All of Us Are Real: Old Images in a New World of Adoption

Susan BordoUniversity of Kentucky
Vol. 21, No. 2 (Fall 2002), 319-331

This personal essay is a reflection on what it means to be involved in the process of adoption in a society that has developed fantasies—through movies, books, and television programs—about adoption that often differ from and run counter to “real” adoption stories. “Real” is a word that is deeply analyzed in this essay; what is a real adoption? What is the reality of adoption? What is a real family? What are real parents? What is a real child? To attempt answers for these questions, several contemporary adoption stories (ranging from the film Stuart Little to Jamie Lee Curtis’s book Tell Me Again about the Night I was Born) are compared with personal experience. The cultural myths that pervade and are perpetuated in adoption stories—that the adoptive child will eventually seek out biological parents; biological parents might, at any moment, appear and demand custody of the adopted child; the adoptive parents will struggle with inadequacy and fear; the biological parents (especially the mother) will be portrayed as incompetent—are addressed and contemplated. Parents, both biological and adoptive, are real. Children, in all shapes, sizes, and colors, are real. Families are real. Human experience, emotion, and feeling are real. For families that are built and fostered on adoption, realities constructed out of myth do not need to hinder the bonding experience and can in fact enhance the bonds of love that exist between child and parents, both adoptive and biological.


Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]