Hearing About Adoption And A Specific Kind Of Otherness Helps To Round Out Some Life Stories

For editor Aaron Schwartz, wanting to listen to more adoption narratives or make literary connections to his birth family was a search for community that never negated his joy with the life and family he gained.

I don't remember my parents telling me I was adopted. It was never a secret -- not that it could've been given that you can see Latin America in every part of me, especially standing in the midst of my Jewish family. But I don't think it was ever really one big revelatory conversation like you'd see in the sitcom version of my life. I guess it came out more as bits and pieces as time went on, and it took the form of answers to questions I had about why I looked different than every other kid I knew. Honestly, it's not something I really think much about until it comes up with someone, which almost always leads to the same questions delivered in the same order every time:

Have you ever met your "real" family?

Do you want to?

Is this too personal?

My family is my family and that's that. And I'd say I've done a pretty good job reconciling my history with my current life. But I feel there's a heaviness in my bones that I can't help but carry with me throughout my life whether I'm conscious of it or not. I think we all have an inherited weight like that in some form--lives and worlds that happened before you, formed you, and haunt you--that you have no power over. For me, it's a history about the people and the things that made me that I'll never know. People who would've loved me and who I would've loved had there been a chance. Even having people in my life who I could look at and see part of myself in.

I've been very lucky in my life. I've traveled, made friends, fallen in love, developed passions, graduated college, got a job, and I'm even in graduate school right now (which is a real surprise to everyone, trust me). None of that would have been possible without my generous, supportive, and kind family. They've given me the life my biological mother hoped I'd have--the kind she couldn't. But there are some days, some random moments every now and then, when I can feel that weight in me get a little heavier like, Remember me? And it reminds me that still, in some way, I'm an island.

Something I think I could've benefited from while growing up is the knowledge that my situation wasn't an anomaly.  I could still use a reminder of that sometimes. We all want to feel seen and understood. Even though adoption isn't as taboo a subject as it used to be, I still find myself searching for stories--both fiction and nonfiction--that have an adoption narrative that resonates for me and I keep coming up short. Although this isn't a long list, I want to share these stories with you because they helped me carry the weight and maybe they can help you.

Lion

Saroo Brierley’s story is so wild that it’s hard to believe it isn’t fiction. For those who don’t know this memoir or the film based on it, when Saroo Brierly was just five years old, he got lost on a train ride in India and was forced to survive on his own in the street. He was eventually adopted by a white Australian family and, after having formed his own identity in this family, he went searching for his biological family via Google Earth, eventually finding the family he’d lost. My story is nowhere near as harrowing as his and even though there are some similarities, I’m not trying to compare. However, Saroo’s search for a center to his identity is something I totally understand. Wanting to put periods in your origin story in place of the question marks is a common thread for many of us.

All You Can Ever Know

This isn’t an adoption story at all, but it is one of my all-time favorites for a reason (and not just because Cisneros is a phenomenal writer). The House on Mango Street is a coming-of-age collection of vignettes about a girl and her Mexican family in Chicago. I read this book in middle school for the first time and, like most books I read then, I didn’t absorb any of it. But when I revisited this story a few years ago, I did so with the intention of trying to see what things I may have missed out on not being raised in a Latin American household. What I didn’t expect were all the similarities there were with the life I did have. It turns out that growing up is hard for all of us.

American Like Me

Like The House on Mango Street, this book isn’t about adoption but this collection of essays is all about identity as a Latinx person in America. Led by America Ferrara, 31 of some of the most recognizable and influential Latinx figures in their respective fields share their stories about straddling cultures growing up in America.

I know it’s easy to get caught up in my own life and all the problems I’ve had. Often it’s very easy to feel like no one else can relate. Stories like these are important reminders that we are not alone.

The House on Mango Street

###Sandra Cisneros

Another story from my past, The House on Mango Street is how I’d envision writing my own book, format-wise. This is a classic that depicts moments of the protagonist's life in vignettes. On the surface, this is a story we’ve all heard to some extent: a young girl matures into a woman over the course of a year, and with that maturity comes new awareness of identity and self.

Lion

Saroo Brierley’s story is so wild that it’s hard to believe it isn’t fiction. For those who don’t know this memoir or the film based on it, when Saroo Brierly was just five years old, he got lost on a train ride in India and was forced to survive on his own in the street. He was eventually adopted by a white Australian family and, after having formed his own identity in this family, he went searching for his biological family via Google Earth, eventually finding the family he’d lost. My story is nowhere near as harrowing as his and even though there are some similarities, I’m not trying to compare. However, Saroo’s search for a center to his identity is something I totally understand. Wanting to put periods in your origin story in place of the question marks is a common thread for many of us.

All You Can Ever Know

This isn’t an adoption story at all, but it is one of my all-time favorites for a reason (and not just because Cisneros is a phenomenal writer). The House on Mango Street is a coming-of-age collection of vignettes about a girl and her Mexican family in Chicago. I read this book in middle school for the first time and, like most books I read then, I didn’t absorb any of it. But when I revisited this story a few years ago, I did so with the intention of trying to see what things I may have missed out on not being raised in a Latin American household. What I didn’t expect were all the similarities there were with the life I did have. It turns out that growing up is hard for all of us.

American Like Me

Like The House on Mango Street, this book isn’t about adoption but this collection of essays is all about identity as a Latinx person in America. Led by America Ferrara, 31 of some of the most recognizable and influential Latinx figures in their respective fields share their stories about straddling cultures growing up in America.

I know it’s easy to get caught up in my own life and all the problems I’ve had. Often it’s very easy to feel like no one else can relate. Stories like these are important reminders that we are not alone.

The House on Mango Street

###Sandra Cisneros

Another story from my past, The House on Mango Street is how I’d envision writing my own book, format-wise. This is a classic that depicts moments of the protagonist's life in vignettes. On the surface, this is a story we’ve all heard to some extent: a young girl matures into a woman over the course of a year, and with that maturity comes new awareness of identity and self.

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CLASSIC DEPICTIONS OF ADOPTION IN FICTION

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