Archive for November, 2015

Taboos: Jackie Kay’s Adoption Papers post by Salma Altabari

Jackie Kay’s The Adoption Papers raises issues about adoption that have become more relevant in today’s world than they were twenty-four years ago – when the book was first published. She draws out the social taboo around adoption in the sixties, where it was widely believed not to be “like having your own child” (23).

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Charlize Theron with her son, Jackson.

Through both the adoptive and birth mothers’ points of view there is a close-up on the roots of maternal instincts; feelings of maternity do not seem to be exclusive to the woman who gives birth. The adoptive mother yearns for a child and spends “six months trying not to look at swings nor the front of supermarket trolleys, not to think this kid [she’s] wanted could be five.” (14) The adoptive mother is adamant that “all this umbilical knot business is nonsense” (23). When she finally adopts a child, she argues quite sternly that the baby is hers: “she’s my child, I have told her stories wept at her losses, laughed at her pleasures, she is min.” (23)
This raises the question of who is the ‘real’ mother? Is it the one who gives birth, or the one who shares the laughs and losses of the child? The child in the narrative seems to be concerned with this question from an early age and doesn’t seems to fully accept any single woman as her true mother.
On the other hand, the birth mother demonstrates anti-maternal instincts – despite giving birth – she thinks to “suffocate her with a feather pillow” (13). However, the fact that she gives her child away shows that she is concerned for her wellbeing, knowing that she’ll never give her a good home, she makes a selfless decision and decides “it’s best for her,” (17).
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Jessica Coleman, a teen who stabbed her baby in the chest.

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“Old Father, Old Artificer”: Reading Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, Blog Written by Kirsty Allard

This week’s blog from Kirsty Allard, Final Year Student Kingston University.

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In chapter 1 of Fun Home, “Old Father, Old Artificer”, there lies a duality that is apparent in many different forms; bad father vs. good father, respect vs. contempt, affection vs. distance, and, as is also clear in Persepolis, reality vs. perception. In Persepolis, this duality is described as very separate in nature, almost a sense of ‘black and white’; “Our behaviour in public and our behaviour in private were polar opposites”.

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In Fun Home, this duality is less ‘black and white’, than it is shades of grey, despite it being a very apparent duality that is constantly present. The image of the perfect family, with what “appeared to be an ideal husband and father” is not the same as the reality of their home life. While this is similar to the idea that is given in Persepolis, Bechdel’s methods of describing the relationship of her father with his children, and her description of her father as a whole, his identity, leaves a space for a firm decision of what this dual image actual means about him as a whole. He feels like a present absent father, or the absent present father, and he is many things, but she does not ever state anything as her ultimate opinion or feeling toward him.
“The embarrassment on my part was a tiny scale model of my father’s more fully developed self-loathing.”
Bechdel offers, instead, a variety of observations and thoughts on her father; all honest, and relevant to an understanding of his character, they paint a picture of a man, but leave behind an uncertainty. Not an uncertainty of oneself, as in much of Persepolis, but instead an uncertainty of someone else, who they are, or what they mean to you.
This uncertainty of his identity is matched with a vivid understanding of the parts that make him who he is; the difficulty seems to be making the pieces match, in order to form an understanding of the whole. When you put together Icarus, the boy who flew too close to the sun, and Daedalus, the craftsman who made his demise possible, who is left?