Adopting a new view

Local editor births anthology for raising awareness

Lynne Van Luven’s newest anthology holds hands with some tough stigmas that seldom get attention.

Lynne Van Luven’s newest anthology holds hands with some tough stigmas that seldom get attention.

At a time when many are thinking of family for the holiday season, some are just considering who that family might be.

Each year, November is recognized as National Adoption Awareness Month in North America — but while stories of children lost and children found have run culture-wide for centuries, local author and editor Lynne Van Luven has done her best to gather a team that could bring these tales to light.

“I can remember being a young child in Saskatchewan and there was this boy, Eugene, who was teased mercilessly at school,” Van Luven tells. “He was what we might consider a geek or a nerd these days, but none of that mattered. He was adopted by an older couple that probably couldn’t have their own kids, and so he was labeled and taunted as the ‘freak’ that no one wanted.”

Van Luven says she never knew what happened to Eugene, but that she might understand his pain now, even more than before. Somebody’s Child: Stories About Adoption will launch in Victoria on Tuesday, Nov. 29. This compilation marks Van Luven’s third in a series of anthologies about the 21st-century family, with the newest child following Nobody’s Mother and Nobody’s Father.

Van Luven, UVic Associate Dean of Fine Arts, partnered with Ontario editor Bruce Gillespie to whittle a selection of nearly a hundred submitted works down to 25 final pieces from authors across North America, including a handful from Victoria. The two also enlisted the help of the Victoria-based Choices Adoption Counselling Centre, and worked with the group through editing. Van Luven says that she learned so much through the process that often doesn’t get talked about — namely, that adoption is all around us.

“Because these issues are so complex, we saw that every story would unwrap another unique stigma around the challenge and heartache of adoption. And every story is so emotional, that it was a very difficult editing process,” says Van Luven. “You have to divorce yourself from that ‘great story’ and tell yourself, yes, we already have one like this — let’s get another side.”

With stories flooding in from all angles of adoption, the final 25 range from the classic young woman forced to give up her baby to the child who is always looking for an unknown face in the crowd, to the gay parent, the sibling dynamics and more. While a lot has changed over the decades, she says, teasing still exists, and children still have to fight stigmas, sometimes on their own.

Van Luven started her series with Nobody’s Mother after enduring criticism in her personal life for choosing not to have children. Just as with the most recent anthology, writing poured in from like-minded women (then from men in Nobody’s Father) who shared Van Luven’s battles, sorrows and steadfastness. While Van Luven has no direct experience with adoption herself, readers and other writers were begging for the chance to tackle the topic. When the editors put out the call for submissions nearly two years ago, the response was tremendous. She adds, however, this will be the last of the series.

“I think I had this idea that adoption was a neutral subject in 2011, but, in fact, it is so political,” says Van Luven. “We might not think of adoption as a taboo subject anymore, but it is still very hard to deal with in our culture, and that’s part of the reason there is still so much secrecy that seems to linger around it — whether in people’s feelings about the issues, or in their own understanding of where they came from.”

Van Luven discovered the politics around adoption language, like “natural” versus “birth” parent, and found that many people only have to look back one generation to see that there were adoptions, even unknown ones, in their own family lines. She also learned about the emotional tension that comes from children seeking out their biological parents, including feelings of betrayal and support, and then what happens when those parents turn out to be less than children hope.

“We take it for granted that we can look at family photos, or even black-and-white pictures of our great grandparents and know where we came from, but there is a huge loss there for those who cannot,” says Van Luven. “One woman wrote, after meeting her natural mom, ‘I am finally free now, because I know what you look like. I no longer have to scan the crowds, wondering if that’s you.’” M

Book Launch

The launch for Somebody’s Child: Stories About Adoption will take place Tuesday, Nov. 29, 7 p.m. at Choices Adoption Counselling Centre (#100 – 850 Blanshard). Readings and discussion will take place.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

It takes much more than having talent as a singer or musician to pull off a live performance people will remember, says Sooke resident Jason Parsons. (
Vancouver Islander writes the book on live performances

Jason Parsons’ new book unlocks the keys to establishing a presence on stage

VIU’s ‘Portal’ magazine is turning 30 years old. (Image courtesy Chantelle Calitz)
Vancouver Island University’s literary magazine ‘Portal’ celebrates 30 years

Virtual launch featuring contributor readings took place April 30

Nanaimo author Haley Healey recently launched her second book, ‘Flourishing and Free: More Stories of Trailblazing Women of Vancouver Island.’ (Photo courtesy Kristin Wenberg)
Nanaimo author pens second book on ‘trailblazing’ Vancouver Island women

Haley Healey’s ‘Flourishing and Free’ follows her 2020 debut ‘On Their Own Terms’

Saanich author Hannalora Leavitt hopes her new book, This Disability Experience, helps to dispel the ‘otherness’ that often surrounds people with disabilities. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Vancouver Island author demystifying disability and dismantling otherness

Hannalora Leavitt, who lives with a visual impairment, wants to change how people look at disability

The organizers of the annual 39 days of July festival hope to return to live shows in Charles Hoey Park this year, like in this photo taken in 2019, but audiences at the show may be limited to 50 people due to health protocols. (File photo)
39 Days of July hoping to stage outdoor events in Duncan this summer

Annual music festival will run from June 25 to Aug. 2 this year

Members of A Cappella Plus rehearse for a ’60s-themed concert in 2019. This year the group is celebrating its 40th anniversary. (Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo’s A Cappella Plus chorus marks 40 years with short documentary

Film covers group’s history, features performance and behind-the-scenes video

Musqueam and Qualicum First Nations artist, Mathew Andreatta, next to several of his ongoing projects, including carvings and illustrations. (Submitted photo)
Island artist considers art a means to reconnect with his Indigenous identity

Andreatta thought of TOSH as a space of learning and creation

Nicolle Nattrass and Michael Armstrong are presenting an online reading on May 9. (Photos courtesy Joni Marcolin/Heather Armstrong)
Nanaimo playwrights present online Mother’s Day script readings

Nicolle Nattrass and Michael Armstrong to read from in-progress plays

Marianne Turley is one of this year’s City of Nanaimo Culture and Heritage Award winners for Honour in Culture. (Bulletin file photo)
Longtime Vancouver Island Symphony board member gets posthumous culture award

Marianne Turley receives City of Nanaimo Culture and Heritage Award for Honour in Culture

The CVAC Fine Arts Show is always something to see and 2021 promises to be no different, as they adopt a fully multimedia approach. (File photo)
Cowichan Valley Fine Arts Show goes multimedia for 2021

The show, which runs from May 1-22 will be available both in person and online.

Dinner After a Death, a painting by Sooke artist Bryan Cathcart is part of a collection featuring his work at the Outsiders and Others Gallery in Vancouver. (Contributed - Bryan Cathcart)
Sooke artist finds creativity by expanding artistic horizons

Bryan Cathcart, 26, featured at Vancouver gallery

Most Read