Adoption & Culture: A discussion of adoptee-othering (and various ‘monsters’) in Literature and Law (Reform)

​Discussion of adoptee ‘othering’ in literature and law: personal accounts, Frankenstein’s creature, and Ireland’s latest attempt at enabling access to birth records.

Alice Diver (Lecturer, School of Law, QUB) in conversation with Professor Emily Hipchen (Editor of Adoption & Culture (, Director of Nonfiction Writing, Senior Lecturer in English, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island ) about some of the themes underpinning her recent publication, “Monstrous Othering”: The Gothic Nature of Origin-Tracing in Law and Literature” (November, 2021).

The session opens with a brief discussion of their own respective experiences as ‘mother and baby home’ adoptees in the U.S. and Canada in the 1960’s, before turning to an analysis of how the particular adoptee brand of ‘fearful otherness’ is often represented -and indeed perpetuated – in certain works of fiction e.g. Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein,’ Emily Bronte’s ‘Wuthering Heights’, and Ishiguro’s ‘Never Let Me Go.’ In respect of achieving meaningful reform to law and policy, language is key. Ireland’s controversial Birth Information and Tracing Bill 2022 – currently being debated – has similarly served to highlight how certain lingering biases of mistrust still attach to the adoptees’ need to search for origins and (potentially uncomfortable) familial truths. Discriminatory barriers to accessing one’s own information – and to achieving some form of contact with genetic relatives – still exist: the use of labels also continues to matter, as the recent controversy over the use of the term ‘birth mother’ within the legislation (since amended to ‘mother’) also evidenced.

Links: Insta @adoptionandculture

@emilyhipchen link to book:

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