Thanks for asking.
Lyrical and informative, An Adoptee Lexicon is a glossary of adoption terminology from the viewpoint of an adult adoptee.
Contemplating religion, politics, science, and human rights, Karen Pickell, who was born and adopted in the late 1960s, intersperses personal commentary and snippets from her own experience with history and statistics pertaining to child development and the adoption industry. The collection of micro essays is presented as an organically ordered glossary, along with a robust list of sources and suggested reading as well as an alphabetical index, creating layers of association between words commonly used when discussing adoption.
Pickell draws connections between contemporary American political issues and the social climate that led to a tsunami of adoptions in the decades following World War II through the early 1970s—a period known as the Baby Scoop Era—and also touches on the complexity of transracial and international adoptions.
Throughout An Adoptee Lexicon, the focus remains firmly on adopted people—their perceptions, their needs, and their right to fully exist in exactly the way non-adopted people do.
If you’ve been following me here, you’ll recall, too, that I’m publishing this book as the first project of my new micro press in order to test out the process. I’m looking forward to the conversations this book will begin and also to helping others’ words be heard in the very near future.
An Adoptee Lexicon will be published later this summer. Be sure to follow Raised Voice Press.
This week I’d like to talk about one story in a daunting book I’m in the process of working through, The Best American Short Stories of the Century, edited by John Updike and Katrina Kenison. I intend to read all 795 pages of stories and biographical notes, which obviously will take quite a long time. Today I’m up to page 158.
The story I read this morning was called “My Dead Brother Comes to America,” a fascinating title. It was originally published in The Windsor Quarterly in 1934, and was written by Alexander Godin. The piece tells the tale of a mother and her three children arriving in New York on a steamship, en route to reunite with their husband/father who had left the Ukraine for America eight years earlier. Through the eyes of the thirteen-year-old narrator, I was able to clearly see the emigrants aboard the ship, the nastiness of their accomodations, the indifference of the officials who examined them upon their arrival at Ellis Island. I was able to feel the despair that had brought them across the ocean, the emptiness of a young boy lost in a strange place and in a family that had been “broken into many shards.”
This is a truer tale than I have read in any history book.
What we know of Alexander Godin is that he was born in the Ukraine in 1909 and arrived in New York in 1922. We know he worked as a bottler in a chemical plant and that he wrote a novel called On the Threshold. We know nothing more, not even the year of his death (assuming he has passed), according to the biographical notes. Another source I found via Google claims “Alexander Godin” was a psyeudonym of a writer named Joseph Katz. In any case, we seem to have lost track of Godin himself though his story has survived for 78 years to be read by me, and will likely survive for many years to come due to its inclusion in this volume.
I wonder what Alexander Godin would think of this. I wonder if, when he set his story down on paper, he considered how he could relate the tale in a way that would be universal, that would carry meaning for a wide audience, that would ensure its longevity. I wonder if he considered how to turn the story of this one boy’s family turmoil into a social commentary about the larger issue of mass emigration to America. I wonder if he worried about whether his effort would be deemed true literature.
Or, did he simply aim to tell his story in the best way he could. I wonder…