Well, there's always more adoption news than I can keep up with! I never got around to posting about Scott Simon's book BABY, WE WERE MEANT FOR EACH OTHER, released late last year, but with a little online conflict comes a new opportunity.
Simon, of course, is the genial host of NPR's Weekend Edition. His book, subtitled "In Praise of Adoption," chronicles how he and his wife came to adopt two girls from China, and also profiles other adoptions among their circle of celebrity friends. The book has turned out to be unexpectedly controversial; for many in the adoption community, to "praise" adoption actually means that "you just don't get it."
Among those disappointed in Simon's book was the influential blogger Malinda of Adoption Talk. Like Simon, Malinda is the mother of two girls from China, but in her review of the book last August, she said:
It's so disturbing when a well-known adoptive parent forwards this "race/ethnicity doesn't matter" meme, contrary to what adoption experts, and most importantly, adult adoptees of color, are saying. All Simon is doing is giving explicit permission to other white adoptive parents of non-white kids to ignore race and ethnicity. I have to admit, my life would be easier if I did. But my kids' lives wouldn't be.
Commenters on Adoption Talk took Simon to task as well, calling him "insensitive," and accusing him of "using his daughters" to sell books; one poster even said Simon's opinions made her "want to throw up."
Simon, in fact, does not ignore the race and ethnicity of his children, who study Mandarin and attend Chinese cultural events, but he does dare to go against the conventional wisdom by positing that race and ethnicity are only aspects of identity, and not the most important considerations.
Today, some six months later, Simon came across Malinda's review and posted his own response at her site. He says in part:
I doubt that there’s much I can say to assuage the enmity expressed towards me in postings on this blog. Let me simply state that my wife and I understand that it’s important for our daughters to know and be proud of their culture, and will have our unstinting support to do so.
I find it incongruous, in this month in which we celebrate the Rev. Martin Luther King for hoping his children “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” that we are assailed for trying to do just that for our daughters. I am keenly aware of America’s racist history and bigoted tendencies. Not a week goes by that I don’t receive anti-Semitic or gay-bashing emails. But as I note in my book, “(I)n China, our daughters might have faced bigotry for being Hui, Miao, Manchu, Yi, Mongol, or any of the other of China's 55 other nationalities that they could be.” They have already been stung by prejudice toward women in the land of their birth, and if someone looks a little funny at our family, or makes some boorish remark, I do not assume that the Klan rides again. We receive about a thousand times more consideration.
I reject the idea that my wife and I should feel guilt for taking our daughters out of their native culture because we remember that our daughters had been relinquished and left to languish in orphanages. Those orphanages, not the China of the Qing dynasty, Chen Rong, or modern adventure capitalists, were their culture. Our daughters will stand a better chance of appreciating the majesty of Chinese culture by growing up and learning about it in our American and French family, than if they’d been left in those orphanages, and slotted into factory or farm work by their teens...
We cannot rewrite their lives, or the laws of China, that would restore them to their birth mothers and the culture into which they were born. But we can give them a loving family to grow strong in, and the background to make their own choices.
Malinda has already written a follow up post, "Scott Simon Responds." She takes exception to his use of the term "enmity," among other things. Most of the current comments support her.
I read Simon's book last year, and found it to be a gentle-yet-provacative challenge to the strident anti-adoption rhetoric that is becoming more and more prominent in our public conversation. Is he clueless? Personally, I think he is he daring.