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Class, Shame, and Identity in Memoirs about Difficult Same-Race Adoptions by Jeremy Harding and Lori Jakiela

Department of English, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA
Genealogy 2018, 2(3), 24; https://doi.org/10.3390/genealogy2030024
Received: 25 June 2018 / Revised: 20 July 2018 / Accepted: 31 July 2018 / Published: 6 August 2018
This paper will discuss two search memoirs with widely divergent results by British Jeremy Harding and American Lori Jakiela, in which the memoirists recount discoveries about their adoptive parents, as well as their birth parents. While in both cases the adoptions are same-race, both provide material for analysis of class and class mobility. Both searchers discover that the adoption, in more blatant ways than usual, was aimed at improving the parents’ lives—impressing a rich relative or distracting from the trauma of past sexual abuse—rather than benefiting the adoptee. They also discover the importance of various kinds of shame: for example, Harding discovers that his adoptive mother hid the close connection that she had had with his birthmother, because she was trying to rise in class. Jakiela imagines the humiliation her birthmother experienced as she tries to understand her resistance to reunion. Both memoirists recall much childhood conflict with their adoptive parents but speculate about how much of their personalities come from their influence. Both narrate changes in their attitudes about their adoption; neither one settles for a simple choice of either adoptive or birth identity. Contrasts in their memoirs relate especially to gender, nation, class, and attitudes to fictions. View Full-Text
Keywords: adoption; search memoir; identity; adoptive parents; class; shame; secrecy; birthmother; orphanage; Irishness; immigration; Jeremy Harding; Lori Jakiela adoption; search memoir; identity; adoptive parents; class; shame; secrecy; birthmother; orphanage; Irishness; immigration; Jeremy Harding; Lori Jakiela
MDPI and ACS Style

Novy, M. Class, Shame, and Identity in Memoirs about Difficult Same-Race Adoptions by Jeremy Harding and Lori Jakiela. Genealogy 2018, 2, 24.

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