Adopted children don’t have family stories?

Years ago, when Cherry Blossoms in Twilight was first published, I had a short conversation with a sales clerk in a department store. As the young lady rang up my purchase, somehow it came up that I had written a memoir of my mother. I told her I now encourage everyone to write their family stories. I will never forget her response.

The girl said she was adopted so she didn’t have any stories of her mother. Her voice had a trace of wistfulness. I was speechless. Then I told her she did have a mother – an adopted mother who had stories, and those stories were now her stories. I don’t think she bought that.

This salesgirl was quite young – early twenties or even late teens. I suspect this is about the time when adopted children begin to really wonder about their roots and consider trying to find their birth parents. A very emotional time. She would be wondering who her birth family was and what her “real” stories were. Brings to mind a tough children’s book I read, The Jade Dragon, where an adopted Chinese girl felt pain at looking so different from her white American parents, enough that she wondered why they hadn’t just left her in China.

I can’t begin to know the emotional issues of adopted children, but I do know they have parents who cared enough to take in a child not born to them. At that point the child has a new family, and her new parents have pasts that affected them and in turn will affect their children, birth and adopted. They will give their children stories of their own to tell.

Adopted children will also have stories particular to adoption. How has it affected them, how have they adapted, how have they questioned, searched, resolved – or not. In a way, they aren’t different from anyone else with a special circumstance – of health issues, divorce, having a special talent that makes us stand out, a secret fear, etc. We all ask why, we all have to figure things out. In our own way, don’t we all have some kind of circumstances particular to us? Yes, we all have our stories.

I did a quick search for memoirs of those who have been adopted and found Jan Fisher’s Searching for Jane: Finding Myself, which tells the story of her struggles as an adoptee. (She was adopted in the 1950s.)



About moonbridgebooks

Co-author of Cherry Blossoms in Twilight, a WWII Japan memoir of her mother's childhood; author of Poems That Come to Mind, for caregivers of dementia patients; Co-author/Editor of Battlefield Doc, a medic's memoir of combat duty during the Korean War; life writing enthusiast; loves history and culture (especially Japan), poetry, and cats
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5 Responses to Adopted children don’t have family stories?

  1. Great post that I think your post is important for those who are adopted, provided they feel the same way that young lady had felt.

  2. Yes, I was kind of surprised to feel the hurt in her comment as adoption is much more common these days and out in the open, especially with so many kids obviously of different heritage from their parents. This was in 2005 when I spoke to her. I don’t know if the kids these days still feel a stigma. Of course, each child wonders about their birth family, but also many adoptions these days are open and the families know of each other. Jan Fisher, author of “Searching for Jane,” has agreed to do an interview about this and I may get a comment or two from others I know who have been adopted. Stay tuned. If anyone reading this has been adopted, please leave a comment or contact me.

  3. mjfrombuffalo says:

    Part of my family story is how I came to be adopted. I would never think of it any other way, or think I didn’t have a family story.

  4. Thanks for stopping by, mjfrombuffalo. Good for you! I’m guessing that a child is more likely to feel his adoptive parents’ past stories are a part of him if he feels a good sense of belonging in the family. Sometimes, for various or whatever reasons, that sense of belonging doesn’t happen.

  5. thestorywoman says:

    Adopted children often know they are special because they, as individuals, were “picked” specifically to become and belong to a family. Yes, they have stories. Thanks for this post.

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