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In contrast to Monday’s MPR program on the decline of international adoption that was comprised entirely of non-adoptees (see my previous post on this topic), today’s MPR panel, brought about by vocal and articulate adoptees criticizing MPR’s choice of panelists, is comprised entirely of adoptees:

[Full disclosure: Kim and JaeRan are dear friends of mine. They are legit rock stars.]
 

My only criticism is this: Tom Weber focused the conversation on race and racism for 40 minutes. JaeRan Kim, Kim Park Nelson and Kelly Fern totally rocked it with their answers to his questions, but why didn’t he ask them on their thoughts about the decline of international adoption? 

[update/note: for new readers, this is full disclosure that I myself am not an adopted Korean. I am a Korean American daughter of immigrant Korean parents. I am an assistant professor at St. Catherine University in the Master of Library and Information Science Program, and I study representations of adoption in children's literature and adoptee information seeking behaviors. I consider myself an ally and advocate for adoptees and ethical adoption.]

Yes, it’s true. I blog mostly when I’m really annoyed. There’s a whole lot more to the background of international adoption than I can post here, but for a brief background at least on the Republic of Korea, check out Dr. Kim Park Nelson‘s “Mapping Multiple Histories of Korean American Transnational Adoption.”

Recently we have seen several articles regarding the “precipitous decline” in international adoptions; one reason for these declines is that there has been so much documented corruption, child trafficking, questionable behaviors, etc., in international adoption, so some countries have shut down their adoption programs – and rightly so. Countries have decreased the numbers of children they make available for adoption because they are trying to care for the children within their own countries, mostly by way of domestic adoption programs, which is a nice thought but fails to address the root problem of why so many children are being orphaned/made into “legal” or “social” orphans in the first place. Another reason may be that birth mothers are being incredibly brave and choosing to raise their children as single mothers. These are all valid and good reasons to decrease the numbers of children adopted internationally. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not anti-adoption. Adoption is and should be a good thing and a great way for a child to find a home. But in recent decades the institution has spiraled out of control and created a market for children that has broken up many existing families. So I’m actually anti-unethical adoption. Anyway, back to the main topic at hand.

Today MPR had another program on the decline of international adoption . Here’s the panel of 4, as stated on the MPR Daily Circuit page:

  • (adoptive father) Dana Johnson: Professor of pediatrics in the division of neonatology at the University of Minnesota, founded the International Adoption Clinic
  • (adoptive mother) Maureen Warren: President of Children’s Home Society
  • Jodi Harpstead: Chief executive officer of Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota
  • (adoptive father) David McKoskey: Adoptive father, professional computer programmer and adjunct professor of computer science at St. Catherine University (full disclosure: David has guest lectured in my LIS7530 Internet Fundamentals and Design class – and done a fantastic job of it.)

As usual, there are no adult adopted persons on this panel. There is no shortage of adult adoptees in Minnesota who are adoption professionals, activists, etc., that could have balanced out the perspectives and experiences represented by this panel. Earlier this morning when we learned that this program was happening, adoptees encouraged one another to call-in with their comments in order to get their voices heard. Here’s my (almost) live blogging of what went down:

What MPR talked about:

  • The declining numbers in international adoption
  • The continuing “need” for international adoption (never mind that the number of global “orphans” are conflated and inaccurate)
  • How open adoptions can change the landscape of contemporary adoption
  • The impact of the Hague Convention on international adoptions
  • How they would prefer the safety of children over volume… but when the volume increased so quickly… that attracted a lot of different agencies and operators… and there “might have been some safety and care sacrificed.”
  • The goal is to get the number rising again so children can be placed (which I read as “and also so that our finances can stabilize”)
  • They actually talked about adult adoptees who are now professionals: “Particularly adult Korean adoptees that are influencing the arts, that are influencing adoption, that are very interested in contributing to all walks of life in Minnesota” (except even though they are influencing adoption, we haven’t invited any of them to this panel).
  • That there’s a “special place in heaven” for the families who open their homes to a child. She needs to read David Smolin’s “Of Orphans and Adoption, Parents and the Poor, Exploitation and Rescue: A Scriptural and Theological Critique of the Evangelical Christian Adoption and Orphan Care Movement.
  • That prospective adoptive parents need to be patient because small delays are just that – small delays in the long run.
  • Kevin Ost-Vollmers called out MPR for not inviting adult adoptees to this panel, and MPR answered that the program focuses on the drop in adoptions and therefore they invited people who work at agencies, and rather, that adoptees could call-in with their comments. I’m not sold on this answer, as I think they need to address the root of the problem – that adoptions may happen at the expense of exploited/misinformed families, and that watching out for them should be a major priority for anyone concerned about building/maintaining healthy families.
(Some of) What call-ins from the audience talked about:
  • 1st caller: adoptee and adoptive father
  • 2nd caller: adoptive mother of Korean daughter: “adoption has really opened our family up”
  • 3rd caller: domestic adoptee who adopted internationally
  • 4th caller: domestic adoptee whose wife is adopted, father is adopted, brother is adopted, and is the adoptive father of 2 children from Ethiopia. Thinks CHS is a great organization. Drives him crazy when people say “Your girls are so lucky. We’re the lucky ones!”
  • 5th caller: asked about the role of infertility in the adoption process
  • 6th caller: KEVIN OST-VOLLMERS! Korean adoptee, blogger and adoptee activist called out MPR for not inviting Korean adoptees to the program!!! And asked another question about culture and whiteness, but I didn’t catch the whole thing because I was so excited that he actually got through the phone lines. I’m so not satisfied with MPR’s answer.

What I wish MPR had talked about:

And let’s not forget so-called “well-intentioned” Christian organizations that want to expedite and process international adoptions without following established legal procedures. Consider what the Idaho churches tried to do in Haiti after the earthquake: http://www.sltrib.com/news/ci_14338123

That’s all, just some real life adoptees, birth parents, (and adoptive parents, although their stories get PLENTY of airtime already), and their real life stories. It gets better, right, MPR? Can we extend this conversation and add another program that features the voices of adult adoptees/adoptee professionals?

2012 July 11 update: As a follow up, check out the following:

2012 July 12 update: Tomorrow, this is finally happening:

Please read this Community Letter regarding the deportation of transnationally adopted persons.

LIS 7963 (40296) Social Justice and Children’s/YA Literature
SYLLABUS | 2012 Summer | MLIS Program | St. Catherine University

Catalog Description

In this course, students will learn how to select, evaluate and analyze depictions and aspects of social justice and injustice in children’s and young adult literature. We will consider topics such as power, racism, diversity, violence, perspective, publishing trends, authorship, illustrations, and ideology. We will also consider how these texts may be used in library programming.

Reading List

  • Ballard, Robert L. Pieces of Me: Who Do I Want to Be? Voices for and by Adopted Teens
  • Barakat, Ibtisam. Tasting the Sky
  • Bausam, Ann. Denied, Detained, Deported
  • Boyne, John. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
  • Brannen, Sarah S. Uncle Bobby’s Wedding
  • Cali, Davide and Serge Bloch. The Enemy
  • Campbell, Nicola A. Shi-Shi-Etko
  • Cha, Dia. Dia’s Story Cloth
  • Choi, Yangsook. The Name Jar
  • Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games
  • Cottin, Menana. The Black Book of Colors
  • Curtis, Christopher Paul. Elijah of Buxton
  • de la Peña, Matt. Mexican White Boy
  • Edwardson, D.D. My Name is not Easy
  • Elliott, Zetta. A Wish After Midnight
  • Ellis, Deborah. Off to War: Voices of Soldier’s Children
  • Fradin, Dennis Brindell and Judith Bloom Fradin. Jane Addams: Champion of Democracy
  • Hoose, Phillip M. Claudette Colvin: Twice Towards Justice
  • Lowry, Lois. The Giver
  • Mickenberg, Julia M and Philip Nel (eds). Tales for Little Rebels: A Collection of Radical Children’s Literature
  • Mochizuki, Ken. Baseball Saved Us
  • Myers, Walter Dean. Monster
  • Naidoo, Beverly. Burn My Heart
  • Nivola, Claire A. Planting the Trees of Kenya
  • Park, Linda Sue. When My Name Was Keoko
  • Perkins, Mitali. First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover
  • Rhuday-Perkovich, Olugbemisola. Eighth-Grade Superzero
  • Russell, Ching Yeung. Tofu Quilt
  • Sanchez, Alex. Rainbow Boys
  • Senzai, N.H. Shooting Kabul
  • Stork, Francisco X. Marcelo in the Real World
  • Weatherford, Carole Boston. Moses
  • Williams, Karen Lynn. My Name Is Sangoel
  • Wilson, Janet. One Peace: True Stories of Young Activists
  • Yep, Laurence. The Traitor

READINGS

Required Readings

Mickenberg, Julia M. and Philip Nel, eds. (2008). Tales for Little Rebels: A Collection of Radical Children’s Literature. New York University.

Optional Readings

Nodelman, Perry and Mavis Reimer. The Pleasures of Children’s Literature, 2nd Edition.
Cart, Michael. From Romance to Realism.

CLASS SCHEDULE

WEEK 1 | Mon June 4 | Introduction
Readings

  • Tales for Little Rebels, Forward, Acknowledgments, Introduction and Part I: “R is for Rebel”
  • Nodelman, Perry. “The Other: Orientalism, Colonialism, and Children’s Literature.” Children’s Literature Association Quarterly 17.1, 1992.
  • Larrick, Nancy. “The All-White World of Children’s Books.” Saturday Review, Sep. 11, 1965.
  • Derman-Sparks, Louise. “10 Quick Ways to Analyze Children’s Books for Racism and Sexism.” From Anti-Bias Curriculum: Tools for Empowering Young Children. Washington, DC: NAEYC, 1980. [Google search for the PDF from UNCC]

Youth Literature

  • Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games
  • Wilson, Janet. One Peace: True Stories of Young Activists
  • Bring to class a children’s or YA book that you think speaks to a social justice issue. Be prepared to explain.

WEEK 1 | Wed June 6 | Slavery, Colonizing the Body & Publishing
Readings

Youth Literature

  • Weatherford, Carole Boston. Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom
  • Elliott, Zetta. A Wish After Midnight
  • Curtis, Christopher Paul. Elijah of Buxton

ON BEYOND STONEWALL: Young Adult Literature with LGBTQ Content

Throughout its history young adult literature has offered too little representation of diversity in terms of its characters, setting, plot, and other narrative elements. The U.S. population has become more diverse by the day, yet white, middle-class, suburban-dwelling heterosexuals have continued to dominate all genres of YA literature. In her germinal work Shadow and Substance (NCTE) Rudine Sims Bishop was among the first to document the changing representations of African American characters in literature for youth. Since then – thanks in large part to the appearance of the ‘new realism’ in young adult fiction in the late 1960’s — other non-mainstream groups have slowly begun to appear in YA fiction.

The first young adult novel with LGBT content was published in 1969, the same year that the Stonewall riots marked the birth of the gay liberation movement. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) people have come a long way since 1969, but depictions of LGBTQ people in literature for teen readers have moved at a glacial pace, going from invisibility to stereotypes to (finally) realistic characters portrayed with some degree of frequency, authenticity, and art.

Jenkins’ presentation will trace the roots of the literature, describe early work in the newly realistic world of 1960’s -‘70’s literature and examine the genre’s evolution through the 1980’s and ‘90’s. She will describe broad themes in this literature and highlight some milestone works and exemplars (both positive and negative) among individual titles published during this period.

During her presentation, Dr. Jenkins will

  • trace the roots of the literature
  • describe early work in the newly realistic world of 1960’s -‘70’s literature
  • examine the genre’s evolution through the 1980’s and ‘90’s
  • describe broad themes in this literature
  • highlight milestone works and exemplars (both positive and negative).

Q&A and reception to follow.

Highlights & Handouts

  • YALSA brochures and posters
  • LGBTQ book display
  • YA reading lists
  • Networking opportunities

 Dr. Christine Jenkins is an associate professor at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research includes:

  • YA literature with LGBTQ content
  • Representations of the “other” in YA literature
  • Censorship and intellectual freedom

October 3, 2011 • 6.30-8.00 PM
St. Catherine University Recital Hall

2004 Randolph Ave., St. Paul, MN 55105
(#24 on the campus map • enter gate #3 • parking free after 5p)

Contact Dr. Sarah Park | spark@stkate.edu | 651.690.8791

Download the official SCU YALSA flyer

The event is free and open to the public.

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