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Monday, April 4, 2016

#Microblog Mondays: Adoption Book Recommendation

A while back in November, Lori Lavender Luz recommended some holiday reading, two of which were books written by adoptees:

The Adoptee Survival Guide: Adoptees Share Their Wisdom and Tools 

and

Flip the Script: Adult Adoptee Anthology

I bought them both for some light holiday reading.

Why? I'm not an adoptee myself, but the whole point of Flip the Script is that the way adoption is handled in the media is largely from an adoptive parent perspective and an adoption agency perspective, very rah-rah adoption is AWESOME and makes FAMILIES and sort of conveniently leaves out the majority of the perspective out there, which is the adoptees themselves, and the fact that adoption ALSO means the loss and grief of a birthmother lost, a first family gone (even if there is contact through open adoption). So, there is a movement to reclaim November (and other months I bet) to Flip the Script and give the perspectives of adoptees, who often share feeling pushed aside, not considered experts on their own experience, subjugated into a feeling of Gratefulness, torn between a desire to know their origins and birth family details and the pull to not disappoint or upset adoptive families. Most importantly in the legal arena, there is the fight to own their original birth certificates and biographical information. (Original birth certificates are amended upon finalization and adoptive parents are listed instead of birth parents, a fact I was largely unaware of until fairly recently.) It's an important movement, and one that I want to understand, because I am a prospective adoptive parent and my child will identify as an adoptee and have complex situations to contend with that are not within my own experience--I can only read about them and try to understand and seriously try to not screw up the whole parenting thing.

I will say that the first book had me running to friends of mine who were adopted through domestic infant adoption and asking them if they were really angry about the whole thing or felt betrayed by their parents or marginalized as a person or that they had been a commodity bought and sold, and they just hadn't told me they felt that way because I was excited about adopting. They thought I was crazy, actually, but appreciated my asking their feedback. The perspectives were important to read and it sure did make me think, but a lot of the stories involved a lot of lying on the part of adoptive parents and adoptive parents who turned out to be horribly abusive and adoption agencies that were for profit or really corrupt and were not at all on the up and up. There were perspectives that believe that NO adoption is on the up and up and it should be abolished. There was a lot about searching because of closed records, and that was incredibly interesting because I had no idea how much you can gather from genealogy websites and adoption search sites. It was actually an adoption search registry that a friend of mine used, that her birth mother also used separately, that resulted in their reunion a few years ago. Actually, if you are an adoptee from a more closed era or recently where there wasn't much information given, this book would be like a bible for coping and searching and expectations for reunion.

It was interesting stuff, but also incredibly scary. I felt like there were a lot people out there who would hate me for wanting to adopt a child (albeit through a non-profit agency that is birth-mother driven and provides lots of education and training and support and counseling for everyone involved, forever...). I think the biggest thing I learned from this book once I got over the fear that I am a horrible baby snatcher is DO NOT LIE TO YOUR CHILD. BE HONEST AND OPEN AND HONOR ALL PARTS OF YOUR CHILD. Valuable lessons (that my agency hammers in as it should) to take away, for sure.

Given the intensity of the first book, I waited a little while to read the second book. I just read it over my Spring Break (the one with the Flu).

This one I felt (maybe biasedly so, since I am a prospective adoptive parent) was more balanced, because it was not so heavily ADOPTION IS HARMFUL AND RIPS FAMILIES APART AND THERE'S NOTHING POSITIVE ABOUT IT FOR THE CHILD OR THE BIRTH FAMILY, EVER. Not that that's all that I got from the first book, per se, but that one was a little more geared towards Adoption Is Typically Unethical. This one made me feel a little more comfortable, a little less like a baby-stealing villain (even though that is most definitely not what I am or will be). But it's important to feel uncomfortable every once in a while, because this is how you grow. This is how you embrace other people's thoughts and feelings and get your empathy working, so that you can be a better person who can consider all sides of a given issue, all parts of a given experience.

I flagged a lot of pages in the book, things that made me think, things that made me smile, things made me cringe a little, things that made me rethink some of the ways I speak and write about adoption, myself, as a newbie to the process and uninitiated by actual parenthood yet:

There are more flags than meet the eye here. Pardon my unvacuumed rug, we've had the flu.
This is a collection of essays, and a one-woman-show-excerpt/essay, and songs, and a rap, and artwork, and poetry, and just a lot of hearts laid bare. It is a book I think everyone considering adoption should read, not just adoptees. It gives a variety of perspectives, including perspectives of international adoptees, domestic infant adoptees, adoptees who have found peace with their adoptive and birth parents, adoptees who ended up adopting themselves, adoptees who needed to separate from their adoptive parents in order to find themselves and worth in themselves, adoptees whose birth parents were duped, adoptees who were devastated by adoption, and adoptees who are at a tenuous peace with the complexity of it all. The same message applies -- don't lie, don't avoid honest discussion about birth family, don't hinder search efforts or hide information that would help a search, watch your terminology and how words like "grateful," "chosen," and "saved," could make a person feel, making sure you are truly prepared for transracial adoption, and how important it is to honestly deal with infertility loss before putting your happiness on a child through adoption. SO MANY THINGS TO THINK ABOUT.

This is basically a book that is spawning a zillion posts, and this is already a Macroblog Monday, so I'll leave it at that for now. I have to say that I absolutely respect the perspectives in both books, even the ones that made me feel intensely uncomfortable and felt rooted in adoption practices of yesteryore. However, after reading some more, there are still agencies and practices in adoption that aren't much better than the Baby Scoop era even today, and I am thrilled that my agency is of the non-profit, child-centered but birth-parent-driven, highly-rigorously-screening adoptive parents variety. I don't think I'm being naive here, either. I have so many questions, and so many things to mull over. I will be sharing these in the next few posts, because it just really settled in me.

Please read this book. It is amazing, even if it makes you uncomfortable. Maybe even especially because it may make you uncomfortable.


Want to read more #Microblog Mondays, perhaps ones that actually follow the rules and are truly Micro? Go here and enjoy!

20 comments:

  1. Yes. Yes, yes, yes. "Honor all parts of your child." YES. THAT. Love you, Adoption Warrior!

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    1. Thanks, Amanda! That part is the most important, I think, as I know you know. :)

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  2. Wow - sounds like an amazing pair of books. I've known a few adoptees (my cousin, a friend and her brother spring to mind first) and it seems that their major issues all centered around keeping things hidden and/or ignoring that they were adopted. I'm glad to hear times they are a changin' and kudos to you for becoming so well-informed!

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    1. Thank you -- I feel like that's true, the hiding and pretending adoption didn't happen or it's somehow not to be talked about or shameful is the worst. I just want to know as much as I can, knowing that I am human and will probably screw up anyway, but knowledge is power, right? And being heard is power, and that's what resonated so much with me with the green book in particular.

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  3. I think it's so wise of you to be picking up these books and exploring adoption through the eyes of other members of the triad. You're right, these can be hard things to read, especially given all we've been through with infertility. But I'm finding that often times, even with the most difficult stories, the element of truth about honesty and openness always comes through. Just as it does with other controversial topics.

    Thanks for the reviews!

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    1. Thank you! It is so eye opening to see the things that can be so harmful that may not seem that way on the surface, and to read people who can articulate what it was like to be part of an open adoption, or a semi-open or closed adoption as the person who really had the least say in the matter. It is hard to read the ones where adoption is seen as inherently harmful and something worthy of abolition. But I felt like those entries were the ones to pay attention to the WHY and try to understand what practices and experiences led to that position. So interesting. I'm glad it was a worthwhile review for you!

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  4. You are embodying the spirit of openness, as evidenced by this: "even the ones that made me feel intensely uncomfortable." You are able to tolerate hard things and not shut down. Kudos, Jess.

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    1. Thank you... I am trying! The more I read the more I hope for the best of all possible open adoption worlds, and fear for if that is just not possible for whatever reason. But all I can do is embrace openness and understand perspectives, even when they are scary to me coming from a different experience altogether.

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  5. I am in awe . . .

    That you for sharing your thoughts. And yes, kudos to you for embracing the idea that there are more sides and to see every side.

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    1. Thank you! I hope my thoughts are helpful and bring a transparency to how important it is to think about these viewpoints and issues in adoption, and that being scared and hurt is okay as long as you examine where that hurt comes from and why/how experience shapes viewpoint. Love all the primary sources, gets my inner (outer) geek going. :)

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  6. Just a note... obviously the first book was more "scary" to me than the second, but to be fair, adoptive parents are not the target audience for "THe Adoptee Survival Guide." It was tremendously eye-opening to read, but the "Flip the Script: Adult Adoptee Anthology" I think is geared towards sharing perspectives with not just other adoptees but any interested party and so I think in a way I was part of the intended audience for that book, and maybe that's why it resonated more for me. Both are valuable reads.

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  7. I am wary whenever anyone claims they can speak for an entire group but love hearing individuals tell their individual story. There's a huge difference. It sounds like you hit a few stories that attempted to speak for everyone and a few that attempted to speak for the individual. I tend to follow the ones where a single person speaks their single truth and acknowledges YMMV.

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    1. True, always good to evaluate who is telling the story for who. I love anthologies for this reason, because you get a variety of perspectives. I agree that it's important to distinguish between your individual experience and everyone's experience, as there are commonalities for sure but every experience is unique.

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  8. Hi Jess! As editor of book #1 and contributor to book #2, I appreciate your willingness to face the scary parts and see the gems and lessons.

    I wanted to clarify that The Adoptee Survival Guide is intended to help ALL adoptees (not just ones from the closed era) understand their feelings and journey and to be given permission to search if they choose too and to seek their truth. Unfortunately, even with a great agency (glad to hear they exist!), with sealed original birth certificates, secrets and lies will continue even in this modern age. Open adoptions will close without the law backing them up and parents (even those who are loving with good intentions) will inadvertently wound their adopted children. Very few contributors to my anthology are anti-adoption. Many are; however, anti-lies, anti-bad law, anti-bad agency practices and in particular which is why I participated in Flip the Script, anti-people speaking FOR us. When I envisioned the Adoptee Survival Guide, I envisioned a supportive tool for any adoptee who ever felt like any one of those contributors felt. It's even better when an adoptive parent can read it and see value. So, I thank you for reading both anthologies and I thank Lori for recommending both of these anthologies. I wish you the best!

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    1. Thank you so much for clarifying, Lynn! I didn't mean to imply that the Survival Guide was anti-adoption, and I love that you said anti-lies, anti-bad-law, anti-bad-agency practices. I have recommended book #1 to friends who have come out of the woodwork as having friends or family members who are searching and were from a much more closed era, or who had families open to discussing adoption but information on birth family was not open. It's also interesting to realize how frequent it is to have profile opportunities where birth fathers aren't named, and to wonder what that will mean in terms of search for my future child if that is in his or her future. We could have as open an adoption as we can given birth parent wishes, and still have these gaping holes in history and origin. I really appreciate the perspective both books provide and love the awareness and the checks to reality and voice to a suppressed voice that they bring. Thank you so much for your comment!

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    2. I also want to add that I reread your essay in the anthology, and it was one of the ones that spoke to me as to how unfair it is that you are not considered an expert on your experience... that to speak to your own life you were told to "get a Master's Degree." I love that Flip the Script is creating more balance in the adoption conversation and creating awareness as to what the experience is like from the point of view of those who were/are most impacted and had/have the least (really no) choice in the matter. I loved your essay.

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  9. Wow what a post, I'm glad (if that is the right word) that you read both books and it is interesting to hear your perspective and very brave and honest of you to have acknowledged how uncomfortable some of this reading was. Not many people can admit publicly to feeling this way. I personally think that both books in their own way are great resources for those that are personally affected by, touched by,or involved with and or in adoption
    Thank you for writing and sharing this post

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    1. Thank you so much for your thoughts! I so appreciate your perspective and reflection on my post. I feel that in becoming uncomfortable and opening myself up to all parts of the adoption process, it is just such a gift because I am "meeting" so many people and gaining what I hope is wisdom to be a better parent and a better person. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts!

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  10. Great post. #FliptheScript is an important movement that is propelling much needed changes in adoption. Love you words: " I think the biggest thing I learned from this book once I got over the fear that I am a horrible baby snatcher is DO NOT LIE TO YOUR CHILD. BE HONEST AND OPEN AND HONOR ALL PARTS OF YOUR CHILD."

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts -- I am so glad that I was introduced to #FliptheScript and can explore and attempt to understand all the many layers and experiences in adoption. So many bare and beautiful lessons to learn from listening to everyone. Thank you for your comment!

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