REVIEW: Rooted in Adoption: A Collection of Adoptee Reflections.
Veronica Breaux and Shelby Kilgore, 2020.
Rooted in Adoption is a new anthology of short pieces by adoptees reflecting on their experience as adoptees. As such, it is a wonderful addition to the growing canon of books, films and podcasts that bring our often silenced or neglected adoptee voices forward.
The forward by Jules Alvarado positions these pieces of autobiographical writing in the context of how loss is overlooked for adoptees, which is such an important theme that I have written about here in my series on grief, loss and adult adoptees. Alvarado discusses the healing power of bringing forth the voice of the adoptee to speak their truth, a truth that is more nuanced than the traditional narrative of the grateful adoptee. Some of the adoptees in this anthology are grateful, indeed, and the are so much more.
Rooted in Adoption itself is a collection of 47 pieces, ranging in length from a single paragraph to a few pages, with anonymous authors. The voices are intimate and powerful. The pieces are full of anger and joy, rage and mourning, questions and adoptees own search for answers. As early as in the first piece of the anthology, “It’s Complicated,” with the author’s nuanced telling of her story with its layers of loss and her identification with the book “Are you my mother”, I felt my own connection with the difficult questions and feelings that come with being an adopted person.
One thing I loved about the pieces in this book is the dialogue that happens between the pieces, as authors touch in their own way on different themes and experiences. The authors are all located in terms of ethnicity, gender, current age, age at adoption place of birth and closed or open adoption, which helps the reader contextualize some of the pieces and makes even more powerful the way themes echo from a teenaged adoptee to someone in their 60s. Themes emerge by type of adoption, for instance the transracial adoptee experience, and themes cross over those boundaries, like adoption-related trauma and loss, identity, and what search and reunion mean in our lives.
I also appreciated the variety of adoptive family experiences pointed to in the book, and the variety of voices throughout the life cycle. As a therapist, I work with adoptees whose awareness of their adoption as an influence on them now has usually just changed dramatically. Maybe they had a life event that brings it up (birth, death, marriage, divorce) or maybe they have just had an inner shift that brings their feelings and identity into question in a new way. So an anthology with so much variety of circumstance reminded me of my client work, and how adoption is a part of us at all times, and then it comes more to the foreground at particular times and in particular circumstances.
Another useful conversation that emerges within these pieces is how we do search and reunion now. The book includes references to a variety of ways people have searched, or not, found, or not, and reunited or not, and all the feelings that come with those processes. It includes people who have done DNA or social media searches, people who searched and found as records were opened in their state, as well as people in open adoptions. These newer ways of doing reunion and contact are so important in our current situation and it is great to hear individual voices talking about their own processes.
The book includes an explanation of adoption-related terms that is adoptee centric and non-stigmatizing.
This really is a support group in book form, with something for everyone, and I recommend it not only for adoptees on heir own healing journey and other members of the adoption triad but also for all the people outside the triad who love adoptees and want to understand more of the adoptee experience.
If you want to purchase Rooted in Adoption, you can find it here and other booksellers. The book also has its own facebook page which you can like or follow, and Shelby Kilgore, one of the editors, has a youtube channel you can also explore.
I will be announcing new support and therapy groups for adult adoptees soon to be held online, so you do not need to be in the local NYC area to participate. If you are interested in hearing about opportunities to do group work with me and in a group of other adopted people, please join my mailing list or just reach out directly to let me know you are interested.