Stories from a Declassified Adoptee: Get Ready

Amanda H.L. Transue-Woolston is a dynamo: mom of two cute little boys, graduate student in social work, brown belt in karate, and award-winning blogger. She is the founder of Pennsylvania Adoptee Rights, the Vice President and Director of Outreach of The Adoptee Rights Coalition, and a founding board member of the Adoption Policy and Reform Collaborative.  Amanda is a contributor at Adoption Voices Magazine, and is also the founder of The Lost Daughters, a collaborative writing project featuring the voices of over 30 adopted women from all walks of life.

She cross-trains in kickboxing and three different martial arts, enjoys photography, and lives with her husband of six years and their two children in their home in Pennsylvania.

She’s amazing. She’s in her 20’s. I deeply admire not only her energy, but also her ability to speak clearly and forcefully, with grace and compassion, about what being adopted really means. Her blog The Declassified Adoptee is full of thoughtful, powerful essays. Fellow adoptee DMC (DarrylDMCMcDaniels, @TheKingDMC) follows Amanda on Twitter. (You can also follow her: @AmandaTDA.)

And her new book will be out in September!


I had the honor of being an early reviewer of this wonderful collection of essays, and here is my review:

“An unknowable number of stories exist in the world of adoption: compelling, inspiring, heartbreaking, provocative, introspective, poignant, and powerful. These words also describe Amanda H.L. Transue-Woolston’s new book, The Declassified Adoptee: Essays of An Adoption Activist. Amanda is a calm, clear, thoughtful, lyrical storyteller. Like the best storytellers, she writes from her heart, leaving the reader with much to reflect on, much to mull over, much to savor and learn.

Amanda writes evocatively about her experiences as an adoptee, born in 1985, placed in foster care at 3 days old, officially adopted at 8 months old.  Hers was a same race, closed adoption—though her first mother had been told it would be open. Amanda, after a lot of time and expense, has reunited with her first mother and several members of her original family. She remains closely connected with her adoptive family as well.

As the former executive director of 2 adoption agencies and an international adoption nonprofit organization, I believe that The Declassified Adoptee should be required reading for all prospective adoptive parents, for all adoptive parents, and for social workers and other professionals who work in any way with adoption. It should be required reading for all adoption agency executive directors, for those who sit on the board of directors for adoption agencies, and for those who provide any and all post-adoption services.

As an adoptive parent, I believe that The Declassified Adoptee would have provided me with both insights and icebreakers when talking about adoption with my children when they were growing up. I plan to share the book with each of my now-young adult children. Though the details of their experiences may vary, I have no doubts Amanda’s story will resonate with them.

Like Amanda and most other adoptees (whether from the US or internationally adopted, whether adopted as infants or older children, whether adopted through private or public agencies), each of my children has dealt with the complex realities in adoption that Amanda writes about: trust, bullying, identity, truth, fantasy, secrecy, loss, grief, confusion, laws, lies, and love.

Her brief, insightful essays reflect the challenges that adoptees face: not knowing when to ask what questions, being startled and angered (and occasionally amused) by society’s views of adoption, and dealing with the truths of their stories. Those truths can be painful. One of the best gifts for first parents, adoptive parents, and adoptees from reading Amanda’s book may be her reflections on dealing with the painful circumstances that bring children to be adopted. Amanda writes candidly, gracefully, and hopefully about facing difficult truths in adoption, accepting them while not letting them overpower or define, and moving ahead with strength and resilience. The Declassified Adoptee deserves a wide audience in the adoption community, among adoptees, first parents, adoptive parents, social workers, adoption researchers, and anyone interested in better understanding what it means to be family.”

The book will be available in September, from CQT Publishing and Land of Gazillion Adoptees (the folks who published Parenting As Adoptees). Congratulations, Amanda!

Summer Reading

As we move here in the US toward the Fourth of July holiday, I hope you are all keeping up with your Summer Reading List. I was one of those kids who loved that list of required reading over the summer–and we get to write reports about the books too? Yay!

The Washington Post has a great list of favorite books of their foreign correspondents for 2013. I share it here because it may be of interest in particular to international adoptees and to parents of internationally adopted children, but really it’s a fascinating list for anyone. The recommendations include books about Syria, India, North Korea, Jerusalem, China, Russia, and more.

The 2012 List is great too. Among the selections are these:


Recommended by: Sudarsan Raghavan, Africa bureau chief, who says this about the book: “It’s a wonderfully reported and written profile of Ethiopian dictator Haile Selassie’s last days, from the point of view of his servants, aides and others close to him. The book is considered one of the 20th century’s best works of nonfiction literary journalism. It’s a must-read for anyone who wants to understand Africa.”

And how about this one?

Recommended by: William Booth, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean bureau chief. “I am delightfully shocked to learn the sublime Mexico City taco as I know and love it — a shave of pork from twirling spit, made happy with onion and cilantro (y por favor señor! that chunk of pineapple) — only dates back to the 1950s. Of course, wrapping something in a tortilla is as old as tortillas, though they didn’t call them tacos.”

And this one is absolutely a must-read:

This is me speaking now, not a foreign correspondent lol: Behind the Beautiful Forevers is a beautifully written book about India–its incredible poverty, and its astonishing potential. A challenging, well-worth-it kind of book.

Not on either of these lists is the newest novel by the brilliant Afghan-born American novelist Khaled Hosseini, And The Mountains Echoed. (He also wrote The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns.) Mountains has something of an adoption-related theme, in that one of the main characters was essentially trafficked, as a toddler, by her family, to a wealthier, childless couple, who never told her the truth of her origins. When Pari is a middle-aged adult, she re-connects with her family. In talking with a relative about her realization of what had happened to her, she says “You say you felt a presence, but I sensed only an absence. A vague pain without a source. I was like the patient who cannot explain to the doctor where it hurts, only that it does.” 

To me, that sums up the poignancy of the adoption journey.

I hope your summer time is one of rejuvenation and adventure, and one that includes lots of good books. Library cards are free. Enjoy.