Transracial Adoption

Book Review: The Dance of Identities: Korean Adoptees and their journey toward empowerment by John D. Palmer

This book explores the multiple identities inherent of the transracial and transcultural adoptee experience. While the author focuses attention on the Korean adoptee experienced, and is transparent about identifying as a Korean adoptee, the topics around race, culture and identity formation can be applicable in other transracial/transcultural adoptee experiences other than the Korean adoptee experience.

Identity as individuals is multifaceted and complex. Identities have the power to build and divide communities, nations, and families. We identify ourselves by race, gender, sexual orientation, culture, country of origin, region of where we were raised, school identity, familial identity roles, socioeconomic status, political orientation, religious/spiritual identities, etc. And as adoptees, our identities within our families and our communities inform and impact all of our other identities. This is particularly relevant when we are adoptees who were adopted by families of other races and other cultures other than our family of origins.

How identity is approached, explored, and discussed within adoptive families can be an uncomfortable, and yet a powerfully healing experience for adoptees and adoptive families. An important way adoptive families can support and empower adoptees is by initiating these conversations about identity and making it part of the regular conversations as a family versus the approach “ we won’t talk about issues related to identity” until the adoptee “brings up the topic. Talking about the “dance of identities” adoptees face daily throughout their lives also requires adoptive families to examine their own privilege, views, and experiences related to race, racism, and culture.  Being able to discuss identity issues adoptees experience requires adoptive families to do their own work and education to be able to have meaningful discussions that are validating and empowering.

Mr. Palmer’s book validates many experiences transracial/transcultural adoptees experience related to identity, provides a well-informed narrative that may help adoptive families understand the Korean adoptee experience, and is place to help families have a place to start to have these difficult conversations.

Book Review: Reframing Transracial Adoption: Adopted Korean, White Parents, and the Politics of Kinship by Kristi Brian

I'm the first to admit I'm quite skeptical of books about adoption or about the adoptee experience that are written by authors who have no indicated personal connection to the adoption experience, especially as an adoptee. There are a number of books written by adoptive parents describing the adoptee experience, including the infamous "The Primal Wound", which I have not read yet intentionally in large part because the author is an adoptive parent/mental health professional writing a book about adoption's impact on adoptees. This is a book I plan to read as I do understand and respect that it is a book that is often referenced in the adoption community as a primer of sorts on adoption, or as the author notes on her website that "The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child has become a classic in adoption literature and is considered by adoptees to be their adoption bible." As an adoptee, I think I'm admittedly reluctant and bit resistant to read this "adoptee adoption bible" that is written by an adoptive parent because of my own biases and pre-conceived notions about the book. It is a book that is on my list of ones to read and write up a review of sorts.

Given my reservations about books written about the adoptee experience by non-adoptees, I was very surprised to find how the author Ms. Brian was able to honestly capture the thoughts, feelings, and experiences some transracial adoptees have experienced as Korean American adoptees raised in white families - in her book especially given Ms. Brian is very transparent and upfront in the beginning of the book of the fact that she is white and has no personal connection to adoption outside of her friendships with adoptees.  Ms. Brian takes a deep dive of sorts into the complex and diverse world of transracial/transnational adoption, and explores the hidden corners of transracial adoption - privilege, including white privilege and economic privilege - which are the white elephants within the arena of transracial adoptions. Ms. Brian examines the impact these issues, including the political and historical context of Korean American adoptions, on the adoptees, adoptive parents, and even the birth mothers in Korea. I found this to be a unexpected and thoughtful examination of transracial adoption told by a white individual with no personal connections to adoption. The author seemed to make an effort and take her due diligence in tackling this complicated and multifaceted topic.

Reframing Transracial Adoption: Adopted Korean, White Parents, and the Politics of Kinship by Kristi Brian