We’re accepting essays (750-4,000 words) by adoptees from 11/1 through 12/31 via Submittable. Publication will be in November 2023. Rumpus Essays Editor (and Book Club coordinator extraordinaire) will be curating this series, and she’s elaborated on the types of stories (and whom) she is hoping to feature below.
When I was three-months-old, I was placed in the arms of an American soldier returning from the parallel that divides Korea. We boarded a plane bound for the United States and my new parents. Raised on Long Island by Irish Catholics, I grew up being reminded how blessed and how lucky I was to have been adopted. Relatives, friends, and strangers assured me the life I led in New York was better than anything my biological parents could have given me.
The dominant adoption narrative that my parents had spared me from a terrible fate, that my birth mother had relinquished me out of love, that I had been saved . . . that narrative was a third parent—guiding me, shaping me, informing me.
Nineteen years after I arrived in the US, my abuser left me on the side of the road with no shirt and no shoes. The subsequent years yielded even less desirable paramours, all in the pursuit of hoping someone would choose me as I had never been chosen before. I’ve often heard the refrain, “The baby you have is the one you were always meant to have.” As an adoptee, though, I knew that if I hadn’t been available, my parents—who had hoped, had prayed, had sacrificed for a child—would have simply adopted the next available baby.
I wasn’t blessed, and my life wasn’t necessarily better than it would have been . . . it was different. For me, being a transracial adoptee has been a purgatorial existence—forever in the in–between. In between my loyalty to my adoptive parents and my curiosity about my biological parents, in between the life I have and the life I almost had, in between how the world sees me and how I see myself.
Novembers past have been dubbed “National Adoption Awareness Month.” But this November, and next, we are reclaiming the month as National Adoptee Awareness Month. For too long, that dominant adoption narrative, that third parent, has shaped our understanding of a practice which, for many, is rooted in loss and trauma.
We are looking for stories beyond a rescue, stories that complicate gratitude, stories that might label the teller “another angry adoptee.” We want to read about how relinquishment has shaped your understanding of self-worth and how your identity has evolved because of your adoption. For a population who always seems to be searching, what has that search cost us? How is the quest for who you are defined so much by whom you might have been? We want you to explore how adoption, and its expectations, has touched your lives—and then to send us your best writing about what you discover.