Family Histories Are Important to an Adoptee – Don’t Lie About It

TAO posted an interesting post today for National Adoption Awareness Month:

Adoption Awareness Month – Family History

When I wrote my comment, I realized it needs to be a post on my own website. So here it is.

Family History is very important!

I have an extensive family tree from my adoptive family, and then from my natural family.

I made charts myself to map out how my natural mother’s family married into what would become my adoptive father’s father’s family. No, my adoptive father was not my blood relative, but his two older brothers were! It’s complicated.

From my blood line… my natural mother’s grandmother’s sister (my great grand aunt by blood) married a man in 1897. They had two sons (who were my 3rd cousins by blood, or 2nd cousins, or 1st cousins twice removed). Then the wife died and the husband married a second time. This wife was the mother of 8 children, the oldest became my adoptive father. So, my adoptive father is my half 3rd cousin, or half 2nd cousin, or half 1st cousin twice removed. One of his two older half brothers once told me that, when he was a young man, he took my natural mother to an amusement park when she was six years old – so, yes, the older cousin loved his younger cousin.

I’d have to check the charts again to count it out. There are 2 different methods to chart relationship charts.

THIS was the true, big, horrible family secret that both families determined I must never know. It wasn’t the fact that my mother died when I was three months old and that my father gave me up.

I was found my full blood siblings in 1974. Various blood relatives gave me my natural mother’s family tree. They were apprehensive, afraid to tell me. My adoptive father was quiet, but his sister confirmed it all. I have the marriage certificate, and Victorian photographs, to prove this connection.

In a very distant way, my adoption was an in-family adoption, which was held against me for the first 18 years of my life, and really, for a good number of years after reunion. Why? Because the ones holding this secret lied to me. This includes my adoptive parents and my adoptive father’s sisters and brothers, their spouses, and their children. They were allowed to have cousin-to-cousin relationships, but I was not allowed – because of the belief that an adoptee must never know the truth.

To be fair, a few adoptive aunts and uncles did not agree to the holding this secret. They warned my adoptive parents that they should tell me the truth. My adoptive mother told my aunt, “Oh no, she’s mine! I don’t ever want her to know she has sisters and a brother.” My adoptive father went along with the lie. He didn’t know how to tell me the truth.

Oh, yeah. That was the other big secret: my full blood siblings.

Lying is something no adoptive parent should do.

Tell the truth. Hold no secrets. Give your adoptee as full of a family tree of both adoptive and natural families because both families matter. Tell the truth in the most loving and respectful way. Adoptive parents owe this to the adopted children in their care.

Lessons Learned From Salman Rushdie on Writers, Religion, Civil and Personal Rights

Salman Rushdie appeared in Buffalo’s Kleinhan’s Music Hall on Friday, April 16, 2010 as part of the Babel series of the Just Buffalo Literary Center. He also spoke with WBFO’s radio interviewer, Joyce Kryszak.

During his morning interview with Joyce Kryszak, Salmon Rushdie addressed not only writers, but character development.

“Writers will write what they will write”, he said, adding that “history of literature is resisting all kinds of threats”. Writers write “in spite of considerable danger to them. Writers continue to confront the issues of terrorism and other forms of oppression. Writers have the courage to take on these issues.”

Kryszak: “Has it tempered your writing in any way?”

Rushdie: “No, not at all. In a way, maybe it did the opposite. When people try to silence you, the best answer is to speak louder. I don’t see myself as a writer about religion (not motivated to write about religion). I’m more of an urban and cosmopolitan writer. My subject is to show how the world adds up, how one part of the world connects to another.”

Rushdie says that the “individual has to be understood in the very big context of his society and the history of that society.”

About his book, Midnight’s Children, Rushdie says “the central character takes so long to get born…you have to read about generations that come before him. When children are born, they don’t come naked into the world, so to speak, they come with carrying the baggage of their history, and that history and family history, as well as national history, already shapes them, already shapes a lot about the kind of person that child will be, even from the moment of birth.”

“The book (Midnight’s Children) tries to show how the lives of the main character’s grandparents, then his parents, how all of those lives are enormously important in the kind of child that he then grows up to be.”

Kryszak: “I would think, too, the ongoing history would have to be consumed.”

Rushdie: “Yes, indeed. …The boy is born at the same moment (of India’s) independence. …That they are twins born at the same time, one would have to tell the story of both twins. It became a novel about the way in which the individual life (of the hero) and the history of the country that he is growing up in interacts with each other and shape each other.”

At the evening lecture, Salmon Rushdie began with comments on “writing the novel” and the writer. He said he was content at being the writer and that when he began writing over three decades ago that he never thought so many people would gather together to listen to a writer speak. He said that writing has “a social function; writing is good at strangeness”. Very often, he said, “truth in writing conflicts with official truth”. That is where political novels come in. “History collides with literature” and the “writer’s response to history is to defend privacy; that there is a public life vs private life: the center of the novel is the human being”.

“The subject changes with time,” Rushdie said. “A public issue may make a book out of date, but that “character (of a human in the novel) is destiny… Events we have no control over shape our lives. Human character is still at the heart of outside events”.

“Who has power over stories?”, Rushdie asks, then answers his own question.“Interpretation. Is slavery acceptable or not? It is Society’s ability to argue about it that makes it a free society.

About his book, Satanic Verses, (for which he was exiled by death threats) Rushdie states that “the battle was won by people at the publishing companies, bookstores that sold the book. People did not give in to opposition and attitudes. (Many people were shot and killed or wounded defending the book) “It is what people value. Nobody owns” the story. It is “one individual voice spreading in its own way; it doesn’t belong to anyone. If you don’t like it (the story, the book)…” At that point, Rushdie’s voice trailed into a mumbled “mift”.

“Artists try to measure the sum total to understand, to push out the boundaries. Powerful voices try to shut down counter voices. That’s their job. Writers question. View history by having access to facts and different occupations. The interests of the writer who imagines, interprets, the past” makes “objective history tricky… one can remember well or badly”. On memory, Rushdie says, “No one can agree on remembering the past.” He “prefers memories” and points out that there is a “strange fallibility beyond memory” and that “artists and writers” find it “difficult to be optimistic”.

Did he do it on purpose (write Satanic Verses)? Rushdie says he wrote it to “start interesting arguments”. He acknowledges that “controversy creates argument” and that there was personal risk.

Was it acceptable to kill writers?

“No”, he says.

“Writers are obstinate creatures. Writing is vocational.”  Writers “can’t censor yourself” and must “feel free to speak out. Do it with all your heart, or, don’t do it.”

Writers often have “conflict with religious or secular authority” and “deliberately use blasphemy to make a point”.

Rushdie’s take on religion is that “it is personal” and that “imposing is not my business” but when there is religion in public affairs, “then it is my business”. Salman Rushdie is a proponent of separation of church and state: “Keep religion out of public affairs”.

A few closing quips:

“The world is a mess. It’s not my fault, I’m just noticing it”.

What came out of the 1960s is that “personal actors, individuals, can change the world. …The Civil Rights Movement, by direct action and individuals acting together, large numbers of people can influence and change the world.”

“A writer first imagines things. By invention, imagination becomes reality. Writers must have determination and talent.”


~ ~ ~ posted by Joan M Wheeler, BA, BSW, author of Forbidden Family: A Half Orphan’s Account of Her Adoption, Reunion and Social Activism, Trafford Publishing, Nov 2009.