New Book Documents the Sometimes Forgotten Voice of the Adoptive Father

China Ghosts: My Daughter’s Journey to America, My Passage to Fatherhood

By Jeff Gammage


– – – “After eighteen years together, Christine and I are down to our last hour as a couple. By dinner we will be a threesome. It seems strange to stand so firmly atop a generational fault line, to know that in an hour you’ll be a parent, to understand that your old life is disappearing before your eyes, that a new one is about to begin. . . .”

Aching to expand from a couple to a family, Jeff Gammage and his wife, Christine, embarked upon a journey that would carry them across a shifting landscape of emotion—excitement, exhilaration, fear, apprehension—and through miles of red tape and bureaucratic protocol, to a breathtaking land on the other side of the world where a little girl waited. When they met Jin Yu, a silent, stoic two-year-old, in the smog-choked city of Changsha in Hunan Province, they realized that every frustrating moment of their two-year struggle was worth it. But they also realized that another journey had only begun. Now there was much to experience and learn. How do you comfort a crying toddler when you and she speak different languages? How do you fully embrace a life altered beyond recognition by new concerns, responsibilities—and a love unlike any you’ve felt before?

Alive with insight and feeling, China Ghosts is a journalist’s eye-opening depiction of the foreign adoption process and a remarkable glimpse into a different culture. Most important, it is a poignant, heartfelt, and intensely intimate chronicle of the making of a family. – – –

Here’s what seems to be a new book about adoption, but more interestingly, a Father’s perspective of parenting transracially. There aren’t a whole lot of memoirs chronicling the parenting experiences of Adoptive Fathers, so I find this book particularly intriguing. According to Amazon, it’s available starting tomorrow.

What’s also interesting is the fact that the author works for the Philadelphia Inquirer, which I recall documented a number of stories on adoptees and adoptive families. Does anyone have any idea how large the adoptee community is in Philadelphia?

I find myself returning to this lack of Adoptive Father’s in adoption literature. It’s quite true that a majority of the literature comes from Adoptive Mothers rather than fathers. I guess I don’t really have any particularly stunning insight, or analysis short of making some sort of argument that men tend to be socialized to disregard their feelings, expressivity, or emotions. So perhaps any lurking adoptive fathers would be willing to share their experiences at the conclusion of this post.

While the term “Adoption Triad” has been used rather loosely to essentialize the relationships involved, perhaps the question that is more problematic is, “Where are men/fathers located within this dialogue?” I’ve been told that my birth father was abusive to my birth mother, so I tend to gravitate toward visualizing my birth mother as my birth family (although she may very well have formed a new family since my birth). So I wonder why the Birth Mother as a conceptual entity represents The Bastion of the birth family to many adoptees. I have extenuating circumstances, but regardless of these details I’m sure I would channel my analysis and emotions into the conceptual idea of my birth mother.

Granted, many birth mothers ARE the ones who are burdened with the responsibility of making the decision for us if our birth fathers run after they find we will be birthed into this world. But that doesn’t mean that birth fathers should be eliminated from consideration. Furthermore, in the U.S. most families who are ABLE to adopt are united by heterosexual marriages, where the fathers are also present in making the decision to adopt. Where are their voices? So you can see how this adoption triad concept can be rather tricky when envisioning who the stakeholders are.

In closing, I can’t say I’m completely floored by the title of his book. Yet I am still optimistic that the book might actually be a productive narrative and representation of the many adoptive fathers who have been relatively quiet since the “literary awakening” that we have all seen in adoption literature over the past decade or so. So if someone wants to order it, read it and review it I’d love to post it at some point.


One Comment on “New Book Documents the Sometimes Forgotten Voice of the Adoptive Father

  1. As you touch on in your post, birth fathers also get overlooked. We complain about absentee fathers and deadbeat dads, yet we also seem to minimize the importance of fatherhood. Raising children becomes women’s work.

    So, in one sense, we encourage absentee fathers by implying they weren’t that important anyway. And, in another sense, this is an example of how male privileged sexism hurts men as well as women.

    Of course, I’m making really gross generalizations 😉

    (Btw, fwiw, as a child I was more interested in my birth father than my birth mother. Part of this is because my a-parents divorced and I didn’t see my dad a whole lot. The other part is that I thought I was mixed race, so I identitified more with my “American” father. Internalized racism? Anyway, now that I’m older and wiser, I’m assuming that I’m most likely completely Korean, or at least completely Asian.)

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