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Director: Jason Reitman
Writer: Diablo Cody
Stars: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Allison Janney, J.K. Simmons, Olivia Thirlby
Juno, a teenager who is outspoken and irreverent, becomes pregnant through a one time encounter with her classmate, Bleeker. Initially, Juno decides to have an abortion, but then changes her mind. Looking in the Pennysaver, she finds the “perfect” adoptive couple, Vanessa and Mark Loring, an affluent, suburban couple. Opting for a closed rather than open adoption, and with little input from her parents or Bleeker, Juno never hesitates about her decision till she learns that the Loring’s may not be as perfect as they seemed.
What do you think?
- Juno makes her choices and goes through pregnancy, labor, and relinquishment of her child with seemingly little to no input from her parents or her classmate, Bleeker, the father. To what extent do you think this is realistic? Do you think that this movies delves into the reasons why Juno makes the choices she does? If not, why might a movie not delve more deeply into these reasons? How might a movie delve more deeply?
- “If you’re still in, I’m still in.” – Juno
Why you think Juno decides to go through with the adoption even though she knows Vanessa will be parenting alone? What might be the factors that motivate this decision? How do you feel about Juno’s note and her decision? How do you feel about Vanessa’s desire to become a parent even when she knows that she’ll be going through it alone?
- What do you feel about Juno’s decision not to see her baby and her comment that it was Vanessa’s baby all along? In what ways do you think this might affect an adoptee who is viewing this film? For the most part, Juno seems detached from her pregnancy and any bonding experience. What do you think the reasons for this detachment are? To what extent do you think she might be able to maintain this detachment in the face of the hormonal and physical changes that come along with pregnancy, childbirth, and the stages afterwards? Does Juno’s detachment seem “natural” to you? To what extent do you believe such lack of bonding or attachment is natural? Who decides what is natural? How did you feel when Juno told Bleeker that the baby starts kicking hard when she sees him?
Unlocking the Heart of Adoption
Director/Writer: Sheila Ganz
Rating: Not Rated
The lifelong adoption experience is revealed through personal interviews with adoptees, birth parents and adoptive parents. The impact of adoption on a diverse group of adoption triad members is explored: transracial and same race adoptions; open and closed adoption; adoptees and birth parents that have reunited with birth relatives; and adoption experiences from different eras. All of these stories are interwoven with the filmmaker’s own experience as a birth mother.
Points to Consider
- This documentary took 14 years for Shelia Ganz to make.
- Generally, birth parents are the most under represented triad member. Most often, we hear about adoption from the perspective of adoptive parents or adoptees.
What Do You Think?
- What feelings came up for you as you watched this documentary? How has viewing this documentary changed any of your ideas about the adoption experience? What do you think is the best way to communicate these new ideas to people who have not watched this documentary?
- “When I realized social forces were behind my having no choice but to surrender my daughter for adoption, I threw my guilt away. And I forgave myself for not being able to defend myself or keep her. This freed me to speak out for the truth. It’s hard to know why some adoptees welcome their birth parents and others do not. But, I do have hope that some day we’ll be part of each other’s lives. Every year I send her a birthday card and let her know that I will always love her.” How do you feel about what Shelia says? What was your reaction to hearing birth parents’ perspectives in this documentary?
- What kind of support would have helped each of the participants in their journey? How do you think society’s opinion has affected people’s abilities to explore and integrate their adoption experience? What can we do to ensure that society is more supportive of exploring this experience and providing effective support?
Director/Writer: Rob Minkoff/M.Night Shyamalan and Greg Brooker
Cast: Michael J. Fox, Geena Davis, Hugh Laurie, Jonathan Lipnicki, Nathan Lane, Jennifer Tilly
Rating: PG (for brief language)
Stuart, a young mouse in the city orphanage, is adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Little, a human couple, despite the fact that the orphanage discourages “inter-species adoption.” Their birth son, George, who had asked for a younger brother, is disappointed that Stuart is a mouse and refuses to talk to or play with him. The Little’s cat, Snowbell, is angry and embarrassed that a mouse is a part of the family, and plots to get rid of him. Meanwhile, Stuart begins to question Mr. and Mrs. Little about his “real family” and says he feels “an empty space inside” himself. Just when George accepts him as a brother and Stuart begins to feel secure in his new family, Stuart’s birth parents, Mr. and Mrs. Stout show up. They tell Mr. and Mrs. Little that they want Stuart to come home with them. Reluctantly, Mr. and Mrs. Little tell Stuart that he should go with the Stouts because they are his “real family”… but are they?
Points to Consider
- This movie may remind some adoptees and their families of the challenges involved in transracial adoption.
- Some of the ways in which adoption can affect sibling relationships are illustrated in this movie.
What Do You Think?
- Under what circumstances might it make sense for a child to be placed back with his birth family? Who do you think should have a voice in this decision?
- “I’m not Stout, I’m a Little! I’m Stuart Little!” Many adoptees are renamed by their adoptive families and some may not find out their birth names till later in life, if ever. To what extent do you think names and identity are intertwined for adoptees?
- If you are uncomfortable with any of the directions that this movie takes or decisions that characters in this story make, does the fact that this is a children’s movie make it easier for you to watch and enjoy? Do you think your reactions might be different if Stuart were not a mouse, but a human child? What messages do you think this movie sends to adopted children?
The Language of Blood, Jane Jeong Trenka; Greywolf Press; 2005
I’m still processing whatI think about this book. I’ve read other reviews and it seems that The Language of Blood stirs strong feelings in every case, whether you love it or find it offensive. For adoptive parents, I think we could all learn something from it.
The Language of Blood is a creatively written personal memoir of a Korean-born adoptee. The book begins with a letter from Trenka’s birthmother explaining why she and her older sister were sent to the United States – much more information than I suspect most Korean-born adopted people have. The sisters are adopted by a Lutheran couple in rural Minnesota, who, following the conventional wisdom of the time, raise the girls as “good, white, Lutherans”, and in Trenka’s opinion, deny their Korean heritage. The book focuses on Trenka’s search for identity through relationships with her birth family in Korea. She combines a variety of writing styles – the mix of techniques mirroring her own identity struggles.
While some of Trenka’s opinions may be difficult for adoptive parents to read, we cannot deny Trenka her experience, nor that it is probably the experience of many interracially adopted people. If we are to learn what the book has to offer, I think we need to suspend judgment, at least those of us who are adoptive parents. Is Trenka unfairly harsh to her adoptive parents? Possibly. Does she give short shrift to the relationship with her sister, who seems to have had the same upbringing with less identity crisis? Maybe. Is she unduly critical of American culture, while painting a rosier picture of Korea than is due? It probably depends on your own race.
The Language of Blood is a deeply honest, personal story. Trenka shares intimate thoughts and details about time spent with her birth family in Korea. In contrast, her descriptions of her life growing up and relationships with her adoptive family leave much more implied. She does a masterful job of using writing styles that enhance the meaning of the words.
Many of Trenka’s emotions and feelings seem to be very raw and near the surface. I could imagine that some would advise that she should have waited to write the memoir, giving her a more mature perspective later in life. But I think that it would have been our loss.
As our own children are growing up, we don’t want them to have an identity crisis as an adopted person, or as a member of a multi-ethnic family. But they might anyway. Denying it will not make it go away. If we discount Trenka’s experience, we risk losing some valuable insight from a brave and creative woman. It may not be our experience, nor our children’s, but what we learn from Trenka is of value nonetheless.
– Debbie Kaufman
Adam Pertman; 2000; Basic Books
One of the things that makes this book a pleasure to read is that it is written by a journalist with expertise in adoption, rather than an adoption expert or academic. Both can have good information, but in this case, the journalist’s is simply easier to read. The author, Adam Pertman, is an adoptive parent himself of two children. He won a Pulitzer Prize for a series he wrote about adoption in The Boston Globe, and it is very clear that he knows his topic.
Throughout the book, Pertman refers to the “adoption revolution” that he maintains is sweeping this country, and he makes a convincing argument. The revolution has both to do with the changes openness is making in adoption, as well as the impact that this and new types of adoption are having on families and American culture.
The book includes a well-researched history of adoption in the U.S., as well as information on various types of adoption and other trends. Pertman skillfully weaves his own and other’s personal stories throughout the book, as well as reminders of those who made the headlines. He addresses a broad range of topics, from the rights of adopted persons to their birth certificates to racial tensions to economic disparities and the impact of money. His writing is supported by detailed footnotes and a resource list at the end.
Pertman definitely has some strong opinions, but he has done his homework. If you are not a fan of openness in adoption, this book will either convince you otherwise, or make you really mad. Personally, I found Adoption Nation to be a strong affirmation of adoption, of all triad members, and of adoption’s value to our society. I highly recommend it!
– Debbie Kaufman