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

Novy, Marianne (2018) Class, Shame, and Identity in Memoirs about Difficult Same-Race Adoptions by Jeremy Harding and Lori Jakiela. Genealogy, 2 (3). p. 24. ISSN 2313-5778

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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.


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Item Type: Article
Status: Published
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Novy, Mariannemnovy@pitt.edumnovy
Date: 6 August 2018
Date Type: Publication
Journal or Publication Title: Genealogy
Volume: 2
Number: 3
Publisher: MDPI AG
Page Range: p. 24
DOI or Unique Handle: 10.3390/genealogy2030024
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > English
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: adoption, search memoir, identity, adoptive parents, class, shame, secrecy, birthmother, orphanage, Irishness, immigration, Jeremy Harding, Lori Jakiela
ISSN: 2313-5778
Official URL:
Article Type: Research Article
Date Deposited: 14 Dec 2021 14:15
Last Modified: 14 Dec 2021 14:15


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