"I have made it my task to reconstruct the text of a family with contextual clues, and my intent is this: to trust in the mysterious; to juxtapose the known with the unknown; to collect the overlooked, the debris – stones, broken mirrors, and abandoned things. With these I will sew a new quilt of memory and imagination, each stitch a small transformation, each stitch my work of mourning."
from The Language of Blood by Jane Jeong Trenka
I went to this talk today on campus by Alondra Nelson who is already someone whose work that I admire (see Technicolor: Race Technology and Everyday Life). But today, she did a talk that examined the rising usage of African American's and Black British families utilizing DNA testing in an attempt to 'trace their roots' to find out where in Africa they may have come from.
I find this study fascinating, not because I think that knowing where you are 'from' in Africa is important, but because of the cultural and political value we place on obtaining and claiming 'Africa'. When I put Africa in quotes here I really mean just that – the IDEA of the fantasy, homeland Africa that still is used as a symbol in so many different circumstance, not the reality of Africa. One colleague mentioned that this idea of Africa continues to be reproduced just by the simply buying into the fact that there is a root somewhere that we think we can find. Its a powerful imaginary – yes?
And it is this desire that fascinates me. Particularly because of the process/ moment I have been going through/ immersed within. Some argue that this desire to find a home is rooted in the actual dispersal of black bodies across the Atlantic, and others argue that it is the attempt to cut off and remove cultural, spiritual and community identities that cause this trauma to the black body across the globe.
There is something about this rupture of removal from home, something about Treong's 'language of blood' and something dangerous and simultaneously 'so right' about the biological thread – yet why does this connection to Africa become so important – especially if we are trying to express the difference and hybridity of 'blackness' that refuses a monolithic idea of racialization. We (black folks) are NOT all the same, we are diverse in powerful ways – ways that include the ways we imagine ourselves, the way we create our stories and how we come to know our own personal identities. (and we know the dangers of a language of biology that gets used to make us inhuman..)
Is my racial specificity important? does it change who I am? how I already imagined myself political and culturally? I don’t know. Does it legitimize me in a weird way? yes. But I'm not sure I care about that – I already moved with the knowing, the creating – the dreaming.
Had to take a few days off from the intensity of this. Ended up driving to my best friends house in So. Cali. It was nice and warm, and relaxing. I didn’t make it to the beach to talk to Yemanya, but I did do some major thinking on the road between here and there. Thank goddess for the 6 hours each way.
I think the biggest thing I figured out was that – while I pretty much knew I was ready for this whole thing, considering its been about 10 years on and off that I have been searching, and only in this past year made a strong effort – that while I was prepared for the situation – I truly wasn’t prepared for how much emotional impact it would have on me. So I'm giving myself a bit more permission to be a little more emotional and let myself cry at any given moment if I need to.
Before I left – I spoke to ***** (birth mother) again. It was another long hour conversation, and by the end of it – I found myself wanting to get off the phone. She is very talkative, and actually called herself a "drama queen". I left that one alone because after the FIRST phone call – it was something I mentioned to one person I was talking to, exact words even.
She has this weird resolve that I am finding difficult. She is very accepting of her decisions, understanding they are part of her life – which is a great thing, and not what I’m finding hard. I’m just not sure I can give her the 'props' she keeps suggesting she is good for because she is the one who made the relinquishment decision, and she keeps saying it was a good decision, her prayers were answered, I was raised by a white family (she keeps saying this too) and given everything that she wasn’t given.
I’m not convinced I can let her take responsibility for me turning out the way that I did. It was my mom and dad who raised me, taught me, punished me, cried with me, made me laugh, taught me how to love and respect myself, taught me that I am precious. It wasn’t her. So I am not convinced she gets to claim that. It really was like – a crap shoot. She gave me up – but there was no guarantee that I would be blessed the way that I was.
RE: *****(birth pops). The rape issue is also something I’ve had a bit more time to think about. I'm not going to act like I was shocked or that I never thought about it, because I think (like most adoptees) I've gone through almost every scenario thinkin about the circumstances of my birth. Yet, like i mentioned before it doesn’t make the next part of this search easy. Its going to be a diffucult thing to find someone who doesnt have a clue you exsist.
One interesting note: She talked about being perceptive when she was very young. this kind of tripped me out because I’ve been perceptive and spiritually guided since I was very young. There are many other things that are trippin me out too, as I look over the years of my creative writing. I have a story about a woman I’ve been writing for about 3 years now. Her mother has a 3 day affair with a stranger whom she never sees again. The daughter goes to look for him after she has a dream about him dancing in the sugar cane fields. She finds him and follows him around for many days, just watching him to see if she feels anything for him. She turns into a werewolf one night and shows up on his door to keep him company while he writes his music. I haven’t gotten to the part where she appears to him in human form.
Someone asked me how I feel. truthfully? I dont feel happy. I feel pissed.
Someone said congratulations – is that the right word? I’m not sure. But somehow it doesnt seem right. This aint a party. This is a storm, a tornado, that has caught me up, and is whipping me around. I feel like I’ve got my storm cellar all set up,with food, clothing and protection – but the windows are flooding, the water is coming down the walls on to the floor, the doors are shaking and ready to come off their hinges.
Couldn’t sleep fully last night. kept wakin up with her voice in my head, telling me things, and hearing my own inner voice ask a million new questions.
I was writing to Ji-in telling her that I never thought I would actually feel anger toward the BM/G****. its scary because I know I have to keep it under control or she’ll disappear and not tell me anything. Its like im being held hostage or my history is being held hostage and unless im nice to this stranger, I wont get to know anything.
She emailed me today. told me she thinks things are happening too fast, that she needs time to think about developing a relationship with me. I emailed her back and told her I wasn’t asking for a relationship. I was asking for answers to questions.
Im so glad this didn’t happen to me 10 years ago, or even 10 months ago. I was talking to someone today and I realized as I was talking, and I always knew this – I don’t need her. I need the story, I need the history, the pictures, the faces. The mirror where I can recognize myself.
I wanna see my sisters faces, mouths, lips, heads, hair, skin, smiles. (I have two half sisters in Hawaii and possibly 3 more siblings in Seattle) I wanna see pictures of the BM as a little girl. I wanna see pictures of her mother. I wanna see pictures of her father. I want freakin answers!
I realize that I’m not sad, or lost or any of those things they say adoptees are – what I am is pissed and impatient. Somebody needs to tell me something.
I emailed back and said I told her I’m not interested in hurting her or making her uncomfortable and that I want to give her plenty of time to communicate what is happening to the people close to her. But I also made it clear that I, too, have many people in my life for whom this situation will change everything about the nature of our relationship.
It ain’t all about me, I know this – and im tryin not to be childish or to give into these impulses and just rage out. but hell. 35 years.. come on now. get your shit together, you had to know this day was coming and if you haven’t had time to prepare, or to tell people, or to delve into the things that will hurt to cause healing – well – now is the time. get on it.
is that wrong? am I being totally unsympathetic?
Spoke to the birth mother last night for about 50 minutes. I'm still reeling a bit, but what I’m getting from the situation is that I was given away because I am black. Its ironic that I was adopted under the assumption that I was Asian/not black and I’m wondering if her decision to put R***/Not BF as the BF on the certificate was deliberate to keep me from knowing that. I’m not sure why the first thing I have to put up here is some negative shit – but I'm dealing with that and looking within to attempt to figure it out.
My mom and dad are excited, and it seems that this is supposed to be exciting news. and I cant figure out why every part of me is just skeptical and cautious and nervous. It may be a defense mechanism, to try to protect myself. I haven’t told anyone else yet except for two people really close to me. again – possible protection.
I got an email from her that sounded urgent and so for some reason I chose to call her instead of R****
I called about 8pm and spoke with her. The first few seconds were awkward in that neither of us knew what to say and so we ended up just crying for the first 3 minutes. She is 56, was pregnant with me when she was 19, had me when she was 20. So that makes sense in terms of my age. I'll be 36 in March. She remembered my birth being in 1969, but … it could be so.
Now every piece of my feminist/gender sharp mind is ringing right now as I'm about to write this down. And I want to be clear, that I do NOT in any way want to diminish her experience, or claim that she is not telling me the truth about the circumstances of my conception. However, like I mentioned at the opening of this entry, I'm feelin skeptical and since this is my blog….
G**** told me that R**** is not the father. She said when she saw my picture, she knew who the father was. The father was a black man, P*****, who lived in the same black area in Seattle that she grew up in. She said he was tall, handsome and possibly had 2 or 3 kids already. She said he was around 19, and was at some point married to a black woman in Seattle. She also tells me that R**** used to sell dope, he sold P**** some bad drugs, P**** and his boys came looking for R**** and P**** raped her.
So now, before I get into the surrealness of having to deal with being a product of rape (and HOW to deal with that is quite a question), I want to mention that from our conversations, its clear to me that G**** has issues of her own with black folks, and is clearly a product of her growing up with a white mother. He mother was French, German, English and Irish.. although I'm not sure how that came about – and her father was Filipino and Spanish. From what I understand from this conversation, she lived with her mother and not her father. But I’m getting some clarification on that. Her father was one of the first Filipinos to come over to Hawaii in the early 20th century. I have a history people. :) ok.. so that made me a little excited.
back to the circumstances of P****/R****. She mentioned that she had never been with anyone except for R****. She didn’t specify if the rape had anything to do with the divorce, only that R****was so fucked up on drugs that she felt she couldn’t take care of me without him. She said that when she found out she was pregnant, she didn’t tell her mother, flew to NY to stay with some friends and ended up back in WA once she couldn’t get state aide. She stayed with her mother during the pregnancy, and she says she didn’t got out of the house or call her friends. So clearly I was a secret to some. But, I ask you – if she was married to R****, why then did it have to be a secret if she didn’t have any doubts about me being his child?
Which brings us back to a comment she made, after she mentioned that she stayed in the house during the pregnancy, I said, yes – I understand that because it was 1970 and the attitudes about unwed mothers is messed up. but she added "well, it was also the racial situation that made it worse". I didn’t catch it right away, but I should have said, why would the racial situation make it worse? But clearly, what I am inferring from this situation, is that she knew that I wasn’t R****'s kid.
so.. what to do with that in terms of the 'truth' of the story. It just brings me back to the speculation part. What if, for example, I am a product of an affair, a short lived affair that broke up the marriage, and her Catholic training, and her white mother were 'ashamed' of the situation…. and you get the idea. But I repeat – if a rape is what happened, then I am sad and angered for her trauma.
On that note – what if I am a product of violence? It makes it much more difficult I think to walk up to a brotha and say, 'hey – I’m your kid'.
oh and Let me just say it out loud.. I KNEW I was freakin black!!! lol…
Oh yeah… did I mention she freakin requested that I be placed with white people? What is THAT about? I was like.. so YOU did this to me? lol….
I called my mom and dad and let them know what is going on. right about now, I’m NOTHING but thankful and sending up MUCH love to the Creator for her hand in my life. My parents are … I have no words except – I love them, and I am blessed, blessed, blessed.
more soon. my head feels like its gonna explode. lol.
Peace all -
well. Today certainly has been interesting. about 3:45pm i got a phone call from a search angel in WA state. She indicated to me that there is a possibility that she found and contacted my birth parents. I had originally asked them not to contact anyone, so I was a bit dissapointed that this happened without my permission. I just hope they she learns from this interaction and holds back a little bit for the next people she helps. But ultimately I am thankful.
ANYHOW – so it seems that the possible R****/BF called her and spoke with her and possible G****/BM emailed her from Hawaii – and signed it with her Hawaiian name! interesting! anyhow. Im spinning a little bit and will probably be doing some phone calling 2nite.
wish me luck. :)
I want to encourage you all to check out
Twice the Rice
Ji-in hipped me to this story about black adoptions in the US/Canada.
A friend of mine sent me a syllabus of a professor who is teaching a course on Adoption Narratives at NYU. Its pretty cool, and I checked out a couple of the books from the library today. One of the books is "The Language of Blood" by Jane Jeong Trenka. Its a memoir, and starts off with a letter from her birth mother, and transitions into a 'scene' written in a stage play format. I read the first 10 opening lines and burst into tears. I dont know how to describe what it feels like to live with race in front of my face, wrapped on my skin, stuck in my veins, surrounding me with its force on a daily basis that never, ever goes away. What it is like to live with the guilt of race. When I say that, I mean very much, what it is like to live with someone else always denying you as a raced body, and whenever it comes up for you, whether its the fact that your father calls you his 'little china doll', or your mother still says 'colored' in freakin 2006, and or your brother wants to ship in a bride to marry because he cant seem to find an american wife, or if your mother has a wood aunt jemima on her wall – any of these things and hundreds of thousands more – if whenever it comes up for you, your family sees it just as 'your problem' because THEY are not racist because THEY adopted you, and they cant racist because they raised you 'just like' one of their other daughters or sons, and so they know that love transcends all. So if you feel the pressure of race, it has nothing to do with THEM, because they only see you as their daughter or son. They dont even see you as black or brown or asian or anything… what about this invisibility is just as damaging as someone slapping me in the face and calling me 'nigger'? Im workin on that. Im writing an 'academic' essay about the two faces of intellegibility – the visible and invisible.
How can I explain that Im just to tired to have one more round when I go home at Christmas about the things that you SHOULD know by now because you've know me for 35 years. Im so tired and Im so full of pain.
A search angel in WA has purchased the Wa state divorce indexes that I would have had to go to Seattle to search through. She found a list of matches that we are finding out if ages and dates match.
There is another search angel in WA (or CA?) who is running a search of all the G**** and R**** combinations we found in WA, and looking for their addresses.
Im so nervous. I feel like its too soon!!!