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Variations on a Common Theme: Adult Adoptees Set to Explore “Commonalities Across Countries” at KAAN

Guest post by KAAN Advisory Council member and presenter Mark Hagland:

I am incredibly excited to be able to participate in two of the sessions at this summer’s KAAN Conference, because they speak to so much of what motivates me to be a part of KAAN every year. As an adult transracial international adoptee, I have spent a lifetime walking a complex, sometimes-challenging, sometimes-joyful journey, one that is inevitably difficult to explain to those to whom it is foreign.

What I have known for years, though, is that I share that journey with other transracial international adoptees, not only those born in South Korea as I was. Indeed, about a decade ago, a couple dozen of us gathered in a hotel in suburban Washington, D.C. to discuss our commonalities. There were adoptees from South Korea, but also from Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, India, Iran, and Colombia. And the discussions we had made absolutely clear to everyone what incredible commonalities we all shared, and how strongly common the journey was and is. Among many other wonderful elements in the discussion was the informal agreement that we should share concepts we had been discussing, including the fantastic term put forward by Sumitra Dorner, narrative burden, into the public discourse (remember, this was before Facebook and other social media had taken hold!).

And though it turned out that those of us in attendance at that meeting a decade ago were not able to create a lasting organization, a tremendous sharing of thought and networking took place, and both of those streams of activity have continued forward into the present. Indeed, many of those of us who became contributors to the book published late last year, Parenting As Adoptees, had met at that Washington, D.C. meeting. Of course, Parenting As Adoptees speaks not only to issues that transracial international adoptees face as they themselves become parents, but also issues that all transracial adoptees, domestic and international, face.

And, emerging out of the fruitful collaboration around Parenting As Adoptees, several of us, including co-editors Kevin Vollmers and Adam Chau, are now coming together to present two sessions at the KAAN 2013 Conference, both around the topic “Transracial Adoptees: Commonalities Across Countries.” Kevin Vollmers, Adam Chau, Susan Branco Alvarado, and Stephanie Kripa Cooper-Lewter and I will be discussing our commonalities and our journeys both on Sunday of the KAAN Conference for a general adult audience, and on Saturday morning of the conference for a first-ever adult-adoptees-of-all-countries discussion session. Not only will adoptees from South Korea, Vietnam, Colombia and India be discussing the issues together; all five of us are contributors to or co-editors of Parenting As Adoptees. [Info on these and other conference sessions and speakers can be found at the main conference page of KAAN’s website at .]

For me, these sessions represent an important moment in the evolution of the KAAN Conference, towards an ever-more-inclusive discourse around adoption, race, and society. There is so much that we all have to learn from each other, and I can’t wait for KAAN 2013 to offer a forum for these broader discussions. And if it’s not clear already, we welcome all people of all races and backgrounds to join this discussion—anyone who has any relationship with transracial adoption is welcome—and indeed, encouraged—to join in!

As we move forward into the future, it will be so exciting to engage in these conversations, and to build dialogues across many individuals and communities. Come, join us, and be a part of the big conversation!

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