An Adoptee at the Baby Box

Young children filled the room, most under the age of 4. We positioned ourselves at low tables while they ate rice and soup and shared other dishes. I was hesitantly offered a pair of chopsticks and the privilege of helping to feed the girls. The boys sat at a separate table nearby and some from my group helped them. The children, all with special needs, ate at a table with one adult. There was nothing personal about it. While the children were sweet and adorable, the environment was more childcare center, less family. Who would these children call parents? Would...

Alternative Voice, Truths, and Knowledge of Critical Adult Adoptees

“How does it feel to be a problem?”—W.E.B. DuBois[1] “How does it feel to be the solution?”—Vijay Prashad[2] Nearly 100 years after DuBois posed his question in the seminal Souls of Black Folk (1903), Vijay Prashad, a South Asian historian and cultural critic, presented the latter question as a way to think about how South Asians in the United States are positioned as a model minority in relation to black Americans. From here, we can consider where the transracial/national adoptee who was an orphan, but now is uniquely positioned as an assimilated, model subject fits. From these thinkers we might...

Am I a Sellout? Why I Work for an Adoption Agency

When I was asked to contribute to Gazillion Voices, I knew it presented a great opportunity to begin bridging the gap between adoptee advocates and adoption agencies. The impetus for this article was based on my interactions with adult adoptees outside of the office and the seemingly inevitable issue of why I work for an adoption agency in the first place. It’s been clear there are some misgivings for anyone attached to Holt (the adoption agency I work for), and while some of it’s justified, there may be more to the story than meets the eye. Or it’s entirely possible...

Adoption Day and The First Day of School

A few days ago, as I stepped into an air-conditioned Target to purchase some toothpaste, I was abruptly reminded that summer was coming to a close and fall was rolling around the corner. I felt my heart drop to the pit of my stomach, and I caught myself gasping for air. What is always synonymous with the beginning of fall? School, of course. At my local Target store, I noticed the dollar shelves being lined with back-to-school junk and all of the bathing suits had red labels screaming, “Buy me! Summer is ending!” As my summer vacation period comes to...

Adopteephobia

What if I am not missing a person, place, or thing? Rather, I am denied the words that are shaping my life. The absence of these words is no less heartbreaking than the loss of my first family, culture, and language. However, these words can interrupt, resist, and heal the undeniable sickness of adoption trauma. Therefore, in an effort to stop missing that which cannot be replaced, I am calling out ADOPTEEPHOBIA. ADOPTEEPHOBIA [uh-dop-tee-foh-bee-uh] (n.) The irrational fear and hatred of adoptees. Origin: White supremacy, patriarchy, class subordination, disability injustice, Christian hegemony. ADOPTEEPHOBIA [uh-dop-tee-foh-bee-uh] (n.) The pervasive, restrictive, and deadly...

Adoptees on the Power, Peril and Promise of Ongoing Reunion, Part II of III

Ji In Lugtu: On the Artificiality of First Meeting, The Immense Challenge of Translating Opposite Emotional Realities, The Myth of Closure We begin this second installment with Ji In Lugtu, a 37-year-old writer, editor and mom living in the Seattle area. Lugtu’s reunion with her birth family happened in 2002 during her first trip back to Korea. I was twenty-six at the time and going through a lot of identity stuff. I was out on my own working. It was a time when I was just getting a feel for where I wanted to go in my career and in...

Acknowledgements, Preface, & Chapter 1

Hank Aaron’s Daughter: Acknowledgements, Preface, & Chapter 1 Cover by Christopher Harrison Acknowledgements So many people and communities have supported the evolution and development of this project, and I am deeply indebted to each and every one of them. Thank you to all my readers, whose candor and encouragement kept me going even when I was sure all the narrative threads would not come together: Karen Hausdoerffer, Christopher Cross, Kenna Cottman, Tayari Jones, Dana Johnson, Tony Ardizzone, Sarah Park Dahlen, Elaine Kim, Kathy Solomon, Evelyn Fazio, the first commercial editor who really “got” the story, believed in its potential, and...

A Social Justice Framework for Adoption

ADOPTERISM [uh-dop-ter-iz-hum] (n.): The invisible box surrounding the adoption triad that positions adoptees, adoptive parents, and first families in opposition to one another. ~Laura Klunder, “Adopteephobia,” Gazillion Voices (March 5, 2014) Reframing Adoption within Adopterism and Adopteephobia Adopterism is the structural power dynamic in which adopters have access to power and privilege, and families of origin and adoptees are positioned as targets of intimate, institutional, and systemic violence. Adopterism is a symptom of multiple and intersecting oppressions including racism, classism, genderism, and ableism. Within the system of adopterism, adoptees are denied access to birth records, under the guise of protecting...

A Reply to the Vitriol

The rant. Angry words splashed onto a virtual page. Nonsensical. “Adoption is child trafficking! It should never happen under any circumstance!” Where does this person live that they can make this statement with such venom, with such determined and righteous force? It sounds like privilege. My mom lay dying. Is this your ‘real’ mom or your ‘adopted’ mom? I hate that question. I didn’t used to. For a long time, I viewed it as a need for clarification, a way of explaining how having two moms works. However, it’s complicated. I share genes with one woman, but nothing else; I...

A Reflection on Mama’s Day & What I’d Take With Me to Mars

Until the age of 29, I had never met anybody who looked like me. That is, until I met my birth mother. This is the memory I’d take with me to Mars. In June, I attended the Allied Media Conference in Detroit for the first time. Described as a “collaborative laboratory of media-based organizing strategies for transforming our world,” it is an annual gathering of healers and rabble rousers of all kinds that pays particular attention to centering the stories, experiences, and leadership of women, people with disabilities, queer and trans* folks, people of color, lower income people, immigrants, and...