Author, Actor, Playwright, Excellent Parallel Parker

Rules of the Lake and Ashes to Water are now available for Kindle and Nook!

Friday, June 18, 2010

In Which I Contemplate Writing About Things I Know Absolutely Nothing About

 I've begun researching a new book, in which the main conflict plays out around an open adoption. I don't know jack about adoption, which is very inconvenient, but there I am. A friend introduced me to a LCSW I'll call Pam, who was the executive director of an adoption agency in town.  She agreed to meet me for coffee and answer a few questions.

I wished to understand the details surrounding the adoption process from the social worker's POV, which is of most interest to me. I asked Pam if the agency she worked for would allow the equivalent of a "ride-along" when counseling potential adoptive parents. She bristled. No. Much too private.

I had anticipated that response, but still felt as if a door had closed, gently but firmly on my nose. Here was a world to which I could not gain access. I understand why, of course. Of COURSE I understand. If I were dealing with such personal issues as birth, attachment and loss I wouldn't want a stranger looking on, either. Hell, I wouldn't want a stranger looking on if I was closing a deal on a house. It was cheeky of me to ask, but I had to. That's my job.

But Pam's reaction made me wonder if this world was closed to an outsider novelist as well as a stranger. By that I mean, would adoption "insiders" consider it appropriate for an outsider to create a fiction around  intimacies I am not welcome to observe?

We all know that authors write about experiences they cannot inhabit all the time. I create male characters and rather presumptuously give them backstories and put words in their mouths. White people write about black people, and men write about childbirth. And I doubt Katherine Dunn ever geeked a chicken, but she sure conjured for me a visceral, if vicarious experience as I read Geek Love.

I guess I'm asking if I'm the "right" person to write a novel about adoption when I'm not personally connected to such a personal subject. Will the adoption community take issue?

After I figure out the answer, I'm going to ask why it would matter if they did.


  1. I would love to see a novel in which open adoption is portrayed with both its joys and its heartaches, from the points of view of all the participants.

    And like a wedding is not the whole marriage, the birth and placement of a baby is not the whole OA. Rather, it is just the beginning of lifelong ties and relationship-defining.

    You can find insider information by reading OA blogs by adoptive parents, by first parents, and even by adult adoptees. There are a gazillion points of view and no consensus, so be warned that no matter what, you will probably offend someone.

    There's a list of OA bloggers here.

    My posts on OA:

    Good luck, Irene!

  2. Lavender, this is incredibly helpful. I thank you for your comment and your source tips. Best to you, Irene