Our next Writer’s Profile will take up, by my estimate, three postings, with the first serving as an introduction. Interviewing her in January, 2009 served as my own introduction to the complexities and controversies of international adoptions, which erupted into the news again this past week, with the story of the Tennessee woman who put her seven-year-old adopted son from Russia on a plane and sent him back, like a defective product that needed to be returned before the warranty expired.
Following the receipt of her baccalaureate the subject remained at Slippery Rock and completed an M.A. in English (Traditional). Since then she has gone to work at a public two-year college in northeastern Ohio, teaching literature and composition. The college is in a small city, approximately 30 miles from her home, which is located in a suburban sub-division just south of a medium-sized metropolitan area. While the subject indicated she does a significant amount of writing for her job, she felt that material was familiar and routine. The interview focused, instead, on the writing she does related to international adoptions, including blog entries, participation in forums, and work on a book.
This work was clearly the passionate center of her life, following her adoption of a Chinese child with “special needs” a few years earlier. “In international adoptions, especially Chinese adoptions, the understanding is that there will be no contact with foster families. Or minimal contact with orphanages and things like that. However, there’s a big movement to change that; I’m a part of that change.” The subject, for example, had established ongoing contact with her child’s foster mother (The daughter, who is now approaching six years of age, had spent her first five months in orphanages, then 20 months with the foster mother, before coming to America.), and was also actively searching for her birth parents. In fact, her family planned to travel to China in June 2009, so, as she put it in a blog entry, her daughter could see her “Chinese [foster] family … rediscovering her heritage so that she can continue to know who she is and to continue to be proud. For her to feel the love first hand from those who knew her when she was so young and who continue to keep her in their thoughts each day.”
As we talked, primary motivations for the subject’s immersion in her material emerged. Attracted to China and its culture from her youth, she felt she had been lied to by the adoption agency as she went “through the system.” Unlike many international adoptive parents, who choose that route rather than domestic adoption because “they can go the extra layer. It’s easier to hide information than it is in America,” the subject wanted to know about her adopted child’s origins. (A March 15, 2009 Post-Gazette article quotes an adoption agency director as saying, “Some people aren’t comfortable having ongoing contact with the birth parents, and 99 percent of [domestic] birth parents today want that.”) In turn, she began to learn about levels of abandonment and abduction, especially in the poorer countries. “There’s a huge trafficking problem … We’re finding there are a lot more cases of trafficked children, an extensive program for rural communities.” While China has experienced rapid economic growth in the past several years, there are also the limits that have been placed on family size, which can lead to onerous fines if exceeded. Then, when the child came home with her, there were instances of “night terror” that have led the subject to begin reading studies in psychology and counseling. Consequently, her ambition is to write a book that does more than “regurgitating information” adoptive and pre-adoptive parents could find for themselves on-line.
More in subsequent posts, as we delve into the writing of our subject, and how that writing reflects on the education she received at Slippery Rock.