“Do you know your real parents?” is a question many adoptees are asked. In In Reunion, Sara Docan-Morgan probes the basic notions of family, adoption, and parenthood by exploring initial meetings and ongoing relationships that transnational Korean adoptees have had with their birth parents and other birth family members. Drawing from qualitative interviews with adult Korean adoptees in the United States and Denmark, as well as her own experiences as an adoptee, Docan-Morgan illuminates the complexities of communication surrounding reunion.
The paradoxes of adoption and reunion—shared history without blood relations, and blood relations without shared history—generate questions: What does it mean to be “family”? How do people use communication to constitute family relationships? How are family relationships created, maintained, and negotiated over time? In Reunion details adoptive and cultural identities, highlighting how adoptees often end up shouldering communicative responsibility in their family relationships. Interviews reveal how adoptees navigate birth family relationships across language and culture while also attempting to maintain relationships with their adoptive family members.
Docan-Morgan details the challenges, rewards, and contradictions of reunion. She also offers practical recommendations for transnational adoptees in reunion, adoptees considering reunion, adoptive families, and adoption practitioners.
In tracing the stories of the intercultural dynamics inherent in adoptees’ reunions, Docan-Morgan demonstrates the effort, flexibility, empathy, self-reflection, and time required to navigate long-term relationships with birth families.
Sara Docan-Morgan is Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse.
“Bridging the fields of communication studies and critical adoption studies, In Reunion is a groundbreaking text weaving together the social sciences and humanities to grapple with what it means when we make sense of how reunion is performed—the emotional work undertaken—to consider how adoptees negotiate the discursive burden produced by the act of reuniting. Docan-Morgan attends to the language and cultural gaps and the work adoptees undertake to mitigate those chasms. She expertly and effectively positions herself as a scholar and adoptee, deftly weaving intimate vignettes of her own experiences to tell the stories of reunion.”—Kimberly D. McKee, author of Adoption Fantasies: The Fetishization of Asian Adoptees from Girlhood to Womanhood
“An unparalleled text, In Reunion shines light on an understudied, paradoxical family phenomenon—transnational adoptee birth-family reunions. Sara Docan-Morgan artfully interweaves her story with stories of other Korean adoptees to unveil complexities and beauties of being in reunion. Immensely readable, In Reunion raises larger questions about family, belonging, and identity. Drawing upon her expertise as a communication scholar, Docan-Morgan illuminates the role communication plays in the unfolding of these relationships across time, space, and differences in language and culture. In Reunion is a must-read for adoptees, adoptive parents, scholars, and all who work with and support the transnational adoption constellation.” —Elizabeth A. Suter, Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Denver