The Perks of Being an Adoptee by Mae Claire is part memoir, part “how to" guide, and part humorous commentary on what it was like for the author growing up as a Haitian adoptee, adopted by missionaries living in the Dominican Republic. In each chapter Claire gives a “perk” of being an adoptee, often turning it around to explain the complexities of being adopted. The book doesn’t hold back and doesn’t try to make its reader comfortable with adoption, but through frank language and blunt descriptions, shows that adoptions is not always “unicorns and rainbows.”
Read the interview with author Mae Claire below:
Your book has a very "tongue in cheek" approach to adoption, and you often use sarcasm to make a point. For example, you wrote that one of the perks of being an adoptee is that you were handed a "white card" when you were adopted. For those who may not understand that term, can you describe what it means to get a "white card"?
Receiving a white card means there are certain things you are forgiven for because you are part of an elite club. Also, the reasons for which many transracially adopted kids get to do certain things is usually due to possessing this card. A situation in which having white parents made life easier for me really depends on the country you are being raised in. I was raised in the Dominican Republic, a country that carries a lot of history with Haiti. Having the white card allowed me to be somewhat secure from some of the discrimination.
Can you describe a situation in which having white parents made your life harder?
In the DR, having white parents also made people assume I was rich so I would often get ripped off at the local stores. A white male parent with a black child usually didn't equal a "loving" relationship, and it was assumed that my adoptive father had paid for me for the night-as a sexual partner.
The relationship between you and your parents (especially your adoptive mom) is the central theme to this book. You touched on the idea of adopted children showing gratitude towards their adoptive parents. You wrote, "I see thankfulness in so many ways. The way we raise our kids. The way we thrive after living with our adoptive families. The passion we have for others. The passion we have for our work." Now that you are a parent, do you see things differently?
My perception of my adoptive parents has changed since raising children. I better understand why they did certain things. As for gratitude, they still demand, require, and pine for it. They don't understand that we are already grateful. They still want proof, and yet, there is so much of it. The definition of how one gathers proof is different.
You also wrote that one of the perks of being an adoptee is the "wow factor" that we all have. We all carry these unique stories and identities with us. Something that you struggled with growing up was feeling black with a white mask. Did you have a moment when you embraced your "blackness" or felt more comfortable with your black woman identity?
Embracing my blackness was difficult when I felt like I was an object, a gift, a prize. My color was celebrated when it meant that I supposedly didn't need sunblock, or I could wear any outfit. But going home to maid servants reminded me that that was what I would be good for someday. I do not believe as a child I ever embraced my "blackness" or was comfortable with my black woman identity. I lived in a country that was run by men and men who were lighter than me. As an adult, after becoming a professional, I learned to love my hair and my skin even though very few people did. I had to educate myself on who I was in order to begin to appreciate who I am.
Like you, many adoptees do not accept themselves until well into adulthood. What is one thing you want adoptees to know?
I want adoptees to know that there is a community of adoptees who get it. The chapter on empathy explains how much we get each other and how easy it is for us to reach out and be there for someone else. I want adoptees to know that they are really not alone in this adoption world. That there are so many of us just trying to figure it out and that we don't have to figure it out alone. I also want adoptees to know that it is ok to go through every phase of adoption. Currently I'm at the tongue and cheek phase, and it gives me joy to know that even the worst situations have a bit of light in them.
Besides writing, you also work in adoption consulting. Can you describe the kind of work that you do with your consulting?
I am a post adoption consultant and I work with adoptive parents who have questions or are struggling with their adopted children, young adults, and adults. I also speak with adult adoptees all around the world and help them access the proper resources as they are going through their adoption journey.
Besides The Perks of Being an Adoptee, what other books do you have available or in the works?
I have written 8 books and about 7 of them are adoption related. The newest book I wrote is a kids book in hardcover. It is called Dear____I'm Adopted. Dear_____I Know. This book was created to help young adoptees put words to their feelings. It is written in letter format and each letter targets a different audience.
Besides The Perks of Being an Adoptee, I have a few adoption resources for parents: Rainbows But Not Unicorns, Rainbows But Not Unicorns Workbook, and Multiple Intelligence Meets Adoption Healing.
I also have a teen book: P.S. I’m Eleven: Surviving Haiti’s Quake. The Spanish version is P.D. Tengo Once: Sobreviviendo el Terremoto en Haití.
I am currently working on a resource to be used in a classroom setting.
To find out more about Mae Claire, visit her blog https://solifegoeson.com, her consulting website http://noomaconsult.
weebly.com, or follow her on twitter at @noomaconsulting. All of Mae Claire’s books can be found on Amazon, and the Dear ________ I’m Adopted book can be found on Lulu.com.
Mariette Williams (@mariettewrites) is a transracial adoptee born in Jeremie, Haiti. She was adopted at the age of three and grew up near Vancouver, B.C., Canada. She founded Haitian Adoptees, a Facebook group that serves to connect and offer support to other Haitian adoptees. In July of 2015, she reunited with her birth mother and several members of her birth family. She lives in South Florida with her husband and two children. In addition to being a Journalism and literature teacher, she is a published author and supporter of international adoption reform.