In Their Own Voices: Transracial Adoptees Tell Their Stories

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It was written shortly after he left law school, and is not a political book. Jaiya John was the first black child in the history of New Mexico to be adopted by a white family. In this emotionally honest memoir he talks about being raised in a white family. He was loved deeply by his adoptive parents and it is through their love that he puts all the pieces of past and future.

This is a book for parents or teens, but I suggest that you read it first so you can talk with your teen about it. Alperson adopted her daughter from China as a single mom.

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It interviewed several transracial adoptees that were born in the early 70's. Jun 14, Amanda G. Several of the adoptees grew up to be psychologically alienated from other black people and seem to lay responsibility for that at the feet of black culture, rather than white culture's efforts to maintain segregation and their white adoptive families' failure to incorporate positive connectedness to other African Americans. In the s and s, the practice of "matching" children with parents on the basis of characteristics such as race, nationality, and religion was the norm. Worse still, there are neither victims nor aggres- sors. However, the stories of the transracial adoptees do not necessarily follow the scripts staged for them, allowing us to see some ofthe assumptions behind the norms of recognition.

I like this book for many reasons, mostly the voice and the the fact that she includes the stories of adult transracial adoptees. Great book if you are considering adopting across racial lines. It is a great starting place for transracial adoption parents to have a better understanding of what it means to be black in America. Roorda also does a good job of summarizing the history of transracial adoption in the US.

There is an appendix full of tips for parents on how best to raise interracially adopted kids. This one is a keeper and belongs on the bookshelf of any parent who adopts across racial lines. While appropriate for all types of transracial adoption, it is specifically written for adoptions where the parents are white and the kids are black. In the third book, the children of the families in the other two books share their experiences with multiracial adoption. For example, Doc Hata tells of his own imagined relation to Sunny: "I was disappointed, initially.

I had assumed the child and I would have a ready, natural affinity, and that my colleagues. But when I saw her for the first time I realized there could be no such conceit for us, no easy persuasion. Her hair, her skin, were there to see, self-evident, and it was obvious how some other color or colors ran deep within her" This is one of a few ambiguous references to the possibility of Sunny's black blood, but it reveals how histories of racialization crop up, uncannily, to disrupt famil- ial imaginaries premised on a "single kind and blood.

In other words, just when he thinks he can erase his own participation in the Japanese army's imperial efforts by adopting and forging a natural father-daughter relationship with a Korean girl, another history of war and occupation, the US role in the Korean war, emerges in the very place of that erasure. Several histories intertwine and overlap in Hata's adoption of Sunny: the history of Japanese colonization of Korea; the presence of the US army in Korea during the Korean War; the history of black-white relations and Japanese-white relations in the US.

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Sunny, as Hata's adopted daughter from Korea, figures these doubled, layered histories, emphasizing the notion that one's story does not begin from a single, whole, origin, but is always preceded by and embedded in other histories. The desire to trace our lives back to a single, whole origin co-exists anxiously with the unsettlement of context that is enacted by the adopted child. Unsettling the Closure of Adoption The anthologies representing the life-stories of transracial adoptees restlessly seek closure by staging the recovery of origins and the act of racial or cultural recognition.

But just as A Gesture Life de-couples the imagination of the transracially adopted child from a narrative project that privileges a singular history and origin, it simultaneously reveals the difficulties in such closures.

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Indeed, Doc Hata reveals the ambivalences embedded in the language of adoption itself and in its attempts to enact closure. In sounding the well-intentioned voice of adoptive parenthood, Hata gives us a voice often at war with itself over its own desires and imaginative constructions. The fissures and ambivalences in Doc Hata's voice, the problematic affect of this text, betray the avoid- ance and missed encounters that are at the heart of thinking about adoption as a transferential relation. Hata's voice reveals a split between affect and language in the narration of adoption.

There is a persistent gap in his narrative voice between what he feels and what he does not want to ac- knowledge. For example. While the narrative rhetoric has all the trappings of the standard adoption sentiments, the reader is also made aware of the strangeness, or uncanniness, of the language in which this relation is couched. The language matches the rhetoric of adoption at the same time that it seems oddly out of place.

The idea of a divine providence makes adoption less arbitrary and more natural, but "providence" is matched strangely with precisely what it is trying to erase: the social "institutions" that mediate the process of adoption. Even as Hata's language seeks to close off the ambiguities and anxieties of the adoption process, the words he uses betray the difficulties of closure.

Hata continually defends against his own desires, often recon- structing his relation to Sunny in order to fit this misrecognition. His desire for a child is clouded: "But I wanted a girl, a daughter— I was as I think of it now strangely unmovable on the issue. My desire for a girl was unknown to me.

I found myself speaking of a completeness, the unitary bond of a daughter and father" Hata repeats the romantic and sentimental lan- guage of adoption as if it were second nature. But this repetition is also a form of avoidance that manifests the entanglements of recognizing desire. The slippage in his prose—moving back and forth as it does between wanting a "girl" and wanting a "daugh- ter"—reveals the inseparability of the act of recounting from the desires that remain opaque to the speaker.

Even as Hata recounts his explanation he is telling the story of his explanation to the social worker , his language is inhabited by his unacknowledged emotions, the projections and demands that he makes on the other, and the desire that confounds his speech.

In Their Own Voices: Transracial Adoptees Tell Their Stories

Likewise, the adoptive relation ambivalently moves between the refusal to acknowledge the other and the desire for an acknowl- edged relation. While Doc Hata often points to his desire for a real father-daughter bond, having a real family, he also recounts his willftil ignoring of his daughter.

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Sunny, as part of how he manages his "cherished relations. JERNG i t. In a way, it was a kind of ignoring that I did, an avoidance of her as Sunny—difficult, rash, angry Sunny—which I masked with a typical performance of consensus building and subtle pressure, which always is the difficult work of attempting to harmonize one's life and the lives of those whom one cherishes" The work of "harmonizing one's life and the lives of those one cherishes" is revealed as a process that avoids the difficult asym- metric nature of the parent-child relationship.

A Gesture Life gives us both the sentimental language of adoption which wishes away the problems of kinship and exposes the ways in which unac- knowledged desires are embedded in the language of adoption itself The problematic closure of adoption is made evident, finally, in the ambivalent closure of the novel. The first line of this novel, "People know me here," rubs uneasily against the final line of the novel, "Come almost home" 1, The former announces the project of recognition at the heart of this life-story.

Doc Hata narrates himself as the example of the good, assimilated immigrant whose quest for recognition and belonging has been fulfilled. But this process of assimilation is complicated by the ambivalences of the adoption narrative, captured by the latter phrase, "come almost home. Each of these acts of constructing and transmitting family is haunted by the very closures wished for.

As Hata intones: "We wish it [parent-child relationship] somehow pure, this thing, we wish it unmixed, unalloyed with human hope or piety or fear or maybe even love. For we wish it not to be ornate. And yet it always is" Even the haltings and ambivalences of these sentences, and the odd language choice of "ornate," speak to the ways in which the language of family often covers over its own ambivalences and gaps.

Throughout the novel, adoption and the 'familial' holds out the promise of the unity of the parent-child bond or of a whole family. The meditative, elegiac nature of the ending resists closure, as evident by the series of negations that specifically run against a narrative of recognition as retum: "Perhaps I'll travel. But I think it won't be any kind of pilgrimage. I won't be seeking out my destiny or fate. I won't attempt to find comfort in the visage of a creator or the forgiving dead" Resistant to the narrative closures that mark the search narratives and roots narratives of adoption discourse to the very end.

Lee's novel forces us to dwell in the uncomfortable space of being "almost home. Lee's novel suggests the impossibility of narrating adoptive identity in terms of a single origin, a singular life, or in recognition of where you come from. But it is also finally attendant to the closures that both adopters and adoptees often wish for, but never quite receive.

In Their Own Voices Transracial Adoptees Tell Their Stories

For example, narrative conventions such as the adopted child's search and reunion with her or his biological parents have undergirded adoption debates about whether or not the adopted child should search, and should the adopted child have the right to know who his or her biological parents are even if it infringes on the interests and desires of the latter. See Melosh "Adoption". Maclntyre describes narrative in a way that suggests an implicit biologism: "I am what I may justifiably be taken by others to be in the course of living out a story that runs from my birth to my death; I am the subject of a history that is my own and no one else's, that has its own peculiar meaning.

I am bom with a past.

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The possession of an historical identity and the possession of a social identity coincide" , This implicit biologism gets reiterated in argu- ments that show that adoptees lack a coherent sense of themselves precisely because they cannot construct their own life narrative. Haimes, for example, writes that adoptees' search for origins is expressive of their need for narrative continuity.

Haimes's account of adoption suggests that narrative assumes organic continuity. The "beginning, middle, and end" of narrative history are biologically coded. The material signs of biology—a mother's medical history. JERNG "full" birth certificates, a family tree—become the materials for a narrative sense of self.

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Modeling the need for biography on the search for origins naturalizes and biologizes the narrative act: adoptees cannot have biographies, they cannot account for themselves, without recourse to the construction of narrative based on the logic of biology. Biology forms the ground for both a narrative identity and an adoptive self. Perhaps this is why, as Janet Beizer has noted, "there is an equally powerful move [in adoption discourse] to readmit biology, genealogy, and genetics into the adoption picture" I do not wish to dismiss the difference between the polemical aspects of sociological work on adoption and fictions that utilize the trope of adoption.

But what I wish to trace is how both fictional and non-fictional works that treat adoption share narrative norms that embed assumptions about racialized personhood within adoption.

In Their Own Voices: Transracial Adoptees Tell Their Stories

Nearly forty years after researchers first sought to determine the effects, if any, on children adopted by families whose racial or ethnic background differed from. Editorial Reviews. Review. "This book is the story of every person who has lived in an environment in which he or she didn't quite fit. Yet, while the stories in.

My focus on narrativity and recognition is my attempt to re-orient the framework of' authenticity and inauthenticity. See Vincent Cheng's critique of attitudes toward authenticity in the discourse of adoption. What I am calling transracial adoptees' demand for recognition should be read in the context of Taylor's influential account, "The Politics of Recogni- tion," which argues for the centrality of the notion of "recognition" in modem democracies.

His model for recognition, drawing on Mikhail Bakhtin, is dialogical, suggesting that "We define our identity always in dialogue with, sometimes in struggle against, the things our significant others want to see in us" Taylor argues that the politics of recognition should begin with the presumption that "all human cultures. It is then through a dialogical process that we can find substantive support for that presumption. Bhabha critiques Taylor's notion of recognition as being based on a notion of reciprocity that presumes the horizon or "background," to use Taylor's terms, by which their dialogue makes sense: "there is a presumption of dialogical recognition as a form of social and psychic reciprocity that makes the fusing of horizons a largely consensual and homoge- nizing norm of cultural value or worth, based on the notion that cultural difference is fundamentally synchronous" Bhabha critiques Taylor for making the negotiation of cultural difference into a synchronous process that already assumes a reciprocal relationship between two whole cultures.

I draw on this critique in reading the asymmetries and non-reciprocal aspects of the adoptive relation and in order to elaborate on a notion of dialogical recognition. Appiah draws on the work of Taylor and Maclntyre in order to emphasize the constitutive role that narrative plays in making sense of our lives Ethics of Identity Butler critiques the assumption that narratives can transparently tell or recount our lives Although this piece focuses mainly on narrative, the problem of recognition is present in the practices of transracial and transnational adoption more largely.

Culture camps organized for parents who have adopted transnationally are meant to give adopted children a sense of their culture, and perhaps more importantly , help adoptive parents 'place' their children imaginatively and securely in terms of a socially recog- nized identity based around a culture or nationality of origin. Yngvesson does an ethnographic study of these roots trips in which Swedish parents take their adopted children 'back' to Chile. Swedish parents, as Yngvesson suggests, attempt to materially reconstitute their child's origins so as to complete a narrative for themselves and their family, and produce a ground of recognition.