Friday, May 23, 2014

As Rightful Narrators: Adoption, RAD, and Storytelling


Recently, the New York Times Motherlode blog posted an essay by author Tina Traster entitled, "You're not my Real Mother."  The essay processed her gut reaction to hearing the infamous "you're not my real mom" phrase from her daughter.  Traster retorted "well who is then?" and directed her daughter never to say the phrase again.  Traster described her own hurt feelings while disclosing her daughter's adoption narrative and Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) diagnosis to readers across the globe.  Her daughter's narrative and diagnosis are also embedded in the premise of her book Rescuing Julia Twice.  The reaction to the article exposed sincere concern in the readership regarding the level of information-sharing on the child's behalf in the article.  One Motherlode reader conversely posed the question: shouldn't parenting essays show the challenges of parenting, including a parent's raw and honest revelations however imperfect they may be?

In this entry, I will not comment on the RAD diagnosis (or diagnoses as reflected in the DSM-5) or that how it is popularly portrayed and understood often varies dramatically from the diagnostic criteria.  Rather, I want to respond directly to the above question by explaining specifically why RAD narratives like Traster's are troubling to me.

What do I mean when I call stories like Traster's as one among countless "RAD narratives?"  It has to do with the fact that these stories reinforce the dominant adoption discourse where adoptees and first parents are the topics of discussions that distance the reader from understanding by pathologizing them and issuing second-hand disclosure of their lives.  Rather than being informed of what relational trauma and attachment disruption are like from the perspective of a person who experienced it, these particular narratives tell the child's story on their behalf and the child's role is that of a problem to be solved.  To be rescued.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

"I do not Have to Help Them": Pushing Back Against the Apathy of Those With Power


"The Representative would like to meet with you," came a young woman's voice over the speaker of my cell phone. "It is urgent. You must come to Harrisburg as soon as possible." I agreed to attend, and quickly contacted two other adoption activists. It was the summer of 2010. I was relatively new to adoption activism and knew better than to go by myself. I knew why she had called.  This legislator had submitted a bill that competed with a pending original birth certificate access bill.  After his office ignored our attempts to engage with him personally, we launched a social media campaign in opposition of the bill.  We knew he had heard our voices, yet nothing prepared me for what I walked into that day.

Joined by two other activists, I nervously sat down at the large oval table. Several Representatives were there, including the bill sponsor. He was flanked by numerous staff.  No one looked happy.

"Can you tell me what this is about?" he said sternly. "My offices received so many calls from your organization's call-to-action that our phone lines went down."

Thursday, January 30, 2014

"Your Child Should not be Your First Black Friend": NPR, Transracial Adoption & the Powerful Voice of Chad Goller-Sojourner

It has been two weeks since NPR's The Sunday Show aired a segment on transracial adoption that caused outrage within the adoption community.  To give a brief re-cap, Angela Tucker, an African American transracial adult adoptee who is the subject of the documentary "Closure," an adoption blogger, and a former adoption professional was interviewed for the segment only to be told that her interview would not be used.  Instead, NPR chose an interview with a white adoptive parent of three young transracially adopted children.

As the initial point of contact between NPR and Angela, I reached out to the producer once I learned that Angela's interview would not be aired, and with Angela's permission, I urged them to reconsider.  After further correspondence with NPR, I learned that they chose the adoptive parent interview because they were interested in her faith background, her geographical location, and her speaking skills, confident that the history of their show portrayed transracial adoption from "many angles."  The appropriateness of a white parent speaking about the racism experienced by transracial adoptees was not factored into the decision process.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Lost Daughters: Writing Adoption from a Place of Empowerment and Peace....Now Available!

I am proud to announce that Lost Daughters: Writing Adoption from a Place of Empowerment and Peace is now available in ebook format with print copies forthcoming, on Amazon.com.

This anthology, boasting nearly 30 Lost Daughters authors, was edited by Amanda H.L. Transue-Woolston, Julie Stromberg, Karen Pickell, and Jennifer Anastasi. It features a collection of writings aimed to bring readers the perspectives of adopted women and highlight their strength, resiliency, and wisdom.  We thank CQT Media and Publishing and Land of Gazillion Adoptees for publishing this incredible book.

The beautiful cover art of painted flowers was provided by Carlynne Hershberger. Proceeds from this anthology will be donated to a charity to be determined.

"Moving beyond racial, ethnic and professional silos frequently observed in adoption, Lost Daughters brings us together to witness the courage, strength and amazement of a diverse group of women who represent the true fabric of adoption."  --Susan Harris O'Connor, MSW, National Speaker, Solo Performance Artist, Activist Author, The Harris Narratives: An Introspective Study of a Transracial Adoptee

"These are brave, strong essays written from the heart by talented, courageous women who pull no punches. Anyone not already familiar with the inner ramifications of being adopted to the adoptee will be blown away." --Lorraine Dusky, first mother, author of Birthmark, founding board member of ALMA, and founder of [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum.

I thank Lost Daughters readers for their support, and our authors for their amazing contributions to this beautiful and powerful work.  Please visit the book listing at Amazon.com here.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

On NPR & Transracial Adoption: Who Gets to do the Teaching?


A few days ago, I received an email from NPR looking for Angela Tucker’s contact information for an upcoming show on The Sunday Conversation.   I was told that the purpose of the segment was to provide insight from someone "personally affected by stories that made headlines."  In this case, they explained, they wanted to interview someone affected by the comments regarding Mitt Romney's transracially adopted grandchild made on the Melissa Harris-Perry Show.  Angela is a black transracially adopted woman who is the subject of the powerful documentary "Closure," an adoption blogger, and a former adoption professional.  Angela is a friend and a fellow author at Lost Daughters, and the producer anticipated that I could get into contact with her quickly.   Fumbling on my phone in an airport, breaking my own no-email-on-vacation-rule, I excitedly connected NPR with Angela.  I knew that an interview with Angela about transracial adoption would be incredible.