The literature of adoption is a fictional genre in itself. Adoptees know it to be generally as fantastical as any space opera—and just as entertaining to the masses.
Every story must begin with the vulnerable but good-hearted poor birth mother who loves her baby very much but cannot take care of it (the birth father is always conspicuously absent in these narratives). There is a kindly, upper-middle-class, usually white couple who desperately wants a child, and have pursued all avenues in order to get one (if the couple is adopting internationally, they are in a rich country in the Global North, and have spent years on various lists, waiting for an available child, many times spending thousands of dollars). They fight, despite all odds, to build their family through adoption, in the process creating a healthy, happy, thriving child who eventually grows into a healthy, happy, thriving adult who has bonded perfectly with their new colorblind family. All this miraculous transformation from a poor, brown, cast-off orphan. Love conquers all.
Once the birth mother has given up the child, she is no longer part of the story.
Once the child is adopted, there is no talk of loss of first family, culture, language, or community. The adoption is simply a bureaucratic event that happened, and then is over.
Since the birth father was not part of the story from the beginning, he is not part of the adoptee’s story as it progresses.
And if you ask about any of the particularities of this literature of adoption: who is adopting whom, from where to where, what are the racial dynamics of the transaction, the role that money plays, corruption, the trauma of removal, the burden of assimilation, you are branded an angry and maladjusted adoptee.
When most of the literature written about a marginalized group of people comes from white adoptive parents who are psychologists, sociologists, creative writers, and professors who don’t identify themselves as adoptive parents in their “objective” work, what other possible outcome could there be?
This is how I came to understand epistemological violence.
In my body.
Copyright © 2023 by Shannon Gibney. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.