Adoption in Fiction prompt…

08 Nov


November 8th prompt…Adoption in Fiction

Comment on how adoption is portrayed in fiction, either as a fiction reader or writer. Adoption in classic fiction often centers on the orphan experience, from Oliver Twist and Little Men, to orphan Jane Eyre living with her aunt and cousins. Today there’s the Twilight series and others that use adoption to explain “families” comprised of various vampires. Talk about other examples of adoption used as a plot device in fiction. What types of adoption stories or adopted characters have resonated with you? Or haven’t? Are the feelings and experiences described authentically, accurately? Discuss. As a writer, do you have a fictional adopted character? What issues is this character dealing with? What is their deepest secret or desire? If you have a desire to educate your readers about adoption, what do you want them to learn?

I know I have read some fiction with an adoption theme, but honestly – I can’t remember who wrote it, or what the plot was – it would have been in the crime-fiction / forensic science genre.  I think if it had been widely inaccurate I would have remembered.  I haven’t seen or read the Twillight series.  I do remember feeling a distinct connection to the two girls in the original Parent Trap – way back when.  Not knowing the other sister existed struck such a deep chord, and perhaps that is what triggered me to wonder if I had siblings and my need to know.  I think I was 9 or 10 when I saw it.

The books I did connect to as a child were animal stories – Black Beauty by Anna Sewell – I cried my eyes out, and read it multiple times – not adoption but yet the same.  Another was The Black Stallion by Walter Farley and later novels – not really the same, but the same none the less.

As a teenager, I read the book The Outsiders by S E HInton – the feelings evoked as I read it, seemed to mirror some (many) of my feelings – can’t explain the feelings but filled with lots of angst.  I have no idea how many times I read that book, and if I looked in one of the boxes from my youth, that book is probably one I kept.

The book I did get triggered by as an adult – while not in any way an adoption theme – the feelings it evoked in me were adoption themed.  Jodi Picoult – My Sister’s Keeper.  The child created to save her sister’s life, the focus on the sister she was supposed to save regardless of the cost to her.  The way the parents (mother) was so focused on one child, and the others were just expected to be okay, if they were noticed at all.  I know it wasn’t about adoption, but let’s be honest – the one adopted is the replacement child for many, the only means to become parents – there are parallels between the two.  I know that it isn’t politically correct to say, and will raise hackles – but I would guess that many adoptees have thought of that over the years and had to deal with any feelings related to it.  For many parents – we were Plan B, and now today, perhaps Plan C.  I don’t say that meanly, or that the parent doesn’t love their child – it just is what it is – and really – adoption wouldn’t have been any babies Plan A either when you stop and think about it.  Adoption is messy – it happens because of loss – why it is so important that the parents are in a good place if they dealt with infertility – is so the child isn’t treated as the replacement child, expected to be the perfect child, the one they would have had.  No, that isn’t my story but I have seen that played out, and it makes me sad for the child, I’ve also seen families where the focus is only on one child, and the rest are just expected to adapt.  Neither is the ideal choice for a child.


Posted by on November 8, 2012 in Adoption


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12 responses to “Adoption in Fiction prompt…

  1. Snarkurchin

    November 8, 2012 at 10:30 pm

    I was the same way about Black Beauty. I could probably quote long passages from it even now.

  2. Fran Whelan

    November 9, 2012 at 7:12 am

    What about Harry Potter?
    Black Beauty is still my favourite book of all time, but then I love horses. Nobody could work out why. When I met my birth family, I found my maternal aunt shared my passion, in fact she had left school to work with the same breed of horses I had (Part bred Arabs – Palominos in particular) Family legend also says a relative was a farrier in the Royal horse Artillery, and other’s were horsemen on farms.

  3. andy

    November 9, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    Great comments on My sister’s Keeper, I read it but didn’t really make the connection of replacement child to the idea of adoption as the replacement solution. I was lucky that my parents never, ever made me feel that way, even though they did go through years of infertility and miscarriages. When I first joined the adoption on-line world, I was surprised at how many adoptees grew up feeling that way.

  4. shadowtheadoptee

    November 9, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    Black Beauty, The Black Stallion, if it was about horses, as a child, I read it. One of my favorite books of all time, is “Ride The wind”. It is a fictional account of the life of Cynthia Ann Parker. If you grew up in Texas, you know who she is. I, also, love the Clan of the Cave Bear Series. I think what I relate to most in the characters of the books I love, is their ability to adapt, and their wil to survive. I just don’t think about adoption when I read a book, even if the character is an adoptee. TAO told me about “My Sister’s Keeper”, oh, man, what a great, great book!!! Never saw that ending coming. Another book by the same author, TAO told me about as well, I think it was titled, “The Plain Truth”? Whew, that was a surprise too. Getting off topic, butlike I said, when I read, I don’t think adoption. Movies with adoption themes, however, I tend to avoid, because, it is impossible to portray any reality in adoption in a two, or three hour fictional movie…IMO.

  5. Don't We Look Alike?

    November 9, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    I’m going to share this via tweet. Thank you for writing it.

  6. Tiffany A. Robbins

    November 15, 2012 at 11:27 pm

    I think Black Beauty gave me the first emotional breakdown I’ve ever had. I was riding in the car with my mom and just started crying uncontrollably. She actually had to pull over the car and console me for a half hour before I could even tell her why I was crying.

  7. jane

    August 23, 2014 at 10:36 pm

    Hello Tao,
    I agree with you some novels evoke adoption but do not give authentic accounts of the adopted child. The focus is on the thrilling plot.

    May I advise you a book which elaborates on the feelings of the adopted child? This is a memoir about a teenage girl who was adopted. It deals with her feelings towards her adoptive parents, her being insecure and overanxious.

  8. Nara

    May 19, 2015 at 7:18 am

    For me it wasn’t Jane Eyre or Oliver Twist any of those classics (I mean I don’t think of myself as some kind of old fashioned orphan… I never was able to relate to being an orphan as I always knew I had at least an original mother, and maybe an original father). I also never dreamed that I was secretly a princess or whatever, or of adoption by Daddy Warbucks (Annie) as I felt that I’d never been in an orphanage. I was handed over. It’s like there wasn’t really a word for what I was.

    Maybe originally Moses from the Bible… I always liked Moses (and let’s face it, he parted the red sea so ended up doing quite well for himself). I also loved the book and cartoon of Heidi when I was little… she’s not adopted as such but it was all about her relationship with her grandpa, who didn’t like her in the beginning. I think I have always been drawn more to the idea of the father than the mother for some reason. (I don’t know why. I really love both my parents and I am really different from both of them… I don’t feel like one birth parent is missing more than the other, though I find in literature and media that the adoption mythology seems more concerned with the birth mother, as if birth fathers couldn’t have feelings about giving up a child.) Oh and I just remembered another one I always loved which I read when I was very young (probably inappropriately young) – Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski. It’s about a man searching for his lost son during WWII and befriends an orphan who may or may not be his son. (It has the best last page ever.)

    As an adult – The Book Thief resonated with me. The relationship with Liesel and her adoptive father Hans is really beautiful (against the backdrop of war and a horrible stepmother – which btw I can’t relate to!) and also her desire to help others who are suffering. For some reason I’ve ended up reading a lot of books on war (though I do read a lot generally)… I think it is because separation often occurs during wars. And what about The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini?

    Also I used to have this fantasy/thought that I was really younger than I was (I’m pretty sure I’m not as I was adopted shortly after birth) which was my way as a kid of explaining why I was smaller and shorter than everyone else (because I wasn’t white). That was as far as my own storytelling went I think.

    To your question: Are the feelings and experiences described authentically, accurately? – I don’t know because I can’t speak for all adopted people. I can only speak for myself. My sibling was also adopted and had a different experience. My partner was also adopted and had a different experience. I’ve met many people throughout my life who were adopted (not that many but I’m old, haha) and they’ve all had different experiences… The one thing I would say is that in my experience, adult adoptees seem to fall into two camps – the ones who feel the deep loss (the primal wound) and the ones who don’t (the apologists, perhaps). I think the really important thing is for adopted people to have a voice that isn’t only written by people who don’t have their experience… That may be a load of different voices, but there’s value in understanding that there isn’t just one adoption/adoptee experience.

    Sorry for the long response! New to your blog and so many thoughts!

    • beth62

      May 20, 2015 at 1:51 pm

      Nara, as a teen I got in all kinds of trouble in sunday school for talking about Moses, Ester and Jesus. And have always pointed out those “adoption” stories in the bible. I’ve found that many devoted and studied didn’t really pay much attention to the ending of the stories, or the whole story, or the big picture! Not like I did anyway. I think they missed some parts, glossed over some of it somehow, some even twist it beyond recognition to me.

      I still see/take the story of Jesus in a much different way than many. And I sincerely don’t understand why people get upset when I give my take on it :) My take is beautiful and respectful. I don’t get why they can’t or won’t see his story in a different light to them. To me it’s a shinning and bright story about an unwed mother, and what her son wanted for his mother, himself and others like them, from society.

      My view of the story, unfortunately, doesn’t jive with politics and business as much as others would like it too… so I am often wrong to most, and belong in the basement or the back pew!

  9. beth62

    May 20, 2015 at 12:37 pm

    I’ve come to learn that “adoption” is a bigger word for me than most, most of the non-adopted at least.
    So with that in mind, I have/can find “adoption” themes easily, maybe to easily!
    Like you did in the book My Sister’s Keeper.

    The stories that talked to me the loudest have themes that involve the search of some thing, place, person and revelation of finding clues and maybe even people. I smile thru these search stories NOW :) a very confident and wise smile :)

    Wasn’t expecting the kiddy movie, Finding Nemo, to send me over the edge! But it hit home pretty hard. Glad the little kids were crying too :)

    Like ‘Sounder’. Not a thing about adoption LOL but about loosing a father, for years or maybe forever. All for stealing a meal for his family. and then his young son traveling alone trying to find him in a legally unjust society. He does not give up, and he knows what they did to his father was. not. right.

    The Cinderella type themes catch my thoughts also…
    As well as the adapting to, and surviving, new environment themes. Especially those that support courage… and karmic paybacks LOL

    Independently surviving on the Earth is a big theme for me, and the choice to belong, to be connected or to allow others to survive along with you. There are many, many books about this!

    There are so many books that involve adoption themes for me LOL could never list them all. For me finding these themes and ideas that take me “there” in my thoughts… it’s like candy, sweet candy. Always has been, the deeper, the heavier, all the sweeter. I like it when it shakes me up some.

    I think when I was young it was safe to turn the emotional switch to ON while swimming in the books.
    I could talk about these stories and themes with others, without talking about my story and theme. It was easier for others to talk about the themes and thoughts that can come from them. Gave me examples to explain some of the stuff I just could not explain, or stuff I wanted to point out as similar to my stuff.

    Of course “that story”, to others, was always different than my story… many couldn’t make the connection – didn’t want to. If you know me and my life and you can’t see much of the Cinderella story in my story…. then you simply just don’t want to.

    I love it, I’m an addict and I don’t have to count calories with this candy!!! woohoo!

    My latest candy was the show “The Book Of Negros” I think I have watched it a dozen times in the last few weeks. I found ’bout everything in it :) Sweet!

  10. beth62

    May 20, 2015 at 12:45 pm

    Parallels. Probably the word I should be using more!

  11. beth62

    May 20, 2015 at 12:59 pm

    I think I trust the “parallels” to non-adoption stories more.
    Possibly due to many of the actual stories involving actual adoption.
    Never could really trust those adoption stories – not always so real, the happy forever rainbow mind-controlling we want you to think this way ones.

    I could see in the parallels how it might really be… how people might really react, feel. And if it was OK for them in this type of situation, gave me strength for it to be OK for me to feel that way too.

    One example of what I am trying to say LOL:
    It was out of the realm for me to grieve my missing family, especially my mother, my father.
    Being bereft was wrong, forgetting was right.

    In the parallels it was normal, totally normal to grieve, to mourn, even to search for and find whatever is to be found. In fact if you didn’t grieve, something was wrong.


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