walkitout (walkitout) wrote,
walkitout
walkitout

_Reunited_, Pamela Slaton

Subtitled: An Investigative Genealogist Unlocks Some of Life's Greatest Family Mysteries

She apparently has/had a series over on the Oprah Winfrey Network. Even more exciting, apparently the guy she sort-of identified as maybe being her bio-dad (it is a little vague in the book and he isn't identified with a last name, at least not in the version I read) sued her for doing so on a documentary.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2308052/Long-lost-father-sues-genealogist-claiming-shes-biological-daughter-Oprah.html

I have not been able to figure out how that all turned out; maybe it is still winding its way through court.

I ran across this when I was looking for genealogy memoirs. I think a lot about writing about my genealogical research (because unusual religions! For the win! Also, maternal grandmother child of first cousin marriage. And tons of divorces. Husband of cousin I didn't know I even had getting in touch with me through a mediator. Visiting overseas relatives. Mental illness. There's some great stuff to work with here. Also, a whole lot of people who could hate me forever, if they don't already. So, some risk.) and read other genealogy memoirs to get a better sense of how people approach touchy subjects and what kinds of stories work well even if you aren't personally connected and similar.

Slaton's angle is adoption: she is an adoptee with a complicated family: dead adoptive parents, dead adoptive brother, living full sibling, two living half siblings, living highly-problematic mother, living maybe-dad (description of inconclusive DNA results in the book), etc. After the harrowing adventure of her own family, she adopted (har de har har) adoption reunion/searches as a hobby and then career. It's great stuff and she's clearly developed mad skills, especially when it involves births in New York.

She's a good story teller. She is upbeat, altho she is quite religious and that pervades the book. She has chosen her stories carefully to illustrate more general points/problems associated with the adoption triad (birth family, adoptive family, the adoptee): finding mother, finding father, finding siblings and other family, trying to understand the decisions that were made, managing one's own feelings, the feelings of others in the triad, respecting the wishes of those who don't want to have an ongoing relationship. She also talks about activists pushing for open adoptions and open records, mostly sympathetically altho it is clear that she takes a great deal of pride and finds a lot of satisfaction in working around the barriers associated with closed records.

I'm not directly associated with any adoptions, altho they are certainly present in my extended family (and then there was that mystery cousin thing). But some of what she has to say is generically useful to genealogists, and there's a lot of value in better understanding the world we live in. I do believe what she has to say about the gaps experienced by people who were adopted and who are missing all that information about their biological heritage, even when those same people are adamant about not wanting to pursue that information, often out of love of their real parents.

It is not technical; I wouldn't advocate reading this in search of How Tos, but if you are contemplating researching your own adoption or trying to provide support to someone who is, there is a lot of thoughtful advice about the emotional ramifications.
Tags: book review, genealogy
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