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A Conversation...

Our fellow comrades in adoption activism have all come to the same conclusion, the world has no clue what the face of adoption truly looks like. The more we can educate the public and create the platforms for adoptees to speak, the more advocates we believe we will gain along this movement of change.

In a continual effort to turn the conversation towards adoptees, and those advocating for them, we sat down (via the computer-social distancing at its finest) with transracial adoptee and author Lauren J. Sharkey to talk about her debut novel, Inconvenient Daughter, adoptee life, and more!

ARSS: Lauren, tell us about Inconvenient Daughter.

LJS: Inconvenient Daughter follows the story of Rowan Kelly,

a transracial adoptee, as she navigates through life, love, and loss. I think what makes this story great is that it’s not only written by an adoptee about the adoptee experience, but that it also provides readers with another side of the adoption narrative that we maybe haven’t heard before.

ARSS: Was that important to you?

LJS: Absolutely. I think the adoption narrative has a tendency to focus on the journey of adoptive parents or reunion stories. I also feel the industry - and yes, adoption is an industry and a business - relies heavily on showcasing “successful” adoption stories, placing happy adoptees with smiling faces on their websites and brochures. I wouldn’t go so far as to say Inconvenient Daughter is an unhappy or an unsuccessful adoption story but I think it shines a spotlight on the challenges adoptees face internally and externally.

ARSS: How much of the novel is based on your real life?

LJS: Inconvenient Daughter is not my story - it’s Rowan Kelly’s story. The first draft of Inconvenient Daughter was my MFA thesis, which I had originally intended to be a memoir. However, the more I wrote, the more I realized the full scope of what I was trying to say about how adoptees are affected by adoption and relinquishment trauma. I did research, conducted interviews, and created a new story.

Any writer - whether they write fiction, memoir, flash, etc. - gives a piece of themselves through their writing. There are similarities between Rowan and me, particularly her penchant for trouble and issues with authority lol. But we’re not the same person, just as Rowan’s adoptee journey is not the same as every other adoptee’s journey.

ARSS: Sounds like an interesting read! When will it be available and where?

LJS: Inconvenient Daughter will be available on June 23, 2020, and can be purchased wherever books are sold. Please reach out to your local bookstore for pre-order information. You can also purchase a copy through IndieBound here.

You can also enter to win giveaways by following my Facebook page, or following me on Instagram!

ARSS: So, what is your story with adoption? Where do you fit in the adoption constellation?

LJS: Like many adoptees, my “story” with adoption is complicated. For so long, I was determined not to let my adoption define my identity. Now that I am further along in my adoption journey - and I do feel adoption is a journey - I realize being adopted, and the trauma I’ve endured as a result of that, has been at the root of every decision I’ve ever made.

I was adopted by Irish Catholic parents when I was three months old and raised on Long Island, where I lived my entire life until I moved to Pittsburgh six months ago. I discovered I was adopted on my first day of kindergarten when a classmate asked why I didn’t look like my mother. When you’re five and asking the question of what it means to be adopted, your parents are struggling to explain the complicated answer in its simplest terms. And, for my parents, the simplest answer was the truth: we wanted to have a child, we were unable to do so, we adopted.

Obviously, those weren’t their exact words, but it was my general takeaway. And it was this explanation that informed everything I understood about myself, my value, and why I was here, in the United States, being raised by two people who looked nothing like me.

ARSS: What ignited your passion into the discovery of your adoption story?

LJS: When I was twenty-four, I was in what I thought was a serious relationship. When things ended, I felt consumed by loneliness. That loneliness - and the fact that this was yet another relationship that had ended with someone leaving me - pushed me over the edge.

I thought about why my relationships ended this way - why it seemed like I was accepting the bare minimum and thinking it was enough. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I had unreconciled feelings about my relinquishment. I called my adoption agency the next day and filled out a request for my records.

ARSS: Have you been able to form any alliances?

LJS: I’ve joined a lot of the adoptee-centered groups on Facebook, and am hoping an Adoptees Connect comes to Pittsburgh in the future. The connections I’ve made as a result of my involvement in the Facebook groups has been so great. I feel like I’ve finally met some people who understand what I’m going through and who can offer support.

However, the Facebook groups haven’t been without their challenges. Every adoptee is in a different place in their adoption journey. But I’ve found that some of these groups are filled with adoptees who are still struggling and occasionally lash out at others, particularly adoptive parents or hopeful adoptive parents.

I can’t remember where I saw it, but someone suggested we stop using “triad” and start using “constellation” and I love that. As a community, I think we need to be more open to hearing all the voices in the adoption journey - from birth/first mothers to foster families, etc. Yes, the adoptee’s voice is extremely important, but if we’re to talk about adoption in a real, honest way that results in powerful and meaningful change, we need to hear, respect, and value other voices.

ARSS: Were your siblings (if you have) accepting? Are they from the same country (if they are adopted as well)?

LJS: I have a brother (three-ish years my junior), who was also adopted from Korea. I remember it was snowing when we went to pick him up from the airport. I don’t remember what he looked like or what the people who brought him over looked like. All I knew was that we were going to the airport and coming home with a baby.

It’s funny because as a child, you think everything is just how it is - you don’t notice you’re different until someone points it out. I didn’t realize my mother and I looked different because that’s how it had always been. And, for the longest time, I thought babies came from the airport. When friends of mine would say their little brothers and sisters had been born and their moms were in the hospital, I would always wonder why so many moms went to the hospital after having babies.

ARSS: What is your hope for Inconvenient Daughter?

LJS: My hope for Inconvenient Daughter is that it sparks a conversation - whether it be among adoptees, adoptive parents (potential or current), or someone with no connection to adoption. Like all art, I hope Inconvenient Daughter cannot only be a catalyst for change, but that it also inspires us to look at the world and each other differently.

If you would like to connect with Lauren J. Sharkey, please reach out to her here. Interested in pre-ordering Inconvenient Daughter? Click here!

The views and opinions expressed by Lauren J. Sharkey in this interview are those of Lauren J. Sharkey, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Adoption Research Search and Support (ARSS).


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