Anne Heffron tells us it took her 93 days to write her book, but really it took a lifetime and she is to be commended for being able to complete it.
Being an adoptee and trying to write about the experience and the double edged sword of searching, is like choosing solitary confinement as a self help therapy. You go in thinking it would be a good idea and it can’t be all that hard just to recount your story, and then that being confronted with yourself, that isn’t your self, or is it, thing happens.
Writing is hard. Writing when you are adopted is even harder. If you think your voice is dangerous in its ability to hurt the ones you love, you learn to keep it quiet.
And then the real trouble starts.
It’s therapy without the therapist, so most will abandon it, that’s something adoptees know a lot about, abandonment, often without even realising it.
Heffron’s book is a narrative of threads woven together over those 93 days, but it is also a collection of anecdotes and reflections, she allows herself to digress and share experiences that have given her insights, that might disarm the reader who is looking for a chronological tale, unlikely if you are an adoptee.
Every adoptee’s experience is different, but there are common elements and sharing the experience and making it available like this is an important resource for other adoptees.
Adopted people aren’t much different from people who weren’t adopted, they just live with more questions. They are the human experience intensified.
Much of the book is about the relationship with her adoptive mother, the strong bond they shared and the utter frustration and anger she often felt towards her, the shock of realising that though she was her only daughter, she was a mother to her brothers as well.
A few years earlier my half-brother, whom I had never met, got in his car and drove down from his temporary work site in San Francisco to come meet me.
He may as well have come cantering up on a white horse. Having someone claim you is the bomb.
Thoughts on adoption arrive unbidden, so it is understandable that this is a narrative of fragments, and yet put together as they are here, they provide a sense of the whole, not only an incredible achievement, but proof of existence.
Seven Reasons I Love Anne Heffron by Claire at How To Be Adopted
Adoptees On Podcast – adoptees discuss the adoption experience
A Girl Returned by Donnatella di Pietrantonio (fiction)
On Chapel Sands by Laura Cuming (memoir) – a daughter (art historian) researches her mother’s disappearance
Never Stop Walking by Christina Rickardsson (memoir) – raised in Sweden, a Brazilian adoptee returns home
An Affair With My Mother by Caitriona Palmer (memoir) – born in Ireland, an adoptee searches for her birth mother and looks into the Irish treatment of young unwed mothers
A Long Way Home (Lion) by Saroo Brierley (memoir) – an Indian boy lost on a train, adopted to Australia, retraces his journey to find his family
Journey Of The Adopted Self: A Quest For Wholeness by Betty Jean Lifton (nonfiction) – adoptee, counselor and adoption-reform advocate
Blue Nights by Joan Didion (memoir) – an adoptive mother reflects
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? Jeanette Winterson (creative nonfiction/memoir)
Red Dust Road by Jackie Kay (memoir) – poet, adoptee of English/Nigerian parentage, raised by Scottish communists
This is interesting to me Claire, because there are adopted children in my larger family.
I hope you’re doing well. The pandemic has come back here with a vengeance. I gather things are bad in France as well. Update me on things when it’s easy.
All best from here, John
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Thanks for this Claire. I have a copy but I’ve only dipped into it – adoption is a painful subject for me. I’ll certainly keep trying with it though.
This was my second attempt, I’d been doing the filling in and out thing too, then decided to make myself finish, since it is part of my research and I wanted the inspiration it might offer or the jumping off places that might spark my own writing on the subject. They are a challenge and a torture to read, indeed and I have to be honest that in reviewing them I hold much back, trying to keep to what I’ve read, not what it provokes, that’s for elsewhere.
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I don’t actually know anyone who’s been adopted, and I feel as if this is a book I maybe ‘ought to’ read rather than want to. So it may not make the cut.
This is one of the many I’ve been reading as kind of background reading or research for a book I’m writing, so when (I forbid myself to say if) it becomes an actual readable thing, you will then to be able to say you do know someone who was adopted and might be interested to read about the adventure. Mine is more of an adventure story than Anne’s, or perhaps that is more the voice, certainly it’s a roller coaster ride to write.
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