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Life writing scholar Julia Watson critiques the practice of genealogy as “in every sense conservative” (300) because it traditionally charts and enshrines a family’s collective biography through biologistic, heteronormative, and segregated routes. My Americanist contribution, however, zooms in on a recent development of autobiographical works that establish narratives of origin beyond normative boundaries of race and heterosexual reproduction. A number of predominantly white queer parents of black adoptees have turned their family history into children’s read-along books as a medium for pedagogical empowerment that employs first-person narration in the presumable voice of the adoptee. In Arwen and Her Daddies (2009), for instance, Arwen invites the reader into a story of family formation with the following opening words: “Do you know how I and my Dads became a family?” My analysis understands these objects as verbal-visual origin stories which render intelligible a conversion from differently radicalized strangers into kin. I frame this mode of narration as ‘adoptee ventriloquism’ that might tell us more about adult desires of queers for familial recognition than about the needs of their adopted children.
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