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Excerpt Alert: THE GIRL I AM, WAS, AND NEVER WILL BE by Shannon Gibney

Part memoir, part speculative fiction, The Girl I Am, Was, and Never Will Be explores the often surreal experience of growing up as a mixed-Black transracial adoptee.

Dream Country author Shannon Gibney returns with a new book woven from her true story of growing up as the adopted Black daughter of white parents and the fictional story of Erin Powers, the name Shannon was given at birth by the white woman who gave her up for adoption. 

At its core, the novel is a tale of two girls on two different timelines occasionally bridged by a mysterious portal and their shared search for a complete picture of their origins. Gibney surrounds that story with reproductions of her own adoption documents, letters, family photographs, interviews, medical records, and brief essays on the surreal absurdities of the adoptee experience.

Scroll down to read an excerpt, and remember to grab your copy here.

The literature of adoption is a fictional genre in itself. Adoptees know it to be generally as fantastical as any space opera—and just as entertaining to the masses. 

Every story must begin with the vulnerable but good-hearted poor birth mother who loves her baby very much but cannot take care of it (the birth father is always conspicuously absent in these narratives). There is a kindly, upper-middle-class, usually white couple who desperately wants a child, and have pursued all avenues in order to get one (if the couple is adopting internationally, they are in a rich country in the Global North, and have spent years on various lists, waiting for an available child, many times spending thousands of dollars). They fight, despite all odds, to build their family through adoption, in the process creating a healthy, happy, thriving child who eventually grows into a healthy, happy, thriving adult who has bonded perfectly with their new colorblind family. All this miraculous transformation from a poor, brown, cast-off orphan. Love conquers all. 

Once the birth mother has given up the child, she is no longer part of the story. 

Once the child is adopted, there is no talk of loss of first family, culture, language, or community. The adoption is simply a bureaucratic event that happened, and then is over. 

Since the birth father was not part of the story from the beginning, he is not part of the adoptee’s story as it progresses. 

And if you ask about any of the particularities of this literature of adoption: who is adopting whom, from where to where, what are the racial dynamics of the transaction, the role that money plays, corruption, the trauma of removal, the burden of assimilation, you are branded an angry and maladjusted adoptee. 

When most of the literature written about a marginalized group of people comes from white adoptive parents who are psychologists, sociologists, creative writers, and professors who don’t identify themselves as adoptive parents in their “objective” work, what other possible outcome could there be? 

This is how I came to understand epistemological violence. In my body. 

Penguin Teen