Monday, April 14, 2008

The Mistress's Daughter

Josh's thoughts on the book:

I really liked this book. I remember reading Homes's article in the New Yorker a few years ago and being blown away by the early bones of this story. I met her a little while later and had one of those foot-in-mouth encounters where I tried to tell her how amazing I thought her article was but I think ended up only making myself look like an idiot and her feel awkward to be confronted by my fawning.

A feeling of the "subtlety of biology," a lovely aphorism, is not something that Homes necessarily welcomes. I sometimes feel that biology raps me over the head when I look at biologically-related family members. How has infertility affected our feelings about the "subtlety of biology"?
It's given me ambivalent feelings. On the one hand, the amazing narcissism of seeing parts of yourself in your children is amazing, but on the other is the knowledge that as we grow our family, we may choose to do so through third-party reproduction either through donor gametes or adoption. When I think about that not-yet future child, I would never want them to feel less because there isn't that genetic tie. As I like to tell Mel, I love her more than anyone in the world and we're not genetically related.
The author talks about searching for information on her ancestors and realized that many of the people searching were not adopted. She realized from that the question of "who am I" is not unique to adoptees. At what point in your life, have you felt the same way?
Interestingly, I recently read Daniel Mendelsohn's The Lost which also deals quite a bit with genealogy. Until I read that book, I'd always been more interested in the history that people could tell me--people like my grandparents. But now, I think I am interested in exploring further.
AM Homes seemed to have a lot of angst that she attributed to growing up as an adopted child. Is such angst inherently a part of being adopted, or rather, is having angst about ones childhood an inherent part of being a child, and adopted children simply pin their angst to being adopted while children raised by their biological parents pin their angst to whatever other issue they perceive as the "problem" of their childhood?
I can't speak for whether being adopted leaves you more prone to angst than any other kid. However, I am reminded of what I told a person who came to see a film I showed about life on a kibbutz in Israel that portrayed that life in a pretty unflattering life. The person was from a kibbutz and felt that the filmmaker was pinning all their emotional baggage on the kibbutz and that plenty of people grow up and are happy on the kibbutz and happy later in life because and not in-spite of growing up on a kibbutz. Rather than get into a debate about whether the filmmaker is being fair or not, I told this person, that the filmmaker is an artist with an artistic disposition. Artists tend not to fit in wherever they are, it is part of what makes them who they are. I'm not sure if this is the case for A.M. Homes, but I'd be willing to bet that her artistic temperament is an important part of how she filters her adoption experience.


Jen said...

Hi, Josh!

Interesting points. I especially liked your thoughts on the last question.

Deb said...

Very interesting point on how her artistic nature might influence her filter. We all do look at the world through our own type of lense either artistic, logical, scientific, etc. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

loribeth said...

Hi Josh, great answers! My favourite point: "As I like to tell Mel, I love her more than anyone in the world and we're not genetically related." ; )

"The Lost" is also in my "to read" pile...

JuliaS said...

I agree with Loribeth - the sentiment of loving Mel despite being biologically related being pretty profound as well as being a slap your forehead "Duh!" idea. Biology doesn't preclude the ability to love or become attached to someone.

I also really appreciated your thoughts on the last question as well.

Lori said...

Hello, Josh. Glad your on the tour!

RE: Q3. I think you're right. There is always a Thing on which to blame the gap between what one expects and what one gets in life Some have more need to blame and some have less. Some have weightier Things and some have lighter.

And I, too, like what you said about loving someone not biologically related to you.