The Words We Use: National Adoption Month 2018

Lexicon: the vocabulary of a language, an individual speaker or group of speakers, or a subject. (Merriam-Webster)

I wrote my book An Adoptee Lexicon, in which I discuss forty-five terms that are significant to me as an adopted person, because I want to have a conversation about the words we use surrounding adoption, especially those simple words we come into contact with on an everyday basis, those words that float right past non-adopted people but stop us dead in our tracks.

I began by compiling a long list of terms related in some way to adoption. Then, during each generative writing session, I picked a word from the list that held energy for me, set a timer for twenty minutes, and wrote longhand in a notebook nonstop until those minutes were used up. Later, after many weeks, I began fine-tuning what I’d roughly sketched out and adding the facts and statistics I wanted to include to augment my own thoughts. I didn’t write about every word on my original list, and I didn’t end up using every word I wrote during those generative sessions.

What I ended up with was part memoir, part poetry; a little bit history lesson and a little bit political commentary. The resulting book uses my own experience as a jumping-off point to consider the social policies that shaped adoption’s past and will influence its future. This interpretation of those words from my list that made it into the book is all mine, though not necessarily anyone else’s. That “an” in the title is deliberate and doing a lot of work for such a small, typically overlooked word: this is only one–not every–adoptee’s lexicon.

How do other adoptees react to the words I chose to explore? And what about all those words on my original long list that didn’t end up in the book? I’d like to invite adopted people to join me in conversation during November, which is National Adoption Month (NAM) (also referred to as National Adoption Awareness Month or NAAM) here in the U.S.

In the spirit of the brief bursts of writing I did to begin An Adoptee Lexicon, each morning in November I’ll post a word on my Twitter profile and Facebook page for adoptees to consider and respond to. You can follow along and participate using the hashtag #AdopteeLexicon. Please also tag your responses with your other favorite adoption- or NAM-related hashtags, and please do respond with video or images or songs or whatever creative thing you can imagine if the written word doesn’t move you. Please do take the conversation to your other favorite places on the internet as well, though I’ll probably stick to Twitter and Facebook myself. I hope that my daily posts will serve as your creative catalyst.

Let’s make this an adoptee-centric, judgment-free NAM conversation where all viewpoints are respected. And please, if you’re not adopted, just listen. There are other forums where non-adopted people can express their views on adoption. The #AdopteeLexicon conversation is intended for adoptees only.


What an Average White Person Like Me Can Do About Racism

This post has been a long time coming. I began thinking about writing it back in August, when Michael Brown’s killing in Feguson first hit the news, well before yesterday’s announcement that Eric Garner’s killer would not be charged with any crime.

This post is about me, an average middle-aged white woman who grew up in the mid-western, Great Lakes city where less than two weeks ago Tamir Rice was tragically killed; me, an average middle-aged white woman who lived for a decade in the Deep South—during that time witnessing  how it remains haunted by the legacy of slavery—and who now resides in the state where Trayvon Martin was unnecessarily killed.

This post is not only about me. It is also about every other average, American white person just like me.

I grew up in a family in which overt racism was tolerated. My adoptive father often made crude, bigoted remarks at home, in front of me, from as early as I can remember. I have strong memories also of extended family members making loud, racist comments and jokes, which were met either with outright laughter in acceptance, or nervous smiles, or plain old silence. Continue reading “What an Average White Person Like Me Can Do About Racism”

Talking to the Non-Adopted about Adoption

Recently I attended a local writing critique group for the first time. While introducing myself, I mentioned that I write at a communal blog for adopted women (referring to Lost Daughters).

“A what?” the woman seated across from me asked.

“A blog for adopted women,” I said.

“Adopted women?”

“Women who were adopted as children,” I said.

“Oh,” she said, “I guess there’s a group for everything these days.”

Maybe it was those words “adopted” and “women” together that threw her. The adopted are children, aren’t they? How many people realize that when those children grow up, they are still adopted? There is no end to adoption for adoptees. Continue reading “Talking to the Non-Adopted about Adoption”

Being Naked on the Page vs. Tearing off the Clothes of Loved Ones

In a previous post, I proclaimed, “Good writers allow themselves to be seen naked on the page.” I do believe that the best writers are able to express their vulnerability in what they write and that this vulnerability is what makes good writing so good, because it opens a window through which a reader can see parts of himself.

However, I also think that being “naked” on the page does not necessarily mean a writer has to reveal every little detail about a real-life situation. Even memoirists have the right to keep some things private. And I think that we who write about real life especially need to be careful to protect the privacy of those we write about.

It’s one thing to tell all about our own interior life. Our thoughts, feelings, reactions, etc. belong to no one else but ourselves. We should write about these things. We must, if we want our writing to resonate. But when it comes to describing events that have taken place in our lives that include things other people have said or done, we need to consider that even though, as writers, we’ve chosen to live in the public eye to a certain degree, others in our lives have not made this conscious choice, nor should they be forced to by the words we publish. There’s certainly no way to avoid mentioning the important people in our lives. They will appear in our work. But I think we can be naked on the page ourselves without having to rip off the clothes of our friends and family. Continue reading “Being Naked on the Page vs. Tearing off the Clothes of Loved Ones”