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Adoptees and Media Representation 🎬 // Recently, a middle grade book titled “The Unadoptables” was released by a major publishing house. Unfortunately, it was another instance of adoption being portrayed in an insensitive way. Not only does the title bring up potentially harmful memories for adoptees, but it turns the relinquishment and displacement of children into an adventure story. The story starts with a “rules for baby abandonment” section that is honestly appalling to an adoptee who has been in a similar position. The premise of these children being “unadoptable” because of their features is also very harmful. But this is just one of many examples of how adoption is turned into an underdeveloped trope or plot twist in stories.
The reason I bring this up is to not bash the author, but to ask writers to hold ourselves and the publishing industry accountable. Not all adoption narratives are harmful, but the vast majority fall short in conveying the complexities of adoption. I’m tired of seeing adoptees or orphans being portrayed in particularly harmful tropes in all forms of media. It’s been a long-standing joke to say a character is “adopted” because they have an undesirable trait or to see adoption being used in stories just to incite family drama. In addition, the characters who are adopted are often seen as “troubled” or even violent.
I hope more writers, creators, editors, and producers start to see diverse adoption narratives that are well-developed. Adoption can be a central part of a story if it is written with enough complexity and input from real adoptees! 😄
Anyways, what do you think is important to include in adoption narratives? What do you think is left out of adoption narratives?