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An Adoptee Lexicon

That we might not know who we truly are—that we might be wandering “detached from the earth itself, from the world of living things,” as Pickell hauntingly writes—is a truth this book embraces and with which it struggles, in which any reader, regardless of family history, can find kinship.

Christopher Martin, 2018 Georgia Author of the Year in Memoir for This Gladdening Light 

An Adoptee Lexicon is soul baring, transparent, and risky—what many adoptive or birth parents won’t want to read, but should understand. A painful truth.

Betsie Norris, founder/executive director of Adoption Network Cleveland: The Ohio Family Connection

Lyrical and informative, An Adoptee Lexicon is a glossary of adoption terminology from the viewpoint of an adult adoptee.

Contemplating religion, politics, science, and human rights, Karen Pickell, who was born and adopted in the late 1960s, intersperses personal commentary and snippets from her own experience with history and statistics pertaining to child development and the adoption industry. The collection of micro essays is presented as an organically ordered glossary, along with a robust list of sources and suggested reading as well as an alphabetical index, creating layers of association between words commonly used when discussing adoption.

Pickell draws connections between contemporary American political issues and the social climate that led to a tsunami of adoptions in the decades following World War II through the early 1970s—a period known as the Baby Scoop Era—and also touches on the complexity of transracial and international adoptions.

Throughout An Adoptee Lexicon, the focus remains firmly on adopted people—their perceptions, their needs, and their right to fully exist in exactly the way non-adopted people do.

Adoptee perspectives are rare treasures in the adoption sector. Karen’s insights on common frequently used terms offer a vulnerable glimpse of how these terms impact those who they were intended to help. This text should be read by anyone who frequently utters any of these significant phrases.

—Angela Tucker, founder of The Adopted Life LLC and director of post-adoption services at Amara

Karen eloquently reveals the impact of “proper adoption language” on those who are at the center of adoption—adoptees. Using her phenomenal writing skill, she brings the reader to inhabit her being. Karen promulgates how the powerful adoption industry’s words have shaped adoption while ignoring the voice of the adoptee.

Leslie Pate Mackinnon, LCSW, therapist, educator, activist, and Baby Scoop Era mother

Karen offers an insightful and penetrating window into the adoptee experience through her selection and exposition of the charged language in adoption. Adoptees: read this and feel understood. Others: read this to understand the triggering language that permeates the adoption space.

Haley Radke, creator and host of the podcast Adoptees On

Karen Pickell is the creator of the online book catalog Adoptee Reading and a former editor of the adoption blog Lost Daughters. Her nonfiction and poetry have appeared in several literary journals and independently published anthologies, including Lost Daughters: Writing Adoption from a Place of Empowerment and Peace, which she coedited. Ms. Pickell holds a MA in professional writing from Kennesaw State University. She has served as an editor for the Georgia Poetry Society and the literary journal Flycatcher, and on the board of the Georgia Writers Association. Born, adopted, and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, she lived near Atlanta for over a decade before settling in the Tampa Bay area. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of Raised Voice Press, a micro press publishing creative nonfiction.