and it was something that I wanted to share with them.  They are a huge part of my life and a part of my future, a future that will contain many events where they might have the opportunity to mingle with another side of my family.  And weddings are supposed to be about the blending of families anyway.  So really, it all worked out well in the end.  Nothing is ever 100% perfect, but we made do with what we could and went from there.  I can only imagine with the future will hold, but my future will contain photographs of me with my sisters on my wedding day, as it should.  Because we looked amazing together and we were all so happy.  I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Still Lost - Equations

“Here's what I think: it's one thing to know that rejection is coming, and it's an entirely different thing when it arrives.” ~Autumn Doughton

I have heard that there are people who wish for more adoptee poetry.  I am not sure it's my poetry, but I will risk being rejected again. :)  The poem below is how I feel about being rejected, after multiple adoption court petitions for identifying information and contact with my biological family, by both of my biological parents.

Trying to be part of something you aren't and probably never will be within either family as an adoptee, especially during the holiday season, is exhausting.   We can play the "part", put on the "face", and pretend.  We've been "playing" it all of our lives.

We are all entering this Holiday season with pain, anguish, anxiety, and stress that other people can't fathom.  They can't get it.  That's why I am thankful this season to be a part of this group, of these sisters, of these amazing accepting women, I can call my own.

Equations

One plus one they say makes two but I'm not sure that this is true.
In this case one and one makes three explaining how I came to be.
Then three came in between the sum, divides them back to one and one.
These equations seems to break all the laws of give and take.
But life not always plays by rules, nor the facts we learned in school.
I know this all so very well, I only hope to "show and tell".
When one and one took separate paths that no one needs to do the math.
To see this story problem's mine.
I'm the remainder left behind.

The Awkwardness Adoption Creates

I don't know if you can recall my weird decision about my Korean birth family - long story short I decided to put them on hold for a while. Unfortunately the cultural differences and expectations meant that my dear siblings and birth parents got a bit greedy and demanded things that I and my mum and dad couldn't agree to. For a long time I haven't written to them or sent them any pictures , I literately put them on a shelf deep in my mind and closed the door behind.

There was a lot of accidents and health issues occurring last year my Appa got terminal cancer and my oldest Onni got in a severe accident and badly hurt her face - tumbling down a mountain after getting some tree branches in the face she fell face down on the rocks and stones. It could have ended very badly fortunately it didn't she survived yet badly hurt and with a facial scar.

Since all my six Onnis are older than I am the oldest ones have gotten married and either focus on their carriers , businesses or already started a family. My oldest Onni is over 40 years old and she has two children - a daughter and a son. I became an auntie when I was 13 years old even though I didn't' know that because neither of my Onnis knew of my existence by then...

Another Onni got married last year and since she unfortunately can't have any children she is determined to make her clothes store a success along with her husband. I believe she actually met her husband through work although I can't be sure.

Then there's the Onni who I used to be very closed to - I say used to because I'm no longer close to her or any of the family members in my birth family. She got married 5 years ago, if I recall correctly; she has two children born very close after each other. A daughter and a son and her husband works at Samsung so he might be successful or maybe a little above average I can't be sure. The daughter should be about 4 and the son a little over 3.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Free-Falling Into the Baby Rage Zone: Another Adoptee Epiphany

Shouldn't I be done with this by now? I've been processing this adoption stuff for how many years? Shouldn't I be completely and utterly over all of it? 

These were my thoughts as I sat crying in my car in a school parking lot Saturday afternoon. My daughter was inside the school participating in a cheer exhibition, but her group wasn't scheduled to perform for several hours. I was in the car reading, once again cracked wide open by words on a page (or in this case a Kindle screen).

I had been working my way slowly through Christine Murphy's memoir Taking Down the Wall for some time. (My slow pace is no reflection on the book. This is simply the way I read. I typically have multiple books going at once and tend to dip in and out of them over time.) I'd bought the book after interacting with Christine a few times online. I knew her as a fellow adoptee whose thoughts and feelings about adoption often echoed my own. I knew that her memoir described her own gradual (and painful) process of awakening as she came to understand the trauma of her separation from her original mother as an infant. As a fully awakened adoptee myself (or so I thought), I came to the book expecting to identify but not to be shaken. Hadn't I gone through all of that years ago? I expected to skate through the book with the smug satisfaction of someone looking back on her former self, pleased with how far she's come. Been there, done that.

So imagine my surprise when I got to the epiphany part of the book and found myself 100% triggered. I couldn't understand what was happening. I was reading words that seemed familiar to me, words I might have written myself. The author didn't seem to be saying anything I didn't already know. Why was I experiencing almost unbearable pain, like metal being scraped against a raw wound, throughout my body? Every cell seemed to be pulsing with it.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Early Praise for the Lost Daughters Anthology: Susan Harris O'Connor, MSW

Lost Daughters provides us with a viewing of brilliance, social justice and activism. Moving beyond racial, ethnic and professional silos frequently observed in adoption, Lost Daughters brings us together to witness the courage, strength and amazement of a diverse group of women who represent the true fabric of adoption. This anthology, a collection of stories written by adult adoptees, is a must read for clinical and social service professionals and all those touched by and/or interested in learning about adoption journeys.

Susan Harris O'Connor, MSW
National Speaker, Solo Performance Artist, Activist
Author, The Harris Narratives: An Introspective Study of a Transracial Adoptee

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Early Praise for the Lost Daughters Anthology: Lorraine Dusky

Lost Daughters Anthology is a tough book for mothers who relinquished to read because whatever we may have told ourselves about the “good” reasons to let our children be adopted, these poignant, sad, moving essays belie that with the sheer force of a body blow. I found myself with tears in my eyes as soon as I started reading, and they didn't totally dry up until long after the last page.

Taken in one gulp these writers remind us that being adopted is the singular aspect of their lives out of which everything else flows—just as it is the opposite side of the coin is for first mothers like myself: birthdays, family trees, motherhood, familiar traits, loss. Julie Stromberg writes about how comfortable it is to be with another adoptee because they can talk to each other in ways they cannot to others; Michelle Lahti writes her son’s assignment to do a family tree was more painful for her than him; Elaine Penn remarks on the moment she first heard someone say about her daughter: that’s where her dimple comes from—and referring to Elaine, the baby’s mother; Von tells how she found her love of cooking in both sets of natural families; Nikki Mairs-Cayer Pike talks about the scary, exhilarating moment she got the envelope with the name of her mother; Samantha Franklin sums up the experience of finding her first family: I am whole, no longer cut in half,” and elsewhere: “…We adoptees get mixed messages galore. We are a crisis, unwanted, abandoned orphans. Yet also chosen, special, lucky gifts. Our first mothers are told they are incapable, yet also heroic. Our very identities are “amended” to fulfill a role, and we’re expected to cut ourselves off completely…from the identity, heritage and family in which we were born.”

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Not Holding My Tongue: On Blogging and the Politics of Adoption

It has been a while since I have been regularly blogging for the public about the global politics of adoption or about my personal experiences of being an adopted woman. A while since I have been writing more than 140 character or paragraph long facebook musings centered on adoption. I wrote “A Birth Project” for 5 years and turned my attention to my academic work, and then turned again, to my creative work. For the past few years, I found myself wanting distance from the work and writing around of adoptee justice and adoption policy reform. I was tired. I felt a huge weight on my shoulders, in my heart, throughout my body. Has that feeling gone anywhere? I’m not sure.

In that time, the benefits of social media for adoptee justice communities has been tremendous. We are more visible than ever, not only with the production of our creative and scholarly work, but with the concrete development of our methodologies for activist work. This visibility is so powerful and beautiful to see. Yet, with this visibility comes saturation and for me, a feeling at times of being overwhelmed, saddened and at times, emotionally and spiritually triggered by the daily barrage of horror stories concerning the politics of global adoption. I can shut myself off social media for a while, but I can never stay away long. I can’t not know, and I certainly I can’t ‘unknow’ what I know to be true when I hear these stories, when I watch a film, study research or read investigative journalism, when I hear adoptee truths.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

What a Ride

I've been a bit MIA lately, something that my fellow Lost Daughters have been super understanding about (because they are amazing ladies).  You see, I got married a week and a half ago.  And I’m buying a house this week.  Yes, we're that crazy that we decided to do the big wedding thing AND buy our first home all at the same time.  We're nuts.  It was crazy, stressful, and a huge time suck.  But we made it (or we're pretty close to making it at this point).  So there’s that.  I have lots of fun updates and fun things to write about now.  So many things!

For my first post back, I've decided to do a brief review of how I got here.  We can't move forward until we know where we've been right? 

I was adopted at a few months old.  My parents lived in Boston and there I went into a shiny new family of three.  We lived next door to an aunt and uncle, and less than five minutes from both sets of grandparents.  My extended family was all within an hour, most of them within ten minutes.  When I was three or so, my parents decided to move to the burbs because they wanted a better education system.  I could have gone to the Catholic school down the street where my mom went to school (more on this later), but my adoptive parents wanted another kid and it would just be better if we were in a bigger house with more than two bedrooms.  So off we went.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Haitian Families First--An Organization with the Right Priorities!

It's not often that I can fully endorse an organization involved in adoption.

Because, although we live in a world where adoption is sometimes necessary, when an organization's main source of funding comes from adoptions, its motivation is to produce adoptions for the paying adoptive parents--not for supporting family unity by keeping a child with its birth family and choosing adoption only as a last resort. As watchdog groups and adoptee rights and other organizations have documented over and over again, the Adoption Industry at large often has misaligned priorities.

But I find myself in a paradox here--I want to help children, I don't believe adoption is always bad (I benefited from it!), and I don't want to be an armchair critic, perched at my desk criticizing people in very real situations of infertility or wanting a bigger family or facing an unexpected pregnancy and bone-crushing poverty. What I seek from others, what I strive to see happen in the mainstream conversations about adoption is empathy. An understanding of why adoption is more complex than we allow voice for, why an adoptee might struggle, or why adoptees are marginalized in a very real way by not having access to birth certificates. So, I always push myself to have empathy with others. But it's a difficult dance, because some scenarios are just infuriating (See the Veronica Brown case, for example.)