‘Gazillion Voices’ Explores Race and Identity in Adoption

A new online magazine for adoptees aims to draw attention to the complexities of adoption and inject race into the conversation.

By Von Diaz Aug 07, 2013

The Baby Veronica saga brought national attention to the complexities and failures of the U.S. adoption system. This week a group of Minnesota-based adoptees launched "Gazillion Voices," an online magazine that aims to inject race into the adoption conversation and provide a platform for adult adoptees to talk about their experiences. 

In an interview with Minnesota Public Radio, "Gazillion" founder Kevin Vollmers, along with contributors and fellow adoptees Shannon Gibney and Laura Klunder, discussed the often harsh realities of being a person of color growing up in an adoptive white families. They said adoption success stories often overshadow the stories of loss

"There’s this story out there that we started when we fell out of the plane, we were destined for our adopted families, and that we are just like you, we are exceptional–we are not like the the poor, undocumented communities we were born from," Klunder says in the radio interview. 

Gibney said her family tried to erase her race by insisting they "didn’t see color," but that those attitudes made it difficult for her when she hit puberty and people in her community began to treat her differently. 

Vollmers insists that adoption agencies need to do a better job of preparing adoptive parents for the challenges their children will face, and says the adoption storybook narrative can be harmful and problematic. 

"Sure, many adoptions turn out great for all involved.  However, those adoptions only make up some of the whole "adoption story" in the U.S.  What’s storybook about international and domestic adoptees being "rehomed" into the foster care system when their adoptions disrupt in their adoptive families? What’s storybook about adoptive parents who discover their Ethiopian and Chinese children were actually not true orphans, but rather have families in their place of birth?" he told me by email.  

Through this and other such stories, Volmers and his contributors aim to complicate notions around adoption in the U.S., and amplify the voices of adoptees in a conversation they say has been largely dominated by parents and institutions.