Per Subini Annamma: The book “Parenting as Adoptees” centers the voices of transnational and transracial adoptees in order to shed light on what individual experiences, structural barriers and research exist in the lives of adoptees that are also parents. Adoptees boldly address both the benefits and struggles of being adopted, refusing to shy away from the lived realities and how embodiment of this multifaceted identity affects their parenting. Nouns like holes, conflict, loss, and separation arise but so do verbs such as erasing, inventing, healing and growing. Personal stories are utilized to illustrate how societal realities such as the privilege of conformity, colorblindness, the salience of race and the importance of naming are played out in the lives of these adoptees, their families and communities. “Parenting as Adoptees” also resists the allure of a single story that represents all adoptions; instead stories range from parents with abusive backgrounds to parents who were loving but unsure to parents that worked to identify systemic inequities with their children from an early age.
Editor Adam Chau concisely shares his hope that centering the voice of adult adoptees will reverse the trend of ignoring an entire population of adults whose knowledge is essential for the survival and thriving of future generations of adoptees. Editor Kevin Ost-Vollmers shares the experiences of returning to Korea with his young son only to find a buried resentment arises which once recognized, leads to a tenderness between father, mother and son. Jennifer Lauck’s chapter tells a story of changing from a mother in “adoption denial” to healing and connectedness through the support of her son, a shaman and an optometrist. Bert Ballard’s story is simultaneously humorous and heartbreaking as he recognizes that his love for his children, both adopted and biological, is powerfully different, not in volume but in dimension. Sandy White Hawk’s “I Chose This Life” tells of her own experiences being removed from her tribe, what it cost her as a child, a woman and a parent and how her children have grown both because of, and in spite of her experiences. In “Returning to the Begats”, Mary Martin Mason captures how many of those interested parties is adoption (such as birth families, adopting families, adoptees and adoption abolitionists) can slam into each other in ways that reverberate through the life of adoptees. Robert O’Connor shares how his own medical and educational history is reflected in his children while his birth family’s remains hidden from him. Susan Branco Alvardo weaves her personal stories within clinical perspectives in order to highlight the survivor brain that adoptees develop. Shannon Gibney’s “Sixth Finger” rejects the unmarked and normative in order to practice self-preservation, which as Audre Lourde points out, “is an act of political warfare”. In “Ally Parenting for Social Justice” John Raible translates his own experiences in “Whitesville” in order to support parents on developing as allies for their adopted children moving from theory to concrete strategies. Lorial Crowder traces her geographic routes that have taken her from suburban Connecticut to New York in order to foster connections for and with her Filipino, German and Italian son. Jae Ran Kim shares research and experiences that reflect her efforts to nurture her children’s racial and cultural identities so they can question what is considered normal in society and voice where they fit in. Mark Hagland uses his background of social isolation as a Korean adopted person in Milwaukee as a launch pad to support both his daughter’s personal growth as well as Korean adoptees. In Astrid Dabbeni’s “Becoming Maya’s Mama” she shares how adoption and language loss and acquisition impacts her entire family. “Beautiful” by Stephanie Cooper-Lewter and her daughter Courtney Cooper-Lewter share the ways adoption leaves voids in our history and how a journey back to India did not eliminate it but changed the scope and feel of that void for them both. Finally, Hei Kyong Kim’s chapter traces her individual evolution to reject, then wholly embrace and finally adapt one version of Korean parenting in order to recognize the individual spirit of each of her six children within the collective.
Adoptees’ experiences inform identities in “Adoptees as Parents” and the book reflects the paradoxes that exist as an adoptee. Adoption is both beautiful and terrible and there is honesty about this multidimensional, life-long process. Even for an adoptee who is not a parent, this book resonated with me. I whole heartedly agree with Maureen McCauley Evans that it should be read by all those whose lives have been touched by adoption, those who work in adoption and those who are interested in broader conversations of racial identity development, privilege and oppression.
Per Eunhee: As an adoptee, I always wondered what happens when we stop being other people’s children and become parents ourselves. I see now how it is for many of my peers and I am so glad I got a chance to read this book. Parenting As Adoptees is a book like no other. To read it was like reading the conjoining of great minds, souls and reflections of life as someone who has lived in-between. Each essayist bravely revealed the inner depths that adoption has affected them at the most vulnerable moment in a person’s life, when they become the sole proprietor of another life. I loved the diversity of the pieces, the weaving of research within the individual experiences and the immense risk all of the writers took in explaining how parenting has affected who they are in the context of being an adopted person. Gone are the children, now we finally get to know how the lifelong experience of adoption truly impacts a person.
Per Maureen McCauley Evans: “Parenting As Adoptees” is a seminal work. It’s a literate, thoughtful, challenging collection of essays that candidly describes how parenting impacts the reality of being adopted, and how being adopted impacts the reality of parenting. However we become parents, the responsibility of being a parent is oh so complex, exhilarating, daunting, and fulfilling. As an adoptive parent, I’ve watched the way adoption has affected my children. I’m now a grandmother to the most beautiful and talented grandchild ever, who now at almost 6 years old is beginning to sort out what it means that her mother, aunt, and uncles were adopted, and that Grandma has no biological connection to her but oh we love each other fiercely. Reading “Parenting As Adoptees” has brought me new insights about adoption, parenting, racism, joy, and courage. I highly recommend it for adopted persons whether parents yet and for those currently parenting. I also highly recommend it for grandparents, siblings, partners, spouses, and friends of anyone adopted.
Additionally, because of the groundbreaking and valuable nature of this book, it should be required reading for all social work schools, therapy programs, all adoption agencies, all post-adoption providers (as few as they are, as many as they ought to be), all adoptive parent groups, and more. The voices of these authors are insightful and real. It’s about time we all listened. Well done.
If you’ve already read the book, we encourage you to add your voice to the reviews. And if you haven’t read the book/purchased, ah, whatcha waiting for? 😉