The themes of the BGHRA conference is “Art as Resistance,” and I encourage you to attend as many workshops and keynotes as you can. Kassaye and I are thrilled to have been asked to talk about the book, its origins, its intent, and its powerful stories.
Several of our writers, all Ethiopian adoptees, are also Europeans, raised and/or living in Sweden, France, and the Netherlands. There are, of course, many Ethiopian adoptees in Germany, Norway, Italy, Spain, the UK, and elsewhere in Europe.
Our writers also were raised and/or now live in the US, Australia, Canada, and Ethiopia.
We appreciate BGHRA inviting us to talk about the book, about the lived experiences of Ethiopian adoptees raised around the globe, and about how the anthology itself is an act of resistance.
And we look forward to a lively conversation tomorrow. Join us!
We have been thrilled and honored by the response to our new book, “Lions Roaring Far From Home: An Anthology by Ethiopian Adoptees.” It has been selling well, and is at the top of Amazon Hot New Releases in Adoption.
Our hope is that the primary readers will be Ethiopian and other adoptees, especially international and transracial adoptees. From the book’s Introduction: “We want to draw attention to the particularities of being a Black adoptee from Africa, placed with white families.”
We also are hopeful that adoptive parents will read the book, especially parents of Ethiopian adoptees, and also of other international, transracial adoptees.
Of course, we are hopeful that the Ethiopian community, including the diaspora, will read the book, as well as family members of adoptees, along with therapists, adoption agency staff, adoption-related organizations, social workers, undergrad and graduate students, book clubs, anyone interested in reading a great collection of powerful essays. If you know Oprah, Angelina, or Marcus, feel free to share the book with them, and please connect the editors with them also. You can reach the editors and writers at the book’s website: lionsroaringbook.com.
Here are a few questions that adoptive parents have asked me about the book.
Is it a positive or negative view of adoption?
It is a “real” view of adoption. Each of the 33 writers has a different perspective as they speak their truths. The book shows the range of attitudes and experiences. It also shows a range of views based on ages, since the writers are 8 to over 50 years old. Some essays note the adoptees’ Christian faith, and call adoption a blessing. There is discussion in the book of suicide and abuse. Some essays recall experiences in Ethiopia prior to being adopted. Some writers talk about painful childhood events in Ethiopia and in their adoptive country. Some talk about ways they are giving back to Ethiopia. There is mention of optimism, love of family, and resilience. Some essays are matter of fact; some are deeply emotional.
I urge adoptive parents of children of all ages to read the book. You can then talk with your children about it, in an age-appropriate way, whether they are 6 or 38 years old. It could open up a lot of new conversations.
Is the book child-friendly?
It is not meant for young children. The book reflects a wide range of lived experiences: good, bad, sad, encouraging, hopeful, angry, grief-filled, all of it. Whatever your child’s age, they might have had or will have some of the feelings in the book.
Are there essays by adoptees adopted as infants, or who have very little information about their families of origin?
Yes. The writers were adopted at a variety of ages, some with and some without their siblings. One co-editor was adopted as an infant to Canada, and the other was adopted at 6 years old with her twin sister to the US. A Swedish adoptee, adopted at one year old and now in his 50’s, wrote an essay about his DNA search and some unexpected connections. Most of the writers have little information about their Ethiopian families regardless of age at adoption; some have strong memories. Some have searched, some have reunited. Many have not done either, for a variety of reasons.
Here are some questions I haven’t been asked by adoptive parents.
Will I be uncomfortable or unsettled if I read this book?
At times, probably. If you are not an adopted person, you may well be startled or saddened by some of the insights that the writers offer. Some of the essays may affirm your views on adoption. Some may rattle them. That’s a good thing.
Can I just give the book to my teenage or adult son/daughter/child, without actually reading it myself?
Yes. And don’t do that. We adoptive parents must keep doing our work to understand what our kids are going through, to do so with open hearts and open eyes, and to learn how ideas and attitudes can change over time.
Can I give this book to friends, my non-adopted children, other adoptive parents, my Ethiopian friends, my adoption agency, my therapist, my children’s therapist, my parents, my siblings?What about folks with no close connection to adoption?
Yes! Please share the book and information about it with those who are tightly connected to adoption, those who have the rainbows-and-unicorns view, those who might be able to bring about changes in adoption policy: everyone. Thank you for doing this.
And again, thank you to every one of our writers, and to all those who have supported the book.
I could not be more thrilled to announce that “Lions Roaring Far From Home: An Anthology by Ethiopian Adoptees” has been published. You can purchase it (Kindle or paperback) on Amazon.
It is the first ever anthology by Ethiopian adoptees. The 33 writers hail from six countries, and they range in age from 8 to over 50. The essays and poems present a range of views on adoption, and each one is insightful.
All of the writers are Ethiopian adoptees. They were raised in the U.S., Canada, France, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Australia. Two currently live in Ethiopia.
The co-editors are Aselefech Evans, an American Ethiopian adoptee, Kassaye Berhanu-MacDonald, a Canadian Ethiopian adoptee; I am also a co-editor, and am the adoptive mother of Ethiopian twin daughters as well as two sons born in the U.S.
Deep gratitude to each of the amazing writers for this groundbreaking book.
In the adoption community, I’ve heard often about stomach and gut challenges related to adoption. Many adoptees deal with food hoarding, or with sensory issues around texture, or with eating disorders. Always consult a doctor or other medical professional, of course—I am neither of those.
I have though written about the gut-brain connection, and its possible link to relinquishment and adoption: The Link Among the Brain, the Gut, Adoption, and Trauma. Research increasingly shows a connection among what we have experienced, how we feel, and how we eat. Sometimes the feelings are subconscious, sometimes they are rooted in trauma, and sometimes they rise to the surface, whether on traumaverseries or seemingly without a rationale.
Here’s a good article from Time about grief and the gut: “How Grief Upsets Your Gut Health.” While the article focuses around a person whose mother died, there is a resonance with adoption, where children “lose” their mothers, sometimes by death though more often by poverty, social stigma, addiction, illness, colonialism, economic inequities, patriarchy, or other reason. In any case, it is a substantial loss. It is grief. It is real, even in the cases where children are adopted at birth. From the Time article: “It’s challenging to solely examine bereavement, because grief includes other emotions such as anger, sadness, and denial. When these feelings linger, they can contribute to mental health concerns like anxiety and depression. These conditions’ ebbs and flows have been linked to the bacteria residing in the gut.”
Disturbed gut microbiomes (the community of bacteria/microorganisms living in our gut) can result in feelings of depression, anxiety, and loneliness, as well as an overall loss of well-being. The article mentions dietary changes, probiotics, de-stressing, and breathing techniques as a few strategies to improve the “gut-brain axis.”
I have known and admired Sara Easterly for quite a while. She is a warm, smart, generous person. During National Adoption Awareness Month, I posted about her adoptee-centric writing groups, Adoptee Voices.
Sara’s essay “Is Pro-Life Evangelicalism Killing Adoptees?” was recently published in Red Letter Christians. The essay captures both the vulnerability and power of her writing, as a Christian, as an adoptee, as a daughter, and as a mother. I am sure the essay will be controversial in some circles, and welcomed in others. She speaks her truth with love, and that is hard to do.
Here are two excerpts:
“There is little room for us in Evangelical spaces. At church, we’re often pimped as poster children for “the beautiful story of adoption.” In the Supreme Court, we’re often used as pro-life pawns for overturning abortion policy. Within earshot or to our faces, many of us are constantly hearing our adoptive parents gush about how adoption is “God’s will.” We’re frequently expected to be grateful for being saved. This is a reality though adoption has been riddled with corruption and coercion for over a century and many of us were not exactly saved, but rather, moved as objects into families of privilege—my own adoption an example of such.“
“Because adoption is so widespread in the Church, nearly every Christian working within a Christian institution has a friend, sister, brother, aunt, or other close connection who is an adoptive parent. They’d rather remain gatekeepers from the truth than hurt their loved ones or upset advertisers.
It’s been a sacrifice play, where the loudest, most privileged voices win. But if it’s killing adoptees in the process—whether spiritually or literally in suicide rates—is anyone really winning in the end? Where is the pro-life perspective on that?“
Sara is a U.S., same race adoptee, placed with her adoptive family as an infant. She is, per her website, “an award-winning author of books and essays. Her memoir, Searching for Mom, won a Gold Medal in the Illumination Book Awards, was named a winner in the National Indie Excellence Awards, garnered a Silver Medal in the Readers’ Favorite Book Awards, and received an honorable mention in the Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards, among other honors.
Sara’s essays and articles have been published by Dear Adoption, Feminine Collective, Her View From Home, Godspace, Neufeld Institute, Psychology Today, Red Letter Christians, Severance Magazine, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI), to name a few.”
Here is the whole essay. Thank you for your voice, Sara.
This is day 8 of National Adoption Awareness Month, so this is my daily post to amplify the voices of adoptees.
Adoptions from the Republic of Korea to the U.S. began in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, before, during, and after the Korean War. Korean babies and children (like almost all international adoptees) were also sent to other countries, mostly in western Europe. They are the oldest and largest group of international adoptees. The State Department says that some 200,000 Korean children were adopted by U.S. citizens between 1999 and 2020. Tobias Hubinette, a scholar and Korean adoptee raised in Sweden, reports that some 95,000 Korean children were adopted to the U.S. between 1946-1999. Thus approximately 300,000 Korean adoptees have grown up in the U.S., and some thousands have grown up in other countries, outside of the land of their birth.
Because of that long history and volume, Korean adoptees are often looked to for their experiences, perspectives, and programs. The podcast Adapted is an adoptee-led, adoptee-centric space for Korean adoptees to share their stories. Many have returned to Korea. A few have been deported back there. Many have searched for their birth family; some have found them. In these well-done and insightful interviews, they speak about racism, identity, trauma, and belonging.
As you can see from the photo, Adapted is now in its 5th season, no easy accomplishment for a podcast. Kaomi Goetz, a television and radio journalist, started the podcast five years ago when she was a Fulbright scholar. She is also a Korean adoptee, and she was in Korea on a journalism grant. The podcast is now funded via Patreon. I have mentioned in previous posts the value of following and donating to adoptee-centric, adoptee led spaces. Supporting adoptee-led programs via Patreon is also an excellent opportunity to amplify and elevate adoptee voices.
I have the honor of knowing a few of the people who have been interviewed for the podcast. Listening to their stories helped me learn more about them. I “know of” a number of others who have been featured. The power of story cannot be overestimated, and stories help create community, among other assets. Listen to Adapted, and see what happens.
In my recent post about an upcoming webinar about adoption and suicide, I said that I would welcome any thoughts from adoptees on the subject. Among the responses I have received is this one. The writer and I are close in age: so often the adoption community wants to think of adoptees as only babies or young children. The impact of adoption goes on far longer.
The writer’s experience as an adoptee is very different from mine as an adoptive parent. I have learned so much from adoptees, and am grateful whenever they are willing to speak out.
The writer gave me permission to post her essay, and asked to remain anonymous. Thanks so much for writing this:
I am a 63-year-old adoptee who is a product of the Baby Scoop Era. I have always known that I was adopted. I began to actively explore my own feelings about adoption when I was in my mid-50’s. I had repressed my feelings for so long because I had no recourse. My adoption records were sealed, and the truth of my heritage would not be revealed to me in this life, or so I believed. There was no support for adoptees, and no alternate narrative to the happily-ever-after tropes created by the adoption agencies and adoptive parents. As a dutiful adoptee, it was my job to parrot that narrative. It was my job to accept the sense of self that had been created for me by others.
As a result, my deepest feelings of loss, grief, and rootlessness were not acknowledged by society and could not be publicly acknowledged by me. Can you imagine what it is like to not be connected to your very self? To have to deny its existence? To have your deepest feelings of longing for your original mother and knowledge of who you are and where you come from negated, belittled and subsequently stuffed away? Of course it is easy for adoptees to consider self-harm: our genuine selves have been denied from the beginning. Do you see it?
If you have been raised by your biological family, can you remember a time when your physical, behavioral, and mental attributes were mapped to others within your family? You are a writer like your father, you have perfect vision like your mom, etc. Your grandparents were pioneers, and you have a pioneering spirit too! Is there anyone besides an adoptee who isn’t molded by the facts of heritage, the facts that non-adopted people don’t need to even think about?
Adoptees have to create themselves from scratch. We get no help. And when we finally create a fragile scaffold of self, we are highly protective of it. Any criticism can feel like a death blow – and create opportunities for self-harm. Harm to self is the first lesson we learned as abandoned newborns when cut off from the life force of our mother. Do you see it?
Maureen, I am so glad that you are taking up this topic. You and those you are working with are courageous. Adoptees who are willing to do the hard work of pushing back at the social and legal barriers that deny us our origins are courageous too. So are the therapists who help adoptees come out of the fog and take the healing journey toward selfhood.
I am only able to articulate my experience because I sought and received excellent help from excellent therapists and fellow adoptees who helped me find my words. From the outside I appeared capable and competent. On the inside, I was scared shitless most of the time. Thankfully I have come through it with the love of my spouse and children, and I am a better partner and parent for it. It was not easy to puncture the fragile self that society and I had dictated for me. I hired a lawyer, I went to court, and got my records unsealed. My parents were dead, but I found siblings and many other relatives. I built out my family tree on Ancestry. I know where I come from and I no longer consider self-harm, even though that dark place is one that I know well.
Do you see how someone confined to the darkness of secrecy and shame can come to feel safe in those dark places?
Thank you again for writing.
If anyone else would like to write something, please do! You can reach me via “Contact.”
If you are interested in learning more about the Baby Scoop Era, here are a few books worth looking into: “American Baby: A Mother, A Child, and the Shadow History of Adoption,” by Gabrielle Glasser, “The Girls Who Went Away:The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children For Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade,” by Ann Fessler, and “The Baby Scoop Era: Unwed Mothers, Infant Adoption, and Forced Surrender,” by Karen Wilson-Buterbaugh. Between the end of World War II (1945) and the early 1970’s, more than a million women in the U.S. were separated from their babies in the name of adoption. Those babies are now somewhere between 50 and 80 years old.
I am helping put together a webinar with a suicide prevention organization about the intersection of suicide and adoption. The focus will be on adoptees; they will be the main and most valuable speakers. There are two goals we are focusing on now: bringing greater awareness about suicide (grief, trauma, loss) in the adoption community, and providing resources and strategies for talking about and preventing suicide.
What would you like to have in a webinar like this? What questions might you pose, might you like to see answered/discussed?
You are welcome to respond here, or to contact me at Maureen at LightofDayStories dot comI am reaching out to various experts, and am energized by doing so. I recognize the complexity of this subject and discussion. We can do a lot to create a climate that provides help, intervention, and support. I hope to hear from you.
The last couple years have seen a dramatic increase in the number of adult adoptees writing blogs, speaking at conferences, posting on Facebook and Instagram, creating groups, and otherwise sharing the truths of their lived experiences and professional qualifications. There have, of course, been adult adoptees vibrantly active in adoption for decades: their voices, however, were often drowned out by the dominant force of adoptive parents. That is changing, and that is wonderful.
Adoptee Remembrance Day is a day to reflect on loss in adoption. The traditional narrative is the warm, fuzzy version of orphans finding loving, forever homes: end of story. The reality is far more complex. Many adoptees were not orphans at all. Some ended up in brutal, abusive homes. Many struggle with grief, trauma, and depression, including those with loving adoptive families. There can be a lot of love in adoption: there can be a lot of sorrow as well, and we must acknowledge that.
So today, on Adoptee Remembrance Day, we have an opportunity to reflect on the complexity of adoption from the perspective of the experts: adult adoptees.
We can remember adoptees who have died by suicide, a painful reality. We can remember and honor adoptees who have died at the hands of their adoptive parents. (I’ve written often about Hana Williams, the Ethiopian adoptee whose adoptive parents we’re convicted for her murder.) We can act to help provide citizenship for all international adoptees, and to end the deportation of adoptees. We can listen to adoptees, and rise their voices.
I invite my fellow adoptive parents, and everyone in and out of the adoption community, to join me in spending time today listening and learning about Adoptee Remembrance Day.
Here is the link to the Adoptee Remembrance Day site.You will find loads of information, an incredible agenda, podcasts, music, and more. I am deeply grateful to everyone who is speaking out on this important day. These adult adoptees are sharing their genuine and profound truths. May this be another big step toward creating adoption policies that are fair, transparent, and focused on adoptees.
As the White adoptive parent of 4 Black children (two born in the U.S., two born in Ethiopia; now adults in their 30’s), I have learned a great deal about both the joys and sorrows of adoption. One of the sorrows is that some adoptees struggle mightily with depression and trauma, no matter how deeply they are loved. This can become especially pronounced in adolescence. For those adoptees who are placed in abusive adoptive families, I can only imagine how horrific, lonely, and devastating their struggle must be.
Many adoptees do just fine. I don’t want to pathologize adoption or adoptees. That said, I urge all of us adoptive parents in particular to get a deeper understanding of suicide prevention, and to know that there are signs, treatments, and actions we can take.
I know of at least four Ethiopian adoptees who died by suicide. A (not adopted) Ethiopian 7th grader died by suicide a few years ago here in Washington; his parents are immigrants. They, their family, and their community have been devastated by the loss, as is, I am sure, any parent whose child has died by suicide. The parents and other family members need support and hope, which can come in many forms, as they try to recover and heal.
In my writing on adoption, I always try to promote the voices of adult adoptees, their lived experiences, their stories, and their professional expertise.
Consider consulting with therapists who are adoptees. Here is a list, created by Dr. Chaitra Wirta-Leiker, of U.S. based adoptee-therapists. Dr. Wirta-Leiker is herself an adoptee and is also an adoptive parent.
* Another excellent resource is AdoptedFeels, an Australia-based podcast hosted by two international adoptees, which had a 3-part series on adoption and suicide. Look here for the episodes.
* Adapted podcasts (for Korean adoptees living in Korea and elsewhere) has had at least two episodes related to suicide.
* In September, Adoption Mosaic will hold a “We the Experts” program on suicide and adoption. The experts are adoptees. Non-adoptees (adoptive parents, partners, friends, support folx of adoptees) are invited to attend as well, and agree to be silent: to intentionally listen and learn. Stay tuned for more information soon.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number: 1-800-273-8255 (Note: in 2022, there will be a 3 digit number for folx to call, but that is not in service yet. Keep using the number provided above until then.)
The Crisis Text Line can be reached by texting HOME 741741 in the U.S. and Canada. You can text 85258 in the UK, and 50808 in Ireland. It is available 24/7.
Here’s an article I wrote on Adoptees and Suicide Risk, for a publication of Adoptive Families Association of British Columbia.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the role that racism and bullying (including cyberbullying) can play in the lives and deaths of adoptees.
The parents of Kaleab Schmidt, an Ethiopian adoptee who died by suicide in 2018, are working hard to get their school system to face the racism and racial bullying that their son endured at school. Kaleab had many struggles: abuse in Ethiopia, the loss of both Ethiopian parents, deep trauma endured there as a little child. If you believe that adoption itself is a trauma (the separation from one’s mother, the deep grief of losing one’s only known family, and in the case of international adoption, losing one’s country, language, history, and heritage), then you understand that Kaleab experienced many traumas. Add to that the blatant racism and bullying he received as the only Black student at his school, and the fact that (from the reports) no genuine effort appears to have been made by the school to address the bullying or the racism, and your heart continues to break.
Racial mirrors matter. Surround adoptees with people who look like them. Racial isolation is painful.
The Adopted Life blog of Black transracial adoptee Angela Tucker has several posts, videos, and interviews about the impact of racism on adoptees.
“The Harris Narratives: An Introspective Study of a Transracial Adoptee by Susan Harris O’Connor, a Black transracial adoptee; “In Their Voices: Black Americans on Transracial Adoption” by Ronda M. Roorda, a Black transracialadoptee, and “Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption,” edited byJane Jeong Trenka, a Korean transracial adoptee, are just a few examples of books written by (as Adoption Mosaic says) the experts in adoption: adoptees.
For more general information: Here’s a British site about Racism and Racist Bullying. Here’s information from the U.S. National Education Association on How to respond to incidents of racism, bullying, and hate in schools. There is a link in the article to some additional resources. I realize most school are doing remote learning, but the information is still relevant. Given that many kids are home and spending lots more time on social media, online bullying exists as a real and ugly possibility. Here’s one resource about cyberbullying directed toward teens. Here’s another more general one for children and teens: Cyberbullying.
Kaleab Schmidt, who died at 13 years old, was a victim of cyberbullying, among other racist incidents, according to an inquest requested by his parents. “School officials testified there was allegedly a Snapchat group called ‘I Hate Kaleab Schmidt’ created by students at Greenall High School.”
Imagine if that were your child.
We all need to work harder at protecting children from racism and other forms of abuse.
If your White adoption social worker did not prepare you well for transracial adoption (and I feel safe in saying that was the case for many adoptive parents), there are plenty of adoptees who can provide incredible information and insights. Listen to them. If your adopted child is a victim of bullying in school or on the web, especially of adoption- or race-related bullying, advocate fiercely for them. I realize some bullying can be inevitable, but racial-based bullying can be horrifyingly intense for a transracially adopted child whose white parents haven’t experienced racism. When the children grow up and go out into the world, the racism can be gutting.
This has to stop. Hard work and hard conversations must happen. May Kaleab and all those who died too soon rest in peace and in power.