An interview with the editors of Outsiders Within

Thinking Souls:  A Monthly Literary Series

Outsiders Within: From a Far Country

November 9, 2006

Shannon Gibney

Shannon Gibney interviews the editors of "Outsiders Within," the first anthology of writings by transracial and transnational adoptees. The book’s diverse genres transmit a vivid picture of what it is to find oneself displaced into one’s own family.

Jane Jeong Trenka and Sun Yung Shin, along with Julia Chinyere Oparah, a professor of Ethnic Studies at Mills College, have edited the first anthology of its kind: a book by and about transracial adoptees. Almost all of the existing literature on transracial adoption (or, that is, the process of White people adopting children of color), has been written by White adoptive parents. Trenka and Shin contend that this has tended to limit the creative and political discourse around the issue, which doesn’t help anyone involved in the adoption triad (birth parents, adoptees, and adoptive parents). Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption (South End Press, 2006) is an attempt to deepen our understanding of this complicated and far-reaching institution.

SG: Why the title Outsiders Within?

JJT: The title is a tip of the hat to theorist Patricia Hill Collins, who has asserted that an “outsider within” standpoint enables black women to gain unique insights that may not be available to those who share the worldview of the dominant community in which they operate. Being within—yet excluded from—that dominant discourse has been the situation of transracial adoptees; the literature has been dominated over the past fifty years by the people who do the adopting and the people who facilitate the adopting. By taking Outsiders Within as our title, we are affirming adoptee-centered knowledge production as an important piece of the adoption literature that to date has been missing.

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