Member Spotlight: Michelle Young
Each month, we invite DBC members with a connection to our theme to share their personal experiences with us. Interested in sharing your story with the DBC community? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please introduce yourself to the DBC members.
Hello all! My name is Michelle and I’m a 30 something wife, mom, Anne of Green Gables lover, ISFJ, and lifelong reader. I’m California born and raised, but my husband is in the military, so I’ve lived all over the country. Currently, I work as a children’s librarian in a small public library in a rural area just outside Louisville, KY. I spend my days hosting story time, teaching STEAM labs, choosing new titles for ages 0-18, doing community outreach, helping people reference information, and making lots and lots of book recommendations. I am passionate about making the library welcoming and accessible to everyone, and encouraging families in the importance of reading aloud to children. Reading is my main hobby, but I also love cooking, watching baseball games, yoga, and morning runs.
Why is this month’s topic, adoption and fostering, near and dear to your heart?
I was adopted at birth. When I was born, my adoption was a closed adoption, which means that I have virtually no information about my birth parents, that I have an amended birth certificate that lists my adoptive parents as my birth parents, and that based on the year I was born, I one of the last adoptions in the State of California that didn’t offer my birth parents the right to have their information provided to me at my request (I was born at the very end of December, the law stating that this right had to be offered to birth mothers went in affect the first of January). My adoptive parents told me for as long as I can remember that this was the case-which I’m grateful for. However, something that they didn’t tell me at first was that I’m half Japanese. Neither of my adoptive parents are Asian, and I grew up with a sister who was their biological child. I’d ask questions from the time I was about five years old about why I looked different than the rest of my family, but my mom would just clam up about it. When I was finally told in my early teens about my cultural background, it was a shock to say the least. I felt very lost; I sometimes still feel the loss of not understanding my background well.
As for fostering, before becoming a librarian I worked in education and dealt with the foster system a lot. These kids and families need a voice, and it’s hugely lacking in literature-especially in a positive light.
Have you read our January selections, Forever or a Long, Long Time or Secret Daughter? What did you think?
I’ve read both books-Forever or a Long, Long Time I actually read last fall and I love it. This book is needed in all public and school libraries. I recommend it constantly. The journey the characters go on and the struggle they have with figuring out where they belong and with who-is just so beautifully and heartbreaking approached. I also love that the book shows that this transition from foster to forever family can be messy and hard. It’s important to acknowledge that while adoption through foster care is wonderful, it can often come with major adjustments that are super hard-but that’s totally normal!
As for Secret Daughter, it hit me hard, personally. It really touched on the feeling of loss of culture in adoptees-something that really wasn't made out to be important until fairly recently in the adoption community. Part of the reason my mother never told me about my cultural heritage is because that is what she had been told to do - by the adoption agency. By the time I started asking, she just didn’t know what to say. And I also saw a lot of my mother in the Somer character. She loves me very much, but I have watched her as she struggles to understand me, because we are very different people, despite that I grew up only under her care. I think a lot about nature vs nurture as an adult, and I feel like Secret Daughter touched on that very well. It was fascinating to me when Asha travels to India and suddenly feels that she fits right into this whole culture. Like Asha, I’ve never met my birth parents, and like her, and most adopted people I assume, I wonder about them.
Do you find there is a stigma around adoption in our culture? How has this impacted your experience?
I feel that in the last decade or so, the stigma of adoption has lessened greatly. As closed adoption has become increasingly criticized and recognized as overall detrimental, adoption becomes less secretive and more something people talk about openly. For me, in the past few years, I’ve been personally more open about being an adoptee, and that I don’t know my birth parents, and that I don’t know much about my culture. For years, I felt that I couldn’t say this without explaining my whole, entire life, but now I feel that I can just say it as a fact.
Are there any additional resources (books, articles, podcasts) about adoption or forstering that you would recommend to our readers?
For fictional book titles on adoption and foster care, I highly recommend White Oleander for adults and Beyond the Bright Sea for children. Jen Hatmaker writes so well about the ethics of adoption in her articles on her blog (http://jenhatmaker.com/blog/2013/05/14/examining-adoption-ethics-part-one) “Examining Adoption Ethics”. And finally, the podcast Adoptees ON provides stories from adoptees and how adoption affected them.
Is there anything else you’d like our members to know?
I’d like people to know adoptees have a “real” connection with their adoptive family. Because these families ARE real. These are the people who raised them, and their connection is just as deep and as messy as any biological family. Please know that some people will chose to seek out their birth families, but some won’t and some don’t really have the option. And that's their choice, and it’s a very, very personal choice. Please try not to make assumptions about adopting and foster care - each person is affected different and has their own story to tell. There are many reasons why someone chooses to place a child up for adoption or why someone ends up in foster care, just like there are many reasons why people would chose to adopt or foster. And adoptees and fosters-never feel that you shouldn’t seek out any information that you can! Health records, family members, culture-these are things that belong to you and are part of you, and should you chose to seek them out, do it without shame or regret.