Do you have book recommendations for transracial adoption reading?


I am  a 55 year old adoptee and have been reading here for awhile. I had a friend recommend the book Secret Daughter which is about an adoption from India, and apparently a best seller.I found it a bit superficial from an adoptee point of view. I was wondering if you have read any fiction or non fiction that you felt better represented the complexities of transracial adoption?

8 thoughts on “Do you have book recommendations for transracial adoption reading?

  1. I highly recommend “The Language of Blood” & “Fugitive Visions” by Jane Jeong Trenka.

    I also appreciated “A Single Square Picture” by Katy Robinson.

    The above three memoirs are from the Korean adoptee experience/perspective, but I believe they very candidly depict the realities & complexities faced by transracial adoptees.

    The anthology, “Voices from Another Place” is another I would recommend. It consists of a diverse selection of pieces written by Korean adoptees from the US, Europe & Australia.

  2. I am absolutely OBSESSED with Eleana Kim’s book Adopted Territory

    It covers the history of International adoption in Korea (the first and therefore most documented) and its anthropological impact on the adoptees as they came of age and have now found their voices as a diaspora and come to form community. It’s genius is in how inclusive and expansive, thoroughly researched, scholarly, yet accessible it is. Absolutely fascinating stuff, that even though about Korea should be required reading by anyone interested in or concerned about the massive social experiment that transracial international adoption is, and how it affects the lives of its subjects, in all its iterations and nuances.

    Ms. Kim is a giant, and my ONLY complaint is the way she uses the word “imaginary.”

    Can’t recommend this book enough.

    And on my must-read list is The girls who went away by Anne Fessler, about the women who lost their children to adoption during the “Baby Scoop Era” of shame and unwed mother’s home coercion.

  3. I was very much struck by Outsiders Within, and its empowering voice. One of the strongest pieces in the book was written by an American Indian, and this brings me to the list of authors I am going to post who do not necessarily speak about adoption, but about the status of being the desired Other, or else the missionary economic and political trafficking of humans that to me lies at the base of international adoption as we know it today.

    So a starting point would be Frantz Fanon, James Baldwin, Stokely Carmichael, Rachid Khalidi, Edward Said.

    We are dispossessed, and have much in common with others likewise far from home.

  4. Today I was reading at CounterPunch an article on the plight of children in the United States, and it made reference to a short story by Ursula Le Guin:

    In a 1973 short story, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” Ursula Le Guin describes a peculiar city where the inhabitants’ prosperity depends entirely upon the endless suffering of a single young child, locked away forever in a cellar. The townspeople ignore the child’s pleas for release because they have learned that his salvation will destroy a world that is utopian in every other way. As Le Guin writes:

    They all understand that their happiness, the beauty of their city, the tenderness of their friendships, the health of their children, the wisdom of their scholars, the skill of their makers, even the abundance of their harvest and the kindly weathers of their skies, depend wholly on this child’s abominable misery.

    Although we may be tempted to look for parallels between this troubling tale and the ills of contemporary U.S. society, our attention should instead be drawn to two striking differences. First, whereas in Omelas one child tragically suffers for the welfare of everyone else, in the United States today many, many more children are abandoned to a metaphorical cellar — not for the greater good, but merely to preserve or enhance the lives of a privileged relative few. Second, the distressing arrangement is unalterable in Omelas, fixed in place by the author’s construction. In our world, the current system instead reflects an outrageous lack of political will and courage.

    The article points out that the story ends with those unable to bear this situation simply leaving the town for the unknown; I found it to be a stunning metaphor for those of us who left everything behind to return to our places of origin.

  5. Frantz Fanon: The Wretched of the Earth

    There is an amazing quote from this book, published decades ago:

    “I love this quote describing the local comprador class from Fanon and The Wretched of the Earth:

    “This is because the native intellectual has thrown himself greedily upon Western culture. Like adopted children who only stop investigating the new family framework at the moment when a minimum nucleus of security crystallizes in their psyche, the native intellectual will try to make European culture his own.”

    Here he shows the two-way process of colonization. One side takes, and the other side acquiesces, and by doing so, justifies and rationalizes the taking.

    It is similar to adoptees who are still “in the fog”; identifying with those who took them.

    it defines local missionaries, orphanages, NGOs, and other foreign “aid” that helps in the pilfering of children.

    From Black Skin: White Masks, Frantz Fanon writes:

    “Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core belief.”

    Adoptees are the rationalized away, the ignored, and the denied.

  6. Here’s a great quote from Stokely Carmichael’s book of collected speeches, Stokely Speaks:

    There are some who say, “Well, we’re the black Americans.” Junk. You ain’t nothing but an African, and you ain’t had nothing to say about where you were born; the white man decided where you would be born, when you would be born, and how you would be born. For us to keep talking this junk about “We’re Americans first”—that’s junk. We’re Africans. We happened to be born in America because the white man needed us there, and that’s the only reason why. That does not make you an American, incidentally. It makes you a tool of America.

  7. Adoption in America
    E. Wayne Carp, editor;jsessionid=8A9A3B14D4E7F358CFFF276D9F6AD1EC?id=16238
    The most difficult thing when researching adoption is trying to find works that are historically grounded, as compared with works that simply reinforce the mythologies of the dominant discourse, or else find a toothless place within post-modernism to chew on this gristle for the nth time. This book has as a sub-title “historical perspectives”, and here it does not disappoint, providing history, context, statistics, and narratives that give a clear picture of the current adoption status quo: A fictitious and manufactured notion of “family” with purely political and economic motivations and precursors. Well worth the read.

    Americanizing the American Indians
    Francis Paul Prucha, editor
    During the Adoption Initiative Conference recently held at St. John’s University, part of my presentation about adoption spoke of the attempt to destroy native peoples via “Americanization”, the wholesale schooling of a younger generation away from tribal ways in what can only be referred to as cultural genocide. Nothing is more condemnatory of this practice than the very words used by those who advocated for it. And so this book, which is subtitled: “Writings by the ‘Friends of the Indian’ “. “He is to disappear as an Indian of the past” is one choice quote from this book that I admit is difficult to read, especially when the United States is still hosting conferences that borrow from this title, for example, “The Friends of Syria”. It doesn’t end, and this book stands as a testament to the efforts of capital to destroy any and all resistance to it.

    Cold War Orientalism
    Christina Klein
    Within adoptee discourse, there is talk about the “model minority within the model minority” (borrowing here from Jae Ran Kim), and the notions of what makes up the “Asian” within the American imagination. Klein in this book gives us a cultural overview that refers back to “the middlebrow imagination”, as produced by the likes of Reader’s Digest, and as put forth by the likes of Pearl S. Buck, and the ramifications of this imagination in terms of the foreign policy of the country all the way down to how Asians are treated within the society. As I explore similar targetings of Arabs and Muslims within the world of adoption, I am grateful for works such as this one that catalog in such an incredible way how America’s cold-war mentality saw foreign nations once subjugated as further requiring the conquering of their populations’ “hearts and minds”. Set on repeat. And repeat again….

    Conceiving the New World Order
    edited by Faye D. Ginsburg and Rayna Rapp
    In researching for a presentation at the Adoption Initiative Conference next week in New York, I came across some references to this book which has been extremely useful, especially as regards adoption and surrogacy. The focus here is a feminist perspective on the politics of kinship, and how such kinship is defined and redefined according to differences in culture, class, place, etc. Heavily referenced and annotated, the collection of essays here is a rich starting point for examining “the global politics of reproduction”.

    The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State
    Frederick Engels
    I picked this up at Book Culture [was: Labyrinth Books] uptown, and it has been useful as I prepare for this conference on adoption at St. John’s University this week, if simply as a reminder to discuss the concept of adoption as it fits into the “gens” or concept of family, proving how close the notion of “adopted” has been historically to slavery or conquered enemies, but also concerning the move from matrilineal to patrilineal societies, and the effects this has had on social structure. We definitely need to push the discussion back to the underpinnings of everything, if we are to have a valid debate on the subject.

    Orphans of Islam
    Jamila Bargach
    I don’t have enough praise for this book, which explores adoption within the Islamic society of Morocco from a variety of angles that I have likewise come to the conclusion are most important when looking at this institution and the countries it targets for the trafficking of their children: The points of view of “orphans” and mothers; the legal, religious, and cultural modes of living and mores that define children and child care in a given society; the unspoken aspects of a lived culture that are not mediated as much as the output of governments, NGOs, foreign edicts, etc. The book concludes with a critique of this outside interference, and a return to a true basis for adoption critique: the man involved in the “unwanted” child, and the man as dictator of social norms that define the child as unwanted in the first place. A sobering and inspiring read that is a start to counter the current trends in Islamophobic mediation of adoption and Islam.

    Shattered Bonds
    Dorothy Roberts
    This is a devastating book, and one that I find is tangential to adoption studies that show the effects of that institution on Native and Indigenous peoples in Anglo-Saxon societies; the difference is here we are talking about the foster care system, but the conclusion is the same: the dominant cultural mode, for reasons having to do with race, class, and cultural difference, is tactically destroying black families and communities. The “get tough” stance that is currently in vogue as a trope within discussions of societal aid to those in need thus becomes a hypocritical “response” to the destruction that basically came from the same place.

  8. Adoptionland: From Orphans to Activists – Ever wondered what adopted people are saying right now about adoption? This anthology begins with personal accounts and then shifts to a bird’s eye view on adoption from domestic, intercountry and transracial adoptees who are now adoptee rights activists. Along with adopted people, this collection also includes the voices of mothers and a father from the Baby Scoop Era, a modern-day mother who almost lost her child to adoption, and ends with the experience of an adoption investigator from Against Child Trafficking. These stories are usually abandoned by the very industry that professes to work for the “best interest of children,” “child protection,” and for families. However, according to adopted people who were scattered across nations as children, these represent typical human rights issues that have been ignored for too long. For many years, adopted people have just dealt with such matters alone, not knowing that all of us—as a community—have a great deal in common.
    The “Unknown” Culture Club: Korean Adoptees, Then and Now – At last, after sixty years of adoption profiteering, these narratives paint a true portrait of adoption–from the back door–by those most affected. This collection, compiled by Korean adoptees, serves as a tribute to transracially adopted people sent all over the world. It has been hailed to be the first book to give Korean adoptees the opportunity to speak freely since the pioneering of intercountry adoption after the Korean War. If you were adopted, you are not alone. These stories validate the experiences of all those who have been ridiculed or outright abused, but have found the will to survive, thrive and share their tale. Adopted people all over the world are reclaiming the right to truth and access to birth documents. This book is a living testament on why previous “orphans” do not endorse the profitable Evangelical Orphan Movement. Those who work in the human rights field, whistleblowers, or adopted, will see the value of this book.After years of forced “positivity” led by the profiteers, it is time to be real.

Adoptees, what do you think? We welcome your replies!

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