Do not let the first person to show support be a peer or teacher. Your child…
by Guest Contributor Sara M. Erdmann, MFA, PhD
The image of the American adoptive mother has emerged gradually since adoption’s inception in 1851, but it has always existed within a racialized and heteronormative context (“Massachusetts Adoption of Children Act, 1851”).
According to the American adoption narrative, adoptive mothers are white, heterosexual women; their decision to adopt a child is an act of goodwill, and, in cases of transracial adoption, even a badge of racial acceptance.
This particular adoptive mother has become an accepted, albeit marginalized, part of mothering culture and is the one for whom books are written, organizations formed, and resources developed. This adoptive mother has defined the adoptive mother identity in modern America and become one of many voices within the larger motherhood narrative.
Yet, research confirms that white, heterosexual women are not the only ones adopting children: many Black and queer (*) non-biological children, but, save for mentions in a few isolated academic texts, their experiences are almost entirely absent from the larger adoption narrative. Read the Post Who’s Your Mama?: Race, Sexuality, and the Adoptive Mother [Academic Essay]
By Guest Contributor Sara Erdmann
Despite the fact that international adoption has become commonplace — most recent studies show that over 70,000 Chinese girls were adopted into the United States between 1991 and 2010 — Beth Nonte Russell’s path to motherhood was a nontraditional one. In her 2007 memoir, Forever Lily: an Unexpected Mother’s Journey to Adoption, Russell describes accompanying a friend who intends to adopt on a trip to China.
This book, while almost 7 years old, is continuously recommended across the web for adoptive mothers — it’s pinned on Pinterest and a regular on the book club circuit. In an era obsessed with memoir, it seems only natural that Russell would choose to chronicle her journey as such, particularly considering the major surprise (read: book sales) that characterizes her trip: Russell’s friend changes her mind. Quickly becoming the heroine of her own story, Russell looks down at the little girl she has only just met and begins conceiving a history in which the two of them were meant to be together. Eager to substantiate her sudden role as Lily’s mother, Russell proclaims that “there was a past life connection between [her] and Lily,” and that her “longing brought [Lily] into being.” To suggest that this child living in an orphanage in China exists because Russell willed her into being is problematic to say the least, but Russell goes one step further in her desire to feel permanently and unalterably connected despite her and Lily’s cultural and racial differences.
White adoptive families are regularly challenged by the idea of incorporating their child’s birth culture into their family. Researchers have long questioned whether an adopted child’s birth culture should be ignored, as in cases when families essentially raise their child of color as white, or whether it should be embraced, even to the point of trying to mimic a Chinese upbringing in the United States (think Chinese New Year parties and Mandarin lessons). In Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1990s, sociologists Michael Omi and Howard Winant observe that “there is a continuous temptation to think of race as an essence, as something fixed, concrete, and objective. And there is also an opposite temptation: to imagine race as a mere illusion, a purely ideological construct which some ideal non-racist social order would eliminate.” Because Russell sees Lily’s race as an essence, something unalterable, and she needs to feel she was meant to be Lily’s mother, she relies on personal epiphanies and memories that confirm that, in some way, she is also Chinese.
Read the Post Chinese like You: White Adoptive Mothers and the Reality of Racial Privilege
“There’s this story out there: ‘We started when we fell out of the plane. We…
By Arturo R. García
Since the release of the new trailer for Man Of Steel, there’s been increased hope among many Superman fans that the Christopher Nolan/Zack Snyder collaboration will bring luster back to the character’s cinematic incarnation.
But some fans’ idea of how they want the character’s bicultural nature to play out paints yet another disconcerting picture of geekdom’s self-styled “colorblindness.”
“What I remember most about that first stop was that he asked “Where are you…
TRAILER: Somewhere Between – A Feature Documentary from Linda Knowlton on Vimeo. Check out…
By Arturo R. García
Finding Fernanda is a sobering story–even more so when you stop to think that it focuses on two women out of thousands at opposite ends of a corrupt system.
Journalist Erin Siegal’s book stretches across the continent: it examines the notorious child adoption business in Guatemala via the ordeals suffered by both Guatemalan native Mildred Alvarado, who loses two of her children not just to kidnappers but to her country’s legal and political processes, and Tennessee resident Betsy Emanuel, an American lured in by a Christian adoption agency when she begins the process of adopting one of the children, not knowing the dirty business behind her wish for another child.
Working with a local journalist over the course of three years, Siegal sheds light on the various players: the American agencies and their in-country networks of handlers and attorneys; the medical professionals and court officials who are either on the take or willfully negligent, like the Guatemala City pediatrician who sees his practice expand as he becomes a go-to resource for adoptionists:
On a child’s first visit to his office, Dr. Castillo would ask about his or her background and felt he had no choice but to take the answers provided to him by cuidadoras (caretakers) at face value. Every time one of the women hesitated, he felt chilled. More than half the children examined at his office didn’t have proper paperwork, such as a birth certificate. Sometimes the names would change. It wasn’t his responsibility to investigate, the pediatrician told himself; he was just there to make sure that the kids were being cared for.
Over time, cases like Mildred’s become a cause celebre in Guatemala, attracting more and more attention from the press and the underfunded authorities before a human rights organization represents her in court. For her part, Betsy also feels her own betrayal at the hands of the agency, pushing her to ask questions of her own, culminating in an encounter with Mildred.
In an e-mail interview with Racialicious, Siegal shared more details about the women at the heart of Fernanda, the industry that brought them together, and her own experience as an American journalist working in Guatemala. The transcript, which includes some spoilers, is under the cut.