One’s Own: Reflections on Motherhood, Owning, and Adoption

Janet BeizerHarvard University
Vol. 21, No. 2 (Fall 2002), 237-255

This essay examines ownership as it applies—or does not—to adoption, urging readers to more carefully consider the concept of ownership, not only as Virginia Woolf defined it (as in “a room of one’s own”) but also as it is defined, sometimes archaically, by dictionaries, by friends, and by colleagues who find various ways to make ownership either completely normal or understandably upsetting. The essay argues for replacing the word “own”—as in, one’s own child—with “biological” and then using the adoption model to divest biological kinship relationships of their baggage of ownership. Once this is done, the essay suggests, we are able to move from Judith Modell’s “as-if” construct of adoption—“the child is as-if begotten, the parent as-if genealogical”—to an “as is” model of viewing adoptive families. The “as is” construct flips the prioritization of biological kinship over adoptive kinship and allows space for new family stories to be told.

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]